by Risa Green
A friend of mine forwarded me a New York Times article that ran last week, called “For Some Parents, Shouting Is the New Spanking .” In this article, it talked about how our generation is comprised of parents who don’t hit their children, but instead yell, mostly “when [we] feel irritable or anxious.” Several psychologists are quoted in the article, many of whom run centers with names like The Family Research Laboratory and The Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection. One such psychologist pointed out that yelling may be “damaging to a child’s sense of well-being and self-esteem.” Another concluded that his “bottom-line recommendation is don’t yell,” because it can be “a risk factor for a family.”
When I first read this article, I felt guilty and horrible, because I do yell at my kids. It tends to happen when they ignore me, or, most notably, at bed time, when my son and I have nightly screaming matches that escalate faster than the Cuban Missile Crisis. Mind you, I don’t feel good about it. Most nights, my son and I are usually both in tears. But there’s really only so many times that he can yell, “mommy, one more thing,” as I’m walking away from his room before I completely lose my shit. But oh, to see those words in print – “damaging to well-being and self-esteem,” “risk factor for a family” – it certainly hit me where it hurts.
And yet, after thinking about it for a few minutes, I stopped feeling guilty, and I started to feel really, really pissed off. I mean, yeah, I yell at my kids. We all do. And anyone who says they don’t is either lying or heavily, heavily medicated. Of course, I don’t verbally abuse my children. I never say mean or disparaging things to them. But yes, when I am irritable, anxious, or just plain mad because my kids do not listen to me, then I raise my voice. And you know something? I think its okay. I think those psychologists at their Centers for Being Perfect and Non-Human Parents can go f*** themselves. Really. Because what I’ve realized, is that my goal as a parent is not to raise my children without any distress whatsoever. No. My goal as a parent is to do the best that I can, and to accept that sometimes, I am going to cause my children distress. I try not to yell, but sometimes, I’m going to yell. I’m human, for God’s sake, and children, on occasion, can be really freaking irritating. There’s a reason they say it takes a village to raise them; it’s so that when your kid is being annoying, you can pass him off to someone else for a little while so that you can go get a massage. But unfortunately, I don’t live in a village. I live in a city, in a house, with a husband who plays softball two nights a week and on Saturday mornings, and I defy any one of those psychologists quoted in that article to come over here one night and try putting my son to bed without bursting a blood vessel.
And besides, that article was totally one-sided. What about the positive effects of yelling at your kids? I mean, if mothers didn’t yell at their children, there would be no stand up comedians, and the genre of the memoir would disappear entirely. Plus, don’t we all know that people who have had adversity in their lives tend to be more interesting? Honestly, could there be anyone more boring than a person who was raised perfectly, with perfect parents and a perfect life and a perfect, Interpersonal and Accepted upbringing? I would even go so far as to argue that by yelling at our children, we are actually making them more interesting people, as well as cultivating their creativity by giving them loads of future material.
So if you were one of the millions of guilty moms on the receiving end of that article last week, or even if you weren’t but you just yell at your kids sometimes, try to remember that you’re not alone, and that it’s not all that bad. I’m not a psychologist, but I’m pretty sure that the most important things we can do as parents is to let our kids know that we love them and respect them and that despite our imperfections, we’re trying as hard as we can to be great parents to them. And I don’t care what anyone says; a little yelling isn’t going to undo all of that.