I came across a tip in Screamfree Parenting by Hal Runkel that really clicked with my often-defunct brain (I lost a mixing bowl for 20 minutes last night—with the beaten eggs, sugar, and baking soda inside). Anyway, I’m hoping it will resound with you as it did for me.
When we yell at our kids, it doesn’t matter what we say. What we are really saying is, “CALM ME DOWN!” Your child will then rush to oblige—or not!—in order to stop you from throwing a fit, not because she wants to do the right thing. When we yell, we teach our kids little other than mom doesn’t have much self-control and that it’s OK to act irrationally when things don’t go your way.
If you think about it, calming down an adult is an awfully heavy burden to place on a small child. And by yelling, we allow that burden to fall squarely on their shoulders: “I am clearly out of control and you are the only one who can stop me from screaming by doing as I say.” We have become so desensitized to the sound of our raised voices, but it’s kind of emotional blackmail, isn’t it? Imagine the agitation and fear we would feel if someone we loved and admired was always screaming and taking out their stress and anxiety out on us. Surely that would translate into poor self-esteem, at the very least.
So now when I find myself yelling at my kids, an image pops in my mind: googly, flaming eyes, hair standing on end, and me screeching, “CALM ME DOWN!” I am quickly reminded that yelling is a loss of self-control and a pretty immature thing to do.
And then I make a choice—go downhill and continue screaming or take the high road and aspire to something more compassionate.
Maha Ezzeddine lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and three daughters. She is a dedicated MAS worker, part-time writer, and creative homemaker.