Why shouting at your children is as bad as smacking them (UK)

Mail Online 28th March 2009

At this rate, the only weapon left for parents dealing with extremely difficult children will be a nasty look. For it seems that shouting at your offspring could follow smacking in falling foul of political correctness. Parents are now worried that they are letting their children down when they raise their voices to tell them off and fear they could be accused of losing their cool. The issue is the subject of a BBC Radio 4 series on parenthood, Bringing Up Britain. The first episode will tackle the issue of shouting and disciplining children. Professor Stephen Scott, of the National Association of Parenting Practitioners, tells the programme that the issue of shouting at children had become an increasing worry. He added that youngsters needed to experience some shouting in order to prepare themselves for the outside world, where they would meet people who were passionate or emotional. Professor Scott did warn, however, there was a point when shouting at children became destructive – particularly if it is repeated and personal.

Scientists in the US are starting to look at the impact of verbal abuse alone on young people. Sue Gerhardt, a psychotherapist who has researched how early experience shapes babies’ brains, told the show: ‘We can learn from science when parenting. The fact is extreme levels of stress affect the development of young children’s brains. ‘If you have chronic stress levels – which happens when real fear is generated – over time this will increase the stress hormone cortisol, [which] affects brain development. It is linked with aggression and depression.’

…The concerns over shouting follow years of wrangling between children’s charities, parents and the government over smacking. It has become an increasing taboo despite the fact that many parents privately believe it is an acceptable way to discipline children. Under the law, mild smacking is allowed but parents who hit children hard enough to leave a mark face up to five years’ imprisonment.