Expert Advice

Harsh words as damaging as smacking

New research on the impact of harsh verbal discipline

punishing children

Parents who are concerned about the negative effects of hitting their children should also be aware of the implications of shouting and verbal reprimands, say researchers at the University of Pittsburgh.

Their study, published on the Child Development website, looked at the parenting habits, mental health and relationship habits of 967 families with adolescents over a two-year period.

Researchers found a link between harsh verbal discipline and the increased chance of a child feeling depressed or developing aggressive behaviour after teens were called ‘lazy’ or ‘stupid.’

Study leader Ming-Te Wang said the effects of verbal abuse may linger as long as physical abuse.

“We can infer that these results will last the same way that the effects of physical discipline do because the immediate-to-two-year effects of verbal discipline were about the same as for physical discipline,” he said in a written statement.

So how does a parent best discipline their child?

Dr Justin Coulson, founder of www.happyfamilies.com.au and author of’Time out is NOT your only option: Positive discipline strategies for every child’, believes that punishment doesn’t always teach your child how to behave.

“Kids push boundaries, and most parents believe that yelling, hitting or putting their children in a corner will teach them a lesson,” Justin toldMother & Baby.

“But research tells us that punishment actually makes children become sneakier and can damage the relationship we have with them. If we smack or shout, then it can be very upsetting and our children can become emotionally flooded and resentful.

“Setting limits with kids requires a lot more than simply telling them what to do and then punishing them or rewarding them based on whether or not they are obedient. By asking them to explain why their behaviour is not okay, this opens up communication between both sides, and is a more effective way of disciplining, without voices being raised,” Justin said.

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