I don’t mean to holler and yell like a banshee when my kids get out of line. It just, like, happens.
Usually, I yell after I’ve asked them nicely five times to do something—like move their crap off the kitchen table or straighten up their rooms or go to sleep already because it’s 10:30 p.m. and I put you in your bed two hours ago and I’m tired, dammit, and I want to give your father some so that I can pass out from exhaustion.
Or I might yell if they start sparring each other like they’re prepping for the next Tyson vs. Holyfield heavyweight fight.
I’ll definitely raise my voice at my kids if they’re defiant. Talking back gets my goat. Pretending you didn’t hear me when I know good and doggone well you did takes me over the edge.
And so I pump up the volume.
I figure my kids are lucky. My mom didn’t mince words. She’d look at you with those piercing, glaring eyes, first. And then she’d commence to inflicting bodily harm. A belt. A fresh switch off a tree. A shoe. Bettye wasn’t to be played with.
I tried spanking my kids. Mari looked at me with a fear in her eyes that I never want to see again; truly, I’d rather be respected than feared by my eldest daughter. Lila? She kinda giggle-cried when I hit the fatty part of her leg the one time. And then she went right back to what she was doing. Clearly, hitting isn’t the answer with my kids. Plus, it just didn’t feel right. I’m smarter than them. I can figure out how to discipline them, surely, without inflicting physical, grown woman pain on their kid bodies.
Punishing seems to work, now that they’re older. What do you know about making a 17-year-old write a typed, 10-page essay on the plight of African-American males when he cuts class? Or demanding a 10-year-old write a two-page apology letter to her little sister, whom she’s just mistreated? A half-hour banishment to the bedroom sans TV works wonders for getting Lila’s attention, for sure. Smack her butt, yank her hair, pull out her toenails but please, please, please don’t take away chatterbox’s ability to socialize or she’ll just, like, die.
Of course, talking it out is a reasonable, grown-up response to kids who misstep. My husband, Nick, is very good at this. I am not. My brain is overtaxed, what with the working and the scheduling and the chauffeuring and the homework and the after school activities and the cooking and the cleaning. Coming up with clever ways to calmly explain to the 10-year-old why she shouldn’t “bottle feed” her doll red punch on the freshly-cleaned beige carpet, or tell the 13-year-old it’s not a good idea to put silly putty in her armpits isn’t exactly the first thing that pops into my mind when it comes to disciplining my kids.
And I do see the benefits of lowering the volume, as duly noted in the New York Times piece, “Screaming is the New Spanking,” and
I’m working on being better about this disciplining thing.
But my name is Denene Millner, and I’m a screamer.
And some days, this is just the way it’s going to go down in my house.
1. Videotaped Beatings and Child Abuse Handbook Show Why Hitting Kids Is Dead Wrong
2. A Reformed Spanker Reveals Why She Wishes She Would Have Spared the Rod.
3. Spanking, Time-Outs and the Soul Train Line: Getting To the Discipline That Works For Us
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.