Family Matters: Yelling equal to spanking

Family Matters: Yelling equal to spanking

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Many parents question what's effective and when is the line crossed when it comes to disciplining their kids.    A recent study from the University of Pittsburgh shows yelling, shouting, and raising your voice equate with spanking.   

Two and a half year-old Bower has a ball at the neighborhood playground, but he can be a handful when he doesn't get his way.  

"There's one spot in the house where we take him for time-out," said his dad, Mike Rhodes. "He can't stand it. It just breaks his heart."

Rhodes and the other parents we spoke with don't believe in spanking or yelling, even though for many parents it can seem like an instinctual reaction.

"I understand that they're kids," said Rhodes.  "It's not going to help to yell at them. I just don't do it."

Mom of two, Katherine Shelley said, "I save yelling for when they're in danger. So if I'm yelling, that means they're scared, they're alert, they're paying attention."
Experts agree safety issues are the appropriate time to yell.  

Integris family therapist Mary Ellen Million isn't surprised by the new study equating yelling with spanking. "Lots of parents think I have to make them respect me," said Million.  "But honestly, if you treat children with respect, especially when they're real young, if you speak with respect, they're more likely to automatically speak with respect."

But showing kids respect doesn't mean letting them off the hook.  "Sometimes what you have to say as a parent is, 'No. that's the answer.'  You don't have to yell at them," Million said. "You don't have to  put them down while you do."  

Million said while verbal and physical punishment aren't effective, it can take work for some parents to avoid using them.  

"I can lose my cool," said Shelley. "and it's typically, I vent, then leave the room."

Shelley gives herself a mommy time out when she needs one, and Million agrees that's a great idea.

She said, "Take that time out and think about what is it I want this child to learn, what is it I need this child to do, and how am I going to get them to do it best?"

That same study shows it doesn't get any easier as kids get older.  Yelling insults and cursing at adolescents may be just as damaging to them in the long run as physical abuse. 

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