Yelling and anger have their place if you want to get someone’s attention in an emergency, a crisis, or for self-defense. Yet, it turns out that the more dramatic the anger and threats of punishment are, the more likely that they will backfire in the long-run.
Stunning research shows that in the short-term, anger and threats work just as effectively as calm requests to get children to refrain from certain undesirable behavior. HOWEVER, in the long-term, studies show that 77% of the kids who were given angry threats would go on to engage in the forbidden behavior, whereas just a a third of the kids who were calmly asked to refrain from the behavior would try the behavior later.
The strong emotions connected with a threat decrease a person’s ability to think clearly. Neurologists think that when the adult makes powerful threats, the child unconsciously concludes, “If someone is using all that effort to stop me from doing that, it must really be something I really want to do.” The heated threat actually creates in the child a strong desire to do the very thing you find undesirable.
So it is better to ask the child in a calm and reasonable manner not to do something. If they ask “Why not?” it’s best to ask them to work out possible reasons. You are likely to get a much better long term response.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD