Here’s my confession – I’ve yelled at my kids. Several times. Sometimes it’s just because in order to compete with their voices I have to yell (or else invest in a megaphone!). Other times they get so involved in what they’re doing that I swear they turn deaf and the only way I can seem to get through to them is to yell.
And then there are those days when it’s been one long battle after another, where your child’s voice has been set to whine all day long. Where your children woke up determined to tease and torment and fight with each other. Those days where you’ve given warnings, removed privileges and taken away so many toys that the top of your fridge is now buried in them, and they’re still determined to do whatever it is they’re not supposed to.
Inevitably one child puts that final straw on your back and next thing you know you hear yourself yelling, “That’s it! I’ve had it! When I say stop, I mean stop! And if you don’t stop that this very minute you’re grounded for the rest of your life!” (insert your threat of choice here).
If you’re having especially bad luck that day, only seconds later you’ll hear a knock at the door, as someone decides to stop in unexpectedly. You feel already feel like the worst parent in the world, which is then magnified as you wonder if they overheard your Mommy-Meltdown, and what must they (they being a surely perfect parent who’s never once yelled at their child!) think of you now?
And I do feel like a horrible parent when I yell. While yelling to get their attention when playing is one thing, I hate yelling out of frustration or let’s face it, anger. For starters, it normally doesn’t accomplish anything: yelling doesn’t phase my daughter in the least, and for my son, my frustration only fuels his own feelings. It also just makes everyone feel miserable – I feel bad for yelling and my son feels hurt. There’s nothing like the hurt look in a child’s eyes to drive the proverbial knife straight into your heart.
I try very hard not to yell, but I’ll be the first to admit that I have a short-temper and low patience – though I will say my children have taught me more patience in the last six years, than I had learned in my entire life before them. I’m human. I make mistakes. That’s no excuse, but I think it’s a reassurance.
Yelling at our children occasionally doesn’t make us bad parents, but I think how we follow it up can be defining. I believe in mutual respect. When our children disobey, are rude, fight with each other (etc…), we expect an apology from them as well as retribution for whatever wrong they were doing – whether that’s picking up the toys they refused to, kissing the boo-boo one gave the other, helping to re-create the latest Lego masterpiece that was destroyed… what have you.
However, the same applies to us. Children deserve respect, too. If I, or my husband (mothers aren’t the only ones who yell after all) yell at the children, then we make sure that we apologize to them. We let them know that our reaction was wrong – no excuses. With our son since he’s old enough, after the storm has passed, we take the opportunity to talk about the feelings we both had – be they anger, frustration or sadness. We try and turn the moment into a learning opportunity, a time to teach that there are better ways of dealing with our “not nice” feelings than yelling or hitting or throwing a tantrum. But also, that those feelings are perfectly natural, and it’s okay to have them – something I think children need to know. They need to know that just because they got upset or angry, it doesn’t mean they’re “bad”.
While we may be teaching the lesson for our child’s benefit, it’s normally a good reminder for ourselves, too.