November 13, 2009
At least that's the impression you might get from a recent New York Times piece by Hilary Stout: For Some Parents, Shouting is the New Spanking.
It was filled with hang-wringing by angst-ridden parents who have yelled at their children.
"'I've worked with thousands of parents and I can tell you, without question, that screaming is the new spanking' ... 'this is so the issue right now,' " Amy McCready, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, told Stout.
A blogger on motherblogger.net wrote that revealing online that she "loses it" in front of her kids was like revealing a "dark family secret."
A poll on what causes parenting guilt was commissioned by authors of the upcoming book, Mummy Guilt: Learn to Worry Less, Focus on What Matters Most, and Raise Happier Kids.
Stout reports: "Two-thirds of respondents named yelling - not working or spanking or missing a school event - as their biggest guilt inducer."
OK, timeout. Those of us who argue that spanking can be a legitimate form of discipline for younger kids are thinking, of course today's parents yell more. When a parent doesn't feel he has the option to stop bad behaviour early with a controlled spanking, the parent is more likely to, well, lose control. Which can mean out-of-control yelling and/or all sorts of other responses.
What about when a parent yells, as I fully admit I sometimes do?
Well, I just don't have a lot of guilt about it. Actually, when it comes to being a parent, I have relatively little guilt, period. I'm doing the best I can here, after all. I suppose if I were sending my children off to work 12 hours a day in a factory, I would wince. But my kids have a pretty good life. I'm guessing that's the case for most of the coddled kids of the guilt-ridden yelling parents.
And my children know I am crazy about them, and devoted to them.
They also know I'm real.
And sometimes yelling really gets their attention. Those are typically the moments when I'm less worried about their tender psyches and more worried about mine.
Sometimes my kids drive me completely crazy, and I don't think letting them know that once in a while is so terrible. What is this constant angst about our children "feeling bad," anyway?
There are times when I think my kids shouldn't feel bad about themselves. They should feel downright awful! It's called developing a conscience.
I'm the first one to genuinely apologise to my kids when I've wronged them, including yelling at them when I shouldn't. Other times I think the yelling is spot on. Either way, all four seem pretty happy and secure in general, so I guess they are psychologically intact.
I know that I'm not always going to get it right as a mum. In fact, there times when I downright blow it. But as long as I'm loving my kids and doing the best I can in the moment, I'm just not going to feel guilty about that.
Betsy Hart hosts the It Takes a Parent radio show in Chicago.