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Confessions of a Screamer


My name is Francesa, and I am a screamer.

Admitting this to you feels as though I'm revealing a dark family secret. Yelling isn't really done anymore. It's retro, like leaving your kids in the car while you pop in the corner store for milk. There was a time when raising your voice was considered okay for parents to do, but now screaming is the new spanking.

Social stigma aside, raising my voice to my kids makes me feel bad. I'll hear myself shout at my sons, Conrad, 6, and Dashiell, 3, "WHY CAN'T YOU LISTEN? PUT YOUR LEGOS IN THE BIN OR I'LL THROW THEM OUT!" and remember a clip from Supernanny that showed a little boy alone in his room after being chewed out by his mom. He was looking away from the camera, crying, feeling overwhelmed. Every time they'd show the sad-kid shot, I was always on that child's side. "God, that mom is so out of control," I'd think. But by 7 p.m. the next evening, I'd be starring in my own reality show.

I had to stop. This wasn't the tone I wanted to have in my house anymore. The universe must have heard my plea because that very Monday, as I unpacked Dashiell's backpack, I found a flyer that read: "Parent Workshop this Thursday: How to Master Positive Discipline Strategies." I signed up the next morning.

On the night of the workshop, held at the Montclair Community Pre-K, in Montclair, NJ, the classroom was packed with desperate parents. Patty Dow, the therapist conducting the workshop, kicked off the session by asking, "Who yelled at their kids this week?" Everyone raised their hand. Then she asked, "Who thinks it's working?" No one raised their hand. Patty nodded and explained that as parents, it's only human to get angry when our child grinds play dough into our wall-to-wall carpeting. But showing how we cope with our anger and our displeasure is one of the most effective ways to teach a child, she pointed out. If you scare her by screaming, or insult her with judgments or sarcasm, her energy goes into defending herself instead of learning from her mistake.