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Site last published: 6/7/12


I do admit that as a teen growing up in the ‘Acid Rock Band’ era that I loved my music loud. I played in a band and our onstage sound was always very loud by choice. I married into a family, that like music but not so you could feel the bass but hear it. I was fortunate to grow up in a family where screaming or shouting wasn’t a common occurrence. So moving into a diverse community has opened my eyes up to what screaming is all about.

Last night one of our teen’s moms was over. The usual pattern is for Anne and I to listen to shouts and screams for a couple of hours. I really believe that the assumption is that if it isn’t loud than no one will understand or the bigger picture is that it is a display of power. I have a daughter who as a kid growing up didn’t require much disciple. If I just looked at her and raised my voice just one decibel than she burst into tears. My other daughter was almost the total opposite. If we got into a discussion or loud debate I had no choice but to out scream. (Today both my daughters are incredible women who are good at communicating.)

I know that at times a good shout or scream can be a form of catharsis. The difficulty is that it seems to cut off the possibility of any real communication. Yesterday I went to the rescue of a mom who has a rebellious 10 year old who doesn’t want to go to school. He resorts to all types of well thought out behaviors that force his mom to cringe and then give in so he gets his wishes all of the time. Yesterday he knew he was supposed to go to school but at the last minute locked himself in his mom’s room.

As I approached their front door I didn’t know what to expect. I had to knock a few times but eventually the mom opened up. She had given up trying to persuade him to come out. He had won the battle about attending school that day. I attempted to be diplomatic in my vocal level. He didn’t respond and after a while just said that his life was awful and then coming out wouldn’t do any good. The difficulty was that his older brother, he’s like 27, was totally upset and came out with a hammer ready to beat down the door.

Unfortunately, the older brother was able to force his way into the room after almost tearing the door off its’ hinges. This precipitated a fistfight between the brothers. The little guy ultimately lost out and was now screaming because he had been hit. The older brother showed no remorse and was ready to drop kick the little guy. So I sat on the couch with him trying to get him to stop crying. It took me 10 minutes to calm him down and get him to laugh and start talking. The little guy let’s the cat out of the bag and explains that he is afraid to leave his mom alone. He also confesses that something had happened in the past that caused him to no longer want to be around anyone but his mom.

So my morning started off with trying to reason with a 10 year old. I explained to the mom that she had to punish him for his truancy and help him understand that she was the parent and he was the kid. Yet, I had a feeling that after a few hours he was back on the TV playing video games. Let’s jump ahead to the evening as we are having a planning meeting with our interns the mom of the kids who are staying with us is slowly starting to escalate the volume of her vocal chords. As we wrap up the meeting her son arrives home. The next hour plus is a screaming match with the mom winning hands down. My reaction was to go up stairs and tell the mom to take a hike and zip it. Yet, I understand, a little, in their culture that for the son to get the word it had to be delivered in this fashion.

We had finished the dinner dishes and had given the dogs their nightly treats and were ready to crash in bed and look at the news. I was really hoping that I didn’t have to get into the middle of the battle. I know that the son deserved some of this but not all of this and I also realized that the mom’s life is horrible and she needs to vent on occasion.

I can remember a few times in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life where he used his ‘outdoor’ voice, as my wife would say. He got the attention of those who truly thought they were better then everyone else. He actually threw a spiritual tantrum and tossed over all of the tables that were being used to sell items for sacrificing in the temple. I have to admit that the mom’s zeal for her son’s success in life was part of the motivation for the display of vocal chord exercise. The difficulty was that the son is a slacker at times and doesn’t like school so he would rather be a last minute guy, which means grades suffer and the likelihood of passing the State Required Tests is almost zero.

The reason I write this blog is that the night before I had attempted to tactfully talk with the teen. He had done some things, which weren’t very smart under the circumstances of recently having a few things stolen from our house. I thought I had masterfully perfected the art of persuasive speaking that night but my wife rebuked me and reminded me that I was almost as negative as the mom even though my decibel level was normal and wouldn’t get the attention of our neighbors.

So my real question is how do you get someone’s attention that isn’t listening? How do you help someone who is not able to see his or her own mess-ups? So is screaming an effective form of communication or is it just a misguided display of power? Maybe I do love to hear my own voice and the louder really is better.

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