Tuesday, October 16, 2012

On not yelling at my children

It turns out that I'm not a perfect parent. I'll give you a moment while you pick your jaw up off the floor. Then you can take a second to roll your eyes. Go ahead, I'll wait.

I've been struggling with my imperfections lately. While this is sort of the story of my life, it's felt especially raw lately when it comes to my learning how to parent my almost-five year old. I'm not going to sugarcoat this for you: all of a sudden I've discovered that I'm a parent who raises her voice. No matter your own approach to parenting, this is not a strategy I wish to continue. Anger is one thing, yelling is another. Anger is an intense emotion connected to feelings of hurt, frustration, and helplessness. Yelling is an act of aggression.

I'm not a yeller by nature. I don't remember my parents yelling beyond a few arguments with each other now and then. Once I spent a week with another family where yelling was the primary mode of communication and all I wanted to do was run home and hide under the covers. Sure, I got excited from time to time and raised my voice, but yelling was not my thing. It made anger feel terrifying. Expressing feelings of anger and frustration are good things, and to be honest I wish I'd done more of that growing up. Instead I spent most of my time ensuring that other people were happy so as to avoid anger in the first place. The healthiest emotional habit? Maybe not, but this is me.

I adore these children of mine, love the family we have created. But I've learned that certain conditions lead me to feeling helpless against how I angry I feel sometimes. Did you know that a four year old can make you really angry? She's filled with rainbows and sunshine yet sometimes I find myself irritated beyond measure by her behaviour. I know, she's four. She's pushing boundaries, testing limits, learning (far too quickly, I might add) how to stand on her own in the world. Sometimes my anger comes from pure frustration (will she please FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THE THINGS just put her shoes on), other times from hurt feelings. No matter the source of these feelings, the reality is that I am the parent and she is the child learning from me. What do we learn from yelling? We learn to dominate, to use force, and to act unkindly in the face of a challenge. I'm pretty certain that these are not the messages I want to pass along to my children.

Yes, yes, of course we all have moments. Does it feel good to yell sometimes in anger? Yes. Does it feel good to yell sometimes in anger at your child? Never. In fact I never want to do it again.

Fortunately our home is a wonderful place to be, and this yelling habit of mine is new and infrequent. But I know in my heart that yelling is just not for me. I prefer my passion in the form of kisses. I have no interest in hiding my strong emotions but I want my family to see me channel these emotions for good, not evil. I want to show Alyce that we can speak to each other kindly even when we disagree. I am human, I make mistakes, but I can still work toward an ideal I hold so dearly. Alyce isn't blind, she can see me struggling, but my hope is that what she will see--what she will remember--is not that I yelled sometimes, but that I tried so hard to learn from my mistakes. And the best part is that she is learning, too.
How do you handle yelling in your house?

P.S. Just for the record, Shira is in a fort in that top photo, not a prison. I swear.


  1. Made me cry a l'il bit.
    This hits home for me my friend.
    I love love love your honesty.

  2. We're human, I know that, and we will make many mistakes. I hope we forgive ourselves these moments, but that doesn't mean I don't want to try to act differently. But I also know that our children--yours and mine both--know just how loved they are.

  3. Lovely words, you write so well. Like you I try not to yell and most days that is the state of play. On the rare days I do I look inside and search for reasons that are making me want to yell. It is usually my intolerance, tiredness or similar that are the cause not my children.

    1. Thanks for your kind words. It's amazing how much trouble our own rotten moods (or tired moods)get us into, isn't it? I can almost always trace an outburst back to something else bothering me. But we try every day, right? That's all we can do.

  4. I wrote a blog post over the summer but didn't publish it. I'd read a quote about how the way we speak to our children becomes their inner voice, and I was thinking of my children as adults, hearing, "PLEASE JUST PUT ON YOUR DAMN SHOES AND GET YOUR ASSES IN THE CAR!!!!" Yes, that's a direct quote. I am a yeller, but only at my kids. My husband wouldn't put up with it, and I'd get fired if I did it to my kindergarten students. It's horrible, really. When I do yell, it is more a reflection of my own frustration, impatience, exhaustion...and then we get our kids in trouble if they shout at us! :( It's a gross cycle and it's getting much, much better.

    I TOTALLY here you re. 4-5 year olds. How adorable they are. How many buttons they can push in spite of their bright little faces. I'm already getting grey hairs just thinking about how I'm going to get mine on a bus every second morning once I'm home with the baby. Because it takes her 45 minutes, and 600 questions, to do ANYTHING.

    Bless their little hearts. And bless the hearts of mamas, always trying to be better at this impossible task we have!

    1. I shared that same quote on facebook this summer and it stopped me in my tracks. I see their little faces and all I want them to hear is my patient voice, not my annoyed, irritated, and slightly exhausted voice. We're parents, this is all a lot of hard work, and this is life. I'm ok with that. But I still want to work toward not yelling. I just don't like it.

      Good luck with the school bus, by the way. Yikes.