By Ana Veciana-Suarez

OK, I'll fess up. I have screamed at my kids. I have screamed out of frustration. I have screamed because they should know better. I have screamed when I'm rushed, overwhelmed, anxious, or because I've just plain had it with their boorish behavior.

This doesn't happen often -- and less so now that they're older -- but it has occurred often enough for me to recognize that they, perhaps more than anyone else, know how to push my buttons.

Am I overcome with guilt? Not one bit. And I doubt their delicate psyches have been irretrievably damaged by my shouting. Then again, MY psyche -- not to mention my throat -- may need some repair.

It turns out that yelling at offspring is the latest guilt-inducer for parents. A recent New York Times article declared shouting the new spanking -- and we know what kind of reputation buttocks swatters have.

"As parents understand that it's not socially acceptable to spank children, they are at a loss for what they can do," Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, told The Times. "They resort to reminding, nagging, timeout, counting 1-2-3 and quickly realize that those strategies don't work to change behavior.

"In the absence of tools that really work, they feel frustrated and angry and raise their voice. They feel guilty afterward, and the whole cycle begins again."

In our confessional culture, yelling is now a juicy parental tell-all. One mommy blogger cited in the Times story admitted that shouting at her kids is like revealing a dark family secret. Wow. If that's her idea of a dark secret, she has one dull family.

Three writers who commissioned a survey to determine sources of parental guilt report that two-thirds of respondents put yelling at the top of the list.

I'm surprised. In my own quick and unscientific survey, not a single shouting mom or dad reported being overcome with guilt. Sure, they weren't happy about losing their cool, but these are older parents, veterans who can see the longitudinal results of their actions. Time and distance have allowed them to see the proverbial forest for the trees.

"They deserved it," one friend told me. "Every single decibel."

Whether they admit it or not, most parents yell at their kids. Anyone who has spent a few days with a 2-year-old or a lifetime with a teenager knows that such outbursts, however embarrassing, are almost inevitable. A 2003 study found that 88 percent of families acknowledged screaming at the kids at least once during the previous year. The other 12 percent, I suspect, were lying.

Child psychologists say yelling should be avoided. "It is a risk factor for a family," a University of Connecticut professor told The Times.

True, done indiscriminately and frequently, it can be hurtful. The trick is to keep shouting to a minimum. An occasional, well-timed scream -- like a pinch to the back of the arm, my mother's favorite technique -- can be highly effective. It means business. It sets boundaries.

With four of my five children out of the house, my yelling days are pretty much over, but I still, on occasion, in a very loud voice, let loose with a "You did WHAT?" It stops them in their tracks every time.


Parenting - Parenthood is A Real Scream