It is likely that you have had a hard day at work and still have several household tasks ahead of you. You ask your son to do his homework, but he doesn’t listen to you. After reminding him again, he continues to ignore it. Then you lose patience and yell at him.
This scenario is not unusual. It’s hard to contain frustration when it boils inside you. In fact, frustration is a common emotion that we experience when we want things to be different. When something doesn’t go according to plan, we get frustrated. That’s why we yell at kids when they refuse to do their homework.
However, no one likes to be yelled at. Raising your voice can be a very unpleasant and embarrassing or even frightening experience for children. In reality, yelling at your child to do homework is not a good strategy for several reasons.
Children can’t learn when their brain is in “fight or flight mode.”
Yelling is a way to release frustration and anger, but it is not an effective strategy for changing children’s behavior. In fact, the screams generate a rarefied atmosphere in which the tension can practically be felt. In response, children may be afraid and go into “fight or flight mode”, which is activated when faced with a threatening situation.
If the brain perceives a threat, it triggers that fight or flight reaction. Therefore, it “turns off” all the centers that are not essential to deal with the danger. That means the child won’t be able to concentrate on her homework or learn. If a child is scared or under too much pressure, he simply won’t be able to pay close attention or think clearly. Therefore, doing homework will become an impossible mission.
Instead, psychologists at the Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense
An adult showed them how to do it, but in some cases the adult made the children laugh and in other cases he was serious, just teaching them. The psychologists found that 94% of the children who laughed were able to learn to reach for the toy on their own, but only 25% of the children who did not laugh imitated the adult in reaching for the toy.
The explanation lies in the positive emotions that laughter generates, since they increase dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in different cognitive processes and stimulates learning. In fact, a dopamine deficit will greatly affect working memory and make learning uphill.
Another important advantage of laughter is that it becomes a tool to capture attention so that children can learn better. In this sense, another study carried out at Sam Houston State University.
found that students remembered better the data of a reading when the teacher included jokes related to the topic.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that parents have to become professional comedians to get their kids to do their homework, but they should keep in mind that laughter creates a more relaxed and conducive environment for learning than yelling. The secret is that children do not see learning as an imposed and boring task, but as a special moment to discover new things. After all, most kids love to learn and explore, so they just need the right motivation.
have found that laughter facilitates learning. These researchers found that when children laugh, they learn better. They worked with 53 18-month-old children who were given the task of learning to use an object to reach an inaccessible toy.
Yelling worsens behavior problems in children
When you yell at your child to do homework or behave appropriately, you think you’re solving a problem. It is true, but only momentarily because in the long term, yelling does not prevent bad behavior or help create good habits of coexistence.
When yelling becomes the most used “communication” tool in the home, it makes children’s behavior worse. You will have to shout more and more to correct your child’s behavior because his tolerance threshold for your frustration increases. In this way, a toxic environment is created marked by emotions such as anger and frustration; peppered by maladaptive behaviors such as yelling and disrespect. This was confirmed by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh .
After analyzing 976 families, they concluded that “harsh verbal discipline of mothers and fathers with their children predicted an increase in behavior problems and depressive symptoms in adolescents at age 13” . They also verified the loop generated by the shouting, since the children whose parents shouted the most reacted by worsening their behavior.
The problem is that yelling is not a positive role model to follow. When parents get frustrated and blow up in front of their children, children learn that this is the “right” way to deal with their emotions. If they don’t have parents who assertively model emotional management, they will simply vent their frustration or anger.
Anger breeds anger because it activates mirror neurons in the infant brain. Mirror neurons are the main ones in charge of learning by imitation. Their mission is to reflect the activity that we are observing, so they play a vital role in learning with a high affective and social content.
In practice, the child learns what he sees. If you yell at your child, he will want to yell or will react by showing oppositional and defiant behavior to assert his identity. Therefore, far from making homework easier, yelling ends up generating rejection and anger.
The good news is that mirror neurons can also have the opposite effect. If adults become positive role models for emotional control, children will learn to regulate their emotions assertively. Calm and peaceful communication will help your child feel safe and, therefore, he will be more receptive to your request, so it is likely that he will end up doing his homework sooner.