The other day I yelled at my kids. Not a garden-variety yell. A screech. A holler. A roar. The kind of yelling that reverberates around the house and continues to echo in corridors of guilt. The kind of yelling that the neighbours will talk about (three doors down). The kind of yelling that leaves your throat hoarse and every time you swallow you are reminded of your parenting failure. The kind of yelling that stops a child in their tracks. In fear.
This is the problem with that kind of yelling. It works.
My seven year old stopped what he was doing immediately and looked crestfallen. The Pokemon go cards, lego, tv show or whatever it was he was doing fell away as a priority. The survival instinct kicked in — I could almost see the change in his eyes. The priority became returning mummy back to mummy and pacifying the creature before him. There was a moment where I could see him choosing between crying and just getting dressed. Why do I have to raise my voice to get you to do the simplest thing? He (wisely) chose just to get dressed.
I don’t lose my cool often. But when I do, the decibels are impressive. Things mount. Pressure builds. Fatigue sets in. And even though I am completely aware of what I am doing, the tiger escapes. Pounces on my kids and leaves them rattled. All of us rattled. There is always a sense of calm afterwards. The kids terrified into behaving. Me feeling guilty and relieved to have let the pressure escape. Everyone is saccharine sweet to each other in an effort to restore equilibrium. But it shouldn’t take yelling to get us there.
I hate myself after these outbursts. Loathe myself. What kind of monster scares her children? What kind of example am I setting? How can I expect my kids to regulate their emotions when I don’t do it myself? I beat myself up and occasionally a little kindness comes in. Reminding myself that I am human. That my kids need to realise that they can only push so far before people break. That all of it is part of the human experience and no-one is perfect. I try to console myself that even when I completely lose control, the words themselves are not hurtful. I don’t hurl abuse. I hurl frustrations.
I know that this isn’t helpful behaviour. There are plenty of articles out there admonishing me for yelling — it’s just as bad as spanking. There are plenty of articles out there that will tell me about alternatives. The truth is I know those alternatives already. 90% of the time I can do it. I just don’t know that I can hold myself to that standard of parenting, day in, day out. I want to be a perfect parent. I don’t want to yell at my kids. I want there to be a consistent standard of behaviour and a consistent approach to implementing it. I also want a beautifully tidy house, a satisfying job, a healthy lifestyle, a brilliant marriage and a fabulous creative life. It’s a lot of pressure isn’t it?
Pressure that builds and needs release and sometimes finds the unfortunate target in my kids. So maybe the answer is just to calm down. About all of it.
Do you yell at your kids?
How do you feel about it?
I rarely yell, but when I do I’m quite shocked by the volume myself. And the problem is, when I let it out I find it hard to rein it back in. It’s like an explosion that takes a very conscious effort to plug back up again. The last time I yelled like that was about 6 weeks ago at the dogs (when they ripped up the trampoline netting … the neighbours must have thought I was murdering someone … I am surprised the police didn’t turn up). As for the kids, it hasn’t happened in years. But yeah, it works …
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I think sometimes we just need the release. I am sure there are better ways, but it’s hard once you get going and the rage feels good in that bad way.
My thing with this, is why does the simplest thing that needs to be done daily have to turn into a long drawn out argument? Yes it’s bad to yell but why don’t people just do what needs to be done without 10 million reminders each day? Not saying yelling is right but it’s a 2 way street usually….
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It is – and a wish that yelling didn’t get the results, but it REALLY does.
Thanks for sharing Robyna. So many people pretend but so glad you’re real ?. Parenting is hard work especially when you need to be somewhere and they’re not ready or the fighting or the backchat or the….it’s endless. ?
Oh it’s all real here Sarah 🙂 No point pretending and adding extra pressure.
Not often but yes, I have yelled like that. Sometimes I’m exhausted from shift work, frustrated, stressed and out it comes. I do feel badly and I do apologise, not that that negates it. Everyone gets angry. I can usually reign it in quickly. I do wish the kids would just do the basic things they are asked without it turning into a constant battle, though!
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I know! It’s not very hard. And yet is SO HARD.
I think you’ve just described a moment all of us have experienced. I recall many times I lost my cool and yelled at the kids. I felt bad too but it happened and they are adults now and just fine. No long term effects! I think they need to know there are limits to how far they can push Mum! 😉
I think that a little bit too. 🙂
I spoke to a school counsellor about my teen’s behaviour, and asked him directly if he ever lost his cool even though he knew better. “Of course,” he said “I’m only human” It was nice to know that even the experts stuff up sometimes.
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The difference between KNOWING it and DOING it is wide isn’t it? Particularly doing it all the time.
I think I yelled more when my kids were little,now I swear t get the reaction I need. I know it’s not right but after asking countless, thankless times, I resort to the shock factor to get things done. I look at this as normal behaviour and nothing your kids will ever remember. Do you remember the times you were yelled at as a kid? I know I don’t and I was a pretty mischievous kid. #teamIBOT
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I can only remember once when Dad really lost it, but I’m quite sure they did it more that once – and you’re right – it’s all part of living together and seeing each other warts and all.
I don’t yell often but sometimes I do. I absolutely hate myself for it but it is amazingly effective, probably because I so seldom do it. Your blog post certainly resonated with me!
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I do agree – if you were in a household where the yelling was normal it just wouldn’t have the same effect.
I’m a yeller. I have the strategies to ensure I don’t yell but after a door has been slammed eight times in as many minutes because the wind is blowing and the children are going in and out (just one example) those strategies are completely tossed out the window and afterwards I wonder what the neighbours say about my ability to yell. Really loud. I don’t think anyone feels good about it. But sometimes it just erupts.
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It does. Part of being a mamma. It’s good to know none of us are alone.
I yell, I swear and I rant and rave. Sometimes I feel deeply ashamed, other times I accept that this is how it is. Sometimes it works really well, other times I can see how distressed my children have become. I think you are talking about the normal frustration that comes with being a parent. I know I experienced being yelled at, as a child and I am ok. xx
Yep — we all lived through it and probably worse. I just don’t think our parents had the same (unrealistic) expectations placed upon them.
Yep little expectations raising your children pretty much on your own( as girls relate better to their mother than fathers). caring for you grandparents as your mother and father both had fulltime jobs, vice president and treasure of the school P&C,part time student two to three nights a week.yep easy ,yep I yelled and cried, took many cold showers and escaped in my mind to calmer times spent in the boat sailing up the Noosa river or surfing on my board just me and the sea. Being a parent raising, the next generation of valuable, caring and loving adults, is not and never has been easy, we have not done this hiding in bomb shelters, hunting for food in the forests, swapping your family jewellery for food and clothing or wood to burn so you could bath once a week. Moving to a new country to escape from being the wrong nationality in the wrong war torn country. These are the things our grandparents dealt with while trying to raise their children.
Thanks Mum – that’s very true and it’s great to have perspective. At the same time — I think the pressure & judgement has just mounted as lives have gotten much easier. It’s like what we talked about that other day – nowadays there is ONE right way and hell to anyone who doesn’t fit that mould.
The yelling debate is a guilt ridden one. I am getting much better and it takes effort. But the one time my youngest kicked a soccer ball and it hit my most valued vase, all in the rush of trying to get out the door to catch an international flight – well I yelled. No one was happy, there were tears from both of us – but you know what? The tension/crazy eased instantly after that….go figure….
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Oh I would have yelled too. And it’s funny how that release does dissolve the tension – like a huge storm.
Sometimes – just sometimes, sure, but still sometimes – the kids just need to know that they have crossed the line, too many times in a row, and mum has nothing left. I know exactly what you mean and exactly how you feel. x
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I think there is something in that – kids need to realise that everyone (even mum) has limits.
Been there, many times (too many times), and each time I feel a wave of guilt and sorrow for doing so. But, you know what? I’m a human. I experience emotions on all levels of the spectrum. It doesn’t mean I’m proud of it, but I try not to beat myself up about it too much either. It doesn’t happen often, and when it does it’s, as you say, the built up pressure of just day to day parenting. We all have moments like this. xx
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Thanks Jodi – I do think it’s a common issue amongst mums – along with the serve of guilt.
Yes, I’ve been there before. You’ve described it so well. Just like you, I hate letting myself go there and seeing the fear in my children’s eyes. Just dreadful. I don’t know what the answer is. Thankfully it doesn’t happen too often around these parts xx
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It’s fairly rare here too – but part of being human I guess.
I’m glad it’s not just me that puts fear into my boys when I yell. I wish I didn’t too but sometimes in the heat of the moment I let it all out.
I decided to use passcodes on the ipads to cut down my yelling since it was 90% related to them ignoring me while playing , engrossed in a game or dallying getting ready for school or bed etc. or fighting over said ipad games.
It has helped.
Controlling the tech is definitely a good way to gain their attention and keep it, rather than yelling. Should try that.
You have articulated this all so beautifully. The tiger is released here a bit at the minute. When the season is one of continuous exhaustion, challenges, disobedience and pressure. I roar and then cry, full of guilt and ugly feels about my mothering. It’s something I have to work on and give myself little pep talks regularly.
The pep talks definitely help I think. Just taking that moment to try and stay calm.
I totally sympathise Robyna. There is this tension between guilt and settling. I feel always guilty as as mother (and particularly as an adoptive mother) yet I also know I’m doing my best. I choose to believe that others’ experience is more about who we are now, than our past or future selves. Love is always possible.
Love IS always possible (and that wasn’t weird – just true 🙂 )
I was only just thinking this myself. I don’t really yell often but when I do I get the directive that I want. Staying at my in-laws at the moment and the kids are running rampant. I lost it trying to get everyone in the car yesterday. I thought it was just me and the kids but looked up and my MIL was beside us hanging the clothes out. Eeeck!
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Ah, and I bet she did the same thing when her kids were small as well!
Hey Robyna – I’m looking at my comment from last night (when I’d had too much to drink after resigning my job yesterday)! and I sounded weird and deep. Just to clarify – I yell. Too much. I’ve yelled like you describe and I’ve hated myself for it. Yet I can still be pushed to the edge and yell like that again.
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Oh is the resignation cause for celebration? I never think anyone sounds weird when expressing their thoughts and emotions — part of what I LOVE about blog land. I agree – I know it’s not great but I certainly couldn’t commit to never doing it again.
Sometimes there is nothing left in me but to yell. It’s rear, well the REALLY big yell, but yes it’s effective! Great post x
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The REALLY big yell scares even me.
Hello, oh dear yes… it’s a big issue isn’t it? The yelling: the guilt. You say 90% of the time you can do it without the yells… but I bet it’s actually 99% of the time, and the yelling is that 1%.
I really, really work hard at not yelling… it gets more important as kids get older, so vital to be dispassionate and calm when dealing with large teenagers… because they are not calm and you can’t have two people out of control.
I’ve had to give up the hopes of tidy house, great work , brilliant marriage and a creative life!!! Healthy lifestyle helps with the staying calm though.
You are probably right – it’s more like 1% of the time. I don’t want my kids to grow up yell-y so I am very conscious of trying to set a better example.
Yes, I do occasionally yell if I’m on my last straw. It’s not my first reaction, but if I’m tired and over the behavior I will yell to get attention. I don’t feel too particularly guilty afterwards, unless I realise I’m being a bit hormonal.
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It’s the tiredness that often pushes me over the edge as well.
My tiger escapes too and yes, I do feel guilty for it afterwards. Sometimes yelling seems like the only way to get through and be heard above the noise. Fatigue certainly doesn’t help!
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Fatigue really is the killer.
“And even though I am completely aware of what I am doing, the tiger escapes.”. This is so me. I haven’t read the other comments, though I am sure that they are guilty too, sometimes. For me it was yesterday and at my autistic 4 year old, who had just thrown my iPad across the room and the screen had smashed.
I lost my shit. I yelled at him how naughty he was, that he he was never, ever touching my iPad again. Like you, I knew I was wrong even as I said it but I kept saying this stuff until I had to walk away to calm down. Because you might read that sentence about his actions and say that yes he was naughty, but the thing is that he’s not. He didn’t throw it to provoke me. He threw it because he was frustrated and he has started a heavy new medication this week that has thrown his regulation strategies out the window. He wasn’t being naughty. He has never been naughty a day in his life.
He can’t talk in sentences but he echoes what you say sometimes, it’s called echolalia, and guess what word he kept saying?
Anyway, I was talking it over with his occupational therapist today and she said that parents are just like their children, in that they are like cups that need to be filled to a certain level and we we are less tolerant, less able to deal when we are sleep deprived or dealing with different things. Wow, such a long story, just to say that i get it x
Lots of us in the same boat Dani – and it is when we hit empty that the yelling begins. Just need to be careful not hit empty I guess.
Sooo much pressure and no where for it to go. Not many mum catch ups in my street, no chance of sharing on social media for fear of being shamed. It’s a lonely gig at times and a bit of yelling never hurt anyone (except mum’s throats.) Thanks for sharing this Robyna. x
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I think we all experienced it as kids – definitely.