‘You Take That Diaper Off Your Head, You Put It Back onto Your Sister!’

raising arizonaFathers shouldn’t resort to yelling to discipline their children.

The smarty pants parenting books say it, and the look on my oldest son’s face when I lose my cool confirms it.

Heh, heh, heh … got you, Pops.

File “keeping your cool” in the “easier said than done department.” It’s a skill I’ve yet to master, and I can partially blame a lifetime of negative media images. Even my favorite movie, “Raising Arizona,” mines laughter out of a bedraggled mom (Frances McDormand) screaming her lungs out to discipline her brood.

Funny stuff … and lousy role modeling.

I can’t blame big screen comedies for my own parental shortcomings. But by the time my brain tells me to lower the volume it’s often too late. The barking has begun, and my kiddies have registered my technical defeat.

Take a random but typical exchange from earlier today. Elijah decided to tear up the Sunday papers, a task quickly imitated by young Benjamin. I tolerated their behavior briefly, figuring I could throw the scraps in the recycling bin later. And heck, it was Monday morning, so the paper itself was instantly dated.

Soon, the boys were tearing into a stack of bills that happened to be near the Sports section, and I had to step in. Turns out ripping and tearing is addictive, and my first few pleas to stop had no effect. So I raised my voice to stop the shredding before the mortgage payment forms felt their wrath.

Enter Yelling Daddy. As soon as he appeared, I thought of a couple of different solutions including the time-tested distraction method. It was too late, of course.

Maybe I’m worrying too much about the decibel levels in the house. My parents certainly weren’t above a well-placed bark, and I haven’t gone on any killing sprees that I know of. So why do I feel like an insta-failure the moment my tone shifts from Mr. Rogers to John McEnroe?


  1. Beth Trapani says

    Personally, the more I yell, the less happy I am, the less happy my children are, the less joy we have, and the more out of control I feel (and them, too.) For me it’s all about limits. Not telling you how to parent b/c everyone has their own hot buttons, rules, etc. but when something like shredding paper starts, I stop it right away and sometimes gently physically pick my kids up and redirect them to another behavior. Or, I set them up with a shredding station – controlled – at the table – where I am in charge of what gets shredded. It’s actually great fine motor development. Just some thoughts/suggestions. It’s all easier said than done and we all do yell from time to time!

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