A new study, described on the front page of last Monday's Post-Gazette, reported that adolescents subjected to harsh verbal discipline by their parents were more likely to have depression and behavioral problems.
That, of course, raises a follow-up question: What is the level of depression and behavioral problems among parents who aren't permitted to use harsh verbal discipline on children in their early teens?
Can they honestly be expected to suppress any rational outburst of anger? Would these not be the parents most likely, as an alternative to shouting at kids, to commit violent acts of road rage (or at, the very least, aim the car at a squirrel in the street)?
We wouldn't be surprised if the following exchange took place in the typical Pittsburgh household with a 13-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter after that report came out in the journal Child Development:
Parent: I need you both to clean up your rooms before you leave this house. I've told you that three times already this month. Don't test my patience any longer.
Daughter: Oh my God, I can't believe you're yelling at us about this ... again!
Parent: I was not yelling. I was just stating the fact that --
Son: I can't take this much abuse! I'm going over to Jeffrey's house.
Parent: Hold it, I just said you can't leave until --
Son: There you go again! Don't you read Child Development journal? Don't you know what you're doing to us?
Parent: But I wasn't doing anything but asking you, once and for all, to clean the 10,000 pounds of clothes, towels, dishes, papers and food waste off the disgusting floors of your rooms.
Daughter: You just don't get it, do you? There's a whole harsh tone right there that is totally demoralizing to my maturation. Don't be surprised if I'm binge drinking again with Jennifer and Nate this weekend.
Daughter: Yes, just like after that time you yelled at me to do my homework. It's all your fault -- the research shows it. Worst ... parent ... ever!
Son: It's like the professor said in the newspaper article: "Adolescents are really sensitive to language and judgment from other people. It hurts their self-image and makes them feel like they are useless."
Parent: But I'm your parent. If you don't listen to me, I get frustrated. When I'm frustrated, I raise my voice. When no one still listens, I use angry words I'd rather not use, but I have no choice by then to get your attention. So if you precious knuckleheads would please go up --
Daughter: If you hate us so much, why'd you ever have children? We didn't ask to be born.
Parent: Hate you? I don't hate you. Where'd you ever get that idea?
Son: That time I stayed out till midnight without telling you where I was, you said you'd kill me if I ever did it again.
Parent: But that's just an expression! It's an expression out of concern and love. I just want to help you make good decisions. Like in cleaning your rooms.
Daughter: The professor in the newspaper article recommended you reward good behavior.
Son: So what will you give us if we clean our rooms?
Parent: Give you? That's insane. I'll tell you what I'll give you if you don't do it, and you're not going to like it!
Daughter: That is soooo counter-productive. You should hear yourself.
Son: My head hurts so much right now from your language. I'm sorry, but I think I'm going to act out somehow -- I just hope no one innocent gets hurt.
Parent: Unbelievable. All I did was hope you would clean up your room, and now I'm to blame if you're the next Columbine shooter.
Daughter: This is the worst home environment children could ever be raised in. Amy won't even visit because she can't stand the way you talk to us.
Parent: I thought you said Amy's father once hit her.
Daughter: The research says verbal intimidation is just as bad, maybe even worse.
Son: I don't think that means you should hit us though, so don't get any ideas.
Parent: I would never hit you. I don't even want to yell at you. I just want you to clean your rooms!
Daughter: Well, I don't know what to say -- you're just going about it all wrong.
Parent: Fine, I give up.
Son: You are? Great, I'm going over to Jeffrey's. See ya.
Daughter: And I'll be with Jennifer and Nate. Love you, bye.intelligencer - science
Gary Rotstein: email@example.com or 412-263-1255.