Monday, November 2, 2009

Is Shouting The New Spanking?

I'm a yeller. I yell when I'm feeling rushed, frustrated, upset at other things, tired and overwhelmed. I yell not when my kids are being "bad" but more when I don't have the inner resources to cope with them being the 5, 3, 1 year olds that they are. In these moments, I don't just yell, I scream like a psychotic woman. It's seriously a scene from Mommy Dearest. While it effectively stops any annoying, obnoxious behavior the kids were engaging in, it probably does so because it totally freaks them out and/or devastates them into tears of fear and shock. I then experience "shouters remorse" for 2 days straight.

Though I am a yeller/screamer, I hate myself when I do it. But, in the grand scheme of parenting, yelling seems like a basic behavior management technique in the tool bag of most parents. Yelling, to a certain extent, is part of childhood, normalized and (as long as it doesn't go too far) socially accepted. Spanking, on the other hand, has always been more of a hot topic.

Well NOW it is suggested that yelling may be just as harmful as spanking... and perhaps, as Amy McCready suggests, yelling is the "new spanking." This very topic is discussed in a very compelling and sobering article in the New York Times by Hilary Stout entitled "Shouting Is The New Spanking." The article considers the potential harmful consequences of yelling at our children and points out that negative words given in harsh, overly critical and punitive tones added up over time are not only ineffective in managing problematic behavior but may also hurt a child's esteem, sense of self, and interpersonal interactions.

What really hit home to me was the analogy that if someone yells at us... a spouse, a friend, a co-worker, a stranger, it is a very emotionally laden experience and can often pierce us, anger us, confuse us, or make us feel threatened, unsafe, or not cared about, depending on the circustances and the words used. While we as adults know how unpleasant being yelled at is for us, this article points out how common place it is to see yelling, nitpicking, sarcasm, and snapping occuring daily with our children (mine are certainly no exception). Perhaps it is because only children can push your sanity to the edge...

A Professor on the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection discusses how it isn't the yelling per se, but how the yelling is interpreted by that child. If it connotes anger, insult or sarcasm, it can be pereceived as rejection and have problematic effects. He doesn't beat around the bush, stating "Don't yell" and sites yelling as a risk factor for families.

Um, Yikes. I don't just yell "per se." I go for the gusto. I can get just plain nasty.

Double yikes.

What do YOU think? I'm interested in your opinions! To read this article, look over in my sidebar and find the Juice Box Jungle Widget. Wait until the graphic says "NY Times Shouting Vs. Spanking" (the widget flashes through several different images) and click to read the NY Times article - a short and provocative read. Take their poll too regarding spanking. Leave me your thoughts if you're so inclined. Especially if they relieve my insane guilt for ruining the lives of my children.


Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

I'm a yeller too, and I hate it. Of course, I don't start off by yelling - I'm usually driven to it after the fourth or fifth time of asking nicely. Or if they deliberately do something I had told them not to do. And then, yeah - "shouter's remorse." I do make it a point to never make sarcastic or mean comments to my kids, but if I can have enough self-control to do that, why can't I have enough to not yell in the first place?
*sigh* working on it . . .

Elizabeth said...

I did read this article when I came out and felt a blip of anxiety about it, but then I relegated it to the pile of parenting info that is collecting dust in the back of my brain. I guess I feel like the stuff they "discovered" is really just common sense. At best, it's good to hear and be reminded of how devastating yelling at one's little children can be -- but most of us probably already feel terrible after we do it, anyway right? I certainly do. I also find it helpful to apologize to my sons when I yell at them -- to tell them that I'm upset but that I need to work on not yelling. I believe that goes a long way.

Corrie Howe said...

I've been the psychotic screamer in the past. Not that I've totally stopped, but I have significantly reduced the amount of time I do.

The "secret" or the "key"? I was profoundly struck when our new pastor came into town and started teaching a new way of looking at things.

Basically, it came down to one verse in the Bible which sums it up for me. "Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks (or yells/screams)."

So when I started dealing with what was going on in my heart, the types of things overflowing changed.

You and I "talked" about this offline. It came be summarized in a single word "Grace."

Anyway, these are my thoughts.

Very well written post today, Alicia (a.k.a. Dr. Mom)!!!

erin said...

I used to yell tons, especially when I was in an unhappy marriage and taking care of three little girls on my own...but now I have Jeremiah and he's constantly reminding me: 'Stay on top of it Erin.'.

As silly as that sounds, it really really works for me.

Alicia (aka Dr. Mom) said...

Corrie, your words made my eyes fill with tears, bc these words are truth, plain and simple.
Erin, yes, my husband (my second husband too after an unhappy marriage) is so great at grounded me as well. Without him, i cant imagine what or where I'd be :)

i guess its never too late to change, huh?

Tina said...

awe...hitting a nerve with this one. Seems the more children I have...the louder I get...or is it the older they get the louder I get... either way... I've been known to be a yeller! I don't like it at all. I have this little ditty I do called The Principle of the Pause. When necessary, I pause and think before I speak. It has really helped me to first say what I mean...mean what I say...and do it calmly.

Jacquie said...

the only thing I can say is... our bosses, friends, etc don't come in to our newly cleaned house, grab a handful of whatever, and spill it from one room to another.
Our friends, etc... don't roll their eyes to the back of their heads when we have to remind them to flush the toilet.
it's a joke (sorta) that when you go to work, at least people are nice to you and treat you with respect.
with that said.. I too have the nasty shrieker syndrom. next week they'll have a pill for it, so I'll just wait it out

kys said...

I tend to yell more than I should. I feel bad about it later but the kids just make me crazy sometimes.

Mama Deb said...

This definitely hits close to home. I'm a yeller too as much as I hate it, and as aware as I am that yelling begets yelling. One of my friends recently told me that she just stopped yelling one day because she realized it was sort of ruling her parenting world. I so want to be the person who can do that...but I can't even stop myself from eating all the freaking Halloween candy!

Nancy Campbell said...

I'm working on this. I realized how bad it was when I started closing the windows on nice days so the neighbors wouldn't hear me.

I've been doing the old deep breath/count to ten, but I'm looking for new tools in my bag.

April said...

I definitely yell, and have become more aware that I need to stop - because my girls are yelling, too. Not to mention, my own yelling can give me a headache sometimes!
I'm learning to just shut up now. And my kids are starting to learn that complete silence from me is not a good thing!

Beth L. Gainer said...

This is a hard call because no one is perfect as a parent. I think saying nasty words to kids hurts worse than a spanking.

Alicia (aka Dr. Mom) said...

Jacquie - you crack me up!!

Nancy - Im w/ ya on closing the windows ;)

and Mama Deb - yes, i have the same halloween candy problem too. perhaps yelling and candy are all wrapped up in impulse control. In that case, im doomed... ;)

Stephanie said...

I appreciate the fact that you're honest and brave enough to admit that you yell at your kids. I struggle with this too.

Cinda said...

All the mom comments are so right on. I think we have probably all been there and likely never want to be there. It is a teachable moment though. I think it is so powerful when a parent can a) admit a mistake (less than perfect); b) apologize; and c) model for kids how to try and control those impulses. I have a cool slide that I show my grad students in the behavior class I teach. "Be a thermostat not a thermometer." I certainly had to remind myself of that as my daughter was bouncing from one mood to another and I was following along with my thermometer. I try to keep the thermostat steady while the temperature changes around me. Some of my grad students tell me they have posted the picture in their offices and classrooms. Great thoughts, Alicia. Yep, grace for others.....and grace for ourselves.

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