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Recently, I let both of my boys have it and I didn’t care who heard it! I was mad and I was loud! I am not going to debate whether or not shouting at your children is an effective way of disciplining them – or even getting them to listen to you!

I am, however, going to say that with my boys it is an effective way to get their attention. And that brief moment of silence that follows immediately after I have shouted, when they are so paralyzed by the outburst that they are frozen – if ever so briefly – in time, is satisfying beyond description.

In the 90s when I was in college, “Primal Screaming” was all the rage. The general understanding of it was that bottling your frustrations up inside of you was harmful both on a psychological level and on a physical level. You were encouraged to find a place where you could just scream. It wasn’t that you were to shout words or scream profanities (though you could). It was that you were to reach inside yourself and release your ball of frustration through an animal scream or roar.

I like to think that when I shout at my kids, it’s me “primal screaming. I don’t do it often and most times I do it unintentionally but some times some thing clicks in my head and I find myself shouting at the boys because it is the tenth time I’ve asked them to pick up or go eat or get ready for dinner.

Looking into it more deeply now, I have learned that the “Primal Scream” is a psychiatric treatment based in the theory that by reliving painful events from a patient’s past with the goal of acknowledging the pain and addressing it is the way to cure that patient of his/her present ills. It’s proper reference is “Primal Therapy.” Its establishment is credited to Arthur Janov (1970).

I prefer the misconstrued public understanding of the “Primal Scream” to its true definition. The immediate gratification of having the emotional weight lifted off – if even for a moment – is too appealing. In Parenting without Shouting (Woman’s Era magazine, June 2007), Dr. Pradeep Kapoor does a nice job of presenting the situation. While he does not support parents shouting at their children, he acknowledges that it can’t be helped some times.

The American Pediatric Association has a helpful booklet on Effective Discipline. It acknowledges parental frustrations and provides the reader with questions for self-reflection and strategies for coping with an unruly child. The Baby Center‘s Getting Your Toddler to Listen also provides helpful advice for handling parental frustrations while managing an unruly child.

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