I yell at the kids ALL. THE. TIME.
It’s traumatic for me and I know it’s traumatic for the kids. I also know it stems from my own childhood filled with yelling, from unresolved emotional trauma, and from not using the tools in my self-control toolbox. I am an educated and deeply caring mom and I still can’t stop. Sometimes after an especially hard day, I will stare at them sleeping and vow to be a better mom tomorrow. And every tomorrow, I break that promise.
I want to be funny here and tell you that yelling is the only gosh-forsaken way my kids will listen, but the truth is, I don’t know that because I can’t stop long enough to see if something else will work. And to be honest, there isn’t a single other soul in the world I would ever yell at like I do my children, and that realization breaks my heart. I’m teaching them what kind of communication to accept from someone that loves them and it isn’t exactly the lesson I want.
I read somewhere that the voice with which we speak to our children becomes their inner voice: another tidbit that breaks my heart even more.
I don’t want to give you this image of some momster barrelling through my house screaming at the kids’ faces every day. It’s always a slow build to an inevitable breaking point. Multiple nice, calm teachable moments are disregarded by the kids. A build-up of stress through a day filled with school, work, two dogs, and the pressures of having young kids. Do they change the unwanted behavior when I yell? Yes. But haven’t I set that as the boundary through years of yelling when they hit that imaginary line in the sand? The cold hard truth is that the triggers are my responsibility and as an adult, I drew those lines long ago. We decided rather quickly that spanking wasn’t for us, so the kids know that after the yelling is a real bonafide consequence.
So how do I move that lineup? Where do I set it? What comes before the yelling?
I don’t know the answers to this right now, but I know I can find it with a little help. I think some of it comes from accepting the children we have over the children we want. I have two very headstrong, wild, and opinionated children that will tell you when they’ve been wronged and will speak up when they have something to say. Characteristics this shy girl prayed for. But with the good comes the complicated. Kids are not robots and we have to learn to manage our expectations of their behavior while guiding them through life and keeping our responses in check.
This wasn’t an easy article to write or truth to face. I’m a good mom and I’ve come a long way from being a scared little girl in a very broken, abusive, and alcoholic home. And sometimes I think it’s impossible to break all the trauma cycles I’ve endured in just one generation. But the kids deserve more. My children have not experienced the trauma I have, they won’t understand the comparison, and all they’ll know is their own trauma. A trauma caused by mine.
Where do we (because I know I am not the only one) go from here? Writing this article won’t miraculously teach me how to control myself when I want to yell. The tools are a quick Google away and I’m headed there now. It’s going to take time and a true commitment, one that I think is overdue.