Dad Post: Yelling At Kids

I’ve got to put this out there right off the bat: I’m a yeller. I come from a family of yellers. Getting a couple of us in a room for ten minutes will be proof positive enough for anyone’s definition of yelling. It’s what we do. Lis doesn’t. Lis’ family doesn’t. Her being around my family for a while can be jarring, it’s taxing for me, so I can only imagine what it’s like for someone who wasn’t brought up in the cacophony. Now we have Finn – let me clarify, Finn as a toddler.

As anyone with a toddler can attest, it’s hard NOT to yell at them. From throwing a seemingly random fit, sudden aversions to food previously loved, to bullheadedness for the sake of being stubborn – it’s a raging ocean of emotions. Then they hug you and say they love you and it’s all better, but it’s in that between space where you’ve got to get your point across – which becomes a rope bridge across a chasm of bubbling frustration.

For me, it’s a real struggle not to flip the shout-switch and go right into it. I’m bigger, I’m louder, and you are going to listen to me. Even if my child was a primate, in reflective clam I know that approach doesn’t work. I’m trying, desperately, to keep even tones to repeat myself and make my point clear. It’s not always easy and I fail at doing so. It comes back at me, quickly too, when I drop the shield. Sometimes I parry – breathe, repeat myself and we motion though it. Other times, the verbal gloves come off – I raise my voice, he raises his, and the train barrels down the track and away we go. Granted, I know yelling doesn’t change anything, and stokes his passionate toddler reluctance, but sometimes, sometimes I’ve got to let it out. Usually it ends up with me storming off or walking away or him in time out, but sorrys are parsed and the bulls put their horns away.

I’ve got to get better at holding back, it isn’t fair to him to have a guardian, companion, caretaker, fire a shout-fest across his ever confusing world. He’s at an age where he’s putting the pieces together and we’ve got the help him find the right placement to his puzzle. I don’t want him to think dads yell when you are bad, or don’t listen; I’d rather be a compassionate understanding, stoic example. I’m the adult, I’m the example.

Thankfully, each day comes as a way for me to handle it better than yesterday, each bedtime becomes a time of quiet self-reflection – allowing me to evaluate myself. Try harder tomorrow, he’ll forgive you.

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