Nothing moves papers (or, more likely, brings clicks) like an article fostering parental guilt. Pieces I said in a previous post might as well be headlined " Talking on Your Cell Phone Means You Are Not Bonding With Your Baby , " and " Letting Your Child Walk Instead of Driving Her Everywhere Because You Have a Job or Life Is Putting Her in Danger " garnered plenty of clicks and comments for the Times . (Pieces on yelling, in particular, are so popular that today's piece is the second one for the Times in the past four years.)
But does this glut of parenting advice and commentary (which I've been known to dispense on occasion) really change the way we parent? When I read a piece like today's in the Times , my first reaction is invariably to go on the offensive. Oh, come on, paper of record, leave us something! I mock the parents who've put themselves up for scrutiny. You have a relationship "based on reason" with your 4-year-old? Who are you kidding? I take issue with the experts. "If someone yelled at you at work, you'd find that pretty jarring," one says. Yes, but I would also find it pretty jarring if my boss dropped to the floor in a screaming, sobbing tantrum because I brought her a latte instead of a mocha (although if it happens, I promise to videotape it). Next, I reach for the old standby, in this case, "my parents yelled at me and I turned out just fine."
And then the back-of-the-mind pondering begins. Do I yell at my kids? Why, yes I do. Does it make me feel better? Sometimes. Do I feel guilty afterward? Depends. I'd defend yelling in response to the discovery that your "reasonable" 4-year-old has markered all over the car upholstery. But yelling won't make a child who's struggling with his shoelaces tie faster, no matter how bad a morning you're having-and I'm guilty of that kind of yelling, too, from time to time. Absorbed and digested, that piece probably will change my behavior, at least for today, just as I do think a little more now before whipping out the iPhone instead of talking to my kid at the playground. Another decade of reading might turn me into the perfect parent after all. (But then, what would my kids have to complain about?)