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Next Up: Is Parental Frowning Scarring Kids?!

Continuing my look at b.s. stories aimed at provoking parents' angst, today's NYT "Thursday Styles" takes time off from obsessing about high-end retail to explore the disturbing trend in parental yelling.

The piece suggests that, deprived of the outlet of spanking, frustrated parents are increasingly turning to yelling to discipline their kids. As one parenting expert is ominously quoted, "yelling is the new spanking." Afterwards, many mommies and daddies feel bad about all the shouting. Also suggested is that yelling may eventually prove to be just as detrimental to little pscyhes as a good whalloping.

Except that the piece doesn't really offer evidence that any of this is true. There are no surveys suggesting that parents are yelling more than they used to--or that yelling is ruining America's youth. In fact, the piece points out that few studies even exist on the effects of yelling, and the only finding it cites from one of these is that occasional parental yelling is a near universal phenomenon. (Keep in mind here that we're not talking about chronic, abusive yelling at children. The study cited asked parents if they had yelled at their tot once in the past year.)

Even the requisite anti-screaming quotes from child development experts don't offer anything more than some vague cautions that yelling can damage a child's self-esteem or "be perceived as a sign of rejection." Indeed, the only damage we are shown proof of is the guilt and feelings of failure from hand-wringing parents who simply don't understand why they can't raise their children with the whole-grain goodness and invariably mild tones preached by all the parenting books.

Please. As my husband can attest, I'm not much of a yeller. I'm more of a grumpy counter, as in: If you don't put your underpants back on by the time I count to five, there will be no dessert. (Oh, how many times has Chris heard that threat?)

But, yes, now and again yelling happens in my house, because, as most parents can attest, no one knows how to push a parent's buttons better than her kids. (Heavenly creatures though they may be, our 6-year-old has the cross-examination skills of Perry Mason and his sister has a mulish streak wider than Larry Summers' butt.)

Am I going to lose sleep over this or seek the services of some high-paid parenting guru? No. Will my children wind up in therapy? Maybe. But if so, it's almost certainly because they live with parents--and in a culture--who overwhemlingly treat them like weirdly fragile hothouse flowers than because I occasionally lose my equanimity when my 6-year-old comes close to impaling his own eyeball with the utility scissors he has been told not to run with at least 15,000 times!!!! 

Parenting is rough, grinding work. Nerves fray. Patience is exhausted. Mommies and Daddies occasionally raise their voices. This is not news. And it's sure as hell not an ominous new trend.

"Thursday Styles" should do all of us parents a favor and stick to analyzing hem lines.