Yelling and shouting at my kids, in my opinion, is unacceptable. In all my efforts to connect with them and parent positively and gently, this is my stumbling block. But it happens. And lately, far too often.
Shouting may make me feel better in the instant that I do it. But within seconds it kicks back like a scorpion’s tail and makes me feel horrible, like the proverbial worst mother in the world. More serious is that it scares my children.
It certainly isn’t effective in inspiring more considerate behaviour. As you can imagine, it’s the exact opposite. After a morning of losing my temper, my daughter is usually impossible to reason with for the rest of the day. But most heartbreaking is that it totally disconnects us from each other. A huge toxic wall goes up.
Kate’s post outlines what we can do to stop yelling at our kids. She succinctly puts it into the categories of: 1. Before we start yelling, 2 In the heat of the moment, and 3. After we’ve yelled. She’s expresses it so perfectly that I cannot better it – so head over there to read more.
I’m going to explore why I shout… or why I think mothers shout in general. I know exactly why I shout. So many reasons unique to my life and I’m afraid it’s all boring. Yada yada yada… and I now I yell at the kids.
In a nutshell, I shout because I’m angry.
I think many other mothers are angry too.
The reality is that parenting can be totally exasperating. It has the potential to turn the most well-intentioned people into monsters! (I’d love to make a bumper sticker “I’m not a monster, I just need more support!”).
Being a mother is an unbelievably demanding job. In fact, it’s damn hard work.
If you are lucky enough to have easy going kids, and/or lots of support, and/or a bottomless supply of patience, then I am genuinely happy for you. But I admit to being a tad envious too. Some of us blow our fuse sooner than others, and I think I fall into the ‘sooner’ end of the spectrum.
I also believe that there are extreme pressures on parents in our modern age. We are doing it more in isolation than ever before. Many people parent without the support of family nearby, many people find it difficult to find support networks in their own community. And as much as the internet and social media bring us together, much of the actual nitty gritty hands-on stuff is done alone. A work load that is often way too much for one caregiver to handle for the majority of the day.
And it’s more complex than just a workload… it’s a load weighed down with emotional attachments. We have vested interest in guiding, teaching, feeding, nurturing… all whilst completing the ‘work’. Full time teacher, Play School presenter, personal chef, laundry maid, bum-wiper, nurse and personal assistant all rolled into one. And all performed in a lacklustre fog of exhaustion. It’s tough.
But the point is, I know that my fuse is short. I know that I don’t cope well with managing my own stress. I know that I am angry. And I think it is okay to be angry. But it is not okay to let my anger turn into hostility.
For the sake of my children I know I need to find a safe outlet for my anger. I believe there’s a balance between appropriately expressing anger (being real) to them, and scaring them. If my anger has excess charge I need to release it away from their presence.
After I shout I find myself thinking: What is wrong with me? How could I scare my innocent children like that? I was reassured recently when I read some words from Robin Grille, “Remind yourself that anger is not violence. In fact, venting anger safely is the best measure to prevent violence”.
Robin goes on to suggest beating a pillow, breaking a plate, hitting a ball with a tennis racquet, go for a brisk walk, or write down what you were angry about. “Anger is a powerful physical force and it wants movement”.
Everyone finds a method that works for them. I find that going for a walk every morning is a way to prevent anger and shouting from happening in the first place. It clears my head, calms my body and releases endorphins. I certainly notice the difference with my coping ability on the days I don’t walk. I also understand how hard it is to make time to look after ourselves in this way. For months I did not have the opportunity to walk, and it took its toll.
Clearly the most important thing to do after shouting is to apologise to my children, to mend the toxic wall. Without doing this, it is difficult to create true heart connection again. Asking for their forgiveness is all about being humble and real to my children too. Its replaces shame, guilt and fear. Everyone benefits from the fresh start.
And finally, I think it’s important not just to seek forgiveness from our children, but to also to forgive ourselves. Kate’s post terms it as cutting ourselves some slack. We are not perfect. We can make mistakes and that’s okay. And let’s remind ourselves of the demanding job we are doing in a not so perfect world.
So next time, instead of beating myself up for shouting and making myself feel worse for days, I will take a deep breath and start again. There’s nothing I can do to change that I shouted. But I can change what I do next time. And I can do better. And I will do better.
* Robin Grille is a pyschologist and author, his books include Heart to Heart Parenting and Parenting for a Peaceful World.