in defense of the yelling mommy

I have been reading a lot of mommy bloggers who have given up yelling at their children. Um. Way to go you guys! Really. I’m impressed. All other mommies stand in awe of you and that is why your posts are getting so much traction and attention because being a mommy, in practice, seems almost synonymous with yelling.

I know, in person, some non-yelling mommies. My mom was one. She was a cupboard slamming mommy instead. We knew to steer clear when she was slamming cupboards. All 8 kiddos turned off the TV and skedaddled to friends’ houses when our slamming mommy hit the kitchen. My sister-in-law is a non-yelling mommy. She’s a silent seether. I’ve never once heard her yell. But, believe you me, her kids know when she is angry and they snap to.

I am a yelling mommy. Ask my kids. Confirm with the renters who live in the basement apartment. This girl’s got some lungs. And, I feel like I should be ashamed to admit this but, I don’t intend to change. I like this side of the leaf I don’t intend to turn over. Here are my reasons, in order of importance:

Yelling is an appropriate way to express frustration

I know there is a line between yelling and emotional abuse. I don’t cross it. You shouldn’t either. But here’s the thing. Yelling is an appropriate way to express frustration. Yelling is NOT child abuse. I’ve worked in the industry. I know. DON’T say demeaning, hurtful, you’ll-regret-it things! Don’t yell two inches away from a child’s face. DON’T cross the line. But, yelling when you are frustrated is okay!

And, think about it, it’s good modeling! There are a million bad things to do when you are angry. Yelling, like slamming cupboards, is a pretty good coping mechanism. When you yell, you teach your kids that yelling is an appropriate way to express frustration. Instead of hitting or biting your brother, raise a shout so that the little guy pays attention and an adult in the room will likely pay attention too.

IMG_2903Moms who aren’t yelling are using a different coping mechanism. They must! Because it’s impossible to be a non-angry mommy. IMPOSSIBLE I TELL YOU! (Did you see that, how I just yelled at you there?) Mothering breeds discontent. Children don’t do what they should, can’t manage to stay away from danger, drive you up a blinking wall, will not (for the love!) stop pestering each other and you, and oi, the eternal, eternal messes! You will get angry. Every parent does. So do the non-abusive, good modeling thing you need to do. Seethe, slam, or yell. Take your pick. I’m owning my pick.

Now. If you want to write a blog post about how you’ve become a completely zen mommy, how you have found everlasting patience and your kids no longer make you angry? I’ll read that all day long. But I might suspect you’re lying. Anger is a natural part of life. In the incubator of your home is where your children will learn how to appropriately deal with it.

Yelling cuts through other distractions

I have a son with ADHD. His life and brain are riddled with distractions. A precisely-timed yell tends to cut through. I have learned he is capable of conversation and considering consequences only when he is seat-belted into the car, locked in to the limited distractions provided by the view (even then, every question must be asked thrice before he can pull himself away from the view). I’ve also learned that, with him, the only thing that cuts through better than my yeling is when a mom who is not me yells. That is pay-attention gold!

My younger children, blissfully free of ADHD, are toddlers and seem hell-bent on killing themselves: “Wonder what will happen if I put this fork in that outlet? Those drawer handles look just like a ladder to the top of the counter! Is this locked cupboard where mom keeps those cool fire sticks? What is that alluring part of the front yard that is all black where the cars drive?” Chasing them causes bolting, and increases the danger, “Oh! Here she comes, light the fire stick faster!” Yelling gets enough of a startle response to stop them long enough they don’t bolt or light the fire stick. Plus! You can yell what the consequence will be and that’s a 2-for-1!

Yelling is not all there is to me 

Yelling is not my only parenting tool. I’ve got a box full of others. I’m a multi-faceted mommy. I’m simply not ashamed about using that tool when the job calls for it. I’m up on the latest discipline and motivational techniques. I also know my capacity and my tendencies. I’ve always known about myself that I am verbal in the extreme. Using words to motivate, and yeah, sometimes, manipulate is my wheelhouse. To me, yelling, is the with emphasis scripting of motherhood.

Yelling is not my worst mothering flaw

Being a mom of young kids when I’m an old dog of 41 maybe means I’m not so good with the new tricks and yelling is a tried, tested and true technique. I don’t have as much time as other moms of littles. I have other self-improving mommy work to do. Purchasing some patience and getting more naps springs to mind.

It’s kind of like the time I set a goal to stop rolling my eyes at my husband and he couldn’t figure out why all of his jokes were falling flat with me. Because, you see, my eye-ball-roll was equivalent to a chuckle from someone else. It’s how he was testing his material! It really threw him when I set that goal and didn’t tell him about it until a few weeks in. Then he begged me to stop.

I don’t think my kids would beg me to yell at them if I stopped. But I do think they would be confused. They know what to do with a yelling mom. If I turned into a seether, that would really throw off our rhythm.

So, I think I shall CARRY ON! DO YOU HEAR ME?!


4 thoughts on “in defense of the yelling mommy

  1. Thank you for making me feel SO MUCH BETTER about the fact that I yell, too. No, I don’t yell demeaning things, nor do I scream 2 inches from my child’s face. And if I ever yell loud enough to make my child cry (perhaps because she’s about to dump Easter-egg dye onto my carpet), I do apologize immediately and hug the tears away, because this is behavior that I wan’t to model.

    Unless there’s imminent danger, I do still try the non-yelling approach first most of the time, futile though it may be. The reality is that my calm, gentle “please stop” usually as to morph into a “STOP IT RIGHT NOW!!!” before anything actually stops.

    I can’t help it. I come from a family of yellers. We express our emotions, fight or argue, and then we get over it. Six grown children, and there’s not a single grudge among us (that I know of). We don’t bottle things up. Sometimes the willingness (eagerness?) to engage in conflict is wearisome, but at least we always know where everyone stands.

    I can think of four immediate examples of people I have known who never, ever yell. They wouldn’t even dream of it. One of them invokes the silent treatment, sometimes even for a whole week, even with young children. Never apologizing or discussing or addressing the original issue, just “punishing” the person until the anger fades away–or doesn’t. I think that’s far more damaging.

    I knew another person who NEVER raised her voice. She said *everything* in such a calm, quiet way that it would take me a minute to realize that some of the things she said were incredibly mean.

    The third and fourth people that came to mind are both very proud of the fact that they don’t yell, as though they are paragons of virtue and self-control. But they definitely feel anger. They just express their anger through quiet manipulation and talking the issue to death, in circles, until the other party gives up in exhaustion or explodes in anger, which just makes the manipulators feel smug and powerful. It’s very confusing to be on the other side of these conversations, because you can’t detect an authentic emotion in there anywhere.

    So, wow. Yeah, I’d rather have someone yell at me.

  2. Sorry, I had another thought. I don’t want my comment to make it appear like I think yelling is a virtue. I just don’t think it’s the worst possible vice.

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