Confession: I yell at my kids.
Google “gentle parenting.” Go ahead. Over 4.5 million results in just .68 seconds. That’s more than 4 million ways to make parents feel guilty in just under a second. What a great time to be alive.
I work hard to be a gentle, nurturing parent. Truly, I do. We avoid time outs in favor of “time ins.” You can Google that one, too. We listen to our children when they disagree with a choice we’ve made, even if they don’t get the final word. And above all, we always treat our children with dignity and respect.
But I also yell at them. I yell because I am a human. And sometimes humans get angry. And when they get angry, they yell.
Humans get angry when the little humans with whom they live have been asked no fewer than 10 times in the last two minutes to PLEASE put their shoes on so we can leave this house and get to school already! We are doing those little people a disservice if we allow them to walk all over us and fail to show them that certain behaviors are bound to make other people angry. Like not listening. Or disregarding the opinions of others. Or not putting their shoes on.
I show a wide range of emotions in front of my children, not just anger. When I cry in front of my children, they learn that it’s OK to show others we’re hurting, especially the people we love. We talk about why Mommy is sad, and they learn about empathy. When I laugh in front of my children, they learn how infectious laughter can be and how much more enjoyable it is when it’s shared with family. And when I show my children anger, they learn that all their words and actions—especially the hurtful ones—will directly impact those same people. We are doing our little humans a great disservice by failing to show them all our human emotions. We are also doing them a disservice when we fail to show them how to discharge our anger respectfully. We can scream and yell, but we never use hurtful words, nor do we resort to physical violence. And if we regret raising our voice, we can show our children how to show remorse and how to apologize.
We are doing ourselves no favors either by holding in our anger. Bottling our anger inside does little for any parent’s sanity or mental health. You may call it “gentle parenting;” I call it “repressed rage.” We have to let out the steam in occasional spurts and starts to keep our emotions from overtaking us. Better to yell after 10 requests to put on shoes than to explode with physical violence or hurtful words over something even more trivial later. Telling ourselves that we are failing as parents every time we have a natural human reaction is just one more piece of parenting Google guilt that we needlessly heap upon ourselves.
As with any human emotion, it’s certainly possible to yell too often. I would never want my children to live in fear of me or to become desensitized to the sound of my voice. Like the teacher who yells at the class every day, eventually it just becomes white noise.
I do Google “gentle parenting” upon occasion. I don’t like yelling, and I’m always searching for that parenting panacea that will allow me to communicate well enough for my children to listen and respond without having to raise my voice. I bookmark articles with intriguing titles such as “10 Ways to Stop Yelling” and try to ignore “18 Ways Your Mom Tortured You and Called it Love.” (Side note: thanks for the spot-on parenting advice, BuzzFeed.) But then I cut myself some slack. I remind myself that my little human roommates are still learning how to be people, which means they can be really, really hard to live with. And I remind myself that I have a right to be angry with them, even if that means that I occasionally raise my voice. And I remind myself that BuzzFeed should never, ever be allowed to dole out unsolicited advice about anything.