Yelling gets a lot of press these days. Understandably. It’s a nasty way to talk to a child, and yelling can quickly cross over into the boundaries of emotional abuse. Yelling something cruel at a child is a memory that they will live with for a long time. I’ve mentioned to you before that yelling is something I struggle with, but today I want to talk more in depth about it.
In secular parenting circles, I think that yelling accomplishes for many moms what spanking used to. It’s no longer politically correct to train and discipline our children through spanking, and after that, our only recourse for naughty children is to yell at them. It gets their attention quickly, and unless your child is particularly hardened, usually produces the desired result.
I do find it a little ironic that in a culture that so highly values politically correct speech for politically correct things, yelling at children is considered an acceptable parenting strategy.
In Christian parenting circles, though, yelling in universally condemned. For good reasons. There are countless books on Christian parenting that will tell you that you should never yell at your child. Instead, we need to be patient with them, correcting them kindly, and dealing with the situation with love.
I agree with all that.
But I think, in the pendulum swing away from abusing our children and calling it physical discipline, we have swung too far to the other side. So many nice Christian parents know that they should never yell at their children, and so their yelling becomes a furtive act of desperation for when nobody is looking and mom has absolutely had it with the patient, loving attempt to reign her little monsters in. Can anybody relate?
So where is the middle ground? Well, it starts with actually disciplining and training our children. The details of that are something you should ask your pastor (or an older mom in your church who has raised her children well) about. But I’m not sure that yelling is completely excluded from that equation. There are times when it could be completely appropriate. Running in front of oncoming traffic is an obvious example. When you walk into the dining room to find the children using the forbidden sharpies on the walls, yelling is an excellent way to make everybody stop what they are doing, immediately. Riding in the car in stop-and-go traffic with fighting kids in the back seat is another good example. Infrequent yelling, in this way, immediately gets kids’ attention. Our children should never get to the point that when they are disobeying us, they are not afraid of us. Yelling in necessary circumstances is a great way to remind them that they are out of line, that you are in charge, and that sometimes, you can be scary. That’s ok–Mom should be scary sometimes.
And now, for the necessary caveat: there are many kinds of yelling that are not ok, and require you to repent and ask your children for forgiveness if you have yelled at them in this way. For example, belittling a child is never ok. Attacking a child is never ok.
Another kind of yelling that is not ok is the kind that happens frequently because you refuse to give instructions and have concrete consequences for those instructions; in short, to discipline your child. If your kids are so out-of-control that you find yourself constantly yelling at them just to maintain some sort of order, your discipline of them is inadequate. If you find your children not scared by your yelling, or immediately stopping whatever they’re doing in their tracks, this is another good indicator that your discipline is inadequate. If this is where you find yourself, go talk to a pastor or older woman in the church.
And just in case you think I’ve completely lost it and gone over to the dark side, here’s a great post from Like Mother Like Daughter about making sure your children obey you. Hint: yelling is allowed. As a side note, if you’re ever looking for some wonderful parenting advice, just head over to LMLD and read anything Auntie Leila has written on parenting. The authors are Catholic, and while I disagree with their theology, the practical parenting advice is wonderful.