There are a lot of parenting blogs touting the importance of never yelling at our children. After all, we don’t want them to feel small, or intimidated, do we? Can we not singsong our anger out in melodious snippets, a la Mary Poppins? Or use our most kind and nurturing Montessori voices to politely inquire as to why they chose to ‘accidentally’ leave the front door open and let the !&#%*$@ing dog run away for the third time today? And, dear wee one, please tell me what led you to put your underwear on this same runaway dog, such that it runs through the streets of Troy with its very tail sticking through the hole of your boxers?
Can’t we use our respectful, indoor voices at all times to work through our conflicts at home, so everyone feels a sense of equality and mutual esteem no matter what challenges life brings our way? Can’t we??
This ‘we’ sure can’t.
In my work helping organizational leaders and teams get to the Next Level of performance, I meet women and men every day who have no idea how to engage in conflict, who have few skills in expressing frustration, disappointment, anger, or even excitement, pride in accomplishments or joy at work. The smaller the bandwidth of emotions we express at work, the smaller we become as humans, the less genuine we are to ourselves and others.
Women- how about those moments when you are really mad and you cry instead showing anger, and then you’re so mad at yourself for crying that you cry even more?
My own mother was ahead of her time, and part of ushering in new ways of thinking back in the 1970’s when the Human Potential movement first began. As a child, I was encouraged to express the exact emotion I was feeling, rather than a more socially acceptable, or ladylike version of it. She expected me to be congruent with who I was, and how I felt. If I cried when I was angry, she would challenge me to express anger, not to “push it down so hard that it leaked out of my eyeballs.” When I laughed, she pulled my hand from covering my mouth and showed me how to let a belly laugh roll out on the waves of joy that wrought it. When I cried, she helped me let those tears blossom from my eyes, like a second chance to be savored, not wiped away in shame.
If she yelled at me, and I ‘went small,’ or cried, she would wait for me to respond ‘in yelling kind.’ She pushed me to express my anger as anger, so we could more easily move to resolution, because there was nothing unsaid, nothing unresolved on which to build a grudge. She was teaching me to be a worthy opponent, so when my anger was justified, I could stand up to whomever, whenever, as a powerful human being.
So, yes, I yell at my kids.
I do not emotionally abuse them, call them names, or spank them. Ever.
I yell at them when I am angry, when they do the things kids do that make parents mad. I yell when I am frustrated that they left pizza out overnight, or that they threw my clothes in the dryer and now my wardrobe doubles as the American Girl Doll business collection. Grrrr!
I also yell with excitement when they meet, or score a goal, get a good grade, or feel joy in a personal accomplishment. I laugh loudly and often at their hilarity, which is never in short supply, and full-on cackle at their jokes, even and especially the ones I don’t get.
I am an equal opportunity yeller.
I am fine if they yell back. I am secretly pleased when they do. I especially encourage my girls to yell, so that they are practiced at using their voices fully- and frankly, can scream if they ever need to (you don’t want to know the statistics on women and girls who don’t scream when they are being assaulted because they are unpracticed, and have had a life of being told that good, ladylike girls, ‘sugar and spice and everything nice’ girls, don’t use loud voices).
My children moderate their emotional expression, and know that they cannot yell at teachers (even when they want to), just like I don’t yell at my colleagues at work.
One thing is certain: My children always know where they stand with me, and there is never the emotional waste of unspoken feelings, or stony silences.
They know that they are expected to express what and how they feel authentically and without the filter of cultural or political correctness that robs them of the right to be nothing more, and especially nothing less than exactly who they are.
Are you a yeller? Not a yeller? What’s your take on all of this? Deb and I want to hear from you!
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Remember: Lower the bar, and drop the guilt (today).
This blog was originally published by the Times Union and can be accessed here.