Monday, October 4, 2010

Yelling and abuse

In the last few decades, abuse have become a household word. On the one hand, we have raised awareness of the problem, addressed consequences and came up with some solutions. We now know that abuse presents itself in many forms: verbal, physical, emotional, sexual, psychological and even financial. I might be missing some. For the most part, obtaining help, at least in big cities, had become much easier than 20 or 30 years ago. On the flip side, due to extensive use the word itself lost its impact. You often hear people jokingly referring to innocent behaviors, such as dressing girls in blue or giving kids home hair cuts as "child abuse."

So where does yelling fall in this picture? Sarah Chana Radcliffe, the author of "Raise Your Children Without Raising Your Voice" states in her book that all yelling is abusive. I would venture out to say that in this case 99% of parents had abused their kids at one point or another. Which brings us to the question of whether that makes all these parents, myself included, abusers. (It is besides the point that Child Protective Services won't get involved over excessive yelling.) Or does that make them the parents who engage in abusive behaviors? And is there really a difference? (This reminds me of an article I have read about Irish, who have started substituting the word "alcoholic" with "alcohol dependent," a phrase describing a notoriously wide and not precisely defined range of alcohol consumption. The author of the article pointed out that 95% of Irish men depend on alcohol to relax after work; does that mean that the entire country needs to go to rehab?)

I have been thinking about this for a while. Obviously, if one yells at a kid to terrify or intimidate them, it's abusive. But what if one yells out in frustration? I am starting to not be so sure. Then again, if a husband consistently yells at his wife in frustration, I consider that a form of verbal and emotional abuse. Do the standards for children differ from those we apply to spouses?

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