Scolding your child to discipline him? Parents, know your limits

Scolding kids to discipline them comes easily to parents. But, its not the right child disciplining method. Read to know the effects of parents scolding their kids.

By S Divya Prabha  • 8 min read

Scolding your child to discipline him? Parents, know your limits

Compared to adults, children exhibit a different kind of energy. Most of the time, the are active and playful, make loud noises and enjoy everything they do. Parents too enjoy watching their lively little ones express and exhibit emotions and do things like playing, talking and so on.

As adults, we have to be patient to understand the reason behind a child’s actions. But, understanding a child’s emotions and feelings comes with knowing our limitations. It would help to remember the saying, “Handle with Care”. Children are great imitators. For example, if you shout, they will shout back; if you scold them, they will do the same to someone else. Since your children will grow up to emulate your actions, it would be wise to do what you want them to.

The anomalies, 'a perfect child' or 'a perfect parent' do not really exist. Scolding your child can hurt her beyond comprehension. And, while some children may express their displeasure at being scolded, other may not although they may feel hurt emotionally.

Using harsh words, or scolding a child, is considered a form of emotional abuse. Experts believe that the psychological effects of being yelled at is as bad as, and sometimes even worse than, physical abuse. Therefore, as a parent, you should be aware of the psychological effects of scolding.

Like adults, a child being scolded also experiences feelings of humiliation, fear, guilt, shame, anxiety and stress. All these could lead to sleep-related problems, developmental delays, behavioural problems, learning problems, emotional issues and trouble forming social relationships.

Larzelere and Kuhn published a study titled, 'Comparing child outcomes of physical punishment and alternative disciplinary tactics: a meta-analysis', in the journal Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review (2005). The results of this study showed that conditional spanking was more effective in reducing child noncompliance and antisocial behaviour in 10 of 13 studies. They added that overly severe or predominant use of physical punishment "compared unfavourably with alternative disciplinary tactics."

In short, there seems to be a threshold wherein a little scolding can be a beneficial tool in a parent's disciplining toolkit, while excessive scolding can be detrimental.

Myths and facts about parents scolding children

Myth: Parents never abuse their children.

Fact: Parents indulge in emotional abuse when they scold or beating their children.

Myth: Scolding can help discipline your child.

Fact: Scolding doesn't instil discipline; instead, it could give rise to behavioural issues.

Myth: Scolding your child in public can make her listen to you.

Fact: It can make your child obstinate.

Myth: Scolding your child can make her tell the truth.

Fact: It may lead her to hide the truth.

Myth: Scolding helps parents control their child’s behaviour.

Fact: Parents scolding their child shows that they are not in control. Scolding does not teach a child to change her behaviour. Instead, it makes a child feel fearful or aggressive.

Myth: Good parents don’t get irritated or angry at their child’s behaviour.

Fact: All parents feel annoyed by their child’s behaviour at times. It is okay to be angry, but it is wrong to hurt the child in anger.

Myth: Scolding can ensure that your child always listens to what you say.

Fact: Scolding is not the key to make your child listen. Instead, it may lead to violent behaviour.

“Scolding is not a good weapon for parents or parenting”. Be a positive parent and inculcate positive parenting techniques. Never abuse your children by not knowing the limits of scolding. Always keep this in your mind, “Yelling silences your message. Speak quietly so your children can hear your words instead of just your voice.” – L.R.Knost

  • Have a positive approach to life.
  • Wake up your child calmly.
  • Help him do chores in a composed way.
  • Talk to him lovingly.
  • Never scold your child while he is having food.
  • Avoid scolding when your child is going to bed.
  • Stop using harsh words.
  • Use lot of positive strokes.
  • Never put down your child in front of others.
  • Send your child to school with a peaceful mind.
  • Receive your child from school with a happy mind.
  • When you scold your child, give appropriate reasons and explanations which are suited to their age and understanding.
  • Enjoy your child’s presence.
  • Get help from experts and manage your anger in an effective and positive way.

Watch your body language, tone of voice and use of words when you are with your child. If you feel you are losing your temper:

  • Take a time-out
  • Relax and breathe deeply
  • Check out the mirror
  • Distract yourself by listening to songs
  • Move away from the spot
  • Go for a walk and set your mind free
  • Calm yourself and then talk to your child

Use these simple techniques to reduce your anger. And, talk to your child calmly to make him behave the way you desire.

You could also learn about how to discipline your child without punishment by setting behaviour expectations. 

About the expert:

Written by S Divya Prabha on 3 April 2017.

Ms Prabha is a counselling psychologist with specialisation in child and adolescent psychology.

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