Are you a screamer? (In the classroom.)

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?

41 comments Add your comment

Ernest

October 22nd, 2009
2:40 pm

I must admit in my advancing years I find myself becoming more a ‘looker’ now when one of my ‘angels’ does something that causes a call from the teacher. I was never much a yeller because I scared myself sometimes when I heard the yelling. Looking and asking questions calmly can have the same effect. Ask my kids….

what's right for kids???

October 22nd, 2009
2:53 pm

Screaming and raising one’s voice are two very different things.

jim d

October 22nd, 2009
3:36 pm

Even with all of my candor, I don’t think i’d have asked that question on a public forum. :)

Maureen Downey

October 22nd, 2009
3:40 pm

jim d, As an Italian-American, I have a kitchen motto that applies to all of life: Never fear the spice.
Maureen

Look before I leap

October 22nd, 2009
5:00 pm

My mother was a spanker, my did was a hitter, though he wasn’t around much thankfully. But it was the ‘look’ of utter disappointment on my mom’s face followed by silence that really got my attention. I knew I had truly messed up when that happened.

Badger

October 22nd, 2009
5:36 pm

Just the fact that spanking is socially unacceptable is so much BS. I had 5 kids and each one was disciplined in the proper manner up to and including spanking. They have turned out to be productive well rounded members of society..They are Two doctors, a Captain in the Army and an FBI agent. So spare the rod and spoil the child is a very good rule to follow and not those idiots that want to “talk a child to death while he or she is destroying the store they are currently visiting.

ScienceTeacher671

October 22nd, 2009
5:38 pm

Perhaps because so many parents are screamers, some children don’t seem to think you’re serious unless you raise your voice slightly.

catlady

October 22nd, 2009
5:52 pm

In addition to screaming, many parents are “warners”. They warn continuously, but never follow up. The kids just outwait them. Kids like this hate me (luckily I don’t have too many) because I won’t scream, and I won’t let them ignore what they have been told to do.

We have 2 shrieker teachers who need to lower their voices in volume and pitch.

My kindergarteners called the look I would give them “The frozen eyelash.”

V for Vendetta

October 22nd, 2009
10:12 pm

LOL, Maureen. You cracked me up with that one.

ScienceTeacher671

October 23rd, 2009
6:06 am

I think the problem is not necessarily the method of “discipline” – although screaming is certainly unpleasant – but that these parents, as catlady points out, rarely enforce any consequences, and many of them don’t want the schools to do so either.

So many of these children have no external discipline at home, and so they aren’t developing self-discipline either – and the schools are suffering for it.

catlady

October 23rd, 2009
6:57 am

IMHO, the thing that is most problematic to me is the belittling tone some of the teachers (the 2 I mentioned above) and some parents use when talking to the children. Being spoken to as though you are a mentally retarded cocker spaniel is pretty bad

Jacks Mum

October 23rd, 2009
7:50 am

There will always be those that feel any type of discipline is cruel to children. As a parent of an extremely well behaved child, I can tell you, it does not come for free. Do I yell, yes I do. Do I spank, on rare occasions, do I use time out, restriction from fun, the removal of favorite toys…all of the above. The punishment must fit the crime and the rules must be consistent.

It is terrible for children to be abused, but discipline is not abuse. As a society we must learn to focus on the exceptional bad behavior (child abuse) and stop white washing as discipline as “potential” abuse. I’ve gotten many a dirty look from people in public when addressing my son for an infraction, but I also have teachers (who do not teach my son) at the school seek me out to meet me and tell me what an exceptional child my son is.

Rod

October 23rd, 2009
8:03 am

My son is 2 1/2. We’re doing the no spanking thing because my wife wants it that way and wasn’t spanked as a child (I told her she was a girl and our son is a boy and it’s harder with boys). Anyway, we’ve gotten him to understand when we’re really serious about NO and STOP. However, he’s much more likely to obey when I raise my voice. That’s just the way it is.

However, as “what’s right for kids???” said, screaming and raising one’s voice are two different things. I don’t scream at my son – there’s just no need for that. I think screaming at your child says more about the parents than the children.

Dewi

October 23rd, 2009
8:22 am

I still don’t see anything wrong with spanking. It worked for me, it worked for my wife, why won’t it work for our kids? You can’t be spank-happy (ala trigger-happy), but you’ve got to lay down boundaries that are strictly enforced and have consequences. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter what form of discipline is used, the kids won’t care.

Joy in Teaching

October 23rd, 2009
8:43 am

I’m not a screamer as I think that it is far too overdone these days. I DO tend to lower my voice to a “menacing but serious” level when I am dealing with a discipline issue. Trust me…they pay attention.

FultonTeacher

October 23rd, 2009
9:04 am

I find that teachers that constantly scream rarely have control of their class. After a while, students simply tune you out. I must admit that I was a screamer for about the first 3 years of my career. I eventually took some classes and read several books and articles on classroom discipline. Now, I’m in control without the need to scream “be quiet” every 10 minutes.

Old School

October 23rd, 2009
9:59 am

When I was directing our one-act plays some years back, a wise director told me that if an actor is constantly over the top in his delivery, he has no where to go when he needs to be “over the top.” I took that to heart in my classroom and over my 35+ years have learned that a rare but well-timed whistle (VERY loud. . . yeah, I’m good!) brought immediate silence and focus on me. Now all I have to say- at a normal level- is “Don’t make me whistle” and I get the same effect.

Screaming is like cursing. Do it all the time and it loses its drama. Kids may look like they hear you but their minds are sailing off to more pleasant climes. Teachers just have to find what works for them. Silence while standing very still, “don’t make me whistle,” and just talking softer and softer adding “this is great test material” (even if it you don’t use it) are all ways to get students’ attention without raising your voice.

Then, when you do need to shout, the element of surprise is there (at least for me).

Old School

October 23rd, 2009
9:59 am

I forgot to mention that I am very clear with my expectations of behavior from the very beginning.

Gwinnett HS Teacher

October 23rd, 2009
10:05 am

I never scream. In fact, I become even more even-toned and quiet, and it scares the crap out of them! I get them to the point where I can give them a look and straighten them right out.

Backbone

October 23rd, 2009
10:09 am

I got many spankings as a kid at home, school and by a few very close relatives and except for one, I deserved them. During those times, raised voices were just par for the course. Even the one spanking I know I didn’t deserve was the result of my fairly consistent track record of being disobedient. It wasn’t fair but my reputation condemned me. My parents and teachers set firm boundaries and communicated them to me well. When I crossed them, there were consequences and I knew it. But curiosity often got the better of me and I’d choose to disobey. But I turned out just fine because of one undeniable fact: I knew that the people who were punishing me also loved me, because they demonstrated it often. It’s the same formula our heavenly Father uses with us. When I think back on my childhood, it’s not the spankings that I remember most, it’s the love I got. I’m raising a family of my own now. While my wife and I don’t always agree on how far to go with spankings (she got far fewer than me but then she wasn’t nearly as hard-headed as I was), our 4 kids do get them occasionally, including raised voices to go with. Each child is disciplined not just according to their guilt, but personality too – they’re all different. But they know we love them because we demonstrate that love often. Discipline without love is not only useless, it’s harmful. I am aware that the way I grew up generally cannot be duplicated in today’s society because we don’t trust each other like in the past, and rightfully so. Today’s adults and parents are generally not as wise as in the past (that’s the understatement of the day) and since society obviously recognizes that, it’s become unlawful to get spanked in school. We don’t even trust relatives these days since they are often the ones abusing children. But these facts place even more importance of the role of parenting today because the external support system of teachers and relatives who are authorized or encouraged to spank our kids isn’t there anymore. As a result parents are more isolated in their responsibilities than ever before, which only exacerbates the problem of poor parenting. The bible has a lot to say about this topic and we would do well to listen. But it seems as if that’s not popular these days. So I guess we’ll just continue to wallow in our ignorance, continually trying to reinvent the wheel. All the while our kids, who desperately need us to have a spine, suffer.

DeKalb Conservative

October 23rd, 2009
10:11 am

People, including children seem to be naturally programed to listen to people with raised voices. Not a psychologist, but I would assume it is because it is different behavior than what the person is normally known for.

Like so many things, I think this issue more becomes a matter of 1) severity and 2) frequency. There’s a big difference between a raised voice and screaming.

Whether its a parent or a teacher, if you find yourself screaming in frequent manners then that’s a sign you have no control, and likely no respect from the child / student. Possibly as a result of lack of enforcement or perceived enforcement (consequences) from when things are spoken in a raised voice.

Looking back a childhood, I never understood why some teachers could only communicate with an entire classroom by screaming.

DeKalb Conservative

October 23rd, 2009
10:13 am

@ Gwinnett HS Teacher

I think you’re right. Getting more even-toned an quiet probably has a better outcome. You obviously have classrooms of students that respect you and communicating that way is hopefully a learned behavior some of the students will incorporate in their life as an alternative to screaming.

Backbone

October 23rd, 2009
10:25 am

I got many spankings as a kid at home, school and by a few very close relatives and except for one, I deserved them. During these times, raised voices were just par for the course. Even the one spanking I know I didn’t deserve was the result of my fairly consistent track record being disobedient. It wasn’t fair but my reputation condemned me. My parents and teachers set firm boundaries and communicated them to me well. When I crossed them, there were consequences and I knew it. But often my curiosity got the better of me and I’d choose to disobey. But I turned out just fine because of one undeniable fact: I knew that the people who were punishing me also loved me, because they demonstrated it often. It’s the same formula our heavenly Father uses with us. When I think back on my childhood, it’s not the spankings that I remember most, it’s the love I got. I’m raising a family of my own now. While my wife and I don’t always agree on how far to go with spankings (she got far fewer than me but then she wasn’t nearly as hard-headed as I was), our 4 kids do get them occasionally, including raised voices to go with. Each child is disciplined not just according to their guilt, but personality too – they’re all different. But they know we love them because we demonstrate that love often. Discipline without love is not only useless, it’s harmful. I am aware that the way I grew up generally cannot be duplicated in today’s society because we don’t trust each other like in the past, and rightfully so. Today’s adults and parents are generally not as wise as in the past (that’s the understatement of the day) and since society obviously recognizes that, it’s become unlawful to get spanked in school. We don’t even trust relatives these days since they are often the ones abusing children. But these facts place even more importance of the role of parenting today because the external support system of teachers and relatives who are authorized or encouraged to spank our kids isn’t there anymore. As a result parents are more isolated in their responsibilities than ever before, which only exacerbates the problem of poor parenting. The bible has a lot to say about this topic and we would do well to listen. But it seems as if that’s not popular these days. So I guess we’ll just continue to wallow in our ignorance, continually trying to reinvent the wheel. All the while our kids, who desperately need us to have a spine, suffer.

Meme

October 23rd, 2009
10:51 am

I find that I raise my voice more now. So many students (middle school) think that they are in school to socialize and not to learn anything. I don’t know how many times they come into my class and actually ask if we are going to do anything today. We do something every day. I hate raising my voice. (at home sick today)

seriously?

October 23rd, 2009
12:00 pm

Screaming is the new spanking? Uh, no. However, thus continues the wussification of our kids (yes, I just made that word up).

Having said that, screaming (especially often) does denote a lack of control, over the child and yourself. I see nothing wrong, though, with a raised voice. Instilling a LITTLE fear/surprise is not a bad thing.

Erin

October 23rd, 2009
12:35 pm

Raising your voice to make a point is one thing … screaming and out of control is a very different one. I think the out-of-control screaming isn’t doing any good, but a quick scream of “NO!” if a child is, say, about to walk into a busy street, can be effective.

But like someone (catlady, maybe?) pointed out, it’s about the follow-through. Parents give warnings often, but how many times do they actually follow through? Or even if a child starts whining for something (candy in the grocery store, for instance) and the parent keeps saying no and then gives in … all it’s doing is teaching the child to wait out whatever the parent is saying and they’ll eventually get their way.

I think the same thing applies to the screaming parent/teacher, whoever. The kids just tune it out, like they do the inevitable parental lectures.

clyde

October 23rd, 2009
12:40 pm

My wife and I successfully raised two children to be productive adults without hitting or raising our voices.We just treated our children like people,with respect.Just like we treated everyone else.It worked very well.

K.N.

October 23rd, 2009
12:49 pm

I have to agree with Backbone, Badger & Dewi. Ever wonder why today’s kids are not only more selfish & entitlement-centered than we were but there’s more (yes, an old-school term here!) juvenile delinquency & the crimes are much more heinous?? I’m in my mid-50’s, so are my friends & siblings & almost w/out exception, we grew up to be responsible, self-sufficient, law-abiding citizens. I guess it’s a good thing I chose not to breed, I’d have been arrested for actually punishing my kids for infractions as opposed to all the touchy-feely stuff like “time outs”, “nurturing” & all the rest of that wuss-producing garbage

KennesawMa

October 23rd, 2009
12:51 pm

Screaming is useless because often the message the parent is trying to convey is lost in all the noise. My child knows there is trouble if I am quiet. I believe in spanking, absolutely, and I don’t believe it leaves the lasting impression that unkind words leave in the hearts and minds children. For those that are screamers, are you surprised when your children become screamers? Then what?

William

October 23rd, 2009
1:47 pm

So you liberals are so educated now you going to tell us how to rear our children. Hmmm Most educators have nanny’s to rear their kids and they write books on how I should rear mine. It is all marxism. Obama Lied! Obama lied! Obama lied!

steve

October 23rd, 2009
3:29 pm

“obama lied obama lied obama lied”……….look what just crawled out from under a rock folks. One of those “birther” idiots.

ScienceTeacher671

October 23rd, 2009
5:53 pm

Wonder where all the educators who can afford nannies live?

kay

October 23rd, 2009
7:42 pm

I’m with ScienceTeacher671…..where do all the educators with nannies live…I want to get a teaching job in that county. Just think, all this time, I thought we were the nannies!

the sub

October 23rd, 2009
10:31 pm

Meme,
As a middle school substitute, I certainly concur with your post! I lurk on this blog daily, but rarely post, because I am seeking insight on how to do my best job as a sub and as a parent of a middle schooler. As a sub, I feel that I do raise my voice too much in an attempt to get the students’ attention. My county doesn’t want subs to take points off on the kids behavior sheets (parents complain that the subs don’t “understand” their little angels like the regular teacher does). I feel that I have very few tools in my arsenal for classroom management. I have asked administrators at every school I have ever subbed for such advice, but all I get are vague platitudes. Oh, and they DON’T want me sending trouble makers to the office, as that is evidence that I can’t manage the class.

Fulton Teacher
I would love to get your recommendations on the best books/articles on this topic.

Any other teachers/admins out there have concrete suggestions for a substitute whose goal is to not just babysit, but to TEACH whatever lesson plan has been set forth by the classroom professional? I welcome your advice!

William the Paranoid

October 24th, 2009
3:50 pm

Poor William. He cannot trust “the researchers” – they are in on the conspiracy and are out to get him and take his vast fortunes. He cannot trust “the educators”, they too are in on the scheme to get him, and wipe out his mountains of fame. The politicians of course they are in on the scheme, as well as journalists, news anchors, movie stars… yes, they all give a rat’s fanny about William and his kids. It must be nice to have the world to be so focused on your well-being William.

Sarge

October 25th, 2009
2:51 am

There’s a big difference between screaming and addressing the class in a firm, no-nonsense authoritative manner. As with parent-child relationships where the adult intent is to establish a “friendship”, I have observed too many teachers taking on a “Mr. Rogers” type of aura. As long as one treats kids like kids, they will remain kids well into adulthood. Rather than establishing standards for these kids and insisting upon compliance (because, in this pc-saturated culture, we’re actually afraid of these kids), we allow the kids to set their own standards, which, as evidenced by dismal academic achievements, are nill-to-non-existent.

philosopher

October 25th, 2009
12:45 pm

I get it…instead of screaming at our kids we should stand in the middle of the room and scream,”Obama lied!”, Obama lied!”, Obama lied!”, Obama lied!”…its’ the newest form of parenting.

SocialStudiesTeacher

October 25th, 2009
2:00 pm

Um, a couple of points: FYI: In GA, at least, corporal punishment is still legal. It’s just that parents are far too litigious, so systems don’t use it (for the most part–I understand there may a be a few that still do, but I don’t know where they are). Second, screaming at a class is useless…they will eventually act up just to make you scream. In 20 years of teaching, I’ve learned the best thing to do is to simply watch the second hand on the clock…then take whatever time they took from my class (10 seconds, 15, 20, whatever) out of their class change time [read: social time]…hit ‘em where it hurts! Works beautifully! Third, it’s obvious “William” doesn’t know any teachers! In my 20 years I’ve yet to meet a single teacher who has a nanny!! I don’t even have a maid (wish I did)! The problem with kids if mostly parents who are powerless…”I don’t know how to make him do his homework! He tells me he doesn’t have any or he did it at school.” Sheesh…the kids don’t lie to their parent unless they have learned they can get away with it. I have two boys myself, and believe me, they know there will be consequences at home, up to and including spankings, if necessary. They’re well-behaved, make all As & Bs, and play sports. Stop looking for someone to blame–if your kids aren’t suceeding, look in a mirror!

MsCrabtree

October 25th, 2009
2:34 pm

My class knows that when I’m quiet, I’m waiting for them to shape up. They also know for every minute of teaching time I lose due to inappropriate behavior, they have to pay me back the time from their recess.

philosopher

October 25th, 2009
3:54 pm

Badger- I’m awfully glad your kids grew up so fine, despite your spankings. I also have 3 great kids- all kind, well-mannered and respectful, even as small children- now well-respected, intelligent, responsible and self-reliant…and NEVER spanked. It took time, thoughtfullness, consistency, ingenuity and a belief that hitting beings smaller than myself is not right…and it didn’t require talking them to death….so…perhaps there’s more than one way to raise good kids.

The Write Brained Teacher

October 27th, 2009
12:54 pm

Children live what they learn. Screaming teaches children that the adult is out of all other viable options and out of control, which is not a suitable problem solving approach in real life.