I read a blog recently, by a woman who hasn’t shouted at her children for over a year. Not once. Not one raised voice! As I type, I have my almost two year old monkey sitting on my knee, and I’ve raised my voice twice. Twice. In five minutes! He won’t stop touching the keyboard you see, and putting him down will result in a tantrum of epic proportions. Telling him no and moving his hand away is a REALLY fun and hilarious game, so yelling “NO!!” is my next port of call, and I really wish it wasn’t.
I know it’s not exactly uncommon, I hear mums yelling at their kids all the time. But ask yourself this: If an adult shouted, like really SHOUTED at you, for something that you had done, how would you feel? Myself, I’d feel intimidated, possibly frightened, and actually quite offended if I’m honest, that an adult would be so disrespectful to me, and wouldn’t just calmly speak to me about what I had done wrong, and what I needed to do to rectify the situation.
So why is it ok to speak to a child in that manner? A child who, at the end of the day, is learning their behaviour from us? Who probably didn’t really realise just how infuriating they were being by refusing to get dressed, or eat their vegetables, or sing Christmas carols on the landing, really badly, when they were supposed to be in bed. (This happened in our house last night. ‘Away in a Manger’ has NOT got better with time) Shouldn’t we be teaching our children that calm and rational, yet firm, gets things done, as opposed to red faced, sore throat inducing fury? When one of mine is having a tantrum, I ignore them. Teaching them that shouting and screaming will not get them what they want. Yet when I want something from them and don’t get it, I yell at them until I do. Double standards?
The other thing that has crossed my mind, is what happens if your child is heading toward a dangerous situation, and you can’t get to them quickly enough? Say, for arguments sake, that you were all out for a walk, you stop to tie a shoe, look up, and your five year old is ambling aimlessly, looking at an aeroplane, not noticing they’re about to step in to the road? Of course, your first instinct would be to scream “stop!!!” at your child, alerting them to the fact that something is wrong. However, if that child has been yelled at daily for trivial (to him) things, like spilling his drink, or forgetting to tidy his toys away after being asked 20 times, will he be desensitized to the sound of your voice? Will he not really register your shout, because he’s heard it a million times before? I don’t know, but to me that makes sense.
I had a geography teacher who used to properly scream at us. Granted, we were horrible little rats, but still, by the end of my three years of mandatory geography, the sound of his voice meant absolutely nothing to me. I learned to phase him out when he was on a rampage, so if he’d started screaming “Fire! Fire!” down a corridor, the chances are I wouldn’t have heard him.
For me personally, smacking has never, ever been something I want to do. I find it strange that if you slapped someone who annoyed you in the street, you’d be arrested, yet smacking your child, who is supposed to trust you, and who you’re supposed to love and care for and keep safe, well to some people, that’s fine! Just make sure it’s not so hard it leaves a mark. Well marks on the skin might show, but marks on minds and souls and spirits don’t, so how do we know if the taps that people say “never did me any harm” haven’t done just that? Maybe the harm that was done is the fact that that person also thinks it’s ok to hit a defenceless child in order to get them to do what you want.
I won’t lie though, there have been a few occasions where I’ve found myself losing it to the point where one or the other of my children has ended up with a swat across the backside. And then I hate myself for about a week. When it’s happened, I give myself a few minutes to calm down, before going to find the child, apologising, and explaining that no matter how angry I was over x, y or z, it was not ok to smack, it never is and never will be. I always promise myself that it won’t happen again, and if I feel that I’m becoming out of control angry, I get up, walk away, sing a song or something, then return.
Could this technique also work for wanting to not shout? Well I only really started a couple of days ago, and actually shouting has decreased substantially. Obviously it’s not perfect yet as you all know, from keyboard-gate above. But in between typing, I’ve got four children up, fed, dressed, teeth brushed, hair combed, and all happily going about their 20 minutes of free time before the school run, and those two times I’ve shouted, have been the only episodes. Roman and the keyboard? Well, I gritted my teeth, said “no Roman, Mummy needs to do this” then put him on the floor and sung my way through the tantrum. It wasn’t awful, nobody died, and I got the typing done that much quicker!
I have found that I feel so much more accomplished, and yesterday, after not shouting once in the morning, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I felt good driving home after dropping everyone off. Usually I feel drained, guilty and horrible. Yesterday I got far more done in the house, because I wasn’t sitting on the sofa with a coffee, crying over Jeremy Kyle because I felt like a terrible Mother. I looked forward to seeing them all after school because I wasn’t worried about whether or not they’d have forgiven me for yelling at them over something.
It will definitely take some practise, and I’m sure I’ll slip up on occasion, but this is something that I really feel will benefit me, and more importantly, my children.
Wish me luck!