Friday, January 28, 2011
Thursday, January 06, 2011
Before I became a parent, I determined that I would not be a yeller. I would talk calmly to my children, who of course would hang on my every word as I politely explained what I wanted from them. They would comply with my requests, and we would ultimately end up on the cover of a homeschooling magazine. Some of this actually came true. I did become a parent! As for the rest, let’s just say I’m still a work in progress. I used to think I was a very patient person. As a speech/language pathologist, I worked with others’ children and people remarked about how patient I was with them. I truly believed they were right about me, until I had children of my own and they were around for longer than 30 – 60 minute therapy sessions once or twice a week. I was forced to see that I was really pretty impatient a good deal of the time. On top of that unfortunate revelation I found out that I was quite capable of being a yeller, especially when I felt frustrated. Is yelling such a big deal? The old adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is just not true. Words can hurt, and sometimes have lasting results. Once in frustration I yelled at my son, “What’s wrong with you?” and that was after he had already been diagnosed with ADHD, auditory processing, and sensory processing difficulties. He struggled every single day, and my yelling at him was insensitive, hurtful, and revealed much more about what was wrong with me. I asked my son for forgiveness, and he willingly gave it and showered me with grace. Even though my boy was able to move past the incident, I was scarred by my own words and knew I needed to alter my behavior. My yelling forced me to see some ugly things about myself that were hard to acknowledge but needed to change. In addition to the negative emotional effects it sometimes causes, yelling really isn’t effective as a child training technique. Children who are frequently yelled at learn to gauge the seriousness of the yeller and when they will actually have to comply with requests. It’s as if they know they don’t have to worry about taking action until a certain decibel level is reached. You may think yelling will help you blow off steam, but it’s bad for your voice and ultimately doesn’t make you less frustrated or more effective with your children. If anything it has the opposite effect, much the way an immunization helps build up resistance by introducing a small amount of something undesirable into the body so it will build up immunity against stronger versions. Children who are yelled at often build up a resistance to your loud voice and they tune it out until it’s clear you mean business. A parent who is yelling empty threats with no consistent follow-through inadvertently teaches children that they can safely ignore what is being said. This leads to further parental frustration and the yelling cycle is perpetuated. I have seen more than one movie where the most frightening “bad guy” speaks in a soft, controlled voice. It’s scary because you know that he means what he says and will follow through with any promised action. He is in control of himself and the situation, and he doesn’t need to raise his voice or repeat himself to make his intentions known. Now I’m not trying to frighten my children into obedience, but neither do I want to overpower them with my own lack of self control as I screech commands at them. I don’t want to yell to get my children’s attention, and I don’t want my children to think they only have to listen when Mom is about to blow. Some people find that they are less likely to yell when they have spent time in God’s word and in prayer. Others know they need to exercise to release tension, or have some time with friends to recharge a bit. I had a hard time eliminating my yelling responses. I spent a lot of time in prayer. I did not want to continue to be a yeller, yet I often felt like screaming. So I read the Bible. I journaled. I cried and prayed some more. I recognized that I needed to treat my children with respect, even when they were at their most challenging. The yelling problem was about me, not them. In order to be the person God wanted me to be I needed His help to persist in fighting my impulses to yell. I’d like to say that at some point I reached a level of maturity and self-control and never yelled at my children again. But that would be a lie. I have had to ask for forgiveness from each of my children many times. Talk about humbling! I don’t yell much these days, but I know I’m still capable of it. I’m not yet the person I someday hope to be, but I am taking steps forward and pushing on by the grace of God. I hope this is an encouragement to all my fellow yellers. You are not alone, and change is possible.