It usually goes something like this.
The mother begins calm.
The toddler dumps out his oatmeal on his head during breakfast. **Grrr…I just washed his hair last night!**
While he’s being cleaned up, the older daughter has tied the dog to the door knob and he is barking to be freed. **Haven’t I told her a million times not to do this?**
Mom unties the dog and leaves the room for a minute to change clothes. She comes back and the toddler has taken his pants and diaper off because he needs to be changed and now he has poop on his hands. **Are you serious?**
After mom is finished cleaning him up, she comes back out to the porch to find that the daughter has decided to do an “art project” and has taped everything in sight. “See what I did Mommy? Doesn’t it look beautiful?” **Really? And after I just cleaned the porch the night before.”
Mom finally gets to sit down and relax for a minute and check her emails. “Mommy, can I play a game on your computer?” The beast wells up inside…and mom lets her have it.
I hate yelling.
Really I do.
I always have great intentions of going the entire day, calm and soft spoken, no matter what circumstances bring. In control of the beast that lives deep inside me.
Almost every day though, by the end of the day, I have had my limit and am very likely to fly off the handle at any given moment.
What I’m left with, isn’t kids that behave or have learned their lesson. No, what I’m left with is an overwhelming sense of guilt and frustration with myself, and children that are effected more than what I probably even realize. What I’m left with is brokenness of hearts that need mending. Broken hearts of my children and myself. When I see my little girl with her hands over her ears, a piece of me dies. My heart is crushed. I am face to face with the reality of my sin, and the problems with yelling.
You see, there are certainly problems with yelling. Here are just a few of the many that I have witnessed.
1. My kids see an unhealthy way to display emotions.
I always get on to my kids when they hit when they are mad, throw themselves on the floor when they are frustrated, or whine and thow a fit when they are sad about something. We often talk about our emotions and validating those emotions, but with appropriate ways to express them. When I yell at my kids when I am really angry with them, I am modeling exactly opposite of a healthy way to express my emotions. How’s that for hypocritical? My kids need to know my expectations, and see when I am angry, but there are much better and healthier ways to express my anger and discipline them than just yelling at them.
2. They see an angry mother.
At the end of the day, I want my children to remember me as a loving mother. One that cared for them deeply. I want them to remember grace that was shown to them when they messed up. I want them to know that no matter what, I will always be there for them and love them. When I yell, I’m afraid what they see is just an angry tyrant. I never want my kids to be afraid to talk to me about something. I want them to be open with me. If I yell, will they see me as someone they can come to or someone they need to hide from?
3. It desensitizes them to yelling
Not only is yelling damaging to a child and can make them feel untrue things about themselves, it can also have other consequences. Raising your voice should be reserved for an emergency. If my child is getting ready to touch a hot stove, I can shout to get his attention. If he is getting ready to walk into the street, grab something unsafe, or do something that can cause harm, I want to raise my voice to startle him to look at me so I can get him to stop. If he is used to me yelling frequently for every little thing, it begins to lose its power and they will begin to tune it out. Really it’s probably a “self-protection” kind of thing, but I don’t know this for sure. When I do have to raise my voice when there is danger or for emergency situations, I want them to listen, instead of being desensitized to my nagging yelling voice.
4. Yelling begets more yelling.
Oh the nature of the beast called sin. You plant a seed and it grows and grows and grows and grows. When I first started yelling at my kids, it wasn’t very often. Over time, it’s just become an old habit, one that’s hard to kick to the curb. The more I yell, the more I yell. I know that doesn’t really make sense, but I think someone out there knows what I’m talking about. It’s like you forget how to do it any other way. I’m mad, I yell. Autopilot.
5. I’m more likely to say things I don’t mean
I’m pretty sure I can get an amen on this one. When I am calm, I am more likely to communicate exactly why I am upset or what my kids did that broke the rules. When I am yelling and in “that place” where I am not thinking clearly, I’m likely to say all sorts of things that I don’t really mean. It’s just what spews out of my mouth at the time, and we all know that once words are said, you can’t take them back. Ouch. Many people do this with their spouses. My husband and I rarely ever fight, but I do find myself doing this with my daughter a lot. Every single time, it kills me if I have said something hurtful to her. Now, I never say things like, “You are worthless. Can’t you get anything right?” Those things never cross my mind, but I do often use over-generalizations like, “You are driving me crazy today! Are you just trying to get on my nerves?” Wow! What a terrible message to send to my child, one of my greatest gifts on this earth.
6. It is opposite of how the Bible says to live.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 2 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.- James 1:19-20
Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city – Proverbs 16:32
Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. – Ecclesiastes 7:9
“In your anger do not sin” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, – Ephesians4:26
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil – Psalm 37:8
The Bible is clear on how we are to deal when situations don’t go as we want them to. We are to be humble, eager to listen, slow to speak, patient, and refrain from eruptive anger. Every area of my life as a believer is a reflection of Christ. My thoughts, my attitudes, and what comes from my lips should be Christ centered and God-honoring. After all, my life was in rebellion to the Lord and he chose to be patient with me and extend grace that was greater than all my sin. I want my dealings with my kids to be a reflection of my relationship with Christ.
So how do we keep from yelling? What do I do now?
Many of you may be asking this now. You’ve been on this yelling path for so long, you don’t know how to stop. Or maybe you can relate to my old pal Paul like I can. “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15
Yup, that’s got me written all over it. I hate yelling and don’t want to do it, but yet I find myself still yelling.
Here’s what I’m currently doing to be intentional in my quest to end the yelling game.
1. Staying connected to the Lord through his word and in prayer
First of all, I had to come to the realization that I ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT DO THIS ON MY OWN. Sorry for the all caps there but I can’t emphasize that enough. Only God can patch my wounded heart. Only He can restore what has been broken. Only He can do the impossible in me. (Philippians 4:13) Only He can transform and renew my mind. (Romans 12:1-2) This is not a road I can walk alone, so I’ve resolved to surrender it to the Lord. I’ve given it over to him and asked him to walk me through this. Staying connected to him in prayer all throughout the day, reading over scriptures, praying His word over our house. This cycle WILL be broken by the grace of God!
2. Consciously thinking before speaking
I’m trying to live out James 1:19 and do more listening and thinking before I speak. The slower I am to speak, the less likely I am to respond in anger and yelling. Is what I am about to say useful, God-honoring, necessary, and something that will build character in my children? Or is it petty, hurtful, dishonoring to God, unnecessary, and something that will chip away at my children’s hearts?
3. Walking away and collecting thoughts before I lose it
One of the best things for me is to just walk away and remove myself from the situation. While by myself for a second I can collect my thoughts and get to my rational place instead of my breaking point. Sometimes some space for a second can help to do the above- think before speaking.
4. Change of scenery
Sometimes when we are having an “off” day around here and I feel myself being prone to shout, I pack up the kids and we either go outside, go for a walk, take a trip the park, turn on some silly music and dance, etc. Sometimes we all just need a “reset” button to be pushed so that we can re-focus and get out of our funks. When tensions are running high, I find it best to try to unwind and do something fun, relaxing, and not requiring a lot of thought. It gets us all back in a better frame of mind.
5. Letting go of ideals and perfection
I have learned that I really do have to let go of perfection and ideals that I set up in my mind. I’m never going to have a spotless house when living with a two year old and a four year old. I’m going to have marks on walls, rips in clothing, milk purposely spilled on the floor, and oatmeal in the hair. My kids are going to fight occasionally. We are going to have grumpy days. We’re going to have days that nothing goes according to plan. My two year old will likely refuse to get in his carseat and run from me in public from time to time. There will be refused naps, refused meals, and time outs. I will be exhausted. I am a mom. These things go along with the territory. I can embrace them and accept this season of my life, or I can be an angry and bitter person, always grumpy when life isn’t like the fairy tale that I have set up in my mind. When I lower my standards of perfection, I have much less to be angry about.
6. ME TIME
If there is one thing over the past five years that I have learned as a stay at home mom, it’s this. A mother HAS to have time to herself to recharge her batteries. My job is 24 hours a day. I am ALWAYS with my kids. Seriously. I am constantly on a daily basis caring for these little ones that depend on me for basically everything. The NEED me for much, and I’ll be honest, sometimes that need becomes overwhelming. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have any more to give. Sometimes I feel like I’m empty. It’s in those weak, frazzled and exhausted moments, that I am more likely to explode in anger. When I’m re-charged, armed with God’s word in my heart, re-focused, and have been able to pour a little back into myself, I find I am able to be much more level-headed, calm, and patient.
Only time will tell how this story will end. I pray that this will be a pivotal moment for our household, one that we will look back on and see how God’s hand was moving the entire time. I pray that through this entire journey, we will have grown closer to the Lord, closer to each other, and are greater light for Jesus in a dark world. Pray for me, friends, and I will pray for you!
So what say you, friends? Do you struggle as well with the yelling beast inside? I would love to hear your story in the comments below. Remember, this is a place of grace and love, not judgment. Let’s carry each others’ burdens and be a support for one another!