How Yelling Hurts Your Happiness

yelling

This is one of those posts that is difficult for me to spit out, because it involves a lot of soul baring on my part.  I want to talk about yelling and how it destroys the trust and bonds between parent and child.  

I grew up in a yelling household.  Not only did it not work in terms of endearing any sort of trust or discipline or obedience, it emotionally scarred me and left me with no example of what a parent should do.

I’m not talking a raised voice to get a point across or to keep a child from touching the stove- I’m talking name calling and cursing and monumental tantrums from the adult in my life responsible for my care.  Even more traumatic were those tantrums involving alcohol and/or domestic violence, with memories of blue lights at 3 am…which I called…at age seven.

To this day if I get yelled at- which has happened in a couple work scenarios- I instantly lose respect for the person as any sort of authority figure, or decent human being for that matter, and begin building the defensive walls that will protect me from that person.

I never thought that after all THAT, I’d become a yeller, especially to my children.  Turns out even the habits of others can become ingrained in us when we’ve not had good examples to the contrary, regardless of whether we know its wrong.  Then again, maybe it’s something in my families genetic makeup that makes us short on patience, high in volatility and loud in expression.

I’ve decided its time to bring an end to that.

This mindfulness journey I’m on, in search of a simple and practical happy-ness, entails a lot of introspective work on my part.

It’s much easier to share the joyful parts of this work.  The parts where I listen to the day or get outside or bask in a post yoga glow.

It’s much easier to hide behind the photos of my smiling littles, and portray a picture of domestic calm and bliss.

But the REAL work, the dirty work, goes a lot deeper than some meditative moments and coffee on my porch.  

Learning to not yell is really hard.  My boys are loud and energetic and boisterous.  They wake up bounding up and down the halls shouting war-cries and delivering the sound effects of battle.   Sometimes I feel as though the only way they will hear me is if I out perform them in decibels.

Sometimes I just want to scream loud enough to scare them into a state of quiet.  I actually tried that once.  Guess what?  It didn’t work, and I had the pleasure of feeling like the worst mother on the planet for days afterward.  That and the moment when I “popped” my child, were by far my worst moments as a mother.  (Before everyone gets all up in arms about "popping," rest assured I’ll have a future post seeking humility for the act- despite the taboo of discussing it.  Suffice it to say that parenting is difficult and frustrating and even the best parents do irrational things in the heat of frustration.  And if you think you are the best parent in the world and have never and would never do such a thing, then kudos to you- could you please write that perfect parenting book the rest of us regular folks have been wanting?)

Anyway, back to the topic at hand:

Here’s the problem with yelling:  it makes your fight or flight response kick in and your nerves go haywire, which increases your blood pressure and your likelihood to take things to another, more detrimental level.  You lose your ability to make rational decisions, and as such can end up in a monumental temper before you even know it.  This is how yelling leads to slammed doors, thrown objects, and eventually even hitting.

We recently watched an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood about how to handle being mad.  If you haven’t exposed your toddlers to Daniel Tiger, I strongly encourage you to.  It has done wonders for the development of our emotional communication.  I’m not being sarcastic- when I say “our” I mean it.  The wisdom imparted from Daniel Tiger’s parents and teachers is astounding.  In this particular episode there were various scenarios in which the characters became mad about something simple, and the adults in their lives responded with a song:

When you feel so mad that you want to roar,

Take a deep breath, (breath), and count to four…. 1, 2, 3, 4

Little P has taken to this really really well.  So much so that when I was losing my temper one evening when H was working late and nothing was going right, he looked up at me and said “MOMMY!  You need to take a deep breath like Daniel Tiger!”  At which point he went straight into the song.

Out of the mouths of babes.  If only I had had Daniel Tiger growing up.

It is taking daily, mindful, painstaking practice to lessen my yelling.  I’m only human, and I know that this will take tremendous time and effort.  But it is all part of this same journey, this journey to a practical happy-ness.

The little daily practices I’m beginning are helping me to not only find a simple happiness in life, but they are also pointing out to me the other flaws that I need to work on.  Yelling is one of many, but a calm communication is so crucial to establishing a calm household, that I am positive becoming yell-free will be one of my biggest accomplishments.

What are your not-so-great parenting habits?  What are simple ways in which you can work to break those?

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16 thoughts on “How Yelling Hurts Your Happiness

  1. Susan Freeland

    Misti, I am so proud of you -- recognizing, discussing, and working on this. Given your childhood, do you have ANY idea of the beautiful person, wife, mother, sister, daughter-in-love you are? As you go through this healing, cultivating process, do not sell yourself short, or forget your spirit, character, stamina, and traits far outweigh the yelling and occasional "pop" BTW - wish I had Daniel the Tiger when I was rearing kids! I am reminded of my wonderful OB/GYN's words of wisdom. This man and his wife were a beautiful couple who raised 4 great kids. I remember one day he and I were talking about parenting. He commented that when he and his wife went in the bedrooms to check the children one last time before they went to bed, they were struck by these precious, sweet little ones -- and -- wondered -- "how can they bring out in me the emotions they do?' Then laughed and said, "They'll do it again tomorrow." He was right! As you travel this journey, keep in mind a beautiful lesson I continue to enjoy -- No one will ever prepare you for the joy of raising these precious one and have them mature not only as your children, but friends! IT IS THE BEST!

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  2. Maggie

    Thanks for outing yourself with your own parenting struggles. It makes it easier to come clean about my own. I'm aware that I hover too much. Just listened to an interview with Jessica Lahey, who wrote The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go so Their Children Can Succeed. Sometimes I just have to get out of the way and not do everything for my kids. Also, I can be a sulker and withdraw, sort of a magnified version of the silent treatment. Ugh. Don't like myself in those moments. One more thing about yelling: my husband used to yell when he would fly off into a rage during our kids' early years. About 10 years ago, he was diagnosed with ADHD and ever since he started taking ADHD meds, he hasn't had those rages.

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    1. I have a friend whose husband was diagnosed with ADHD as well, once he became medicated he was a different person. I have a sister with it and I'm positive that my mother has it as well. I know that in the moments when I yell, it's almost a release of energy that gets so pent up it has nowhere else to go! That's where my mindful practice comes in. I'm trying to learn to stop it before it gets to that point. If I start off the day low stress, then its much less likely that I'll get to the boiling point!

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  3. Love this. So much. As a mom who was also abused as a kid and has had both of my kids tell me the worst thing in the world is my yelling at them, I am right there with you. When I got to "At which point he went straight into the song." my eyes filled with tears.

    Your boys trust you enough to tell you to calm down. You are light-years ahead of your parents, or mine. And I completely understand the desire and intent to manage the desire to yell. For exactly the reasons you mention -- that it spikes my adrenaline "fight or flight" response -- I have been working on all aspects of not choosing to let my freak flag fly.

    Managing this has led to changes in my body (amazing!) and increased confidence that I can manage my own stress levels and responses.

    Thanks for a brave and owning step toward that happyness. You are the real deal!

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    1. Wenda- thanks so much for this encouragement. It takes a lot of humility for me to share these things, but it helps with my accountability, and it was my hope that it would touch others as well 🙂 It is so good knowing I'm no alone in these struggles!

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  4. Thank you for this post and your honesty, I applause you for your courage. That you are aware of it and are working on it is light years ahead of your parents or other yelling parents who don't even realize what they are doing. I have no children of my own but we have animals that we call 'our kids'. It's only comparable to a degree, but especially the dogs (we have 4) can get me in a state where I get loud and even yell at them. Afterwards I reflect and find that I sounded really mean and If I would look from the outside I would be disgusted by that yelling person. I learned that being calm and quiet is the much better reaction, no matter how wild or loud they are, if I catch myself before yelling.

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    1. I completely agree, and your comparison with pets is a good one. I don't yell at the horses when I train them, because it won't do any good. It elicits fear and anxiety. Why then would I yell at my children?

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  5. Thank you for this post, Misti! I always admire it when people allow themselves to become vulnerable and share their struggles with honesty and thoughtfulness. It reminds us all that no matter what, nobody is ever alone in what they face, no matter what it may be. These moments are as important to have as the bask of the yoga glow (I like that!), as everything is part of the journey, not just our favorite parts! 🙂

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    1. Thank you very much! Yes, no one is ever alone in their struggles. I'm so grateful for the support I've received about my writing! The more honest I am in my writing, the better I am at being mindful.

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  6. Thank you for being so open about your experiences. One of my favourite things is when people write from the heart and write with great vulnerability. Amongst all the social media hoo-ha I think people get lost and forget that we are all human. We all have terrible moments. We all do things we regret. We all make mistakes, and we all have habits that have developed for whatever reason. The fact you are so aware of it and actively working on your habit to yell is amazing. I imagine most people don't make that effort, and many probably aren't even aware how their yelling is affecting them or others.

    I have a tendency to yell (at my immediate family). My baseline mood is "irritable" and so even if I don't yell, I can be quite mean without intending to be. It's something I am aware of and trying to work on but it is SO hard to stop the habits of a lifetime.

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    1. Roisin I totally know what you mean! For a very very long time my baseline at home was also cold and irritable, or at best vacant. It's been a big struggle, but each day is getting easier, as long as I take the time the think about my mental state and get control of it. I guess its not so much getting control as accepting the fact that the good and the bad go together, and if I'm having an off day then that too is part of the journey. Thank you!

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  7. Val

    Thank you for sharing! So many people will be able to relate to this. Although I don't have any children yet, I am very aware of how I do not want to be as a parent. I grew up with a lot of yelling in my house too and I have promised myself that I would find a better way than yelling to deal with my children. Very insightful article.

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    1. Thank you, Val. It is my hope that many can relate to this. I think it's important to be mindful about our parenting tactics! The fact that you have made the decision before ever having children is proof of your mindfulness 🙂

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  8. I may not have children, but I have experienced this shame when yelling at my current dog. I previously had two 50 pound dogs and yelled quite often. Now I have a 22 pound dog that was clearly abused in his first year before I got him. He has come full circle and warms up to people right away - unless I get angry and yell, then he retreats to his "afraid behaviour". I immediately feel terrible and consciously work on proving a loving, supportive environment - it can take p to a week for him to fully trust me again! What a terrible feeling I create for both of us 🙁

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    1. A lot of people make the comparison with pets- and I think it's a very important one. I find that yelling also affects the horses the same way- especially if they come from a difficult background. It takes so much longer to build trust. Which leads me to believe that if yelling has such devastating consequences on our animals, what on earth is it doing to our children?

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