the new spanking

Did you know that Shouting is the New Spanking? Indeed it is. The New York Times Fashion & Style section (?!?) tells me so.

I am so very tired of articles like this.

So very, very tired.

“My name is Francesca Castagnoli and I am a screamer,” began a post on Motherblogger.net earlier this year. “Admitting I’m a mom that screams, shouts and loses it in front her kids feels like I’m revealing a dark family secret.”

“It’s not kind,” said Ms. Klein in Oregon. “When I’m done I feel awful.”

To research their book “Mommy Guilt: Learn to Worry Less, Focus on What Matters Most, and Raise Happier Kids,” the three authors, Devra Renner, Aviva Pflock and Julie Bort, commissioned a survey of 1,300 parents across the country to determine sources of parental guilt. Two-thirds of respondents named yelling — not working or spanking or missing a school event — as their biggest guilt inducer.


And later:

“We are so accustomed to this that we just think parents get carried away and that it’s not harmful,” said one of the study’s lead authors, Murray A. Straus, a sociologist who is a director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire. “But it affects a child. If someone yelled at you at work, you’d find that pretty jarring. We don’t apply that standard to children.”

Psychologists and psychiatrists generally say yelling should be avoided. It’s at best ineffective (the more you do it the more the child tunes it out) and at worse damaging to a child’s sense of well-being and self-esteem.


Here is a clue, O child development experts: we get it. If we feel guilty for yelling, that's a strong indicator that we already know it's not okay. You don't have to keep harping on it.

Now, I am highly unlikely to complain about all the things that make me, as a mom, feel guilty. Guess what? This article does not make me feel guilty; my conscience does that. Other people's condemnation and judgment may make me feel irritated or defensive or sad, but the guilt is aaaaaaaall mine. So I dislike it when moms whine about all the sources of guilt out there. I just don't buy it.

That being said, what I detest about articles of this nature is the implicit message that parenting is a perfectible task: if we just stop spanking and stop yelling and educate them in just the right way and give them just the right mix of parent time and organized social interaction and free time and feed them ideally nutritious meals and do everything just so, we will have reared perfect children! Or if we haven't, it won't be our fault.

What a crock. The fact is, I am imperfect, and I will, no matter how hard I try, fail my children. They are also imperfect, and will fail me at some point, as I have failed my own parents.

That's not a statement of fatalism, since I believe in a good God who can redeem our failures, who is strong where I am weak, who loves us and gives us abundant grace.

Relying on ourselves alone to parent our children perfectly is foolishness. This is not to say we shouldn't try our best and beg grace for the work, but that to try for an unreachable goal will set us up for a debilitating, paralyzing sense of failure, and I can't think of any surer way to really screw things up for me and my children.

4 comments:

Beck said...

THat's why I spank* silently. And with no warning - so I don't damage their souffle-like psyches by yelling. YEEEEESH.

(*I'm KIDDING.)

You with us said...

I so agree with you. One of the worse things we can do is parent out of guilt because we're more likely to do what makes us feel better rather than what is truly best for our children.

I have to constantly remind myself that what I do with my mistakes (asking for forgiveness, etc.) is far more important than my perfection. Plus, who wants a perfect parent? How could a child ever live up to that?

I really appreciate how you filter through so many things most of us don't reflect on enough. Your blog is so refreshing. Thank you.

Devra said...

I know this may come as a shock, but I agree with you. And if Aviva were here in the comments, she would too. Unfortunately much of what we had discussed during our interview with the NYT did not make it into print. During our interview Aviva and I were quite vocal about our shared belief that parenting "perfection" is not a goal for anyone. It doesn't exist.

We wrote our book keeping in mind that someone might observe us yelling at our kids in the parking lot of a mall and consider, "Oh look at the perfect parenting experts, they aren't so perfect are they?" Not our style. We'll be the first to say we're trying our best, we make mistakes, we're only human. Aviva and I don't perch up on a podium and command, "thou shalt not" when you know what? We all shall.

And if you'd been in my house last night, you could have heard me from the curb. 9 year old didn't want to go to bed after he had already been given an extended bedtime and made a deal with me. So you got it, I yelled when he gave me a hard time and renegged on his promise. And I don't feel guilty about it. Is yelling my preferred method of communication? No. But it has it's place from time and what I really had hoped would be in the article is how important it is for kids to understand conflict and conflict resolution.

If you are going to BlogHer next year, would love to meet you!

Recovering Sociopath said...

Wow, Devra!

We wrote our book keeping in mind that someone might observe us yelling at our kids in the parking lot of a mall and consider, "Oh look at the perfect parenting experts, they aren't so perfect are they?" Not our style. We'll be the first to say we're trying our best, we make mistakes, we're only human. Aviva and I don't perch up on a podium and command, "thou shalt not" when you know what? We all shall.

Thank you for saying this.

And, having had my own experience with journalists, I completely understand about only select snippets of interview making it into an article.

I would love to go to BlogHer if I can find a sponsor. If I make it we should definitely hook up. In the mean time, I'm going to get your book.