Friday, May 24, 2013

Old Yeller

This probably isn't going to be an entry of popular sentiment. But whatever. I'm going for it anyway. Because that's what I do.

You know how these articles, especially parenting ones, go viral and everyone's on board. I've been seeing this one about yelling at your kids but I hadn't read it till just now. I didn't read it because I had the feeling it was like yet another Aesop's Fable. Where you're supposed to learn some kind of lesson at the end and stop yelling at your kids. And of course, it totally was. But I found myself getting irked as I read it. Because I feel like it missed the point. Or maybe there was stuff that I thought should be common sense but she just blanketed every scenario as "yelling is bad". I just don't happen to agree.

Let me explain. I do agree with her that yelling isn't ideal for silly mistakes like dropping rice all over the counter. That's an actual mistake we've all made, anyone could do it and has done it. That's just one of those moments where you have to close your eyes, count to ten, and just deal. Yelling isn't going to help anything. It wasn't a deliberate my-child-is-being-an-asshole thing. But there ARE plenty of asshole moments- There ARE. If you are sucking in your breath and thinking your kid is never an asshole, well, you're probably reading the wrong blog and I'm not for you. I'm talking about those moments you told your kid to do something 10x and they clearly just pretended not to hear you. Or when you said not to take out markers without Mommy or Daddy being around and not only did he take them out but he wrote in black Sharpie all over his pants, shirt, and the walls. You know he knows he's not supposed to do that. He. KNOWS. But he basically said Fuck It (because he's an Aquarius which is my own fault) and did it anyway. At those moments, I don't think yelling is such a bad thing. I don't think having a smidge of fear of your parents is a bad thing.

My mom was pretty...lax. To put it lightly. But there were some things you just didn't mess with Rita about. The rational and irrational. Spills and throw up could immediately give her rage. I remember like it was yesterday that I was around five years old, it was morning, she was asleep, I tried to pour Five Alive (made from concentrate) from a full Tupperware pitcher thing, it was too heavy and it spilled all over the kitchen floor. She yelled like a lunatic. Irrational. But while I was pretty much allowed to do whatever when I was five, it was instilled that you go to school no matter what, you got grades above C and you don't get pregnant. Well, not at five, but later on. I don't know exactly what I thought she'd DO but I went to school no matter what- sick, tired, cramps, whatever. If I was so sick I did stay home, I stayed in my room as long as I could so she wouldn't know I was there. She'd know eventually but I had some little fear- like I'd be "in trouble". She'd just be angry. That meant an attitude I just didn't like. I was scared when it was progress report time. In my school, if you got a report it was only because it was bad news. And pregnant? Well, that just didn't happen. I couldn't even imagine. I was expected to go to college sans baby. Even if I had gotten pregnant there wouldn't have been "choice"- she would've been driving me to the clinic. But I just knew all this. Because to me, there was a healthy fear. There were just things you do not do. Or ELSE.

There were times she yelled. But we're not talking abuse. Put it this way- it's just not something you wanted. She didn't lose her shit often but when she did, it felt sucky. But every kid is different. They respond to things differently. I see this as a parent of a four and a half year old. His friends are all different- different stages of maturity, motor skills, humor, what they're into, etc. There is no one size fits all parenting style that would work with every kid. I'm sure anyone with multiple kids knows this. I was talking to a mom this morning that said she could trust her older one (4) wouldn't open the door and go outside while she's in the shower but the younger one (2) definitely would. Some kids apparently don't need to be yelled at ever, so I hear. Some only seem to respond to yelling. I don't care if there is some famous psychologist who says no child responds well to yelling. For every thing one doctor says in any specialty, I'm fairly certain I can find another who will dispute it. When E decided it would be a good idea to try to "fly" off the arm of the couch like a superhero and pulled the curtains down with him, I yelled like I was having an exorcism. He purposely waited until I was doing something else out of the room. I know it was purposely because I know my kid. Well, let's just say that never happened again.

It's the same way some people feel bad or guilty about CIO or not BF'ing and some don't (me). If I get to the point of yelling, I don't feel bad. But there are moms, scratch that, people, who feel bad about everything. They second guess every decision. They feel bad giving any consequences. The woman in this article was all- "I don't like who I've become". Ok, well, if you're yelling over spilled milk all the time, I get it. You need to calm down. Have perspective. But if you're yelling because your kid repeatedly does stuff that is dangerous or that they know they shouldn't, maybe they need to get yelled at. This all goes to the whole pussification of kids today that I'd wrote about previously. And again, I'm not talking about abusive yelling where you're belittling, saying they're bad or stupid or never going to amount to anything. I'm more talking about a "WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT??? DON'T EVER DO THAT AGAIN!" kind of yelling.

Haven't you ever been talking with another adult after hearing or seeing a tween/teen say or do something totally disrespectful to their parent and one of you said something like, "Wow, I would have NEVER talked to my mom that way! There would've been hell to pay!". I don't know what everyone's version of hell was and I'm sure some ranged from the inappropriate to the abusive. But generally speaking, there's a fine line but the ones on the right side of that line had a respect and a twinge of fear of their parents. Not repect because they were yelled at but respect because they knew there were consequences. I just feel like it's come to be the other way around. Parents are fearing their kids. Fearing their kids won't like them, want to be their friend, or that think they are not cool.

Again, I'm going to reiterate that I'm not talking abuse- mental, emotional or physical. I used to be a social worker for abused, neglected, and delinquent teens. I've dealt with emotional abuse on some level personally. I know what it looks like. I know what it feels like. And like I said- there is a line. I think yelling at a kid for mistakes like spilling something, out of frustration, being tired, or because of projection is something to aspire to change. Finding a way to calm yourself down in any situation can only be a positive thing. But just the same way yelling might upset one kid, calm disappointment might not even get a blink from another. There is no parenting handbook that is all wrong or all right. You have to know your kids and find something that works for you guys. I've heard if you yell all the time then one time decide to talk very quietly, they'll listen. That may be something to try if the yelling isn't working. I give E a lot of freedom and he usually uses it wisely. I don't spend all day hovering, disciplining him. He actually doesn't need it. He's basically a good kid who doesn't do mischievous acts. But he definitely has times he pushes buttons knowingly. Because he's mature and usually not making trouble, I give him credit he deserves in knowing the difference between right and wrong. I know when what he does is a mistake and what is purposeful. So when it's a purposeful asshole moment, there is a fitting response from me.

The only part of her essay I agree with is this:

The important thing is … life is too short to get upset over spilled cereal and misplaced shoes.
The important thing is … no matter what happened yesterday, today is a new day.

This woman isn't a genius or said anything we don't already know. I think she's a woman who happens to feel a great deal of guilt for how she handles things and it feels like she's absolving herself of it by telling us all how enlightening it is if we'd all stop yelling. In her case, only knowing her fro what she wrote, maybe SHE really needed to stop yelling if it never really was about what her kids were doing and only about having a short fuse. I'll give her that she's good with cliches. Well lady, I'm enlightened knowing there is no one-size-fits-all way to do things. Sometimes I yell. And I'm ok with that.

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