STOP YELLING AT ME! And Other Things Our Kids Pick Up From Us

Family Matters on 03.30.11
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Photo Credit: Maaike Bernstrom Photography

I knew when I became a parent that it would be my job to teach my children words, manners, how to go up and down the stairs safely, and all the other things that are required to become little people that can eventually function on their own. And I knew that it was important not to do things like use swear words so that they wouldn't repeat them and not to treat people in ways that I wouldn't want to be treated so that they would be kind and respectful human beings. What I wasn't expecting was that they would literally mimic our ways of handling every situation.

Mommy's Gonna Blow

I am not proud of the fact that I can't always keep my cool. But when my son was about two years old, we began the battles of the will. Everything from getting dressed to getting in the car to going to bed turned into a massive long drawn out struggle.  The kicking and screaming and blatant ignoring of our requests multiple times a day became draining. I know that this is something that just about every mom and dad on the planet endures, but how do we all deal with the stress of parenting? You know that moment when you literally feel like you're going to explode? That was me on a pretty regular basis.

Of course I wasn't going to hit my child, but I needed to physically let out my frustration before I imploded. So instead I would do silly things like stomp my foot loudly both to let out a little steam and to get his attention that I had really had enough. I was also known to let out a loud world-less grumble, and yes sometimes (probably too many times) even some actual yelling. And my husband was handling things similarly. This was the part of parenthood that I hadn't really anticipated. I knew there would be challenging times in disciplining my children, but I couldn't wait to have kids and I always thought I'd be able to handle anything cool, calm, and collected. Wrong!

Making a Bad Situation Even Worse

So what's the big deal? A lot of people raise their voices to their children. Well, the problem is that now my son yells back. If I raise my voice intentionally or not, he responds with, "STOP YELLING AT ME!" Not only does it make me feel horrible (despite the fact that he was being yelled at for doing something wrong) because clearly my responding that way is upsetting him, but I'm also not doing him any favors by teaching him that that is the way we respond to disagreements or problems.  I started to find that not only was he yelling back, but that when he got angry, he was stomping his feet too, and just generally mimicking our behavior.  My husband would ask why our son would do such things, and I would ask him how he had handled a situation the last time he was frustrated. It might as well have been a mirror image.

In addition to that, whenever it reached the point of yelling, the problem would only be exacerbated by handling it that way. If I could pull my act together and speak to him calmly, we could get through the issue much faster. Once I started yelling, it usually tail-spinned into something much worse than it needed to be.     

Changing My Ways

Do I still yell? Sometimes. Sometimes, when I've asked him to put his shoes on eight times and he's still in front of the T.V. or I see him do something that he knows better than to do like yank a toy out of his little sister's hand, I can't seem to help myself. But I'm much more aware of it, and I know that every time I do it, that I'm usually only making the situation worse. I know there are moms out there that are able to stay calm all the time, but it is not innate for me despite what I once thought. I am trying. My new motto when we have an issue is "Crying and screaming isn't going to fix the problem. Having a conversation about it is."

Now I just need to make sure that I follow the rules that I want my kids to follow. I wasn't expecting that  they'd teach me more than I teach them.

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