Can’t Spank? Then Scream.
February 23, 2010 · Posted in Child Abuse, Communication, Discipline, Fatherhood, K-5 Kids, Mental Health, Parenting, Relationships, Teens · Permalink

screamingThe New York Times article, For Some Parents Shouting is the New Spanking, by Hillary Stout,  bravely shines the light on a slightly taboo topic. In many parenting circles, spanking is a discipline tool of the past.Whether or not parents actually resort to spanking is another story.

When it comes to screaming, however, it often seems accepted as a matter of course. Everyone  has a reflexive, knee jerk stance based on family of origin. If you came from a family of screamers, yelling might feel completely normal. Many people feel it is an ethnic rite or genetically encoded behavior. Others remember their parents yelling and screaming and the fear that it engendered. These parents do a yeoman’s job of controlling their tempers, but nevertheless find themselves overtaken by fury and frustration at times. Some grew up with simmering issues but no communication, so “letting it all out” can feel like a healthier way.

The problem is that yelling and screaming can feel so damn good while you are doing it. You feel powerful, like you are someone to be reckoned with, self-righteous and entitled.  After all, what human being can cope with the amount of badgering, whining, and defiance that kids dish out. In actuality, the desire to yell actually comes from the opposite place: a place of helplessness, feeling overburdened and incompetent. Screaming and yelling bring false empowerment. True power is when parents control themselves, for example, putting their child in their room without yelling or ranting or being able to take away privileges in a three word sentence like “No TV tomorrow!!”

Unfortunately, the nature of children and the culture we live in has the deck stacked against parents. Kids need repeated reminders, often years of reminders to do things like saying please and thank you, coming to the dinner table and not smashing their siblings. Our culture is all about getting what you want by taking no prisoners.  Given those forces, staying respectful calls for a kind of determination, focus and self control that seems only a zen master could muster. The good news is that self control can be learned. Start with this rule. Screaming, name calling, ranting and shaming is NOT ALLOWED. It is a boundary violation and something to avoid. Remember, it is not our right as a parent.

Since most people are not zen masters, realistically you probabaly will yell or scream when you are in your most helpless and overwhelmed state. Treat it as if you had hit your child. After you calm down, apologize. Remind them that it wasn’t OK, and that you are really focused on learning to control that behavior, just like they are.

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  1. February 24th, 2010 | 7:41 am

    Hooray for Soho Parenting! So clear, but forgiving. Thank you.

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