There comes a time in every parent’s life when their children begin to assert themselves and express their own opinions. This is a critical period of development, and if you don’t handle it with care and patience, you may stunt their growth and subtly hint that it’s their other parent’s fault. To encourage healthy habits, it’s important for you to support their efforts and give them the confidence to try new forms of obnoxiousness. In particular, they need a flexible and powerful vocabulary for yelling at people.
Fortunately, you can take advantage of children’s natural desire to scream at you, their siblings, and household pets. All children naturally learn to yell somewhere between the age of 1 and 2 days. Usually they start out with simple things like this:
Don’t discourage this behavior. If anything, reward it with small pieces of candy and a clicker. They need to test their limits and learn that you will take your time responding to them because you just got into Candy Crush. This will teach them to yell as many times as they need to in order to get you to snap at them. By the time they reach age 3, you’ll have ditched the candy and only need the clicker. You’ll be so proud of their ability to express more complex feelings of frustration and anger such as:
I’M NOT GOING TO BE YOUR FRIEND EVER AGAAAAAAAAIN!
This, too, is good practice. Take the time to really listen to what they’re saying, then ask them to repeat it, louder, with a “please” at the end. This will make all of your lives easier and harder to hear. If you follow this approach, you’ll find that by the start of kindergarten (age 7), they will be using sophisticated language tailored to the different social environments they find themselves in. That and their extra seven inches will give them a head start in school. You’ll find that they’re very adept at saying things like:
DON’T DO IT
DON’T TAKE IT
YOU ARE STEPPING ON MY FACE
DON’T PUSH ME DOWN THE STAIRS
THAT IS MY GOLDFISH CRACKER YOU TOOK FROM THE BOWL
I’M NOT GOING TO BE YOUR FRIEND OR CONNECTION ON LINKEDIN
From here, use the resources in your school system or homeschool sports league to further their skills. Explore yelling in restaurants, stores, and other confined spaces. Try yelling across the table while throwing only soft things, like napkins. But teach them boundaries. There’s no yelling at dogs or cats, for example—only pieces of technology or turtles that will die anyway.
The apotheosis of all of this hard work comes during their teenage years, when they forsake all normal speech for irregular outbursts of screaming. Although their emotional instability can be hard to bear, one strategy that’s proven effective is to sneak into their room at night and try to talk to them when they are partially asleep. If necessary, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for a combination of Ambien and sodium pentothal. If you’ve built a good psychoactive relationship, you’ll find yourself unconcerned when, during breakfast, they say things like:
YOU’RE SUCH A HYPOCRITE
DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT THAT DOES TO THE PLANET?
OH MY GOD—I JUST CAN’T EVEN—DON’T THINK I COULD EVER—PLEASE LEAVE ME IN YOSEMITE
Whatever you do, know that there are no wrong answers, only answers that are worse than others and no answers that are really any good. Keep up your efforts, and you’ll be rewarded by a wonderful 29 year-old who has moved back in with you but speaks in internet acronyms. They will not yell anymore because the years of alcohol and underemployment will have had a chance to take their toll. If you are lucky, they, too, will eventually have children, and will teach their rug rats the same lessons that you handed down from your great-great-grandsharecroppers. You’ll have the satisfaction of observing a whole new cycle begin when you visit them while they’re asleep. But never forget that they still need your help. They’re still your babies. Give them unconditional love, unfailing encouragement, and the old family clicker. Even if their voice is hoarse, they’ll eventually yell at you for it.