What can parents do to rear a teen who is well-behaved, happy and respectful?
A tactic that doesn't work is broadly called harsh verbal discipline, whether that's shouting at teens, yelling, screaming, swearing, insulting or calling them names, says a study out today. In fact, those parenting actions increase the risk that the adolescent will misbehave and suffer symptoms of depression.
Shouting and yelling are ineffective and can be harmful, says study's author Ming-Te Wang, assistant professor in the department of psychology and the school of education at the University of Pittsburgh. "This may explain why so many parents say that no matter how loud they shout, their teenagers don't listen."
Wang and colleagues studied 967 two-parent families and their teens in Pennsylvania.
Thirteen-year-olds who received a lot of harsh verbal discipline from their parents were more likely to have symptoms of depression at age 14, according to the findings published in the journal Child Development. They were also more likely to exhibit problem behaviors such as anger, aggression, vandalism and misconduct, Wang says.
Ongoing harsh verbal discipline and criticism can fuel difficulties and rebellion in kids, says Neil Bernstein, an adolescent psychologist in Washington, D.C., and author of How to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What to Do if You Can't. "Extremes of parenting don't work. The put-down parent is no more effective than the laissez-faire parent who is totally chill and sets no limits on their children's behavior," said Bernstein.