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Everyday Parenting

“Learning Not To Yell”

“We don’t hit in our household. We don’t hit our friends and we don’t hit each other.”  I remember having that talk with my, then young daughter.  We never really spanked in our household, my wife and I.  We always thought that discipline and punishment should be on a level that still contains a mutual respect.  Once violence comes into the picture, no one respects anyone anymore.  This is a revelation coming from a former bar room brawler, but I’ll save that story for another day.  When problems arise, it’s pretty rare that I lose my cool anymore.  My temper has changed a lot over the years and I’ve taken quite a few steps to keep it that way.  In the spirit of always reevaluating myself, I had been giving some serious thought to how I do handle big episodes of misbehavior.

Occasionally, that defiant spirit my daughter has inherited gets turned back on me, and for seemingly no reason.  I understand now, as a parent, how much that can hurt and know that I did things like that as a child as well.  I try to be understanding, forgiving and patient, but sometimes I have a big blow up.  She says the right thing at the right time and I start to see red.  I get tired of talking in circles, “after all I do for you”, I think, and then it happens.  I yell.  Not a big deal.  A lot of parents raise their voice, right?  She finally listens, but through eyes that are now welling up with tears.  I hate that I let it come to that.  It makes me want to run to the bathroom and vomit.  Finally, after hours or “talking”, she will clean her room, or stay in bed, or apologize for talking back and saying hurtful things to her parents.

If it isn’t that big of a deal, why do I feel so bad afterwards?  It’s not that I don’t think there should be discipline, but there has to be a more effective and productive way to do this! If anything, I have to figure it out for selfish reasons, because I am tired of feeling upset afterwards!  There are some studies that suggest yelling can be just as harmful as physical violence.  Great, now you tell me.  Although my common sense can see it’s probably not quite as cut and dry, nor so extreme, I do know that I feel terrible after raising my voice, and my daughter does too.

After an argument between us, it doesn’t take long before I am apologizing, and realizing the spat probably wasn’t worth it for either of us.  It was just a messy room, it’s just a bedtime, it was just a spilled drink, it..well…none of it really matters does it?

So that was that, I decided I’ll stop yelling.  I don’t know how it makes my daughter feel specifically when I raise my voice, but if she feels half as bad about it as I do, it’s just not worth it.  I used to justify it, as it was the only thing that got her attention, and after all, we don’t hit, so what can I do?  Basically, I just got tired of doing it.  I feel bad, she feels bad, and it’s a loss of control that I don’t want to take part in anymore.  I still believe in firm discipline, fair consequences and just reactions, but yelling has to be removed out of the equation for me.  I’m not judging anyone else, but I’m saying, if it makes you feel bad, stop doing it.  It will take some work, some time, and a plan, but it will be worth it.  If I start to see red, I’m going to leave the room, take a break and reevaluate.

Kids are kids, and we were kids once.  Put yourself in their shoes, did you ever learn well from a lesson that was yelled at you?  If you were like me you just pushed back harder.  I know I’m not perfect, no one is, but like I said, I just don’t want to yell anymore.  I now have the motivation to leave the room, take a breather, engage in positive conversations, or suggest a change in how the situation is going.  I know I don’t want to be screaming at the top of my lungs over some unfolded laundry and a little sass talk.

That same recent study I was reading suggests that yelling can contribute to depression, a poor self image, and poor behavior.  Great, now I feel worse.  I guess that’s good.  Acknowledge it and change, right?   If this study is correct, it leads me to believe that there just is no possible way to “yell a kid into good behavior.” Yelling hurts your child’s self image, they feel unequal, incapable, and worthless.  This is not these message I want my words to say.  I want to be calm, peaceful and fair.  Disciple is necessary, but I want it to be realistic, appropriate and on a level where mutual respect can thrive, on an intelligent level where love is the guide and anger with those I love comes on slow.

Yelling isn’t any more effective than spanking.  It doesn’t make anyone feel better; and it doesn’t reduce any conduct problems, in fact it has been shown to increase them and increase depression.  People have said to me “What is wrong with kids today?  maybe if they all got spankings they wouldn’t be so defiant.”  As far as I am concerned, kids will always be kids, and I have been lucky to know some smart, talented and caring kids in this world.  I don’t see anything wrong with kids today at all.  What I see wrong is parents that aren’t willing to consider creative ways to engage, uplift and empower their children instead of screaming at the until they reach a submission point.  Do we want to teach righteous lessons to our children, build them up and prepare them for the world, or do we want to tear them down and leave them broken?

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