My own mother is a legendary and unrepentant screamer. I don’t recall a single instance of her ever hitting any of her four children, but she sure did yell – a lot and loudly. She blames her Italian background, but most of her siblings are soft-spoken so I don’t think we can blame genetics or the Mediterranean. (Time has not lowered my mother’s volume. When she comes for a visit, the cats hide.)
A New York Times story calls screaming the new “spanking.” In essence, the story says that while today’s parents don’t spank as much, they yell a lot more. While the research on spanking and hitting suggests that it can have lasting and negative effects, we don’t know as much about the impact of screaming on children.
According to the story:
Many in today’s pregnancy-flaunting, soccer-cheering, organic-snack-proffering generation of parents would never spank their children. We congratulate our toddlers for blowing their nose (“Good job!”), we friend our teenagers (literally and virtually), we spend hours teaching our elementary-school offspring how to understand their feelings. But, incongruously and with regularity, this is a generation that yells.
“I’ve worked with thousands of parents and I can tell you, without question, that screaming is the new spanking,” said Amy McCready, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, which teaches parenting skills in classes, individual coaching sessions and an online course. “This is so the issue right now. As parents understand that it’s not socially acceptable to spank children, they are at a loss for what they can do. They resort to reminding, nagging, timeout, counting 1-2-3 and quickly realize that those strategies don’t work to change behavior. In the absence of tools that really work, they feel frustrated and angry and raise their voice.
I don’t yell much. And I cringe when I hear parents shouting in Burger King or teachers yelling in schools. It is probably a carryover from my childhood when the bellows signaled my mother had had it and it was best to flee the house, if not the country.
Parents also yell at school. A teacher friend says she hates parent conferences to address discipline problems because parents often start shouting — and sometimes swearing — at their child right in front of her. She worries that the yelling will lead to worse once the parent and child leave.
Maybe, the yelling is the worse of it. But is it bad enough all on its own?