I recently came across a website called The Orange Rhino, which is about a parent challenging herself to “yell less and love more” with her children. Reading this person’s experiences and reflections, I was reminded – once again – just how devastating yelling can be to our children.
You see, I didn’t always know that yelling was anything other than par for the parental course. I grew up in a family of yellers, I married a yeller, and I had become a frequent, yelling-kind-of-mom. Think of Mrs. Weasley in Harry Potter. Remember when she sends the "howler" to her son, Ron, at school? When Ron opens what looks like an innocent letter, his mother's voice comes blaring out so loudly that the dust is shaken from the ceiling... “I AM ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTED! IF YOU PUT ANOTHER TOE OUT OF LINE[...]!” Haha!
Then, several years back, I read a book called Parenting from the Inside Out, by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and Mary Hartzell, M. Ed. (I strongly recommend this book for anyone out there who has ever wanted to improve himself or herself as a parent and as a person.) This book came recommended by a person whose opinion I valued greatly, and so it was purchased and promptly read. I have been a “recovering yeller” ever since. (My husband did the same—bless him!)
But then, the Other Night happened. My husband has been out of town, so I have been doubling up on the parental responsibilities as well as work hours (because my husband and I own a business together.) My kids had baseball practice after school, which meant I would go straight from work to picking them up at the ballpark. It also meant we wouldn’t get home until after 6:30 pm, so the kids would be starving, cranky, and the homework marathon would have to commence immediately. Therefore, I decided to surprise the kids by bringing dinner to them. This way, their blood-sugar levels could return to normal and I would have the whole “dinner thing” out of the way by the time we arrived home. Unfortunately, my brilliant plan backfired.
I lingered for a moment to chat with the coach. The boys ran ahead and climbed into the car without me. By the time I caught up (which was only a minute or two later,) my children had had a full blown food fight in the car. Ketchup and mustard were smeared on the seats, floor, and carpet. A hamburger patty slid down one passenger side window, leaving a greasy trail. Little bits of lettuce and tomato adorned my children's hair and faces. Uuugh!
Not only would this mess take “forever” to clean up, but now I had the whole dinner thing to do over again. I was so tired and dismayed by the prospect that I completely lost it and yelled my head off the whole drive home. Yup…me…guilty as charged.
While some of my more empathetic friends have said that yelling was understandable, given the circumstances, my children’s’ reactions say otherwise. My youngest son was so hurt by my…ummm…”lapse”… that, weeks later he wrote me the following note.
I love you and I think that you are awesome. But I don’t like it when you are angry at me. It makes me sad and hurts my feelings. But I still think that you are super cool.
“The ax soon forgets, but the tree remembers.”
Perhaps it is time to put things back into perspective. Time for me to rethink my priorities, let a few, less-important things slide, and lighten my stress load a bit. Perhaps it’s okay to let dishes pile up, or take an extra day to return messages. While I am not condoning food fights in the car, I am reminding myself that there are much worse things that can happen than ketchup and mustard on the floor mats. And, I am reminding myself that my family is the most important thing in the world to me, and that everything else comes second… or third…or, well you get what I’m saying.
I don’t want my little trees to grow up remembering a scary, shaming mom. I want them to be able to come to me in their own times of stress or struggle, not be the cause of their stress. Yelling takes away the child’s sense of security and leaves them feeling unloved for making normal, human mistakes. Also, I don't want to teach them to continue the cycle of less-than peaceful problem solving. I believe that Maria Montessori would have reminded me...
"Peace is what every human being is craving for, and it can be brought about by humanity through the child." ~ Maria Montessori
I for one am going to take my own 365 day, no-yelling challenge. If there’s anyone out there who’d like to join me…please do! It is never too late for peaceful parenting.