"So how the heck do we rewire our auto pilot parent setting and stop yelling at our kids? Shifting those inner beliefs from yesteryear, the high expectations, the comparing to other kids’ behavior, the social embarrassment of kids’ big feelings in public, the pressure from our extended families to parent the “old school” way, the annoyance or deeper seeded rage at how inconvenient our kids are are all heavy burdens and sometimes shameful to admit to ourselves. There is enough emotional energy we parents are metabolizing for kids and man it is a lot to digest some days right?" - Traci Ruble
Yelling At Our Kids - A Co-Parenting Dialogue
by Traci Ruble, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Do you yell at your kids?
Are you and your partner on different planets when it comes to yelling
and discipline? What did you learn about
anger growing up?
Look, at times I obsessively read parenting books and find myself in a tailspin about which
way is the best way to deal with that tantrum or developmental stage. My own childhood didn’t leave me with
the progressive parenting skills I wish were old hat so I need those darn books
and lots of practice. But even with tools and education, I lose my
cool. In fact, yelling at our kids, has
been a topic of conversation among friends whose children are of similar ages
and in my house as we strive for better than we got.
There are so many great resources about yelling and anger. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel here when I
think some folks have perfected the topic.
I do want to advocate for the education though. It is invaluable and a worthy cause to pick up one of these books and commit. Some of my favorites include;
“Our most important role as parents is not to get kids over
their strong emotions, but to help them feel that we understand and accept
them. To do this, we must be skillful at
describing the feelings or acknowledging as specifically as possible what the
child is saying [instead of yelling or avoiding setting limits]. Nancy Samalin, Love and Anger
Here is my shorthand summary of this yelling dilemma: children
act childish by design but often we think they should have developmental skills
way beyond their brain’s ability and get annoyed by their childishness. In the old days we shamed them out of their normal childish behavior. Welcome self-esteem movement
of the 1970’s and now the attachment research on infant attunement. Turns out all that shaming, yelling and neglect
as a discipline tactic left a lot of people feeling badly as adults so the pendulum
swung really far in the opposite direction.
It seems the next generation told kids how great they were…”make sure
everyone who plays gets a trophy, whether they deserve one or not”.
In the name of self-esteem, a no-limit-setting trend
developed among some parents and their barometer was “just keep little Johnny
smiling or distracted and he will be saved from needing therapy when he is
older". The other parenting contingent
may not have had self esteem in mind when they indulged their children. They had fatigue in mind. Most parents fall in this camp…hello grocery
store aisle. Too tired to set a limit
and weather the fire storm of tantruming that might ensue? “Here want some chocolate?” Of course this least common denominator
parenting snowballs into bigger tantrums later.
Other strategies spelled out in the books above will work better in
these clincher moments in the store.
There was an interesting article in Time Magazine a few
weeks ago about the growing prevalence of narcissism among generation Y ers blaming some
of the discipline and self esteem foibles I am describing.
“The incidence of narcissistic personality
disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their 20s as for the
generation that's now 65 or older, according to the National Institutes of
Health; 58% more
college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982.
Millennials got so many participation trophies growing up that a recent study
showed that 40% believe they should be promoted every two years, regardless of
performance.” – Joel Stein, TIME, “The Me Me Me Generation”
The underlying message we send anyone, child or adult, when
we appease or bribe is “I don’t want to hear how you are really feeling”. An internalized malaise ensues deep deep down
there in the recesses of the unconscious when a kid feels this from a parent.
“My tender, vulnerable feelings are shameful because you don’t want to
hear about them.” Children won’t feel an
uncomfortable feeling, the real feeling, unless someone is there to hear them
out so they repress feelings and create psychological defenses around those
repressed feelings. How the psyche often
adapts is grandiosity or a shame riddled depression or a little of both. “Don’t emote” or “Your feelings aren’t
important” gets in there over time and kids compensate for this injury by being
“better than” and “entitled” or “not good enough” or “un loveable”.
We all can do better with this yelling business and we need
to. I know I do. But we
can do this without sending ourselves into a “parenting guilt” tailspin or alternately by indulging our kids. So how the heck do we rewire our auto pilot parent
setting? Shifting those inner beliefs
from yesteryear, the high expectations, the comparing to other kids’ behavior,
the social embarrassment of kids’ big feelings in public, the pressure from our
extended families to parent the “old
school” way, the annoyance or deeper seeded rage at how inconvenient our kids are
are all heavy burdens and sometimes shameful to admit to ourselves. There is enough emotional energy we parents
are metabolizing for kids and man it is a lot to digest some days right? It is such a shame we have shame to deal with too. I say, admit your flaws open-heartedly. The truth will set you free.
Parenting books help but the overlooked resource that most of us leave out is our parenting
team. If you are married or partnered up you have your
greatest teammate right under your nose.
For single parents it may still be the biological parent if you have a
good working relationship with them.
For others it is a mom’s group, a person in the family who we can rely
on to aspire to our parenting ideals, a church family, a school family, a good
friend and in some circumstances a good therapist. In the end, to really pull this good relating
and attunement off we need support. We
need to rewire our own brains to respond to age appropriate behavior with care
and we need to have someone there empathizing with us and hearing out our
desires for ourselves so we can hear out our kids. I created the first in a series from Psyched
in San Francisco called dialogues. These
are cheat sheets on how to structure conversations with others in our life that
help us achieve our higher desires for our own behavior. See below. Or access a pdf here.
I won’t sell you down the
river on this one, moving from our highest parenting self takes effort. Truly, you aren’t bad if it doesn’t come
naturally to you and you still aren’t bad if you yell at
your kids. But to achieve your loftier parenting goals you will have to commit. And changing your responses to the high demands of a child brain is done better in
teams. It just is. The attached dialogue will help you get crystal clear
on your commitment to practicing, what stands in your way and getting support. So grab your parenting partner, print out the
cheat sheet, and find a quiet place sans kids and try out answering these questions
and support each other in being the kind of parent you decide you want to
be. You can do it. We are all in this together.
Traci Ruble is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist working in downtown San Francisco. She works with adults in her practice and specializes in working with couples. She also leads online mothers groups. Traci is also the founder of Psyched in San Francisco.
You can find out more about Traci here:
Labels: Anger, Co-Parenting, Parenting, Traci Ruble, Yelling