I often see posts and articles about being yell-free or attempting to stop yelling at your kids. Yes, I often sneer at these and yes it is partly because I yell. I honestly commend all of those mothers who are able to get through any significant period of time without yelling. I admire anyone who even sets out to stop yelling completely. I know a mom who told me that her son didn’t like one of the teachers at school because he raises his voice and at their home no one does that so he doesn’t know how to handle it. I’m not sure how I feel about that one.
Now, when I talk about yelling I do not mean berating or demeaning your child. I do not mean daily screaming matches that can be heard by the neighbors. I’m not referring to emotional abuse or the systematic degradation of a child in order to get him or her to comply with your rules. What I mean by yelling is occasionally losing your temper and maybe screeching at your child at a volume much too loud to be polite that they had better listen to Mommy because she has had it. I mean screaming at your kid because he did something dangerous like dart out into the street without looking when a car is coming or whip his brother in the eyes with a pencil.
Here’s the crazy part, I think a house with some yelling is not only normal, but useful, and even healthy. I try not to read the research. After doing the data collection and display for a child development book I have learned that there are studies on everything to do with child rearing and you can find one to back up whatever you’d like to say. There have been times in my parenting career where I have yelled far too much – like pretty much the entire year my oldest was three. I try, and I sometimes succeed at, not yelling. But I do believe that it has its place.
There are several ways in which yelling can be a good thing. For one, people in this world yell. People are going to scream at you and you are not going to like it. Growing up in a house with absolutely no yelling does not prepare a person for how others may treat them out in the world. This is my weakest case for yelling by far, but I do think it’s a valid one. Some exposure to anger in the home is a good thing and helps children to be able to not take it so to heart when it comes from someone outside.
The second is that, as a parent, one of the most important jobs you have is keeping your kids safe. If your kid is doing something dangerous and you need to yell to get their attention to stop and bring home the point that this is something you are not ever to do, then that is a good thing. Kids need to know what a bad thing is and sometimes a bit of screaming is the best illustration.
My final and, I think the most important, reason for a little bit of yelling in the home is that your kids need to know that you are human. They need to see that even Mommy and Daddy lose their tempers and do things that they shouldn’t do, that they aren’t the only ones who misbehave or get too angry or act out. It’s important to me that my kids see in me the illustration of messing up, apologizing, and moving on. My oldest especially has a problem with this and I can see in him how much it affects him to see that I can lose it, pull it back, say I’m sorry, act appropriately, and move on. To me, this is a big part of being a family. In this same way, I think it’s important that families argue, that parents argue in front of their kids and make up in front of them too. One of the most valuable lessons I learned from my parents was that you can fight and still love each other.
Again, I’m not advocating for screaming as a means of parenting. I’m talking about losing it sometimes. I’m talking about, after the ten thousandth time your kid asks for a lollipop after you have said no and you have PMS and are trying to cook dinner, turning around and yelling, “NO BECAUSE I SAID NO AND GET OUT OF MY KITCHEN RIGHT NOW!” Followed up by a sorry and a hug and a “no, you still cannot have a lollipop.” If you aren’t a yeller, I’m not saying you should dig down and find the scream inside. I’m just saying that parents are people and people yell and I think that sometimes kids need to see it.