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A few months ago I blogged about the potentially bloggable new neighbours who had just moved in next door. I never did blog about them again, and now they’re in the process of moving out.

This family consists of two 23-year-old parents with five children aged 7, 4, 3, 2, and 8 months. I’ve actually grown kind of fond of them over the six months they’ve lived on the other side of the wall. Sure, it’s noisy, but most of the noise has been happy noise.

She’s pretty quiet, actually, and the kids mostly make normal kid noises: laughing, playing, rough-housing, occasionally crying. But him? He runs that household at the top of his lungs. Even when he’s in a good mood, he’s shouting and hollering. PUT YOUR SHOES ON! GO TO BED! COME EAT YOUR LUNCH! DON’T HIT YOUR BROTHER! GET DRESSED! LET’S GO TO THE PARK! GET BACK TO BED! BE QUIET!

For months I’ve been wondering why he yells everything like a drill sergeant. I know parents yell at their kids. I yelled at my kid occasionally too, but for emphasis, not for normal conversation.

Anyway, last weekend it all became crystal clear because his mother came and babysat the kids for a couple of days.

She was ten times worse than him! The moment she arrived she started hollering at those kids and she didn’t stop until fifteen minutes after she left. Not only that, but she brought a bunch of yappy little dogs with her, and she hollered at them all weekend too. And a brooding sort of man, who never said much of anything but looked like he was doing a slow simmer in the back yard all weekend.


There was some weird stuff too, like when she argued for a very long time with the three-year-old about whose house it was. IT IS NOT YOUR HOUSE, IT’S NANA’S HOUSE! NO IT’S NOT, IT’S NANA’S HOUSE! NANA LIVES HERE, NOT YOU! IT’S NANA’S HOUSE!

Now all this has got me wondering about culture and parenting. Obviously my neighbour learned how to parent from his mother. You can tell they both love the kids, and they’re fully engaged with them, but their parenting style seems quite aggressive to me. And the kids seem to roll with it. They don’t seem traumatized by all that yelling. They come across as happy, healthy, well-adjusted little kids.

I think my kid would have been completely undone if I’d yelled at him like that all the time.

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine told me about how his daughter-in-law was parenting his grandchildren. He described a parenting style very similar to my neighbour’s. He said she loved the kids but she always seemed angry at them. And he told me that the rest of her family shares that parenting style.

“It’s a French-Canadian thing,” he said, “My ex-wife was French-Canadian and she was exactly the same with our kids. Always yelling at them.”

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but my next-door neighbour and his mother are French-Canadian too.

Obviously this parenting style wouldn’t be universal among French-Canadians, but do you think it’s possible it’s more prevalent among them? And if so, how come?

How would you describe your own parenting style? (Or, if you don’t have kids, the parenting style you think you would have if you did have kids…)


  • XUP

    Not French-Canadian so much as having a whole passel of kids; which coincidentally is also often French Canadian. With one child you can talk in a normal voice; with 2 you need to referee once in a while. Any more than that you need to yell all the time in order to be heard above the usual ruckus. I’ve seen completely mild-mannered, soft-spoken people get yelly after they’ve had their 3rd kid.

  • Anne Onimos

    And a brooding sort of man, who never said much of anything but looked like he was doing a slow simmer in the back yard all weekend.

    I think the correct term for that is, “20-year silent scream” (or however many years might apply). Pity him.

  • Having been raised by a French-Canadian mother, and having spent much of my youth in the company of my French-Canadian family, I can say that this is not typical French-Canadian parenting behaviour. I think, like XUP, that it may be more of a reflection of quantity..

  • Carmen

    agree with Deirdre…

  • Funny, I’m French-Canadian and my impression until you mentioned the ethnic group was that the father and his mother were Italian.

    My father didn’t raise his voice or shout at my sisters and I. My mother would yell only when she was angry, which did happen a lot because she had a short fuse. Nobody else in my family – grandmothers, aunts or uncles shouted at kids.

  • grace

    I have to respectively disagree. My parents had nine of us in 10 years and we had three under five for a bit. We don’t yell and until I went to grade one in a one room school and the teacher hit me for being left handed I had nver been struck.r . Our girls, now 26, 24 and 22 have seldom heard a voice raised and I don’t think they’ve heard a voice raised in anger in our home though they have heard disagreements.

    When our first went to school (still 3, for she has a Christmas time birthday) she came home and told me she had something to tell me: the thing that she needed to tell me was that ‘people hit other people’. Until her first day of kindergarten she had never seen one human strike another (hooray for TVO children’s programming). I often wondered how well equiped they were for the real world . . .

  • Tom Sawyer

    This is depressing; it ain’t right. What happened to peace, love, and understanding? ‘Kay, so ya might have to bark now & then. But never lose control. Right?

  • The kids will handle the yelling alright precisely because it is constant. Assuming there is no actual abuse it is just the same background noise.
    The trouble for the parents is that if they yell all the time how do they possibly signal that something they are saying is really important.
    It is the changing of normal tone that is the clue something exceptional is afoot and needs to be dealt with seriously.

  • Does she enunciate a lot, too? If so, maybe the kids just don’t speak English, and they’re yelling in the same way one raises one’s tone at a foreign-speaking person so that they can understand you.

    – RG>

  • Melinda

    I don’t think that’s French-Canadian. It’s the way our house was run when I was a kid and we just thought it was normal. I also have a friend here in Switzerland who loves her kids dearly, but nearly always engages with them at full volume. He, on the other hand, is quieter, but you kind of fail to notice it because he shrinks into the background in all the noise. I’m fairly certain that the kids will follow in the full-volume tradition.

  • Oma

    I think that frustrations might account for a lot of parental shouting … caused by too many kids, too much noise, not enough support, not enough money … problems that have little to do with the kids or their behaviour.

    But … as a teacher,I realized very early on that the quieter the teacher is, the quieter the kids become.

    I find, by the way, that the longer I live alone, miles away from people, the less able I become to deal with a lot of hustle, bustle and noise.

    I agree with Bandobras about the effect of too much shouting … and with XUP about why most shouting occurs.

    And then there are people who revel in the exuberance of crowds of kids. They remain unruffled no matter how many kids are in the house. I personally think they might be a little hard of hearing:-)

  • I’m quite ashamed to admit this, but I am definitely a yeller. My mom was too, and I find myself bellowing at the kids all day long. I really need to simmer down!

  • I still remember the day my mother was so frustrated with me and my two younger brothers that she just started crying. We stopped fighting IMMEDIATELY. Never a need for screaming when you’re adept in the art of making kids feel guilty.

  • I am with Bandobras on this. I think the kids feel comforted by the predictability of the yelling. They would probably
    get scared if he transformed into the silent sensitive type. I have felt like saying “Eat your GD Cheerios!”to a child before, but didn’t
    and just nagged him in other ways.
    I grew up in an Irish Catholic neighbourhood that was full of colourful yelling. One neighbour had toddlers in harnesses attached to her
    clothesline. I heard another neighbour refer to her own children as “bastards” and heard the expression “smartin’ up” for the first time
    on that street.

  • Heh, this morning when I was looking for an important binder, I was thinking about the Mark Twain quote (from memory), “behold, the fool saith, put not all your eggs in one basket; the wise man saith put all your eggs in one basket, and watch that basket.”

    And I yelled out loud (to nobody) “WHERE THE FUCK IS MY BASKET?!?”

    – RG>

  • sheila

    I grew up with a mother who yelled, screamed, slapped. And she is French-Canadian-American. I knew she loved us but I didn’t want to be like her. My father is of the same heritage but he did not yell, scream, slap and I am still a little afraid of him. I turned out to be a mixture of both my parents, mostly quiet with explosive bursts of yelling(under duress).

  • mud

    Quebec has the lowest birth rate in the country. Most of the French Canadians I know having children right now seem to have smaller than average families. The big Catholic families I know are two generations back. They don’t seem to yell any more than anyone else.

    I’m not usually a yeller. Stress makes me exasperated and then I can be a yeller though. But I don’t find a houseful of kids stressful. I like their noise and activity. It is external stresses that set me off. It’s infrequent enough that the kids notice and TELL ME “Mum, you’re kinda yelling a lot right now” and then I go take a bath and pretend to drown myself in mortification.

  • Alan

    Hey there…

    Looking for the bloggers who’re performing tonight to be on All In A Day today… would you be in? Email me if so…


  • Interesting comments, and the consensus seems to be that no, it’s not a french-canadian thing.

    Grace, did you kids not even hit each other before they went to school?

    Maybe parents who yell a lot get their kids’ attention by suddenly speaking very very softly? Whispering would probably send shivers up their kids’ spines.

    Lynn, you’re the only one who admits to hollering a lot! Good for you for outing yourself that way. So do you do it out of habit? Is it because your kids don’t listen to you unless you yell?

    Alan, sorry, I’d love to help you out but I’m blogging out loud by proxy. I’ve got me a stand-in to read my post! Maybe my stand-in would be willing to do some radio this afternoon?

  • I agree with everyone else-That its not a cultural thing, more of a short temper thing combined with having too many kids. LOL.

    The problem with this style of parenting is how do the kids know when they’ve actually been bad? They obviously are numb to yelling.

  • […] happened to be trained teachers, but I’d certainly be a different person if I was raised with 100% yelling parents. The times that yelling were used were traumatic enough. Maybe it loses the shock value if used all […]

  • Hey, do you think maybe you were living next to Billy Mays?