Parents who lash out at kids can stunt brains, researchers say

  • Article by: Alfred Lubrano , Philadelphia Inquirer
  • Updated: December 23, 2013 - 11:57 AM

Stress brought on by harsh parenting can impair development, increasing chances for negative behavior.

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Kathy_BrandtDec. 21, 13 5:55 PM

I got my backside warmed many times and didn't develop "toxic stress." We need more discipline and less "feel good" tactics.

swmnguyDec. 21, 13 6:10 PM

This kind of parenting also doesn't work. How many times do you see a kid just keep misbehaving when the parents are losing their self-control? That's far more typical than not.

I'm raising two teenagers. Since they were born, I've found it far more effective to pay attention to them and get them involved than to be an authoritarian. Even if force worked, I'm trying to raise functional, effective, self-assured adults. You don't do that by using physical or verbal dominance over children. You do that by being the adult and not forcing little kids to cooperate when they really need a nap, and by talking and listening to them, and by including them in the task when shopping or riding the bus, or whatever it is that you're doing.

One time when my son was 2 he was acting up in the store. It was too close to naptime and I was pushing it to get done with errands, I knew. He was losing it because he was too tired. I got down low, eye to eye with him, and told him quietly that if he couldn't behave and help with the shopping we were just going to leave and go home. Well, he couldn't keep it together because he was too tired and overstimulated. So, OK, I picked him up gently, and calmly walked out the door, put him in the car, and home we went, without what we had come for. The ride home was silent. He hadn't thought I'd do it. When we got home he took off his coat and shoes himself and went and climbed into his bed. I never had to do that again; just remind him of the once. But then, I realized that as the adult, it was mostly my fault for trying to push a toddler past what a toddler can really do.

johndontDec. 21, 13 7:13 PM

What you did with your 2 year old son swmnguy in your story was an example (or close to an example) of a positive parenting exercise right out of a book titled "Children: The Challenge." In my opinion, what you did was a win win for both you and your son even though you didn't get your errands finished.

celtman1Dec. 21, 13 7:29 PM

swmnguy: You are very astute. Would that there were more parents like you around. You have combined assured negative consequences for negative behavior (appropriate negative consequences, not physical or yelling & arm-waving) with the realization that negative behavior may often be the result of unseen or unperceived factors. I am visibly impressed with your parenting skills.

owatonnabillDec. 22, 13 7:26 AM

Heh. Off-the-wall pieces like this offer a little amusement along with the morning cup of Guatemalan (whole-bean, ground just before brewing, of course) but very little else. First, the problem with many kids living in disadvantaged situations is not authoritarian parenting, it is no parenting. Second, there is nothing wrong with authoritarian parenting. Parents ARE--or should be, unless as is all too often the case they abdicate--the authority. All too often has owatonnbill seen kids in public who are little more than apes, running rampant down supermarket aisles or grabbing handfuls of food from the trays at this-or-that buffet while the parents either sit back and do nothing or attempt to bargain with the kid in question. Saw one little monster a few weeks back at a local fitness club running up to the back of a sofa in the waiting area, tumbling down over the back onto the cushions and then to the floor. He did this over and over while Mommy in her cute little Spandex outfit sat on a chair nearby texting. The manager in the end asked the woman to rein in her little critter which she did after giving the manager a VERY dirty look. Nothing works as well to rein in Junior as a warning, followed quickly (if the behavior repeats) by a quick swat across the posterior. Owatonnabill, his kids and grandkids were/are being raised by the same ethic and it is doubtful that there is a "stunted" brain in the lot.

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