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SHOUT OUT: If You Don’t Believe in Yelling (or Spanking Either)

October 24, 2009

Here’s the latest high bar in the “Bad Parent” press:  No Shouting.   It used to be that accomplishing the feat of “No Smacking”  was the hallmark of the post-modern parent.   But the latest guilt feed is “No Yelling.”

The comments to a recent article on this subject are enlightening.  The hundreds of comments range from…”What’s a parent to do if you can’t spank, or yell—What’s left?”  To “ My mother never yelled.” To: Being yelled at, even at the advanced age of 25 is worse than any spanking.”  To my favorite psychobabble justification for yelling:   “Parents who don’t yell are doing more damage because they aren’t modeling their true feelings and are suppressing their child’s ability to express anger.”

Aside from the court of public opinion, there actually are answers from the field of psychology research. Let’s start with something we can all relate to—couples’ arguments. Women tend to have a higher flashpoint, and men, sometimes accused of being passive aggressive, are actually trying to get out of the hot seat because they’re more easily flooded. Then there are mildly abusive partners (more often the guys), who use verbal threats to control their partner’s behavior. It’s not rocket science that if screaming or threats don’t feel good to an adult, they don’t feel good to a kid either.  So now on to parenting.

No parent is perfect, nor can perfectly model a calm attitude. But let’s be honest. It helps kids, and it helps the parent-child relationship when parents hold the value of maintaining a calm, neutral response, rather than a heated, reactive one. Families low on negative expressed emotion have kids who are less depressed, anxious, angry or reactive. But how to stop yelling?

  • Identify your trigger situations, and build in some slack.
  • Give yourself more time in the morning if the morning rush creates more stress.
  • Take a time out  for yourself.
  • When you’re on your last nerve, play tag team (if you can) with another parent or adult in the house.
  • Recognize that yelling is habit forming…don’t start.
  • Use a substitute phrase…”That was a surprise.” Rather than, “Why did you do that?”

FInally, don’t beat yourself up if you slip. Apologize, then help yourself and your child  figure out what can work better for both of you.

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