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Spare the Rod, But Don’t Yell Instead

Many parents believe that spanking is not an appropriate method of discipline, so instead, they often yell out of frustration because they don’t have another quick fix.

“If yelling is used as a primary form of discipline, it can have a negative effect on the child’s relationship with the parent,” says Pediatric Neuropsychologist Peter L. Stavinoha, Ph.D., manager of the Neuropsychology Service at Children’s Medical Center Dallas. “When parents yell too much, the child may also become desensitized, at which time the yelling will no longer have any impact.”

The Importance of Consequences

“Discipline is not about punishment,” Dr. Stavinoha says. “It’s about education. The goal is to teach the child appropriate behavior.”

When you do see bad behavior, use a firm voice – without yelling – to let the child know in advance that there will be consequences if the behavior doesn’t stop (e.g., time out, withholding privileges or removing the child from the situation or place where he is acting up). If the behavior doesn’t stop after the warning, be sure to follow through.

“It’s important to consistently apply a consequence to the behavior so that the bad behavior will then be associated with the negative consequence,” Dr. Stavinoha says.

In addition to negative consequences, discipline also involves praise when a child does something good. “If you have a good relationship with your child, he’ll feel like he’s disappointing you when he does something wrong,” says Dr. Stavinoha.

If the only relationship you have with your child is negative, none of these strategies will be effective.

Is Yelling Ever OK?

Even though yelling may not be effective as a primary form of discipline, there are some instances in which it is warranted.

“Yelling should be reserved for safety issues so your child will know that when you do yell, it’s a big deal,” says Dr. Stavinoha. “There’s a difference between a child poking his brother and running into the street in front of a car. Your child needs to be able to distinguish that difference by the tone of your voice.”

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