“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice”
The other day, a guest in our home (our parish priest, as it happens) raised his voice to my 5 year-old daughter and her cousin, who were quite literally tearing up the place during an official baptism preparation visit. “It’s very NOISY in here”, he boomed, glaring at them, as they scuttled fearfully into the next room. The word “NOISY” had been uttered at top volume. I was floored. I couldn’t believe that anyone (especially a priest!) was shouting at someone else’s child.
But why should I be so shocked?
About a year and a half ago, I started shouting at my daughter. I think I may have done it just to “try it out”. Or maybe she did something that I considered dangerous. I don’t know… All I know is that doing it once was like anything bad and easy: once the floodgates opened, I just couldn’t stop. It became effortless and natural. These days, I yell at her nearly every day.
Once in a while, I will catch myself in the mirror. Sometimes I accidentally shout when there’s a window open, and I feel humiliated. Today I shouted during a skype phone call to my husband, who is visiting family overseas. Guess who was in the background, listening? Or l sometimes I see someone else raising their voice (like our priest the other day) and I realise how truly horrible it is.
A few months ago, I began swearing too. I may have done it to annoy my husband, who never swears. Now it’s almost natural to say under my breath “fucking hell, Meghan” (not my daughter’s real name), when her behaviour is particularly trying. Once or twice she has repeated it. Once she said “why do you call me fucking hell?”.
My daughter is precious and perfect. So is my 6-month old son, who freezes when he hears me scream at his older sister.They’re the only children I have, and I am teaching them that shouting and yelling is a a way to resolve problems. I am also frighteneing them, as they watch me lose it on a nightly basis. My daughter is losing respect for me – or maybe she is processing this as normal? I don’t know which would be worse.
Peggy O’Mara, author and owner/editor of Mothering magazine, says, “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice”. I am so frightened to think about what my daughter and son are internalising.
Tomorrow, I am going to build myself a 10-day reward chart, and place it next to my daughter’s own behaviour chart. I think I will ask her to place a sticker for every day that I can go without yelling, because although I hate looking bad in front of neighbours and my husband’s family….It’s my daughter’s approval I care about the most.
For most problems, I consult the internet. Today was no exception. I found plenty of blogs by mothers who yell… so I know it’s not just me. And like me, no one likes themselves when they are screaming at their kids.
The good news is, there is lots of advice out there to help us stop. Here are some places that deal with yelling/shouting at your kids: