I know yelling is bad, yet every day I have a difficult time controlling my temper and muzzling my dragon mouth. It’s my greatest flaw as a parent, and has the potential to have a lasting, terrible impact on my children.
The first step on my path to regaining my parental zen (hopefully) has been to take a hard, honest look at what sets me off and contemplate ways to avoid my anger triggers:
I Yell When I’m Overwhelmed
My eldest is asking for her eighth snack of the morning, my youngest has a pooped diaper, I just smushed my toes into a banana someone tossed on the floor, and the dryer buzzer is blaring. None of these things individually would set me off, but all of them together is a formula for strained vocal cords. Life with children follows Murphy’s Law with unfailing precision.
Sometimes, I’m just overwhelmed. I need to take a breath, count to ten, give myself a time out. It’s easier said than done because yelling is an instant release, the anxiety spewing out of me with each shouted phrase. I’m still learning how to take a pause, wipe the banana from my foot, and calmly explain that I need a minute before I track down the granola bars.
I Yell When I’m Running Late
I have a pathological need to be early. Maybe it’s hardwired in my DNA, but when I’m running late for school, ballet practice, or even a playdate, every little set back sends my anxiety levels through the roof. My eldest can’t find her shoes. My youngest took off her socks. I lost my keys. Yelling in the mornings seems inevitable.
I know that being late to school on occasion will have minimal impact on my daughters’ education—certainly less than yelling at them to hurry the hell up. But being late to school means I will be late to work, and for reasons I can’t understand, the thought of not arriving on time puts my stomach in knots.
Three things have helped minimize my morning roaring: Doing more the night before, getting up earlier, and practicing better time management. If I lay out everyone’s outfits, set up the coffee maker, and assemble lunches in the evening, I won’t be as rushed in the morning, especially if I get up early. Better time management for me doesn’t mean doing things faster, it means NOT doing them. I leave the breakfast dishes for last because if we’re running behind, I can let them molder on the counter until I get home in the afternoon. If I do them earlier in the morning, it means I’m rushing through things that must be done to actually leave the house, like putting on shoes and finding those damn keys (Still working on that one).
I Yell When I Haven’t Put Myself First
My best friend jokes that I’m easy going as long as I’m not hungry, tired, or cold/hot. I would extend this to include needing to pee or take a shower, two things that were never a luxury until I had children.
As selfish as it sounds, I’m a bad mother when I take care of my children’s needs before my own. Despite knowing that I will erupt with the reliability of Old Faithful when my blood sugar dips, I still want to make my kids a snack before I make mine. It’s hard to tell a whining toddler, “Just a minute, Mommy needs this spoonful of peanut butter before she can make a grilled cheese and cut it into fanciful shapes.” My girls and I all seem to suffer from the same hypoglycemic rage, so my best bet is to just run a tight schedule of meals and snacks for us all. As for everything else, sometimes I just have to tell my girls “Mommy needs to go to the bathroom / rest/ etc.” You may be surprised to find that your young child empathizes with your needs. Unlike paying taxes or worrying about data overages, the urge to poop is relatable.
I Yell When I’m Mad At Someone Else
My husband, my parents, the rude person at the checkout line, when someone sets me on edge, I end up taking out my frustration on my kids. The same internal coping mechanism that keeps me from screaming at complete strangers—who probably deserve it—is missing when it comes to my children. The social filter is off and sometimes it’s a real struggle to put it back on. Since they will learn from me how to respond to everyday annoyances and frustrations, I know I need to simmer down. Which brings us to the last reason I yell:
I Yell When They Yell
Nothing will bring out my dragon side like the sound of a kid yelling. I can take crying and even whining, to some extent, but yelling does me in every time. Yes, I know they learned it from me—just as I learned it from my father—which is exactly why I find it so upsetting. A screaming kid is proof positive of my failure as a parent.
I know I have an obligation to lead by example and teach my girls not to yell. When my kids are yelling I explain to them that it makes me want to yell too. That usually brings the volume down in a hurry. Apparently, lowering your voice has a bigger impact with kids than raising it. I was amazed when it worked, but I have a feeling I looked like a screaming mime.
I hope that by learning why I yell, I can minimize the number of times I lose it in an hour, then maybe a day, and, dare I dream, a week. I can’t helping being in a bad mood sometimes, which is why I’ll probably always snap at them when they don’t deserve it.
Yes, sometimes, parenting requires a harsh voice. If your kid is barreling into traffic, go ahead and scream. Feel free to let out a little extra frustration once you’ve swooped in like Wonder Woman and plucked the little one from the path of a mammoth SUV. Not even the most judgmental among us will fault you.
Originally published on blogher.