To yell or not to yell?
It takes so much mental preparation for me to get through a school morning without yelling at my kids. I’ve posted before about the steps I’ve got to go through to ensure a calm, happy morning. Basically the process involves: going to bed early (me! not only them) being super-organized (coffee prepared night before, all their clothing out including shoes and socks, backpacks all packed up and on hooks by the door etc.) And still, with all that, when they groan about getting up, complain about the way I do their hair, want to change outfits, refuse to eat breakfast, and tease each other, I struggle not to yell.
And why not yell? Most of us don’t spank– can’t we yell for God’s sake? Don’t they deserve it? Need it, even? And why is sending them off to their rooms, or some other “consequence,” a better choice anyway? Isn’t that banishment just as humiliating as being shouted at?
But here is what I have realized– I can’t yell because yelling is bad for me. If I calmly enforce the consequences, especially an automatic one that I’ve already figured out, I stay calm. I stay OK. On the other hand, when I yell at my kids, I feel horrible. Yelling stresses my whole body out, even if it’s road rage directed at a stranger. Yelling, especially at a child, doesn’t feel right.
Why does it feel so awful? Part of the reason, I think, is because it’s using emotions to punish kids. When you yell at your kids, you’re basically telling them, teaching them (which I think I read somewhere but never really ‘got’ until recently) “I can have an even bigger tantrum than you can!” Yelling makes my emotions whip around wildly, totally dependent on my kids’ behavior. Anything they do has the potential to throw me into an tailspin.
Before I had kids, I always heard people say, about the whole parenthood thing: you stop putting yourself first. But the more I get used to being a mother, the more I realize, for me, it’s the exact opposite. For the first time in my life, I’ve got to put myself first or everyone suffers. Whatever that requires– from getting rest to eating well to negotiating a good income for myself, I need to constantly figure it out and just do it. No excuses. It’s like when they tell you on airplanes, your best chance of avoiding disaster and saving lives is to put on your own mask, then help your child. That philosophy, generally, seems to steer me in the right direction when I get confused about which way to turn in this whole parenting labyrinth.
So instead of yelling, I send my kids to their room a lot. My husband and I also “write them down” throughout the day for positives or negatives. Every night, stars are awarded based on the lists that may be cashed in for toys when accumulated to various amounts. Its a huge pain in the ass, and I feel stupid doing it. But, at least for now, it seems to be working for everyone.
Let me know what you think, if you yell or don’t, and what substitutes you’ve come up with that preserve your emotional equilibrium.