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Is Yelling the New Spanking?

How do you handle discipline?

There are recent reports comparing yelling to spanking, and I asked two employees to weigh in on the matter. While this is a very sensitive topic, I would love to hear your thoughts as well. -- Sheila Marcelo, founder and CEO of Care.com.

From Danielle:

I admit it. I am a yeller. I come from a long line of yellers. After I had my first child, I told myself I would be calmer than my father and grandmother were, handle things differently. I wasn’t successful. And as I had multiple kids I found myself yelling more. Why? I get frustrated. I try really hard to ask nicely, not yell, but after I repeat myself 5 or 6 or 10 times, I find my tone getting louder and louder.

But I would never compare this to spanking. Spanking induces physical pain for punishment. I yell to get my kids to move into gear. I yell when I have to create some authority. I don’t hit them or yell abusive insults. I yell to create respect.

Now, I’ve tried to get down to their level, look my boys in their sweet eyes, and say “Can you please put your shoes and coats on. We are leaving.” I’ve also tried setting a timer and letting them know we are leaving in 5 minutes. But 30 seconds before I’m heading out the door, they’re still dilly-dallying around the house.

Unfortunately, I am the “mean one” in the house. Being the parent who is home primarily, I have to handle misbehavior, not-listening and Time Outs. And while I never set out to yell, I do feel it has helped make me more powerful in their eyes. Yes, they fear me but they are not afraid of me. And a little fear is good when running a house of three boys.

All yelling should not get painted with the same brush. The possibility of yelling being the new spanking seems more for the parents who berate their children in horribly loud voices, sometimes publicly. I can imagine that as the kind of yelling that has harmful effects -- not the yelling to get your kids to skedaddle.

My three boys love me unconditionally. And I know, with every ounce of my soul that they know how much I love them. For the most part, we are playing sports and being silly in the yard. We are going over homework and reading books together. And my boys are great kids. But they know that when Mom starts to raise her voice, it’s time to listen and behave.

From Ali:

There should only be one need to yell at a child: to get him or her out of danger. Otherwise, yelling is a waste of your vocal chords and potentially harmful for children.

I was constantly getting myself in trouble as a kid. I think it’s safe to say I was in “time out” more than all my cousins and siblings combined. Out of my parents desperation to stop my behavior, I experienced many different discipline methods -- including yelling. I would always be shocked when it happened -- but the loudness of their voices didn’t make their messages more clear. I still had no idea what exactly I had done. As a result, I would forget what I did wrong, and do it again.

Turns out, just like my parents, when I started to nanny I found myself frustrated and raising my voice -- because it caught the kids’ attention. But I quickly learned it didn’t solve the problem. Yelling is only a temporary fix.

And while “yelling is the new spanking” seems like a media buzz phrase, I do think that yelling imposes emotionally harmful effects, when used too much. Especially if it makes the child feel bad about himself or embarrasses him in front of his friends.

Although I’m not a parent, I still babysit on occasion. And I’ve found that yelling is only appropriate when a child is in imminent danger, like about to touch a hot stove or run into the street. This is when your intentions are to spare her from harm and need to startle her – and stop her -- immediately.

I feel there is always a way to get kids to behave the way you want – without raising your voice. Take the case of a screaming child in the grocery store. He wants junk food and is throwing a fit on the floor. Yelling does nothing to help this child stop crying. Instead, I suggest giving her some time to cry it out, then let her know that if she can calm herself down, she can have a hug.

And when kids don’t listen to what you say, I’d suggest using timers, visual checklists and reward systems to accomplish tasks, instead of your loudest voice.

Yelling never worked on me -- and it hasn’t worked for me either. As my grandmother always said “raise your kids, not your voice.” I think parents and caregivers should listen to those wise words.

With three active boys and her husband in sports marketing, Danielle spends her days playing sports and her nights watching more sports.

Ali is a native Mainer, who recently moved to Boston with her husband. When she's not working, Ali enjoys exploring new areas, spending time with family -- and a good cup of coffee.

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