Teach your kid to stop scream­ing

The Hamilton Spectator - - LIVING - LOR­RAINE SOMMERFELD www.lor­raineon­line.ca

Grumpy old woman alert.

Since when did it be­come OK for your kids to scream? I’m pretty sure that, if any­thing, my hear­ing is less sharp over the years. But in­creas­ingly, I’m in­un­dated with the ear­split­ting, spine-mash­ing screech of chil­dren feel­ing free to scream whether they’re be­ing kid­napped or not. Stop it.

There is noise, and there is un­ac­cept­able noise. I’m not talk­ing about your kids play­ing in the pool or shoot­ing hoops or hol­ler­ing as they play base­ball. I’m not talk­ing about late night par­ties on the deck with mu­sic and laugh­ter. I live in a down­town core and have al­ways ac­cepted, if per­haps not al­ways en­joyed, the prox­im­ity to my fel­low man that en­tails.

I have won­der­ful neigh­bours; at times I have had hor­ri­ble neigh­bours, and I very much rec­og­nize the dif­fer­ence. For one sum­mer, we had some­one nearby rent to a crew I felt cer­tain was film­ing a D list frat movie fea­tur­ing sky high bon­fires in the mid­dle of the yard (our yards are all con­nected with hedges — and not the fire­proof kind) and mu­sic and yelling that started at mid­day and went into the fol­low­ing morn­ing. I learned a lot of new swear words that year, at a time in my life when I felt cer­tain I’d heard it all.

No, I’m talk­ing scream­ing. It’s usu­ally girl chil­dren, but it’s hardly gen­der de­fined. A high pitched pierce that makes dogs run the other way.

Your kid is not al­lowed to scream all the time. I’m fully aware there are med­i­cal rea­sons that re­sult in some be­hav­iours; I know peo­ple who cope with this, and this is not a blan­ket grumpy old woman jab at them. This is about par­ents or care­tak­ers who turn a deaf ear to in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour.

Well be­haved kids don’t just hap­pen. It takes a ton of work, a lot of time, nerves of steel and the word “no.” A lot of no. Kids do things — dumb things — to gauge what kind of re­ac­tion they’ll get. When they scream in­dis­crim­i­nately, your re­ac­tion should be “no.”

We be­come in­ured to things we’re re­peat­edly sub­jected to, and run the risk of block­ing out im­por­tant warn­ings along with ir­ri­tat­ing noise. Re­mem­ber when car alarms were first in­tro­duced in the 1970s? Within 10 min­utes ev­ery­body was hat­ing, and ig­nor­ing, the con­stant wail of the car that cried wolf.

We’ve created car in­te­ri­ors that are so in­su­lated and com­fort­able that peo­ple are able to shut out the rest of the world — even the flash­ing lights and sirens of emer­gency ve­hi­cles. Ask any­one who drives a fire truck or an am­bu­lance or a po­lice car; peo­ple cruise along im­mersed in their own world, in­dif­fer­ent to the very ur­gent sit­u­a­tion tak­ing place right be­side them.

A child’s scream should be an alert, an alarm. I like to think that if I hear your child in dis­tress, I could hop a fence or lift a car to help them. We are hard-wired to re­spond to dis­tress calls, maybe not al­ways in a way we could pre­dict but cer­tainly in a way that re­veals we care about one an­other.

Kids, es­pe­cially sib­lings, do dumb stuff all the time. If you dump ice cubes down my back, I’m gonna scream. Once. Be­cause no way in hell were my sis­ters or I al­lowed to scream like lit­tle ban­shees. Ever.

I am not mis­re­mem­ber­ing my child­hood; we were well be­haved be­cause we were raised that way. We were typ­i­cal chil­dren but we also knew we were not the cen­tre of the uni­verse, and other peo­ple mat­tered.

One look from my mother could shut that non­sense down.

Learn the look.


Well be­haved kids don’t just hap­pen. It takes a ton of work, a lot of time, nerves of steel and the word “no.”

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