Mom Confession: I’m a Yeller
As I repeatedly asked my two-year-old to walk back towards me while we were outside, he gleefully ran farther away… and my blood boiled. Taking a deep breath and keeping my voice level and calm didn’t seem to have any effect. Before I knew what happened, a loud, angry voice exploded out–making my son pause for just a moment before running around a corner and out of sight–and I was stunned to realize that angry voice was mine.
Then just yesterday, I read an article discussing how best to deal with your child when they ignore you; unfortunately, the advice was completely useless. There’s some comfort in knowing that my son is spot on in terms of development, yet I still find myself losing my temper, and it bothers me that I sometimes struggle to be the adult in these situations.
I grew up in a houseful of yellers. Minor disagreements quickly escalated to shouting, and on some occasions holes were punched into walls. We never hurt one another physically, but yelling takes its toll on one’s emotional well being nonetheless. I think the reason for the yelling was simple: We didn’t know what else to do. We didn’t know how else to express ourselves when we were angry or frustrated. And now here I am, passing along this same terrible communication strategy to my son. I made this connection the other day when my son got angry with me and began yelling gibberish: His inflections and tone sounded just like mine when I’m totally pissed.
I’ve experienced plenty of frustration in my life, and I’ve had many moments of frustration with my son before now, but it’s this most recent phase of ignoring me that’s really pushing my buttons and forcing me to realize how poorly equipped I am to deal with anger in a healthy way. When calm reasoning fails, I start yelling. It feels like some kind of seal has been broken; now that I’ve yelled a few times, I resort to yelling almost immediately. Of course, just as quickly, I feel immense guilt for losing my temper. I apologize to my son and tell him I’ll try not to yell when I’m mad. He’s only two, but it’s only once I’ve tried to make amends that he finally meets my gaze and seems to understand–and what’s more–appreciate what I’m saying.
Then he throws his toys at my face when I ask him to put them away, and I’m back to yelling.
Lately, my husband’s been getting in on the fun, too. Our son’s toddler antics can be stressful at times, and then Momma loses her shit and adds to the stress; then Daddy joins in, and the entire household becomes one big seething, frustrated mess. It passes quickly, thankfully. But what are my husband and I teaching our son? We are both ashamed at our seeming inability to cope with our son’s various developmental phases. I’m sure it doesn’t help that we are under immense pressure right now as he applies to grad school programs and I apply for jobs working outside the home. Finances are tight and nerves are frayed.
But our two-year-old shouldn’t bear the brunt of our anxiety. What he really needs are parents who can help him navigate this challenging period in his life known as toddlerhood, but we seem barely able to cope with adulthood. I’m ready to learn better ways of communicating as a family so that my son won’t grow up to be a yeller.
So I came across a blog post written by a mom who went through the same cycle of yelling and shame that I’ve been going through, and she came up with a challenge for herself to see if she could change her behavior and change the tone of her whole household. She decided that each time she was ready to yell at one of her kids, she’d find a way to love them instead. In her example, she asked her child to cuddle up with her, and she got results almost immediately. She even started wearing a bracelet made of amber beads, which she claims are supposed to have a calming effect (oh, the irony!) to help remind her to love instead of lash out. So I’m going to adopt her mantra as my own for the next few weeks–love, love, love–and see where it gets me.