Papa Don't Preach (or Yell)

I'm not sure whether to be proud or ashamed of the fact that I recall a Madonna tune from the 80's entitled "Papa Don't Preach"--and I liked it. Regardless, the title and lyrics point to a powerful truth. The full line is "Papa don't preach, I'm in trouble deep." Though I'm not a fan of Madonna's moral stances, I like this song. It represents the yearning of a pregnant girl who needs her daddy's support, not his condemnation. If there were a sequel, new research suggests it be named "Papa Don't Yell."

The lead researcher, Dr. Laura Padilla-Walker summarizes the research on dads' and moms' distinctive influence with teenagers.

"Fathers should be gentler with teenagers, who react badly when dad yells at them, according to our study, which found that teenagers are less affected when mom is verbally hostile. 

Our findings challenge ‘Wait till your father gets home’ attitudes that traditionally position dads as the lead disciplinarians when children grow older. We showed that when dad plays this role in a heavy-handed way, it turns teenagers off from being helpful at home and with strangers. In contrast, when mom loses her cool with the kids, they don’t tend to react negatively in this way."

I would caution moms not to think it's a great idea for you to yell at your teens. While it may not be as harmful as when dads yell, it's not helpful. Here's another important quote:


"These are difficult insights for some fathers to act on. Boys are often trained to believe that the only acceptable emotion is anger. Many then bring that approach to fatherhood. But it doesn’t work well, especially with adolescents who are behaving badly. That doesn’t mean fathers should be permissive or cease to apply rules. But they should recognize the difference between being firm and being hostile."

Turansky and Miller from the National Center for Biblical Parenting echo this last truth in their books this way: "Be firm without being harsh." Harshness, which certainly can include yelling, damages relationships. Firmness, on the other hand, sets limits and is necessary for every child at every age.

Dads, be careful about raising your voice. You're likely to do more harm than good.