Let me start this off by saying that I have totally yelled at my kid before. I am not proud of it, but I am human and make mistakes. LOTS OF THEM! I think yelling at a child is in many ways a reaction that is either normal or that we as parents have grown accustomed to due to it being a societal norm. In fact, I have never met one person who has not yelled at their kid. Except for my dad, but he is a vampire and doesn’t count.
All that being said, yelling at a child is stupid. It is S-T-U-P-I-D! It is stupid for a number of reasons, but I am just going to focus on two. P.S. I am not a parenting expert, coach or any other fancy title that could potentially result in people paying me to help them parent their children. I am a regular mom who has taken enough undergrad and grad courses in child development and psych to make a super nanny gag. Despite my lack of qualifications, I am smart enough to know when something is stupid, and yelling at a kid is definitely stupid.
Reason #1: Yelling at a kid either a) freaks them the hell out, b) pisses them the hell off or c) does absolutely nothing because they have grown immune to it.
Take the first scenario. You start yelling at your kid because they did some normal kid like thing that has a tendency to piss off grown ups. It is true. Kids do lots of these things. So you decide to yell at the kid and the kid immediately bursts into tears or gets very quiet and sad. Kids don’t learn when they are scared or sad, just like adults don’t. In fact, kids aren’t all that different from adults when it comes to these sorts of reactions. Imagine if you did something and somebody bigger and with more control went all Joe Jackson on you. It would freak you the hell out, and you probably would just nod your head and do whatever it took to get out of the situation.
Then there is the second scenario. You start yelling at your kid because they start going all kid on you and they end up getting pissed and throwing an even bigger tantrum. My completely uneducated theory is that this is the most normal reaction to having your ass chewed because it offers a nice little release of pressure and frustration. I think we should bring it back and start doing it to bosses when they act like assholes. But I digress. Kids don’t learn when they are kicking and screaming. Just like adults don’t.
The last scenario is the saddest. It is heartbreaking to think that there are kids who just don’t react at all when they are yelled at because they have grown accustomed to it. Being yelled at, in my mind, should evoke some sort of reaction, and when it doesn’t I can’t help but think that a lot of damage has been done to create such a powerful coping mechanism. And once again, if a kid gets yelled at and feels nothing, they probably aren’t going to be learning anything in that moment either.
Throughout all of this I keep repeating the point that a child does not learn under these conditions. I think that most people who yell at anybody are trying to be heard because they want whatever was done that bothered them to not happen again, and thus they are attempting to teach whomever they are yelling at by yelling. I just don’t think that yelling is the right vehicle to get this goal accomplished. And I am sure there is somebody thinking that they get a lot accomplished by yelling and that their kid learns a lot. And they might. But they unfortunately might be learning how to cope, ignore or become fearful of making common mistakes that are necessary and normal for children, as making mistakes helps facilitate growth.
Reason #2: When you resort to yelling at your kid, you have just entered into an unnecessary battle that you will surely lose.
Seriously, you are the grown up. You don’t have to yell, argue or threaten because at the end of the day, you are the one in charge. You have the power in the power struggle, and once you realize that, you don’t have to struggle. But just because you have that power as a parent does not mean that you have to abuse it, flaunt it or constantly remind your child of it.
I think the best advice I ever discovered as a teacher is that if you look at situations that illicit bad behavior as being temporary, you immediately feel a lot less stressed. I think as parents we often get caught up in this idea about being right, when instead we need to focus on the “right now.” The feeling of frustration, anger or stress is temporary. It is parenting. There is no right person or wrong person. There are just people trying to figure out their places in life, and some of those people are young and immature and some are older with more experience. And I’m not telling you which is which. But at the end of the day, neither are superior. And at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter who “won” or who was “right” so long as everybody is happy and growing.
I have found that the times when I have focused on being right or making a point are often the times in my parenting that I have regretted the most. Getting into arguments where I need to win or prove a point always seemed so important in the moment, but hours and even days later are the times when I have beat myself up for being so STUPID. Because at the end of it all, I won an argument or a power struggle with a 4 year old. Can we say LOSER?
So if you have yelled at your kid or argued with your kid, then I don’t think you are stupid. I think you are normal, just like me…unless you do other weird shit that I am unaware of. But I hope like me you try to do better, yell less, roll with tides more and be a little less stupid. Because aren’t we all a little stupid every now and then?