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?
P.S. If you have a few more minutes, head over here to learn more about what PH is all about!