Teach your kid to stop screaming

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 ear-splitting, 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.

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4 responses to Teach your kid to stop screaming

  1. Zena says:

    Can I add “don’t do kick-boxing with your kids in the grocery store aisles” to the list? And “don’t let your kids wander around behind the counter at your local coffee shop” (because, believe it or not, hot coffee is actually extremely hot, and besides, your kids don’t belong there unless they’re employees, and we have child labour laws in this country to deal with that sort of thing).

    I could go on, but people might get the impression that there’s a plague of grumpy old ladies running around spoiling everyone’s fun.

    • Pat says:

      When I see kids screaming, sometimes I say, “Is that the best you got kid, that’s some sad screaming.”
      Another great article Lorraine!

  2. J says:

    my nieces sometimes scream when they are annoyed/upset – we remind them screaming is for emergencies only!

  3. Angela says:

    I grew up in a neighbourhood where all of the dad’s did shift work at various factories. It was made very clear to us that we were not to scream while playing and that we should always play in the yard furthest away from the sleeping parent.
    With my own children, I have always told them that screaming is for when you’re hurt or need help. Now if I could just train their friends to do the same thing during playdates!

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