DALLAS (BP)--Is shouting the new spanking? For some parents it is. A recent New York Times story describes the growing phenomenon where parents, believing spanking to be wrong or at least socially unacceptable, try everything else to get their children to behave and finally end up yelling at them. 

Even Dr. Spock, the paper noted, called shouting "inevitable from time to time." But most of the parents in the Times story feel just awful after having screamed at their kids. Times writer Hilary Stout points out that the current generation of parents prides itself on providing organic snacks, extracurricular sports and activities, and tons of self-esteem-boosting encouragement. But, she says, "this is a generation that yells."

Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, says, "This is so the issue right now." Parents who nag, impose timeouts, and count to three soon realize these strategies "don't work to change behavior," the Times story said. They get frustrated, then angry. Then they yell. They don't want to. But they keep doing it.

The story describes one New York writer and actress who gave up yelling for Lent. It didn't go well. She tells the story in a book, out next year, entitled "When Did I Get Like This?"

The Times piece cites a survey in which two-thirds of parents named yelling as their "biggest guilt inducer." Some of this yelling stems from the parents' overcommitted schedules, from stress or from underlying anger. None of that should be taken out on kids. But it happens.

Yelling, though it may scare kids into better behavior, is not a good tool for the training of children. First, it's ineffective because kids tune it out. And when the tone is angry, insulting or sarcastic, it feels like rejection. The Times' Stout quotes one psychology professor who told her, "There is no group of Americans who advocate yelling as a parenting style." And who wants their kids to grow up remembering them as a yelling parent?

Spanking is a more humane and effective way to discipline children. Though the major medical and psychological associations reject spanking, the Bible recommends it. But we should never spank in anger. Instead we should implement a calm, well-thought-out process. The child should know beforehand that spanking will be the consequence of rebellious behavior. 

The Bible contains many references to the rod. This is a literal instrument. It has a sort of redemptive purpose. When a child does something he knows is wrong or willfully disobeys the parent, there is guilt. The quickest, clearest way to deal with that guilt is to calmly spank him or her with a flexible instrument shorter than a belt. It should sting enough to outweigh the pleasures of sin. Doing this consistently engenders in children respect for authority. A parent could not offer a greater gift.

December 28, 2009

(c) 2009 Baptist Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.


Penna Dexter is a conservative activist and frequent panelist on the "Point of View" syndicated radio program. Her weekly commentaries air on the Bott and Moody Radio Networks.