Spankings were a part of my childhood growing up. They weren’t a huge part, because I can count on both hands how many times it happened. The most memorable one was when I was about 6 years old. I took the big wooden saddle brush my mother was using to comb my hair, and I threw it at the glass table in our living room. Why? Because I was tender-headed and my mother hit a kink while she was combing my hair.

Boy, did that switch hurt.  Did I deserve it? Looking back, I realize that yeah, maybe I shouldn’t have thrown the brush.

My mother also yelled. Hell, at 57, she still yells. But eventually I learned to block out the yelling. She ended up sounding like the teacher from the Charlie Brown cartoons. Wok, wok, wok, wok, wok.

Everyone chooses different ways to discipline their child. Some people, not just black people, still go by the saying, “spare the rod, spoil the child”.  Others rely on things like time outs, yelling, and taking away “fringe benefits”.  In my house, there have been times when I’ve yelled at my son. I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t yelled at a teenager. When he was younger, there was a smack on the butt here and there, but what worked more for him was taking away stuff he liked.  Oh, you don’t want to clean the kitchen? Well, how about no Playstation, Xbox, internet wi-fi passwords or food (just kidding).

Everyone has already heard about the numerous studies and opinions the effects of spanking and it’s been covered on Clutch several times.

But a recent study takes discipline one step further.  A study out of the University of Pittsburgh says yelling at teens and tweens — particularly when it involves cursing or insults — can be just as harmful as hitting.  But I think the operative words here are “cursing” and “insults”, which are signs of verbal abuse.

From The Washington Post:

The University of Pittsburgh study released in September looked at 967 middle school students over a two-year period. Those whose parents used “harsh verbal discipline” such as yelling, cursing and using insults were more likely to be depressed or have behavior problems. The study found it was also not effective in getting children to stop what they were doing, and that it was damaging even to children in homes that were generally warm and loving.

“If you yell at your child, you either create somebody who yells back at you or somebody who is shamed and retreats,” said Meghan Leahy, a mother of three and a parenting coach in Northwest Washington. “You’re either growing aggression or growing shame. Those are not characteristics that any parents want in their kids.”

There is a difference, of course, between being verbally abusive and using a sharply raised voice. Yelling alone is not always damaging, although the surprise of a sudden change in volume can cause a child to be fearful or anxious. It’s often what is said that is harmful, according to Deborah Sendek, program director for the Center for Effective Discipline(CED).

When my mother did yell, she never cursed or hurled insults.  As a parent, that’s just something you shouldn’t do. Of course it could lead to other issues.  In the case of this study, I think they probably found the bottom of the barrel parents.

The study also reminded me of an incident from a  few summers ago.  I invited a former friend, who’s known for being a “conscious” black woman, and her pre-teen daughter to come along on a trip to Six Flags, since my son needed an extra ride partner.  At the end of the trip, the daughter wanted to stand in line for a funnel cake. At that point it started to drizzle and her mother was in a rush to go. The daughter? Not so much.  All of a sudden, the mother is yelling and cursing at her daughter in public.  My son stood there in shock and I could tell he felt sorry for the girl.  The girl was embarrassed and I felt sorry for her. People were standing around with their mouths and eyes wide open.

Until that incident, I’d never heard a parent curse and yell at their child in such a way. Maybe was her form of discipline, but it doesn’t make it right. It’s always those parents who say, “Well my child is ok, there’s nothing wrong with him/her”.  Sure, that could be the case, but chances are no kid wants to be cursed and humiliated.

Clutchettes, what form of discipline have you used/use for your child, or plan to when you have one?

  • Chantelle W.

    Reinforcement, How do teachers manage classrooms of students without yelling and hitting their students, simply reinforcing positive behaviors with rewards (praise, good job, “stars”, gifts, incentives) and “punishing” or being stern on what is not acceptable behavior, ( taking items away, time out, not acknowledging bad behaviors) It is really simple. most people yell and beat their kids out of frustration, however not the most effective way to discipline children.

  • Fay Alise

    Take away all their things! It taught me when I was younger and got in trouble. Best believe that only had to happen twice for me to figure out I wasn’t feelin that!

  • Fay Alise

    Take away all their things! It taught me when I was younger and got in trouble. Best believe that only had to happen twice for me to figure out I wasn’t feelin that!

  • ILF

    This is such a struggle. I was spanked growing up and I do not want to aggressively spank my son. The balance and the desire to be perfect is exhausting. Even when I have said something a thousand times I try to calm down the 1,001 time to make sure I am still being sharp and not mean. Being a parent is hard work. Plus children will heed a father’s no before their mother’s which is also an amazing phenomenon to me.

  • My Name is My Name

    “Plus children will heed a father’s no before their mother’s which is also an amazing phenomenon to me.”

    There is nothing amazing about that. Children learn early on to respect authority from a man than a woman.

  • geenababe

    I was whipped or spank when I was younger but then my mom would stop and use her voice to discipline her children when we hit a certain age. If I ever change my mind about having kids I don’t want to hit them. I don’t like seeing kids getting hit and then hearing the horrible crying afterwards. I also think it kind of embarrassing to hit your kids in public. I think to myself if I don’t want to hit my kid then what else would I do if the child is acting real bad and not listening? This is another reason why I don’t want kids.

  • seriously?

    I am the last child so about time my mom had me she was more in to “talking” discipline and what nots. Though I still got “beatings” but I can count those all the times I did recieve physical punishment. But I want too add something, maybe I am the exception to the rule but getting stufftaken away from was not seen as punishment to me.I couldve care less they were gone ill eventually get them back and “pretended” to have learn a lesson. I did always rremember the “epiphany” I had growing up which is to not care about things because they can be taken away from you anytime.

  • Humanista

    “But eventually I learned to block out the yelling. She ended up sounding like the teacher from the Charlie Brown cartoons. Wok, wok, wok, wok, wok.”

    Bingo! This is a testament to how yelling can be ineffective, even if it isn’t damaging. But, I think how it affects a kid depends on the kid. I’d be surprised at any evidence that consistent yelling actually did something positive, though…

  • Humanista

    A phenomenon, maybe. Conditioning, probably.

    I am pretty sure if that was the dynamic in my family, I would try and trade it in for a new one! lol

    Seems the only way to fix that is if dad reinforces that your word is law. But kids always identify the ‘easy’ parent, and it’s not always Mom!

  • K

    i havent decided yet, but i know i dont WANT to yell when i have a kid, i DO believe in spanking, not beating. and I definitely will not do what my mother did which was yell with insults and cursing (if i wrote on here all the b*** & sl**, stupid, etc id be censored from here) ill add that yes that type of discipline will effect the child way into adulthood.

  • M

    Same here I don’t want to spank. I think there is a difference in types of spankings. A spanking being a few sharp pops on the rear vs like the father on that teen tweaking video. I hate that image of an adult standing over a child with a belt while the kid is trapped in a corner. Those are the type I got and it seems a lot of other black people got that kind too.

  • MimiLuvs

    I am a god-parent to a few teens.
    I know that their parents didn’t use spanking as their only and primary source of discipline.
    But I do know that the “Have you lost your rabid-a** mind?!” question has slipped out of their mouths… Mine included.

  • catpopstar

    I think you should try explaining to the kid why what they did was wrong, how it made you feel, the consequences(or potential consequences). An explanation just might shut them up and teach some empathy. Don’t just say “no, you cannot have this toy”, add a “because…”. Its what my mom did for me.

  • BeanBean

    Spankings and yellings were common in my house. Mom did both the yelling and spanking. I think the type of discipline is based on the type of child you have. Some children respond to different types of disciplin. My sister doesn’t believe in spankings, but as of now I probably will spank my kids, but that can change.

  • Tange

    We learned it from our slave masters. Whip them into shape. I will never. I repeat I will never hit my kid. Besides parents only hit children because you know darn well they can’t hit you back. Would you hit a co-worker who did something wrong at the office? Why not teach kids negotiating skills and the rules of consequences without hitting them?

  • elyse

    Definitely depends on the kid. I think things that worked on me did not work on my brother.

    As for my son, I’ve tried lots of things, some things work temporarily, nothing has worked permanently, but I realize, he’s gonna act up, I’ll remain consistent in discipline and hope it’ll make him a better person in the long run.

  • Lisss

    Sooo true! And im not sure how much can be attributed to socialization and biology. I really do wonder if deeper the tone, the better for discipline. Just a thought…

    Btw, nice Marlo Stanfield reference.

  • ILF

    My husband just knows how to drop his voice and be stern. I thought I would be tougher but he is so cute I melt. He has me wrapped and I am with him a lot more than my husband so I think he sees me as more fun than a disciplinarian. He is only 1 so we have time to condition.

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