By Julie A. Loeffler
Who remembers the rule about screaming when you were growing up?
“A SCREAM IS A CRY FOR HELP.”
I’m not talking about the usual loud voices and laughter heard as kids play outside. I’m talking about actual SCREAMS. As a child I was constantly reminded by my parents that screaming was only allowed if we were injured or in danger. Somewhere over the past thirty (ahem) years, this rule has diminished into a guideline and in some circles is completely non-existent. At any given time or place wherever there are kids, a scream is sure to be heard. What’s worse is the lack of reaction from the parents to correct the actions of the kids.
When this comes up for discussion with acquaintances, the conversation is typically steered in a different direction (by them) about how things are different in today’s world and how I just don’t understand modern-day parenting. Whenever that begins, what I tend to hear is, “. . .blah, blah, blah. . .” coupled with the constant excuses some parents make for their child’s behavior. It’s at this point where I politely point out that we have to begin to teach children about being accountable for their own safety to a certain extent. Not everything they do is cute or funny, and actions have consequences. If the kids understood what screaming is supposed to indicate, and if it was enforced by parents or other adults in charge, the kids would learn when screaming was and was not appropriate.
A few points I discuss in my Youth Safety Fundamentals class are:
1. Understand the difference between loud voices while playing and actual screaming. – There is a distinct difference between loud voices and laughing during play versus screaming. I don’t think any rational adult would have a problem with kids being outside having a good time with raised voices. But there is no need to actually scream at one another. On a similar note, I have witnessed on numerous occasions parents allowing their children to get away with screaming in displeasure when they don’t get what they want proceeded by the parents giving in. I’ve actually had a parent say to me, “Well, I have to pick my battles.” From my vantage point, it looks like the screaming is getting positive reinforcement.
2. Equate the sound of a scream with either danger or injury. – Most adults when hearing a scream will at the very least look up from what they are doing and scan the area for something wrong coming from the general vicinity of the scream. Not only is that distracting and time consuming when nothing is found to be wrong, but if it’s a false alarm it could lead to having to. . .
3. Explain “The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf” syndrome to your kids. – Setting off too many false alarms is detrimental two-fold: The child doesn’t learn the intent or meaning behind screaming for help and adults become numb to the sound which diminishes the value of screaming if injured or in danger.
Words and sounds have meaning. Instilling safety habits in kids at a young age is important. If we can teach them to understand that screaming is only used for injury or danger, then we can teach them to scream words such as, “Help!” or “Stay away!” or “Fire!”. And teaching your children personal defense measures that could save their life or the life of someone else is a positive in my book.