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Nobody Likes It When Mommy Yells

This morning was not a good one. It was on the heels of another rough night, with the Pookie sick or teething so up a lot and the Pumpkin having bad dreams or something and up also. I only mention the rough night to set the stage.

You see, I was grumpy and had very little patience this morning, which I told her as soon as I got up. So when the Pumpkin wouldn't wash her hands? Even though she knows the rule is to wash her hands after potty/diaper changes and before playing with her brother? And I had reminded her, told her she had to, and otherwise said it was going to happen a few times already? I just picked her up and forcibly washed her hands.

It wasn't my best strategy, since it resulted in a 10 minute meltdown on her part, which not only included red-faced crying, but also what can only be called screeching. Normally, I do some version of the "you can do it yourself by the count of 3, or I'm going to do it" or playful parenting to get the job done. But I was tired and cranky and just did it. I didn't apologize, because I had told her numerous times to do it. Just the same, I should have had more patience and used a different method to get it done so I wouldn't have to deal with the resulting meltdown.

But we resolved that. I told her if she couldn't stop yelling/shriking, I was going into the nursery to nurse the baby because it was distracting him. She could come get us when she was done. And she did, with tears in her eyes and arms outstretched for a hug. We moved on.

Although we had some fun playing and brushing teeth, getting her dressed was a trial. She was all "No!" and running off and grabbing things out of bags. I just lost my patience again and yelled, really yelled, "Quit getting into things and get dressed!"

Her face fell, and the tears started up again. But this wasn't the pissed off screaming. She was upset that I yelled, which isn't something I do often. I immediately picked her up, hugged her and apologized. "I'm sorry I yelled. I shouldn't have yelled. I just lost my patience."

She sobbed, "That's okay, Mommy."

I carried her into her room and started to get her dressed, and she squirmed off my lap and was about to run off again. So this time, I thought I'd warn her.

"Pumpkin, I'm losing my patience and am about to start yelling again."

Well, lo and behold, that worked! She turned around and let me get her dressed. I reminded her that I didn't have much patience this morning and was grumpy and needed her to cooperate with me.

She doesn't want me to yell. I don't want to yell. But when she is not cooperating and I'm cranky? I lose my patience. I don't remember my normal strategies. I'm not a playful parent. No, I yell and force her to do things. It happens.

But warning her that I was losing my patience and going to yell actually got her to work with me. I certainly don't recommend anyone follow the path I took this morning in general. As I talked about with my sister this morning, I don't want to threaten her with yelling. What I really wanted to do was to show her what was going on with me, get her to realize that when she doesn't listen or cooperate when I really need her to that I will get upset, and when I get really upset, I will yell. I want her to see it coming so she can learn to distinguish it herself. I'm also trying to model the ability to voice emotions and recognize what those emotions make people want to do.

I'm teaching life skills!


Charisse said…
Having screamed "just put your g*d*** pants on" at a recalcitrant 3-year-old more than once, I totally understand. It felt awful every time it happened but it doesn't seem to have damaged anybody and it led to some good conversations with Mouse about how there are times when mommy just needs you to cooperate right away and I'll try and warn you but I might not always get to. We're still not awesome at getting out of the house and onto the bus that gets to school on time without a little grousing, but it tends to be more exasperated level these days with an almost-6. (Lord, is she almost 6? Yes, she is.) That goes more like "Mouse, hurry up, the bus is in 10 minutes and you have 2 things left to do"..."Mouse, did you hear me?"..."Mouse!!!"...("mommy, I want to read this")..."OK but we're out of time so I need you to hurry"...("but mommy") ..."nope, sorry, come ON right. now."...("oh all RIGHT").

And I think it's fair for kids to know that we do get mad at them, just like they get mad at us, and we still love them the whole time, and we won't ever hurt them but sometimes we might yell. And they should call us on it if it's over the top and that's OK too. ("Mommy, that was a really harsh voice, it scared me a little" is how it usually goes at our house.)

Hang in there!
OneHappyCow said…
You could have just described my past couple weeks at my house. Glad I am not the only one! These kids are a challenge sometimes, and then I feel horrible about not using the tools from my toolbox. But, I, like you, have no reserves when I am tired/running late/impatient already. I use a lot of your strategies (same kid, same mommy, too? :) ) and often they work. Lately, I get a lot of "stop it" with her hand held up and in this terse tone; or "go away" or "leave me alone", or my other personal favorite, "no, you do it." GRRR. I think it is totally unrealistic to think we are going to get it right or use our tools all the time, and where we find grace is in the apology and reconnection. But boy is it nice to know I am not alone! (you figure you are not, but its nice to discuss)
Cloud said…
You could think of the yelling as a natural consequence of her behavior, if you were so inclined....

We totally resort to using the TV as distraction to get our Pumpkin dressed in the mornings. I know that at some point, she needs to learn to do it herself but I'm ignoring that for the time being.
Maria said…
Yes yes, oh yes. I have been there repeatedly. I have no illusions that I won't be there again. Those parenting tools really do go right out the window don't they?
Anonymous said…
"Just the same, I should have had more patience and used a different method to get it done so I wouldn't have to deal with the resulting meltdown"

i disagree with the gestalt of this statement. Sounds like you gave her as much patience as you had at the time. Also: the second sentence smacks a bit of "If only i had not made him so mad, he wouldn't have hit me" : ) It's about that age where they need to learn how to act to keep US from a "meltdown" (ie undesirable response). its empowering for them to see that their action A directly leads to response B.

Parenting tools sound handy : ) Like when i was trying to put your Pumpkin to bed, it didnt work, i walked out and said to you "Well, she's not doing what you wanted, and i can't hit her.. so, i got nothing!"
hush said…
Been there, done that, too. But you handled it so much better than I tend to! I agree with you that it is so important to model the ability to voice emotions. Well done!
paola said…
Perhaps it wasn't so much the yelling, but the being a 'scary mummy'.

I have to admit I do tend to speak loudly quite a lot to my kids. We are a really loud family. My MIL can not spaek normally to save herself. A normal conversation involves shattering of glass in our household. You know, Italian and everything. But, the scary mummy thing has only happened a few times, that I recall. And I felt really really awful. But as others have said, it serves a purpose. Kids see that people can lose it and calm donw straight away, apologise and promise it will not happen again, then move on. We are not robots, it's human to get angry and be scary sometimes.
MommyEm said…
I am learning that I don't need to fix Dorothy's meltdowns. Sometimes, she just isn't going to like what I need her to do and nothing I do is going to fend off the storm. I have adopted this when turning off the TV, which always gets a short yelling session. I have noticed since I stopped trying to sooth her or explain too much, other than "Okay! It's time to say good-bye to TV. Bye TV! Click.", that the hollering has gotten quite short.

The other thing we do a lot is give the "if you don't do this yourself, I am going to do it for you" option. Such as, "Dorothy, if you don't come over here right now, I am going to get you and bring you over here myself." Threatening her independence usually gets a quick response. But I think it does because I have followed through many, many, many times and she knows that I am not kidding around.

With all this written, she still confounds me and I still want to and have yelled and clapped my hands very loudly, which never goes over well. But it does get her attention.
caramama said…
@Charisse - First of all, I can't believe she's almost 6! Second, "there are times when mommy just needs you to cooperate right away and I'll try and warn you but I might not always get to." That is exactly what we are working on with her. And absolutely with them calling us on it, just like we do for them. Life skills, I'm telling ya!

@OneHappyCow - It is nice to know we aren't alone. And you and I have a LOT in common, don't we?

@Cloud - I also had the thought about it being a natural consequence! I used to be able to use the TV as a distraction, but it only used to work sometimes and now doesn't at all. She's just to easily distracted from the TV. Use it if it works for you--she's got the rest of her life to learn how to do it herself.

@Maria - They really can disappear in the blink of an eye! I know I'll be there again, too. We can only do our best.

@Anonymous - I like that point, that she's at the age where she needs to (and can) learn how to keep me from melting down! But as we talked about offline, I disagree with victim of abuse sentiment. My thinking was much more along the lines of an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure. If I had taken a few minutes to use a different method, I could have saved myself hearing the 10 minute or so meltdown and aftermath. I have to deal with it either way, and I usually prefer to take a few minutes upfront. And I have been chuckling for a week about what you said to me when you walked out of the Pumpkin's room.

@hush - Thanks! My instinct is to clam up and internalize when I get very emotional, especially when I get POed. So it's really work for me to remember to verbalize and model the behavoir that I want her to learn. I'm sure you handle it better than you think you do.

@paola - You are so right about the being a "scary mummy" because I can certainly yell and be loud when we are playing, and it doesn't have the same affect. I also think it's important for them to see us be human and get angry, and also calm down and apologize.

@MommyEm - Oh, yeah. There is so little point in "fixing" the meltdowns! She's full of strong emotions and needs to get it out and/or learn to deal with those emotions. I was (and am) the same way. There's no reasoning or fixing that! I use a lot of the same techniques. And yes, mine still confounds me, too!
Eurydice said…
ditto for me saturday night. I had my own meltdown and everyone was sad and upset. It sucks.

But I agree it's so important to warn them that trouble is brewing and how it's making you feel and what will happen if certain behaviors aren't stopped/commenced. I find though they only know you're not bluffing when you do follow through on the "threat" after sufficient warning and one strike out. Makes everyone miserable, but it does cut down on it happening again once their long-term memory starts kicking in.

Paola: you made me laugh about volume levels in Italian households.

It is insane how loudly Italians talk. You'd think they were ready to kill each other but they're really just discussing the best way to cook risotto. You'd think they were talking politics for how raucous and crazy it gets!!!
@Paola - Ditto that for my French household, where the decibel level is routinely beyond what my American family would have ever considered acceptable. What's interesting to me, though, and what I think is ultimately healthy, is that we externalize our feelings instead of just keeping them inside until they explode. That makes them less scary, really.

That said, I try not to yell at le Petit (as opposed to just yelling my frustration in general, which may not be much better in some situations, but anyway). When I do lose it, though, I feel terrible -- even when le Petit doesn't seem too concerned.

But, you know, it would be downright creepy to have parents who NEVER lost their patience or raised their voices, you know?

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