Spare the Rod, But Don’t Yell Instead

IsYellingTheNewSpankingMainIn recent months, several articles about disciplining children have come out in the media speculating on whether yelling has taken the place of spanking as a common form of discipline for children.

Many parents believe that spanking is not an appropriate method of discipline, so instead, they often yell out of frustration because they don’t have another quick fix. Although yelling may have the short-term effect of stopping the behavior, it may not be the best method for getting children to mind in the future.

“If yelling is used as a primary form of discipline, it can have a negative effect on the child’s relationship with the parent,” says Pediatric Neuropsychologist Peter L. Stavinoha, Ph.D., manager of the Neuropsychology Service at Children’s Medical Center Dallas. “When parents yell too much, the child may also become desensitized, at which time the yelling will no longer have any impact.”

Don’t Confuse Discipline With Punishment

Dr. Peter L. Stavinoha From Children's Medical Center

Pediatric Neuropsychologist Peter L. Stavinoha, Ph.D.

Discipline should not always be a spur of the moment reaction to bad behavior, Dr. Stavinoha says. It should also be about:

  • Establishing a relationship with your child
  • Establishing expectations
  • Being vigilant about redirecting your child when you see bad behavior
  • Modeling good behavior

“Discipline is not about punishment,” Dr. Stavinoha says. “It’s about education. The goal is to teach the child appropriate behavior.” Here are some more tips about disciplining your child from the experts at Children’s.

The Importance of Consequences

When you do see bad behavior, use a firm voice – without yelling – to let the child know in advance that there will be consequences if the behavior doesn’t stop (e.g., time out, withholding privileges or removing the child from the situation or place where he is acting up). If the behavior doesn’t stop after the warning, be sure to follow through.

“It’s important to consistently apply a consequence to the behavior so that the bad behavior will then be associated with the negative consequence,” Dr. Stavinoha says.

In addition to negative consequences, discipline also involves praise when a child does something good. “If you have a good relationship with your child, he’ll feel like he’s disappointing you when he does something wrong,” says Dr. Stavinoha.

 If the only relationship you have with your child is negative, none of these strategies will be effective.

Is Yelling Ever OK?

Even though yelling may not be effective as a primary form of discipline, there are some instances in which it is warranted.

“Yelling should be reserved for safety issues so your child will know that when you do yell, it’s a big deal,” says Dr. Stavinoha. “There’s a difference between a child poking his brother and running into the street in front of a car. Your child needs to be able to distinguish that difference by the tone of your voice.”

Do you have any discipline tips that work with your little ones? Leave us a comment about your successes to help your fellow parents.

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