A study published last week by the journal Child Development shows that yelling at your kids and insulting them in response to bad behavior can have as much of a negative effect on them as hitting them would. Co-author of the study, University of Pittsburgh psychology professor Ming-Te Wang, says, “Shouting cannot reduce or correct their problem behavior. On the contrary, it makes it worse.” She adds that yelling makes teens feel “they are not capable, that they are worthless and are useless,” which causes more lashing out behavior that parents yell about.

Destructive criticism is one of the most harmful of all human behavior. It lowers self-esteem, creates poor self-image, and undermines the individual’s performance in everything he or she attempts. When destructive criticism is delivered in the form of yelling, it shakes the children’s self-confidence and self-worth.

The average parent criticizes his or her children as many as eight times for every time he or she praises them. Experts suggest that a more effective way to get teens to correct an undesirable behavior is by taking away privileges, such as screen tie or the car keys. From my personal experience, an even better way is to reward and praise a specific desirable behavior or virtue whenever it is exhibited.

In his book “Maximum Achievement”, Brian Tracy states that one’s level of self-esteem is determined by two factors. The first is how valuable and worthwhile you feel about yourself, how much you like and accept yourself as a good person. This is the “personal assessment” side of self-esteem. The second factor is your feeling of “self-efficacy,” how competent and capable you feel you are in whatever you do. This is the “performance-based” side of self-esteem. These two parts of your self-esteem reinforce each other. When you feel good about yourself, you perform better. And when you perform well, you feel good about yourself.The goal of the parents should be to build up our kids’ self-esteem rather than destroying it little by little with our daily subtle or loud criticism.

I started writing this post this afternoon at the Seven Bridge Ice Arena. Jake and I arrived a bit late due to an earlier dental appointment. So he was left with 5 minutes to change and put on his ice skates. Jake’s coach wasn’t there today but he instructed us go anyway so that Jake could practice the new moves on ice. Before each private lesson, his coach would retie his skates to make it tight and comfortable. I purchased half an hour contract ice on Tuesdays, but today Jake was still struggling with the skate laces fifteen minutes into the session. I calmly offered him help a couple of times but was rejected. Finally he got on the ice, fell down, stormed out of the rink and began to rework the laces. This continued till the end of the half an hour. I told him we’d have to leave. He started crying, taking off the skates and throwing them out.

I was tempted to yell at him in an effort to nip the outburst in the bud because people were looking at us. But I knew I shouldn’t. So I cajoled Jake into the car as he continued weeping half way home.

We talked after dinner about what we could have done differently in a similar situation. Jake and I thought we should ask dad to show both of us how to tie the skates the right way so that we could help each other out in the future. I suggested that Jake should ask for help from the other coaches instead of getting frustrated and throwing a fit. He agreed.

Yelling is a sign of dysfunction and it indicates helplessness and a loss of control. According to Carolyn Castiglia, if you are a punitive parent, chances are that’s a reflection of the parenting you received, and if you’ve noticed that you’re disciplining your kids in the ways your parents disciplined you – even if you don’t mean to be – you’ve got to take some time to face and examine all of the shame you were forced to swallow as a child so you don’t keep spitting or seeping it back out.

A lot of times we lash out at our kids because we feel out of control and being judged especially in public. Let others judge you. Chances are you’ll never see these people again. But the damage done by yelling and shaming your kids will leave lasting marks on their young brain.

Nobody is perfect, if you do get frustrated and accidently yell at your kids, apologize and make things right immediately. As you work on changing your reactions to stress, remind yourself that being kind to yourself is the first step in being kind to everyone else, especially your sometimes demanding and perfectionist kids.