When we raise our voices

June 23, 2008

by Jenni Sebora

Most all of us yell at our child at some point.

As parents we get tired, our nerves become frayed, especially at the end of the day, and our voices are raised. And like myself, we feel guilty after it and wish we would have handled it differently.

Chances are we will raise our voices at our children again, but we need to keep it in check.

Sometimes we, as parents, need to put ourselves in a “time-out” and remove ourselves from the situation for a short while (if possible) so we don’t say things we wish we wouldn’t have.

An article in “Parenting,” November 2005 by Jeannie Ralston, noted that yelling seems to be in three degrees or categories:

• The yell that sometimes is necessary, the warning or prevention yelling to keep our children safe. Don’t run on the road after the ball, etc.

• Compliance yelling is the most common. We raise our voices when our children don’t do what we want them to do even after we’ve asked them several times.

• Beyond-the-pale yelling is when we have crossed the volume barrier line and say things we wished we wouldn’t have said.

As parents we probably have said things we wished and know we should not have said, and there is a feeling of guilt.

The article noted that this grief and guilt may stem from the bridge between how we thought we would be as parents and the fact that sometimes “we react like the imperfect beings that we are.”

Isn’t that the truth?

We read different parenting articles and books and think we will follow what they say perfectly but sometimes we lose our patience and we don’t always react or act like we thought we would as parents.

What can we do to limit raising our voices at our children and act like we wished we would have?

If we feel as parents we are having a rough day we can let our children know this. “I’m kind of cranky today. I did not get enough sleep.”

I remember reading about a mom who, when she was feeling a little cranky and knew it, put on her special robe, to let her children know that mom needed a little break too.

Of course, we can’t overuse this strategy because our children need us, but it is ok to let them know we have feelings, too.

The “Parenting” article noted that if we are feeling particularly tired or frayed, we might want to scale back our plans to prevent a yelling fest that can ensue when things are too rushed.

And sometimes we, as parents, do need to remove ourselves from the situation for a short period, if possible, to calm ourselves and prevent yelling. “Mom needs to take a break so I don’t say anything mean.”

Stopping in our tracks, pressing our lips together, taking deep breaths, counting to 20 are simple alternatives to yelling.

Apologizing to our children is important. It is not an excuse for losing our tempers and yelling, but it teaches our children that we, as adults, make mistakes and we need to take responsibility for our actions too.

Of course, prevention is the best key. Try not to over schedule activities that create a situation of rushing and stress that can bring on yelling episodes. Structure and organize daily routines. Pick out clothing outfits the night before; have back packs, diaper bags organized the night before, etc.

“Respect the child . . . trespass not on his solitude.” – Emerson