Anyone who has met at least one teen, or remembers being one herself, knows that they can (at times) inspire confusion, frustration, and even anger. A natural response to this is yelling. Perhaps we parents think if we yell loudly enough, our teens will actually pay attention. The problem is shouting just isn’t effective. And according to Dr. Jerry Bernstein, it doesn’t help establish your authority at all. Instead, it shows that you’ve lost control. Even worse, it can perpetuate a vicious cycle in which you behave negatively by yelling and your teens follow by shouting back, talking backing, slamming doors, or otherwise behaving badly.
A study published in Child Development (journal) backs up Dr. Bernstein’s assertions. According to the study, which analyzed over 900 Pennsylvania families, yelling and using harsh words to discipline teens increases the chances that they will behave badly and suffer from depression. What does this mean for parents? As difficult as it can be in the heat of the moment, it’s better to take a deep breath and try a different tactic. Here are some you can try:
- Take a Breather: Give yourself time to decompress and think before you react. If you deal with disciplining your child after you’ve had time to calm down, you’ll be less likely to yell.
- Use Your Calm, Inside Voice: Though you might have a hard time believing it, speaking in a calmer, quieter tone of voice accomplishes a few things. First, it makes it necessary for your teens to stop or slow down. If they don’t, they won’t be able to hear what you have to say. It establishes that though you might be upset, or even angry, you are still in control of yourself and the situation. Speaking this way also models effective communication for your kids and demonstrates your loving care of them, even when they displease you.
- Establish Clear Rules: Write the rules on paper and post them where your entire household can see them. Alternatively, create a contract that you and your teen sign and keep a copy of. This ensures that your teen can’t say he or she didn’t know the rules. And when your teens break a rule, you can easily refer them to the list or contract.
- Allow Your Teens to Experience Consequences: As parents, it’s only natural that we want to spare our children–no matter how close to adulthood they get–unhappiness, failure, and frustration. But sometimes, allowing them to experience consequences provides a wakeup call to improve their behavior. If they fail to study and they earn a poor grade, they have to own that and realize that the same behavior will get them the same consequence in the future. If they break your rules, they have to suffer the consequences. For example, failure to make curfew might carry the consequence (rather than a punishment) of a week, weekend, or longer of not going out with friends.
- Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: Remember that parenting doesn’t mean controlling everything your teen does. Go ahead and give them the freedom to make some of their own choices, such as what to wear or how to style their own hair. They won’t want hot pink hair forever. Let your rules cover the big stuff.
Being a parent is never easy, but the teen years can seem more of a challenge than others. Keep the lines of communication open and take heart: you are helping to mold your child into a responsible adult. Someday he or she will thank you for it.