The other day I yelled at my kids and not a garden-variety yell either. No, this was a screech, a holler, a roar. The kind of yelling that reverberates around the house and continues to echo in the corridors of guilt. The kind of yelling that the neighbours three doors down were probably talking about with the neighbours seven doors down. The kind of yelling that leaves your throat hoarse so that every time you swallow you are reminded of your parenting failure. The kind of yelling that stops a child in their tracks. In fear.
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 pacifying the creature before him and returning mummy back to mummy. 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. Even though I am completely aware of what I am doing, the tiger escapes and pounces on my kids, leaving them rattled. Leaving 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 out. 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 like that? 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, but occasionally a little kindness comes in, like 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. This one is actually super helpful. But the truth is I know those alternatives already. Ninety percent 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 the perfect parent, so I don’t want to yell at my kids. Instead, 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.
This article first appeared on The Mummy and the Minx as “The Problem with Yelling”.
More about the pressure on mums:
- The Myth of the Perfect Mum
- Let’s Stop Claiming that Other Mums Have it ‘Easier’ than Us
- I’m So Over the Elitism of the Crunchy Mama Movement