Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Yell at your Kids   2 comments

I know, this is self-evident, right?  We all know that you should not yell at your kids.  Maybe you are a parent who yells at kids because they are being frustrating or doing something wrong.  Sorry, I’m not actually talking about that kind of yelling.

And sorry, I don’t have a five step method for not yelling.

I’m talking about the kind of yelling that happens for no apparent reason, at least from your child’s point of view.

I used to get really frustrated because we were often late.  Looking back it’s fairly obvious I just needed to plan ahead better.  I would make some adjustments every time I had another baby, such as adding another five minutes to the pre-boarding ritual, but we were still the same amount of time late to events.

Clue one that I needed to hear was the day when we were heading out to co-op and about to be late again.  Guess what happened to the kids on the way out the door?  My oldest son–probably about eight years old at the time–moved so fast to get out of the way of his crabby mom he literally knocked down his little sister, who then fell sideways onto the stairs which were close to the door in our tiny two-bedroom house.  Had carpet, but no, she hit the wood.

So my baby girl has an injury on her face because I am a grump and can’t control my emotions when I’m displeased with circumstances.

I wish I could say that this was an effective wake-up call.  It started the process, yes.  But it was not enough to fully reform me.

Over the years, there have been any number of incidents in which one child, usually the oldest, would attempt to correct or direct the other siblings.  When I would investigate further to find out why he was being so bossy, invariably, the bottom line was he wanted them to do what I wanted, so I would stay happy, so there would be no yelling.

The classic example comes from a camping trip at spring break.  We are in our pop-up on a warm night in Florida with the fan blowing on me (because yes, I’m the big baby who needs the fan more than anyone else in order to be able to sleep).  It’s dark and I’m sleeping, but eventually I begin to register seismic events in the camper.  Slowly, vibrations that I know are not being caused by my husband, because he’s the solid peaceful log next to me, invade my world.  I pretend there are no vibrations a few times and doze back off, but eventually I realize that ignoring whatever it is the kids are doing is not going to work this time.

There is not only movement but conversation at the other end.  I finally ooze upward, turn on a flashlight, and ask what on earth is the matter.

My youngest child who was 7 or so at the time, was not able to sleep because of bug bites from the sand flies.  But, his brother started their explanation by highlighting his attempt to keep the younger child from waking me up.  He knew the consequences could be dire–but wait a minute aren’t moms supposed to take care of kids at night when there’s a problem?  I thought my kids knew this.  However, the fear that the roof of the camper would blow off short circuited getting actual help.

Thankfully I am at least decent in a crisis, even a sleep crisis.  I told the others to relax and gave the youngest my anti-itch protocol of liquid antihistamine, Calagel applied to the bites, and time with mom, a favorite book and the fan.  Within 20 minutes he was calmed down, and I tucked him back in on the kids’ end of the camper.  Yes, I did put the fan on him, and somehow I managed without it.

Fast forward to this summer, five or so years later.  We took my oldest son to his summer job and moved him in to his apartment.  Something he said that day made me realize there was a possibility that the way he handles conflict is based on cross-examining himself to be sure he isn’t doing anything that would piss Mom off.

I realize now, as a mother with almost 21 years of experience, and as a mother who has loved her kids well in many ways, that my typical short circuiting has meant that my kids have developed in the light of my temper.  Sure, I don’t lose it nearly as much as I used to, but what I have already done has had a long-term effect on my children.

I don’t know how much counseling they will need to get past their fear of making others angry, but I don’t want them to have needed any.

I wanted my kids to live their lives based on what they believed they are meant to do and be, not based on what they hope will keep the peace.

I wanted my kids to live their lives from a foundation of trust and hope, not out of anxiety.

I share my faults with you because I want you to know that hindsight is a truly powerful teacher.

Maybe, you can benefit from mine.



Posted August 1, 2016 by swanatbagend in motherhood

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2 responses to “Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Yell at your Kids

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  1. I think you may be too hard on yourself here.

    Of course one should not yell at one’s kids… and the goal is to have arguments with one’s spouse out of earshot of the kids. And some kids are more sensitive to this than others… but even for them…

    There is a downside to NOT yelling. To NOT arguing in front of the kids. My in-laws (whom I hold in highest regard, and once asked to adopt me if we ever got divorced) were careful never to argue in front of their kids. So *extremely* careful that all five of their kids have severe issues with conflict resolution. They would rather get divorced than get counseling… and even my MIL’s hypothesis is that they didn’t get to see how to have aa conflict and recover from it – the “kiss-and-makeup” part. That people who love each other and are best friends cna get really, Really angry at each other, not see eye to eye, and then find a way to get over it.

    The “upside to yelling” is my own story.
    My parents were yellers. My mother claimed she hated it, having grown up in a yelling family, but – as I have found – it is a hard habit to break. I remember putting my ear to the knothole in my bedroom floor – directly above the kitchen where they were fighting, so I could know what the argument was about without them seeing me… because if it was about something I could affect (messy house – clean my room, tidy up other rooms; finances – don’t ask for anything new for a few days; etc) then I wanted to do that. Sometimes their arguments spilled over (or started with) me… and I got yelled at. (I got spanked, too, and it was never a calm correction. But it was also never more than a couple swats on my behind. And since it was inevitably when I knew I’d gone over the line for sass with a clearly frustrated mom, I never felt that it wasn’t deserved.)

    But while I hated to be yelled at (surprise, surprise), I learned to cope with it. I learned to start doing something to mitigate the situation (usually clean my room or finish a chore). I learned to ACT. I learned to conceal my attitude, keep my expression neutral, and not have my own meltdown.
    I learned to problem-solve.
    My parents are also usually good in crises (which is good, because they seem to live from one to the next) so I learned that when it is really important, you smush it all down and deal. (Of course, the converse is that it’s okay to stress over small stuff… which is something I still struggle with. A lot.)

    All these things (except the small-stuff stressing) have proven very helpful to me in later life.
    When you are on the job, you need to put your attitude away, no matter how much the boss is reaming you out – you can go away and decide whether or not to find another job later, but right then is usually not the moment.
    When you are on the job, and something is clearly creating a stressful environment (funding, sales new boss) you have to DO something to help reduce the stress – do a task that’s been lingering, put in a few extra hours, show up before the boss and leave after…
    When you are yelled at on the job, you can’t go cry in the bathroom or go home for the day, you have to get right on the task that the boss criticised.

    When your job is being a parent, you can’t call it quits when your kids yell at you for incomprehensible reasons, tell you they hate you, that you are the worst mother ever, etc. You have to make dinner, force them into time-out, talk them down off a tantrum…
    … and sometimes remind them that you, too, are human and have limits.

    Your kids clearly do not fear you.

    Are they overly concerned about upsetting others?
    Perhaps, but the opposite would be much worse.

    You have raised a trio of compassionate people, who are aware of other people’s feelings (which has been an extra challenge, in some ways), who think before they act, and will put others’ needs ahead of their own wants.
    Some exposure to the rest of the world without a safety net (aka, adulthood) will round them out.

    Would that I will be as successful as you!

    • Thanks for your kind thoughts about my parenting, and for your insights into the benefits of dealing with yelling. I completely agree that learning how to deal with and handle people yelling at you is valuable. Also, I’m certainly no advocate of hiding all arguments between spouses from children, for the reasons you mentioned. I would like to think that we could argue without yelling, which we usually do. I feel like losing my temper and yelling directly at a child is a different situation from the parental argument one. Thanks for all your interest in myh blog. And yes, you’re right, you really do need your own.

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