Just when you thought the expectations placed upon us parents couldn’t possibly get any higher, now we can’t even yell at our kids. That’s right. The New York Times just ran a piece about how parents are damaging children by yelling at them. (The Charlotte Observer also ran the piece.) And I’m not talking about berating kids with the “You’re no good” kind of yelling none of us reading this would dream of doing…no, it’s just raising your voice that’s wrong. Just having a mere moment of frustration could damage your child’s psyche. Forever.
Articles like this make me nostalgic for the “good ‘ol days” when parents could bellow, “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!”, toss kids into the front seat of the car unrestrained, feed them nitrate-laden bologna sandwiches on Wonder Bread and party through pregnancy with a martini in one hand and a cigarette in the other…all without a sliver of judgment, self-imposed or otherwise.
Parenthood now is a list of do’s and don’ts a mile long. Women pregnant today can’t even eat soft cheese for cryin’ out loud, much less have a sip of wine without incurring the wrath of somebody armed with the latest study on fetal alcohol syndrome. And allow yourself to fantasize about just once, just once, instituting the “children should be seen and not heard” philosophy in your house. But NO! Parents must let children express themselves — heaven forbid they are forced to stifle any emotion. We must also give them every learning opportunity, from playing Mozart to them in the womb to teaching them sign language at age 1 then Spanish at age 2. Yes parents, your every waking moment must be devoted to your child. Thinking about turning on Little Bear for Junior so you can go take the first shower you’ve had in 4 days? Not so fast. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends NO TV for the first two years of life. Not even Baby Einstein is okay anymore. (Good luck with that shower.)
Yet, you’ll notice that the New York Times article is not backed by any statistics or studies. It’s just someone’s opinion. Who are these people determined to impose perfection on us anyway? Do they realize that perfect doesn’t exist? Do they even have children of their own? I wonder, as does Amy Wilson (author of The Mother Load) in her blog on the article:
“…according to Dr. Ronald P. Rohner, director of the Ronald and Nancy Rohner Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection at the University of Connecticut, yelling “is a risk factor for families.” A risk for what, Dr. Rohner does not say, but I am fairly certain that the MALE Dr. Rohner never stayed home with three children under five.”
Wonder why they didn’t ask Nancy Rohner what she thinks?
Is it any wonder moms are yelling? It’s the only thread we possess connecting us to what’s left of our sanity. Maybe someone could do a study on how my kids’ whining and arguing over ABSOLUTELY NOTHING affects MY psyche.
Or, a study on how growing up with robotic parents who always smile and speak softly and never make a mistake leads to children unable to function in the real world.
“I would like to conclude by quoting me, Amy Wilson, director of the Amy Wilson Center for the Study of Whiny Children and Overtaxed Mothering at the University of My Apartment:
Do the best you can. If you yell at your kids, tell them you’re sorry and give them a hug. Then, try to do the best you can.”
Now THAT sounds like a real expert opinion to me.
Sara Ellington is the author of The Mommy Chronicles: Conversations Sharing the Comedy and Drama of Pregnancy and New Motherhood (Hay House, 2005) and The Must-Have Mom Manual (Ballantine/Random House, April 2009) now available at Target!