The Norman Transcript

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July 19, 2013

Yelling isn’t good for parents or children

NORMAN — I’m a yeller,” she said, she being the mother of three young children.

“No,” I replied, “you’re not. There is no genetic predisposition toward yelling and no biochemical or neurological condition that makes yelling inevitable much less irresistible.”

“But I yell at my kids all the time, it seems.”

“I’m not arguing with that.”

“Well, why, then, do I yell?”

“My best answer, based on experience, is that you yell for the same reason many of today’s mothers yell: You’re trying not to be mean.”

She stared at me for a few seconds, then said, “You’re pulling my leg, right?”

No, I wasn’t pulling her leg. As in this case, too many of today’s moms think they’re “yellers.”

First, they think yelling is the inescapable consequence of having children. Have child, will yell. Have more than one, will yell even more. Then they justify their yelling by conjuring up some disability that compels them to open their mouths, bulge their eyeballs and scream at the top of their lungs on a regular basis.

When said disability strikes, the calm-challenged mom will often call another mom looking for consolation.

“I did it again,” she confesses, to which the other mom says, “It’s all right. We all do it.”

Several years ago, I asked around 500 people in Des Moines, “Raise your hand if your mom never yelled.” About 300 hands went up. Then I asked, “Raise your hand if you’re a mom with children living with you in the home and you’ve never yelled.” Not one hand went up. They thought it was funny. It’s not. (I’ve done that same exercise many times since, always with the same outcome.)

Yelling is not good for the parent and it certainly isn’t good for the child. It doesn’t traumatize a child, mind you, but it certainly fails to convey confidence in one’s authority. And children need a constant, calm, confident authority like they need a constant unconditional love.

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