It’s after dinner and I’m just finishing tidying away. The soapy water is turning a murky brown. I pull out another pan and balance it precariously on the mountain. I can hear the boys shouting at each other and then the even louder, aggressive tone of my husband who is telling them off.
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I understand that children need to be disciplined. They need to learn how to behave but I don’t believe that shouting is the way to do it. And I’ll tell you why.
I slip upstairs to find out what is going on. My husband is shouting at my older son who is cowering. He is a delicate boy and doesn’t like being told off in any form. Even a sharp word will upset him. He cannot stand shouting.
I used to have a thought that children needed to learn to face strong emotions such as other people getting angry. I do think that’s true. But I don’t think the way to teach them is by immersing them in such an environment.
“Carlton” I say gently to my husband. “That’s enough.”
Please don’t get me wrong. I am not a perfect parent and there are times that I am so overwhelmed that I shout at the children too. But my husband and I have discussed it and we know that we need to be there to help each other when the going gets rough. When the other person feels overwhelmed.
Now is such a time.
He goes downstairs to finish the kitchen and take some time to calm down by himself.
I start by calming the boys down. Children don’t learn the lessons we’re trying to teach them when the adrenaline is pumping and they are screaming.
Step 1. Calm down.
Step 2. Find out what happened. In short, they both wanted to start running the bath. Galen felt it was his right as Daddy asked him. Dante just wanted to do it.
They were fighting and shouting. The door got involved. What is it about children and playing with doors?
This is when Daddy stepped in to help. He tried to resolve the issue but Galen gave facetious answers.
“How can we resolve this issue?” “Dante can come back in 10 years time when he’s been to Egypt and back.”
Not very helpful. And very frustrating.
I can see why my husband exploded.
So later, I’m discussing it with my husband. We both agree that shouting is not the way we want to teach our children.
We both agree that not shouting is easier said than done.
The problem is that the children don’t have the skills to move forwards. They face a problem. Both of them wanting the same thing and they fall back on “I want it” and pushing and shoving.
What they need is the skills to resolve the problem.
What they really don’t need is shouting. When we adults shout, we are showing them that shouting is the answer and what we want to show them is that talking and discussing the situation are the answers.
When I think about my adult world, I can recall a couple of episodes in which I was shouted at by senior staff. When I say shouted, I mean ripped to shreds. I just had to stand there and take it. Was I allowed to defend myself? Was I allowed to speak? No.
How did I feel? Awful. On both occasions I cried. Much to my shame, I couldn’t hold back the emotions that were inside me. And you know what we call that behaviour in the adult world?
We call it bullying.
I don’t want to teach my children to be a bully. I want to teach them to resolve issues with talking, in a calm and sensible way.
On a side note, I would add that both of those occasions at work when I was shouted at contributed to me making the decision to leave my job in search of a different life. That behaviour may be deemed as acceptable by some, but it isn’t by me and I don’t want that in my life. My life is too short to have to deal with other people’s anger. I want to relish every day.
I’m not saying that not shouting at your children is easy. When we get angry, our natural response is to vent that anger. We shout.
But we can train ourselves to calm down and we can train our children to calm down.
When we are calm we are ready to explore the problem. There may not be an “obvious” solution. Life doesn’t always come with neatly packaged solutions. But there is always A solution. And it’s best if your children discover it. By all means, help them. But let it come from them.
It takes time. Children don’t learn these skills overnight. They are something that you have to work on whenever a problem arrises.
“What do we do when we get angry with each other?” I ask.
“We can do our breathing,” says Dante, taking some quick deep breaths to demonstrate. We haven’t quite got the hang of deep breathing yet, but we are learning.
“And what can we do if you both want the same thing?”
This is a tough one. We have to think about it for a while. We need some prompting.
“We could take it in turns.” “We could do it together.”
There is always a solution. There is always a lesson to be learnt but I don’t believe that that lesson is taught by shouting at our children.
Parenting With Purpose
I loved Nina’s book, "Parenting With Purpose. It’s easy to read and explains what you can do to help your family live harmoniously, without yelling and getting upset.