This morning, the Orange County Register newspaper has a great article about the negative impact of yelling at children as a parenting style. The article suggests that just as most educated parents don't spank their children these days, (as perhaps we were in childhood), that screaming and yelling at children is also damaging to the child, their self-esteem and the parent-child relationship.

When I ask parents in counseling about a dictator style parent who spanked and/or yelled and how that impacted their relationship with the parent, usually they explain that they didn't open up to that parent, or confide in them when they had a problem. Often, yelling or spanking is about a parent feeling overstressed and losing their cool. Neither spanking or yelling are effective ways to discipline children or teens. Discipline has to do with teaching the child something and a consequence is usually a better way to go.

Remember, if you lose your cool with your child, that's probably all they will remember from the situation. They will likely be thinking about how mean you are, not about what they did.

Parents hold their child or teen in a kind of "empathic envelope", with much of family life occurring along the envelope's edge with parents letting children out for more freedom, or setting limits and pulling them back in. When you explode at your child, it's as if you blow up the whole envelope that holds them in a safe relationship with you.

Parents still need to be the co-architects of the family, and children need reasonable limits, with more freedom as they are making more responsible choices. If you don't know how to do this,  a parenting class or a few sessions with a family therapist can help you upgrade your parenting skills to be more effective. If you really want a child who turns out to think for themselves, be kind, responsible, and able to be close to other people and feel safe, your parenting is the path that helps get them there.

While we are at it, not only is yelling at your child a bad idea, but so is yelling in your relationships with other adults you care about. I think of yelling as primitive and unskilled behavior. We can do better. we owe it to our children and all our adult relationships to find healthier ways to manage our stresses, set limit , and communicate when we are upset.  Is yelling the new spanking? I sure hope so.