Morally superior Gen X moms and dads seem entirely reasonable until they see the limits of “limits” like time-outs, banal blabbing and gentle cajoling. Kids regard their parents with utter contempt. Well, some do. Depends on the kid’s personality. And parents, once exasperated, go there. No, they might not spank their child. They’ll yell. Or arm yank. Or threaten. Or push. Or thump (thwack in the head with fingers). Or pinch. Something, anything, to reorder the disordered relationship–the one where the kid is running the show, and the parent feels drug around by the nose by a two and half foot troll.
Parental yelling today may be partly a releasing of stress for multitasking, overachieving adults, parenting experts say.
“Yelling is done when parents feel irritable and anxious,” said Harold S. Koplewicz, the founder of the New York University Child Study Center. “It can be as simple as ‘I’m overwhelmed, I’m running late for work, I had a fight with my wife, I have a project due — and my son left his homework upstairs.’ ”
Numerous studies exist on the effect of corporal punishment on children. A new one came out just last month. Led by a researcher at Duke University’s Center for Child and Family Policy, the study concluded that spanking children when they are very young (1-year-old) can slow their intellectual development and lead to aggressive behavior as they grow older. But there is far less data on the more common habit of shouting and screaming in families.
Something jumps out at me: as the child of parents who viewed spanking as their Christian duty (spare the rod and all that), I can assure the researchers it is not like yelling is new. Yelling happened in the bad old days, too.
Re: parenting styles: Kids are resilient. An occasional “losing it” moment isn’t going to scar a child for life.
However, when a parent creates an environment where he or she is consistently out of control, where he chooses to respond to a child in anger, rather than reason, the child realizes the child is in control. Someone owns the buttons. Either, the parent is controlling the nuke button or the kid is. I would suggest that the kid will grow increasingly insecure when he can’t count on mom or dad to be in charge. He doesn’t want to be in charge. He wants to relax into well-known boundaries.
So, parents need to keep an eternal guard on their emotions. Some kids are very smart and manipulative and get a kick out of mom and dad being as easy as a wind-up toy. Teenage boys seem to especially enjoy spinning old mom like a top. The parent teaches disrespect for both himself and the child.
I hate to burst the bubble of New Agey parenting types who scream at their kids for not eating the lentils, you’re no better than the out-of-control spankers of yore. The key is who is in charge? Screaming just declares your impotence just as reckless spanking indicated a desire for immediate control without thought. In both cases, it’s the easy way.
Parenting is brutally difficult. It is a constant personal challenge. The big picture: What is right for the kid? is lost in a personal haze of fatigue, hormones, blood sugar, emotional misery or whatever. Every parent realizes his personal limitations almost immediately–a crying, inconsolable infant is often the first test of many.
So yellers need to knock it off and grow up. Someone has to be the parent. It should be the parent.