I Scared Them with My Yelling

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I'm honestly not sure why I'm even writing this post. Sometimes for me there's something intimidating and yet freeing all at the same time about putting something into concrete words. But this time maybe I'm needing to say it out loud to hold myself accountable to do something I'm honestly not sure I can do on my own.

So here goes….

I grew up in a house of eight people. And it was always loud. And honestly, if you wanted to be heard or get attention you weren't going to get it by speaking softly. EVERYONE yelled in our home…and I do mean everyone. And although I remember not liking it, still there was a normalcy about it.

puppy eyes

Credit Image: jwillier2 on Flickr

And then I grew up and married a NON-yeller. I mean seriously, how annoying is that? Who's ever heard of someone who refuses to speak up for themselves when they are upset or need to get a point across? To be completely honest, maybe I even viewed my husband's refusal to raise his voice as a sign of weakness.

And so because I am married to a man that will not yell, I can honestly say that most of our disagreements are just that - disagreements. Because it's a bit hard to fight with someone who won't fight back.

But my kids are a different story. Although they are amazing kids and pretty darn well-behaved much of the time, they are kids. And somewhere between the constant pull of feeling overwhelmed with all the tasks I'm trying to juggle and parenting, too many times the tension of it all ends in a tirade of explosion over the cereal being spilled all over the floor, or just something - ANYTHING loud and drastic to end the incessant arguing in the back seat of the car as I'm trying to parallel park in a new city!

What I'm really looking for is for everything that isn't going my way in the moment to suddenly come to a screeching halt. And you know what, yelling gets that most times.

Silence.

Sometimes ALL I want is peace. How odd it is that I seek peace with raised voice.

And then the other night we were talking to the kids about the issue of fear. As I was putting the dishes away I overheard my husband asking our seven year son what was something that made him feel fear.

"I feel fear when mommy yells at us."

I tried to pretend I didn't hear his response, because it felt like a dagger plunging deep into my mommy soul. His honest seven year old words broke my heart.

I choked back tears and tried to play it off.

And my mind went back to my childhood days to a scene in which I had obviously done something I shouldn't have and my mom stood at the doorway of my bedroom and yelled at me until I was so afraid, I stood there across the room and wet my pants. More than likely, she was only trying to get me to do what I should. She never intended for the last part, and honestly, she never even knew because she didn't notice and I never told her.

I don't even remember what I had done or exactly what words she used, but WHY did the way she said it get to me so much? Because she was my mother and mother words and and looks of disappointment can hurt the deepest of all.

Right then, as much as I wanted to plead my case as to WHY I felt the need to yell sometimes, I couldn't run from the truth in his words.

I too had felt them once.

And I realized that no rational reason I could give would warrant the fear found in his words.

As I sat and analyzed why yelling is what I resort to, I realized that it comes down to control. I yell because things feel out of my control and yelling is the easiest and quickest way to gain that control back again.

And as I reflected back on those newly married days when I would mock my husband inside for his weak refusal to "yell it out with me." I realized something, yelling is for the weak, not the strong. Because yelling doesn't require anything of us. It puts the ball completely in the other person's court, requiring nothing of our own selves. 

We yell, and then storm away and play the part of the victim.

We yell because it's easier than upholding our promise to take away a week of video games or TV time. We yell because it's easier than sitting down with a person and maturely working through a hard situation.

Whether we realize it or not, yelling is a mask for fear. By yelling, we mask our own fear of losing control by invoking a fear on someone else that we secretly hope will control and manipulate their actions and behavior into what we want it to be.

But I don't fear to be my children's motivation anymore. 

Oh yes, there will still be consequences for their actions when they are wrong. But I don't want deliberately implanted fear to be one of them.

So up until this moment I haven't expressed this to anyone except my kids. Maybe because I doubt my own ability to keep my word. But yesterday I made them a promise that I wasn't going to yell anymore. And assured them that not yelling didn't mean there would get away with bad behavior, but yelling would no longer be the way they are corrected.

As I watched peace flood across their little faces, I said a silent prayer, "God, you're going to have to help me keep this one because I am positive that I can't on my own."

Honestly, as ridiculous as it sounds, I'm terrified I won't be able to keep my promise. Because as crazy as it sounds, yelling sort of feels like it's imbedded in my DNA. Like if someone were to ask me to give up breathing.

But I've come face to face with the look of fear in my little boy's eyes.

And if I ever see that again, I don't want it to be because his mommy put it there.

So here's my pledge to my children and to the rest of the world: NO MORE yelling.

Yelling is for the weak, not the strong.

And even though I realize most wouldn't judge or condemn me for yelling at my kids every now and then, because after all, EVERYBODY does it!

What I've come to realize is, that each loud, angrily spoken word is like laying the stones that build concrete walls around the hearts of those we love most.

Moms, it's our job to tear down walls with our arms, not build them with our mouths.

Rachel Rowell  @ saltedgrace.com

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