Is Shouting the New Spanking?

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.


Parentopia Devra

If I were to re-title the article it would be "For Many Parents, This Article Will Feel Like a spanking." I cannot begin to express how frustrated Aviva and I were with this piece. We have requested the Times print a correction regarding our Mommy Guilt survey. We NEVER surveyed parents about spanking their kids. We only asked about yelling. We never concluded that parents who yell feel guiltier about yelling than spanking. Oy to the Vey!

Aviva and I have spent over 15 years devoted to helping families, not perching on a pedastal of parenting perfection. I do hope anyone who reads the article will realize Aviva and I don't agree with the tone of the article and would never have consented to be interviewed for a piece that would create more guilt for parents. Our mission is to lose the guilt, not add more of it!

We love your response Risa. We think it makes sense you are pissed off, no need to feel guilty about that either! I remember when our book first came out, Miriam Peskowitz wrote a post about how parents could yell at Congress to pass family friendly policies like Paid Family and Medical Leave, Paid Vacation and better childcare programs. Let's get our Billy Idol on and try that kind of rebel yell. : )

And if you'd been at my house the other night, after my son had renegged on his promise to go to bed, you could have heard me if you were standing outside of my house near the curb. Aviva and I agree with Dr. Spock, yelling is inevitable from time to time. And we also believe that adults can harvest a technique used from childhood whenever we yell and apologize, we can also ask for a "Do Over." Kids totally understand that concept and use it all the time.


AMEN RISA. AMEN. I wanted to use all caps to really shout my support. Yes, I yell. Yes, I feel terrible about it. No, I don't spank. No, I never yell insults.

I'm doing my best here people. I don't need more guilt!


This is so going to be a topic of dinner coversation for me with my husband tonight. He believes in spanking and I don't, on the flip side the man is a saint who never raises his voice and I am the opposite. Wonder how he feels about the yelling...


ok - this is a brilliant rebuttal! I think there is some validity to the article's metaphor of yelling to spanking because we are all running around scared to tap our kids' bottoms when they misbehave. But, Lord knows I got mine smacked when I was little and it didn't change my view of how my parents loved me. Usually, I knew that I had deserved it! And so shall it go with our kids looking back on being yelled at.


I ready the NY Times article and felt guilty, and then I thought, maybe I should start spanking my kids? Well, it did jump into my head. I do yell a lot, and my 7 yr old said to me once, "Mom, why do you yell so much?" And I told her, "I am not yelling, we're Jewish, that's the way we talk." We discussed how our family functions are... we all yell, and speak loudly. We wrapped up the conversation when I asked her in my kind voice to please listen to Mom the first time, or second, not the 4th time when I am shouting! When I was a kid, when the yelling stopped a divorce was near. And we weathered many of them.

Mother of 2 (7 yr old, 3 yr old)
among other things...


Thanks you for posting what I thought and feel. I also felt guilty, but really I don't yell, until I am either tired of being ignored, or just completely fed up. I also agree that we should not be trying to keep our children in a bubble, but teach them the way reality is and not all people in their lives will be happy with everything they do. My parents never argued or disagreed in front of me or my sister, and I never realized until I go married, that married people disagree and argue. My IL are incredibly loving people and did an excellent job of raising their 7 (yes 7!) kids. It wasn't until a few years ago that my husband told me they used to fight all the time. I do try to limit my yelling, but it is going to happen occasionally, but I want my kids to know that they are still loved and that they (and I) don't need to be perfect.


Amen on this one. Of course I yell at my kids when they won't listen to me for the 10th time and I feel bad afterwards, but I agree, it's impossible to raise children without yelling. Heck they yell at me all the time! And they will not go through life in a non-emotional bubble. What if a teacher scolds them? What if their boss is angry at them? While I try to keep my control (especially after reading the article) I am a human parent.


My mom was a yeller and so am I. In once posted on the truuconfessions site about feeling guilty because I think I yell a lot (I got a lot of "me too's"). I love this article, glad to know I am not alone. It seems like parents can't do anything right these days.


Oh puh-leeze. Not only was I (occasionally) spanked, but I was yelled at plenty - by my mom, my dad, my noni (Italian grandmother) and my EIGHT siblings. Was it fun (the yelling)? No. Did it scar me for life? No. Humans are humans. The important thing is to be able to realize when we are not being rational and make amends WHERE APPROPRIATE. Sometimes, in my opinion, yelling is justified.


I read the article, too, and felt like crap for a while, as well. I don't think it's possible to not yell at your kids. The things I try to do - and believe me, I have one of the shortest fuses out there - is, (1) yell as a last resort, (2) yell only as long and as loud as I need to in order to get the situation change I am asking for; (3) never yell abuses; and (4) immediately revert to the "kind, gentle me" after the need to yell has passed. In other words, context and content are incredibly important.

If I may add another benefit, I'd say that parents who (occasionally) yell expose their kids to the wide spectrum of human emotions that they'll encounter in the real world.