Pelham’s Rule of Screaming

Screaming is for emergencies. It is for situations such as those in which the dad needs to bring the gun, or for which the fire department needs to be called. It is not for play any more than dialing 9-1-1 is for play.

Screaming is not for playing tag.  Nor is it for expressing delighted surprise.  It is not for story time or puppet shows—not even for scary ones. It is not for a wasp flying in the house or a non-venomous snake being handled by the zookeeper. It is not for backyard play or water balloons or for the pool—unless someone needs to go to the hospital.

Screaming is not for events to which one does not mean to invite the attention of everyone within earshot.  So if you don’t want me looking over the fence to find out what your kids are screaming about, then you need to teach them not to scream in non-emergencies.

Children can learn the appropriate time for screaming just as well as they can learn the appropriate time for any other manner of speech. And they can learn this from a very early age. There is no need to wait until their teen years to teach this—by which time they would have learned it themselves from direct observation and reflection.

Screaming is for emergencies—quite like car alarms or road flares.  So if you don’t think it’s a big deal that your kids are screaming for 30 minutes in the McDonald’s Playland, then I hope you won’t find it a big deal if I set off my car alarm to honk for 30 minutes on the curb in front of your house, or if I toss a lit road flare into your garage just for fun.

No, I wouldn’t really do such things.  But then, I wouldn’t let me kids go around screaming, either.  And that’s pretty much my point.

Non-emergency screaming is a needless breach of the public peace, and I would like to think that this fact would be self-evident to rational adults.

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