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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.

User in Riverview, FL
April 22, 2015

My mom told the story of her mother. My mom has two siblings. When Grandmother needed to get their attention, she would talk to them in a normal voice.. if they didn't listen, my Grandmother would LOWER her voice, this went on, if the kids were not listening, and doing what my Grandmother asked if them. If my Grandmother got to the point where she had to whisper.... Watch out!!! They would then be in major trouble! The point...in order to listen to her, as she lowered her voice, they usually had to stop whatever it was they were doing, so they could HEAR her.

April 22, 2015

I agree about the yelling, but honestly a good butt whooping never hurt a child in the long run if used correctly, I was raised by my grandparents who yelled a lot at my sister, but whooped my butt all the time ( I was a little heathen), but my grandfather would always hold me after my whooping, explain to me why he had to whoop me, and give me lovings so I understood what I did wrong, and you know what? I grew up and I respect not just my elders but everyone, I use yes mam and no mam so much it makes people sick, and now I habe 3 girls ages 10, 6, and 2 and obviously spanking isn't as evil as everyone thinks, my 10 year old has more respect for others than many adults and never has had a problem with behavior or grades in school...she understood why I had to spank her and when she realized what she was doing wrong the spankings stopped.....I think we are crippling our kid's today, and that's what's wrong with most of society today everyone is so against spanking because of emotional trauma or not letting your baby cry it out in it's crib because it can cause emotional stress blah blah blah bs, has anyone noticed the parent in the store who let's their child yell and scream and disrespect them and they just ignore them? I don't think so, my daughter did that 1 time and I whooped her butt and guess what? She's never done it again, and now if shedoes something out of line, I calmly speak to her with respect and she simply replies "yes sir". Social media, technology and many other factors have completely turned this generation upside down from when I was raised, the disrespect sickens me, and now parents fear spanking due to idiots concerned about your 6 year olds emotional trauma from a butt whooping, both my parents were addicts and raised me until I was 6 until my grandparents saved me and my sister, I saw some really messed up things a child shouldn't have to see, and experienced a drug fueled butt whoopin, did I have emotional trauma? Hell no! I sucked it up and did what I was told. I raise my children old school and because of that they have respect, do excellent in school, they actually play OUTSIDE , we don't have video games and they have tablets but only use them if we can't go out and play...my kid's don't watch the bs they show on cable hell we don't have cable, they enjoy classic bugs, tom and jerry and things of that nature.You it's sad when your 6 year old is with you in Walmart and sees a child her age yelling at his mother, throwing a fit over candy and disrespecting his mother, and all the mother did was ignore him, and my daughter turned to me and said "he must not get pow pows? Because I would never talk to you like that daddy" that is what gives me faith in humanity again, my children got whooped several times, they aren't emotionally challenged, if anything they are more mature than most teenagers now a days. I believe that getting on their level and talking calmly helps yes, after a certain point, but when my belt comes off they know to do what they are told, therefore no yelling, I haven't had to spank my 10 year old in over 2 years and my 6 year old has her days but who doesn't, stop treating your child like an abused puppy and teach them respect so my kids don't have to deal with the spoiled brats who constantly interrupt class and back talk, and make fun of my girls for being "teachers pet". It's called respect, they learned early on what the deal is, and now life is grand.

User in Tomball, TX
April 21, 2015

I only agree to a degree here. With Alli I agree that yelling does not 'fix' the problem and I do try to remain calm and get through to kids with a calm and serious voice which makes it clear when I mean business. But as far as yelling being harmful to the point of being abusive I disagree. For one thing I am totally for spanking. I think spanking is very effective and good. That is not to say that I believe in hitting children. I don't but spanking and hitting are very different in that spanking is a form of discipline that gets the childs attention and is used in moderation , not over the first, second or even third time you told him no he can not do that, its to be used for the right kind of situations, whereas hitting a child would be out of uncontrolled anger. Spanking goes hand in hand with explaining to the child what he did wrong and that is the reason you are spanking him and being sure to let him know that you love him and that nothing that child does will ever stop me loving him. Hitting is a total lack of self control over your own faults -in this case anger. Now as for yelling it too can be used for good and/or bad. Not that yelling is something that I want to do but it can be effective like Alli mentioned above in case of emergencies or in less life threatening things. And the child can be perfectly fine emotionally if yelled at. The main thing though is letting the child know that you love them unconditionally and when you yell its not because you don't like them its just because we needed to get their attention as the one in charge and responsible for what they do. I honestly think that people are getting to soft on what we can and can't do to discipline. Its getting ridiculous. For generation to generation people has yelled and spanked and children learned how to behave properly. Now people get in trouble all the time for such things or people are afraid of getting in trouble. Now we have children who don't know how to obey, who don't know how to work, who don't understand responsibility ALLLL because we don't discipline properly anymore. In the end we are only hurting the child.

User in Providence, RI
April 21, 2015

I read this book called "How to talk to kids so they will listen and how to listen so kids will talk". I grew up being hit/spanked and yelled at and while i learned to respect grown ups and listen to my parents, i also learned that it was bad to feel negative emotions. There are times when I was nannying that I found myself frustrated and yelling. It mostly occured when the older toddler was yelling at me. This is when I put some of the things from the book into practice - usually i would scream loudly to get her to stop yelling/crying and to listen. It would quiet her down, but I saw that it scared her and I didn't want her to associate my presence with fear. So i would hug her, get down on my knee and ask her to talk to me. Sometimes they just want to know they are being heard. And while I agree sometimes a kid deserves a spanking if they don't listen to a few warnings, it starts at the parent to teach a child how to communicate.

Dec. 28, 2014

I have been a Manny, babysitter, and mentor for kids into teen years who were VERY unruly and in my experience there is nothing more important than talking to children at there level, speaking with them very adult like and as a matter of fact way. I am referring to kids who are at least school age.. While caring for children other parents have asked me to help discipline there kids and I found that no matter what discipline I use If I communicate within there level of understanding the results are truly amazing. Seriously, Ive helped discipline kids who were on there way to foster care because the parent could not hold a job because there were so many serious behavior difficulties the parent had to deal with from home, to school and everything in between. It will not matter what discipline you use if you do not treat them with respect and listen listen listen to what they are saying, and how they are saying it. Teaching them how to express themselves in healthy way has to come from a healthy way. There is a huge difference from yelling and raising you're voice a little and being firm to make sure they hear you and understand that you are serious. Being firm with my tone of voice when there is misbehavior on a consistent basis has worked very well as long as it comes with consistent and firm enough discipline. Yelling is more of a venting frustration on the child/children and it causes resentment, and more frustration. It seems to get there attention when or if they start listening but they will respect what you say if you are firm, and speak clearly with them. Older kiddos know they are misbehaving, so there is something driving there behavior and its way too difficult to help them get in touch with how they feel about the situation and communicate it with someone yelling at them. What I am really saying is that the kids will understand how serious you are when you are firm, and maybe have to raise you're voice a little to make sure they hear you. However it is the consistent discipline along with the communication that is so important. I want to make sure that they understand how important the situation is so getting there attention (waking them up) and getting them to feel sorry with consequences allows for a much better way to now help them realize at deeper levels how they truly feel about what the misbehavior makes them feel like and steer them in the right direction. Ive cared for kids whose parent/s over and over again who have difficulty with communication, they are amazed to find how much there energy raises and and the atmosphere changes when they stop yelling and find those various levels of healthy communication. Discipline accompanied by yelling at them is out of control and the children need and deserve caring advice, wisdom, and understanding directly from you're experiences in life, there is nothing more raw and truthful to give them. There is a huge gap (grand canyon huge) between yelling and correctly spanking for discipline on many levels.

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