Don’t yell at your kids

don't yell at your kids!It’s obvious, right?  Yelling at our kids is not ideal parenting.  And yet virtually all of us do it, at least some of the time.  So, is there something we’re missing?  

Firstly, I think we yell at our kids when they push our buttons—something they may do consciously as they mature, but which they may also do unconsciously by just being hungry, angry or awake when we are not in the right space for it.  After all, one of parenting’s biggest challenge is giving what we might not have gotten.  And if we were yelled at when we were kids, we might have internalized an angry and shouting authority figure, who then pops up and out almost without our conscious ability to intervene, or so it seems sometimes.

Another variation of having a yeller for a parent is that we vow to never be a yeller, but find that either our partner, our boss or our own kids end up being uncannily like the very parent we wished to never be like or be around when we grew up.

Being conscious of our wounds, and then working to both validate our own pain and strive to let it go might help calm us down in a deeper way.  Some of us were never really yelled at, but given the silent, absent or indifferent treatment.  This could still leave us with unresolved anger, which gets triggered around our kids like gunpowder around lit matches.  For some thoughts on anger management see previous post on the subject:   http://tiny.cc/zpyz0 .

One other thing to consider with regard to yelling at kids is that when they make us feel like yelling, provided we are not being triggered in our own childhood wounds, it is quite possible that they feel rather like the way they make us feel—helpless, disempowered, frustrated, confused and/or just plain mad.  If we try to use ourselves as an instrument of understanding, we can register the feelings our children provoke and trust that they spill them over into us because they just can’t hold them on their own.  By not yelling, but rather understanding, containing and gently feeding the feelings back, we help our children develop the solidity to not need to yell at anyone.  This is a bit like our kids dumping a garbage truck of unpleasant feelings and us feeding it back with a baby spoon.  It’s a formidable job, but you have their whole childhood to finish it.

And when we get it right, parenting itself becomes like yoga, or spiritual practice through which we develop spiritually as our kids develop psychologically… hopefully with both us and them arriving at good feelings that last, as well as a heightened capacity for soul-building and productive suffering.

So, let’s dedicate today to compassion for our own child-selves, and for all our collective children—striving for non-violence in the service of a better world.

Namaste, Bruce

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2 Responses to “Don’t yell at your kids”

  1. SRA Says:

    The timing of this was perfect. Although it was a very minor situation, just today I was feeling like I was going to yell at my son, and although I didn’t “really” yell, I was about at my wits end… It was already 5:45pm, and I was picking him & 3 friends up from school (late sports practice) and we all had a long day. I just wanted to get home. He was hounding me to drive them all though a fast food joint for a soda & some fries – – “everyone else’s Mom does”, etc. I was mad, mostly because he was asking in front of his friends, which makes it harder to say no, and I was also upset because of my mixed feeelings – – it really wasn’t that big of a deal, I was just plain tired & didn’t feel like it. However, I acquiesced because I realized, it’s a minor inconvenience.

    After reading your blog, I realized that when I was feeling frustrated, mad, and disempowered (and felt like yelling), my son was also feeling the same thing. Your blog showed me another perspective that I never considered.

    The best part about this is that I was able to tell my son tonight, that we were both feeling frustrated at the same time today, and that I was sorry we had to both feel that way and that I was glad it worked out. He “got it”.

    That was a really cool moment for both of us. Thanks!

  2. Darlene Says:

    This topic is in the air… I just finished reading a NYT story on the same subject: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/22/fashion/22yell.html?em

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