I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard someone so confidently tell me they never yell at their children. Or the number of times I’ve seen child experts share their guidance that yelling reduces children’s self-esteem and therefore shouldn’t happen. Or that yelling isn’t a productive response.
Let me tell you something: as a mother of three boys ages 4 and under, yelling most definitely is a productive response. But there’s a time and place for it: yelling only happens when it’s an intentional choice I made that makes sense for the situation.
I have a 4-year old, an almost 3-year old and a 1 year old. Did I mention they’re all boys? They’re extremely physical, all of whom are in seemingly perpetual motion. And when they’re not bouncing off the walls and furniture or pushing each other to “get there first,” they’re cackling at jokes only they seem to get and – it seems – finding ways to push me over the edge.
I recently had a neighbor tell me they can hear me yell, and one name seems to stand out more than others (the middle guy because second kids, man, right?).
And in that moment, I never felt so embarrassed or so confident ever before in my life. It was a completely unexpected and confusing response to hearing my neighbor say they can hear me. I mean, we were always taught to never air our dirty laundry – doesn’t disciplining your kids fall into that category? So, yeah, I was embarrassed, but…why wasn’t I more embarrassed?
It’s because I’m self-aware and I’m tuned in to each of my kids. I know what each of them need to thrive and I know how far they’re willing to push me to test their limits (and how far I know I can let them push those limits). I know how much sleep they each need so they’re not bears the next morning. I know how quickly I need to get breakfast for each of them when they wake up and I know what bedtime will look like if I let them stay up just 10 minutes longer. I know whether or not an extra book at bedtime is a good idea for them (honestly, it varies based on how their day was) and I know when they need a few extra minutes of individual attention during the day. I know when a fun “tubby time” event with everyone involved is a good idea and when they need to be separated. I know when one of them needs to just relax in the tub for a bit. I know when one of them needs to get some extra energy out and just run for a bit. I know each of their interests and I know how hard (or if I should even) push to get them to explore something new without writing it off immediately because it’s different.
I know me. And I know my kids. Because I’m self-aware enough to know where my limits are and my strengths are. And I’m aware enough of my surroundings – and especially my kids – to know when I need to push and when I need to let go.
For that reason, though my neighbors may sometimes hear me loudly guiding my kids (I’m going to start calling it that instead of “yelling”), I’m confident in the fact that I know when and why I raise my voice. It’s never a reaction; it’s a response. In fact, I’d say that 90% of the time, I loudly guide to just get their attention, to create a stop and notice moment for them, to bring them back to reality as I see one of them hanging the other over the back of the couch upside down while another one claims they’ll catch them while doing a backbend over the dog (ok, this is a bit extreme but you get the idea).
Sometimes, I have to raise my voice to get their attention because, after all, though they may be active little boys, they are also their own unique person.
They have their own thoughts, ideas and opinions.
They have their own (developing) sense of individualism.
They have their own preferences and desires and wishes and dreams.
I try to remember this when I get frustrated with how easy it seems to be for them to so easily tune me out in one moment only to bombard me with a stream of endless questions in the next.
I try to remember that we’re all unique individuals living in the same house under a specific set of rules. Our rules. The rules my husband and I created to do our best to raise good, kind humans. The rules we created to keep everyone safe and healthy. The rules we created based on what we believe is the right way to raise them, especially in this crazy, ever-changing world we live in.
They’re figuring out who they are – their likes and dislikes, what’s fun and not fun, what’s right and wrong – and they’re doing it with guidance from me. It can be exhausting. It can be exciting. It can be so much fun. And sometimes, I have to loudly guide to be sure they hear me and, more likely, to be sure no one gets hurt.
So, the next time (because we know there will be a next time) my neighbor tells me she can hear me yelling at my kids again, I’ll remember to say “thank you.” I’ll thank her for giving me a stop and notice moment to reflect on why I’ve been raising my voice. And I hope I’ll be in the same position to know each time was a response and not a reaction because, after all, I’m loudly guiding my boys to figure out who they are as individuals.
To raise your tiny humans the best way you can, ensure you are self-aware. You know where your final straw is. You know what buttons are never ok to push. You know what rules make sense for your family because you’re not only aware of yourself and your limits, but you’re tuned in to your kid(s) and what each of them need to thrive.
A great way to start is to ask questions. Though I may loudly guide from time to time, I always follow it up with a question. “Can you explain to me why you thought that was a good idea?” or “Why did you do that?” are two of the more common ones in my house, but questions could be anything. Just keep them open. A yes/no question doesn’t allow for a discussion; get them talking and you’ll engage with them in a way you didn’t think possible the moment before.