My Barbaric YAWP!

As per my last post, I’m not supposed to be generating new material here at this point. But I’m breaking my self-imposed maternity leave because inspiration has struck! Today! On Facebook (of course)!

Here’s the thing: today I am 38 weeks pregnant, and I have been stuck at home with all three girls ALL DAY. Stuck this morning because Erick had to take the minivan to Burlington for servicing; stuck this afternoon because of greenish skies that come with a forecast of severe thunderstorms and flash floods. Have my girls risen to this situation by being on their best behavior? They have not. Instead, they’ve taken turns having meltdowns and squabbles about crucial issues like: not wanting to wear bug spray, not having a roof for their pillow fort, and why their sisters won’t play with them when they’re in the middle of a temper tantrum.

So, of course, this is the day when multiple friends (beloved, respected friends and wonderful mothers) shared a viral link on Facebook about the importance of not yelling at your kids.

Guess what? I yelled at my kids this very morning.

Guess what else? I don’t really feel guilty about it.

Mind you, I’m not a fan of indiscriminate, totally out-of-control screaming at my kids. But:

-There are definitely times when I think a well-placed yell is completely appropriate. The author of the Facebook article writes about seeing the fear in her daughter’s eyes after spilling a bag of rice as her inspiration to stop yelling. I would not consider food or drink spillage — which my girls do countless times each day — as appropriate grounds for yelling. However, there are PLENTY of times when I’d like to see a little fear in my children’s eyes when they look at me. “Fear” might be a loaded word; I’m talking about “respect,” “knowledge of wrongdoing,” and — at the very least — “attentiveness.” These situations include but aren’t limited to: hitting/biting/spitting at your sister, refusing to hold hands and running into the street, and all three girls screaming at the top of their lungs — just for fun — after repeated pleas to tone it down.

I’m all for taking a deep breath and using a reasonable voice the first time (or two) that I ask my girls to stop a certain behavior. After that, if I don’t raise my voice to get their attention and show that I’m serious — as the saying goes — shame on me.

-There are definitely times when I yell wrongly, but I wouldn’t trade those moments. Do I sometimes lose it too much? Is my yelling sometimes less about my kids and more about me feeling (theoretically) exhausted, swollen, and sweaty? You bet.

So guess what I do after those bad-mommy moments? I apologize. I apologize sincerely, ask my kids to forgive me, and emphasize that I, too, am human and make mistakes. I think that’s a really important part of parenthood: letting our kids see that we’re not perfect, that we regret certain behaviors, and that we can confess to those behaviors and ask forgiveness and move on. This gives them permission to acknowledge their own inner darkness, and an example for how to handle outbursts in a healthy manner. In the end, I’d rather be a mom who’s human than a mom who always speaks at the same calm pitch.

I’m certainly not advising anybody to yell at their kids. I just wanted to say that, if anybody read that Facebook article and felt guilty, felt like a bad parent — DON’T. We’re all just human moms (and dads), doing our best, trying to simultaneously love our kids and guide them towards being functional members of society. That ain’t easy work. At the end of the day, like so many things we feel guilt about, worrying that we yell too much at our kids is a first-world parenting problem.

And I’ll shout that from the rooftops!

One thought on “My Barbaric YAWP!

  1. Annie

    Faith, I agree with you 100%! I was just talking about this with my mom yesterday, a propos of handling Isabel’s 3 1/2 year old bipolar behavior, and she reminded me that she did a certain amount of yelling in raising us, and we turned out fine. I believe in apologizing when I lose my temper, but I also think it’s important for kids to know when they’ve gone too far, and to understand we’re human, too.

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