Mum needs a time-out

August 27, 2011

I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids. I must stop yelling at my kids.

If I repeat it enough times, will it sink in?

I got a big shock today. It had been a yelly kind of day, particularly Anabelle was crying at the slightest hint of resistance (read: boundary) from Dad or I. Kadie had done well escaping our notice. That is, until she dropped a bowl of soapy water in the kitchen (slippery fingers you see) and to be fair to me, I had warned them both, twice, not to carry the bowls around. So when she dropped it and I saw the soapy mess, all the good advice and intellectual theory of how to speak to your kids so they will listen went out of my head and I yelled. Loud.

There weren’t any tears but I heard Kadie walk into her room to change her wet pants muttering to herself and to my horror I heard her say: ‘I’m stupid’. My heart dropped. Is that what I’ve been doing? Am I slowly creating a sense of low self-esteem? Destroying her wee spirit with my insanely unnecessary yelling?

I went in to her room and cuddled her, listened to what she had to say, which was something along the lines of: ‘I’m stupid and my arms are too weak and… and… I couldn’t hold the bowl, it was too big and now I’m all wet and.. and waaaahh) That’s when the tears came. I held her and just felt numb with shame.

This parenting gig is so hard. I had no idea that I would struggle with basic skills like being patient and understanding. In the rest of my life I am the Queen of Understanding but in my own home, where it really matters, I can be so mean.

Yes, it’s been a slightly off day. One of those days where you and your partner snap at each other and instantly regret it, but don’t apologise. I’ve been home all week with Anabelle while she’s been sick and that’s a challenge for this usually full-time working mum. Yes, I need a break and the fact that things build up may be a reason for my yelling, but they are not a justification. It’s not ok that I made my kid feel stupid.

So now what?

I need to try harder. Perhaps try harder to remember that my kids do not belong to me. They are people with the same rights as any other person. I wouldn’t yell at any adult that way, so why is it ok to yell at them like that? If I don’t role model respect then why should they in turn respect me?

I’ve read dozens of books and loads of articles, watched programmes about nannies and psychologist taming wild kids, but the single thing I remember most was this one particular dude who was working with a couple who had a defiant child. He absolutely refused to meet the child. (He said that it wasn’t the child’s fault that her parents couldn’t control her.) His simple act of dealing only with the parents was a strong message that stayed with me. It’s up to the parents to nurture values and cultivate desired behaviour.

This works in the other direction as well. As much as I ‘blame’ myself for any negative behaviour from my kids, I can equally take credit for the positive behaviour, like kindness, intelligence and humour. And to my relief, there is way more of that present.

I should take my own advice sometimes which is that as a parent, the trick is to get it mostly right, most of the time. That’s sounds pretty human to me.

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3 Responses to “Mum needs a time-out”

  1. Wendy said

    Great post Karin. And I just want to point out that “being patient and understanding” is most definitely NOT a basic skill, or it would come more easily to everyone.

    I don’t actually know where Kadie would have heard/repeated that stuff about being stupid/weak. You’ve lost patience with your kids and emphatically repeated directives, but I’ve *never* heard you use that type of language. Ever. Be kinder to yourself. 🙂

  2. Thanks Wendy. I wasn’t suggesting that I have used that language and therefore K was learning it from me. What I meant was that I believe the ‘act of yelling’ can help lead to low self-esteem because it makes the child question what their intentions in a not-very positive way.
    It’s good to help kids evaluate their decisions, but that doesn’t mean making them feel bad about decisions which ultimately haven’t really made the world end.

  3. Lisa said

    Yeah but as adults we yell at each other too. Well I do. At least I apologize to my child when I’ve yelled. Which is more than my partner gets when I yell at her.

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