You wouldn't normally scream at an annoying friend or neighbor. Yet shouting at a misbehaving or dawdling child is standard for many parents. When sociologist Murray Straus, Ph.D., and his colleagues interviewed 991 families, they discovered more than 90% use yelling, screaming, or shouting as a way to correct the behavior of a child. "Parents assume that because everybody does it, yelling is harmless," says Dr. Straus, who co-directs the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. "That's not the case. Yelling belittles kids and undermines the parent-child bond."
Another reason to quiet down: Raising your voice is no more effective than other, less harmful, alternatives. "Walking up to a child and repeating 'Stop it' works just as well as shouting," Dr. Straus says. "If necessary, hold your child firmly and explain that what he's doing is not okay." The reality, say researchers, is that whether you spank, yell, or speak in a normal voice, a toddler has about an 80% likelihood of repeating her misdeed within the same day, a 50% chance within a few hours. Repeating your message without hollering is, in the long run, the better, far less harmful, tactic.