How a child is treated by the person who raises him can make all the difference in what type of life he’ll lead. A new study says that if one was raised with criticism, yelling, or threats, he’s more likely to be anxious or depressed as a young adult. Once a person is thus affected, the likelihood he’ll become involved in substance abuse increases, as he may turn to drugs and alcohol to mask pain and discomfort. Research does indeed indicate that those with anxiety disorders are two to three times more likely than the general population to have an alcohol or other substance abuse disorder at some point in their lives.
Research has linked verbally aggressive parenting to changes in a child’s brain development and to personality disorders later in life. Even if another parent (or that same parent) expresses plenty of affection, the harmful effects of having a verbally aggressive mother or father persists. Being raised with yelling can be as damaging as actual physical abuse.
Meghan Leahy, a mother of three and a local parenting coach, said, “If you yell at your child, you either create somebody who yells back at you or somebody who is shamed and retreats. You’re either growing aggression or growing shame.”
Here are some tips to help you discipline in a positive and productive way. If a child is acting out, something’s wrong. Look beneath the surface to see the cause. Does he need attention? Is he feeling jealous? Are you expecting behaviors from him that are not age-appropriate? Ask yourself what you can do to help satisfy your child’s need.
Children learn how to cope with stress from how their parents cope with stress. Your positive example will be more powerful than your loudest yell, so focus on controlling yourself—not your child.
When your child does something bad, it is an opportunity for you to teach a valuable lesson. Lovingly, gently, and sternly convey that while he may have had a reason to act that way, the behavior is not acceptable and explain why. Help him come up with alternatives to his actions, so that he can solve this type of problem differently in the future. This can also be an opportune moment to teach empathy.
The best reward for a kid is time with his parents. Think of your attention as vitamins, nourishing and growing that which you focus on. Spending time with your child will help him become happy and well-behaved. Spend a few minutes connecting—one-on-one with your child—every day by joining him while he’s doing something he likes.
Don’t bribe your child to be good. This sends the message that good conduct is not rewarding by itself. Instead, highlight what constructive consequences will result from positive behavior.
When your child is misbehaving, redirect your his energy to a more acceptable, fun activity. Get creative!