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Words can hurt

February, 23, 2009

by Jenni Sebora

Have you yelled at your child when you know that you shouldn’t have?

We are tired and stressed and overworked. We have bills to pay, dishes to do, homework to help with, and the list goes on.

Then, it happens. Our children ask us a question or do something we just don’t want them to be doing, and we turn to yelling. Yelling can hurt, and when we yell too much, our children can become numb to it.

I know there are times I have yelled, and I should not have. And after I have raised my voice beyond the audible level I should have,, and I have said some things I know better than saying, the guilt also immediately sets in.

“Why did I say that, or why did I yell?”

Sometimes the pressures of the daily duties build up, and when our children add that “last straw,” we take it out in the form of a shout or a yell.

Words can hurt for adults and even more for kids whose physical, emotional, and mental growth are still being formed.

There are times for yelling, but it should be very limited for such times as when our children need to know we mean “business,” such as the use of the “emergency yell.” When he runs out into the street to get a ball, it requires a more audible yell. His safety is threatened.

When we yell at times that all teachable moments, we are taking that safety net feeling away from our children. Our children need to know that even when, and especially when, they make mistakes, we are still there for them. They need to know that we are there for them to help guide and teach them about making good choices.

So when the pressure point is building and the stress of the daily duties has hit the max, we need to stop and give ourselves a “time out” before we say something we shouldn’t.

Try some of these simple alternatives to yelling:

1. Stop where you are at. Close your eyes. Press your lips together and breathe deeply.

2. Say the alphabet or count out loud.

3. If possible, take a hot bath or splash some water on your face.

4. Put your hand over your mouth (literally) and count to 10, or longer if necessary.

5. Phone a friend.

6. Write your thoughts down.

7. Turn on the radio or the television.

8. If possible, take a walk or just step outside for some fresh air and take some deep breaths.

9. Sometimes, I just give my child a hug, when they are whining and I don’t want to hear it anymore and I know I shouldn’t raise my voice. When she is tired or hungry or feels stress herself. That hug works for both her and I.

10. Stop in your tracks and know that yelling will only cause more problems for the situation, your child and yourself. Nobody feels good after it.

The Bellflower Center for Prevention of Child Abuse also tells us that the TLC’s of parenting are:

Teach – All children need guidance.

Listen – Encourage your child to express feelings.

Care – Your child needs your love and support.

Parenting can be difficult. It really is the hardest, most challenging job there is. As parents, we need to be equipped to do our job “right.”

We need to have knowledge of how children develop and the stages of development.

Read about child development. Get information from doctors. Take Community Education classes.

We need to be “present” for our children. We need to give them some undivided attention to let them know that they matter.

To be “present” for our children, we need to meet our own physical and emotional needs, as well. Sleep, proper nutrition, good health, and exercise are things our children need to function, and we need those things, too, to be at the top of our “parenting” game.

When we are happy, our children can see that, and we can be more “emotionally” there for them.

We need to be good listeners. We need to really listen to our children. We need to stop what we are doing and look at our children with attentive eyes, ears, and quiet mouths, and just listen to what they have to say. I am really working on this. Children, many times, just need to be heard.

Before we go to bed, I take turns with my children and just listen to anything they want to talk about. When I pick them up from school, I always ask them, “How was school today?”

At the end of each day, before going to bed, end the day with a prayer, a hug a kiss on the cheek, and an “I love you.”

It teaches our children that at the end of the day, no matter what, we love them. It ends the day on a positive note and helps with the reminder that “tomorrow is also a new day.”

“It is the morning of your life and all of your dreams are just beginning. May you grow up knowing how very much you are loved, and may you forever be surrounded by gracious hearts and people who care. Welcome to the world sweet baby, it’s been waiting for you.”

– Flavia Weedn