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Yelling at Teens Has Bad Long-Term Effects

father daughter dispute conflict
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

We're all guilty of getting a little heated when our kids do something wrong, disrespectful or dangerous. And that's OK. It's a gut reaction that, sometimes, we just can't help. But before you make it a habit, consider this: The long-term effects on teens from repeated harsh verbal abuse from parents can include depression, aggression and further bad behavior, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh.

The study, performed over a two-year period, examined nearly 970 two-parent households with teens in Pennsylvania. Researchers found that teens who were repeatedly subjected to harsh verbal discipline showed signs of anger, vandalism and misconduct over time. And it makes sense, says Alan Kazdin, a psychology professor at Yale University and author of The Everyday Parenting Toolkit. Any sort of prolonged stress can lead to numerous health problems.

With the study, we've learned what doesn't work: put-downs, shouting, yelling and general verbal abuse. But what does work in terms of properly disciplining teens? Rather than simply putting down your child for everything, reinforce positive behavior. So, if your teen disobeys you, ground them or punish them in some way, but be sure to recognize and praise him if he corrects his behavior. Did he start getting his homework done earlier in the evening? Praise him and perhaps acknowledge that his grounding terms will be shortened because of good behavior. "Harsh yelling or punishment just stops the behavior at the moment, but does not develop the behaviors that you want," Kazdin notes. Yelling doesn't get you anywhere in the long run; positive interactions leave a lasting impression for the better.

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