When I imagined having children, I never thought I would be a shouty mummy. I have all the patience in the world for other people’s children, but for my own it is a different story. The main factor I think we can all relate to is the fact that we are exhausted 24/7, we have no break or real time out and you are in the thick of it constantly. This doesn’t mean I do not love it; I wouldn’t change it for the world, but sometimes I snap and shout and then feel guilty afterwards for doing so.
A few weeks ago, Ruben, my eldest and I clashed a lot and I felt all I did was shout at him. Of course, I felt guilty and was reflecting on the day, when ‘The Angry Parent guide’ popped up on my Facebook feed. There were so many comments on how wonderful the book was, how people didn’t shout any more and they were striving to be better parents. I see things like this all the time and am so sceptical, how good can a book really be, it will probably say I need to have counselling sessions to deal with things from my past etc. I decided though it was £4.50, I was going to download and see.
As I thought, it does start off by getting you to look at your past and maybe consider if your needs were not met when you were a child or even now as an adult. However, it does then go to look at situations that have happened and what let it get to an explosion, to consider it as a volcano. What might have been going on underneath for them or you to then react in an angry way, imagining it as the lava spilling out.
This did get me thinking about the situations when usually I shout at them. The moments when I feel I have asked them 100 times and they simply are not listening, when someone is going to get hurt or when I am stressed myself and need something doing immediately.
Since reading this book, I would like to think I am now the perfect mother that never shouts – wrong. There is no such thing as the perfect mother, we cannot be perfect 100% of the time, we all have our flaws in life.
What I try to do though is not fly in like a bull in the china shop, to do what I am renowned for, but to sit and assess the situation before. Yes, he did hit his brother quite hard with a toy, but what was going on before that, was he provoked by his brother first. Once I have understood what has happened, I then decide how to deal with the consequences. There are always consequences as hitting is not tolerated in our house, but before I go shouting at him, I have to know why he lashed out.
Ruben went to a Steiner school in Kent for two terms and their approach is all about understanding the children. On his first settling-in session he was in a class with children aged 3 – 6 years and one of the older children pushed him when he tried to join in with their game. As a mother you could imagine my reaction, especially as his first session, however the teacher calmly went over to the girl and said that hitting was not acceptable, we have to use our words. She came to explain to me that the child is only 6 and whilst she should know hitting is not acceptable children still react very quickly with their body rather than their words, they have to learn that skill. If they are not seeing that from the adult then how can they learn over time. I looked back at this and had to agree, the girl had made a beautiful house but had not told Ruben which way to enter, as he did, he knocked down one of the sides. Her first reaction was to push him, not to explain the best way in.
A few rules I apply now to the boys are
- If it is something you are wishing them to do, say it three times. Once for it to go over their heads, once to go in one ear and out the other and then the last time for it to work. A teacher told me this and I have to say, I rarely then have to shout. Of course, if it is them play fighting, I normally do then have to become firm.
- If you are feeling cross that morning, maybe tired from lack of sleep or work is stressful, I let the boys know and say it would really good if they could help me today as I really do not want to take it out on them.
- I label their feelings and mine, I also don’t try to make them happy when I do this. It is better to acknowledge the feelings rather than try and make it better. We can’t always make everything better and sometimes we do not feel good and don’t know why
Look at the situation, can their feelings be met or simply not this time. An example of this for me, the boys opened some candles given to me and asked if they could go up in their bedrooms to light at story time and blow out before bed. All sounds lovely, until in reality I do not remember to light the candles in the chaos of the witching hour so when they went to bed, they both had a full-on meltdown. I have now not met their needs and both are very upset, full on tantrums. I explained that tomorrow evening they will have to remind me as I do forget sometimes, but crying and shouting at me is not going to get the candles lit. It was already past bedtime and I was ready to say goodnight. We discussed it and whilst I could have just lit the candles for them to blow out, I didn’t. We finished with them going to bed relatively happy in the knowledge I was hopeless at remembering things and tomorrow the onus was on them to remember too. This gave them some responsibility for the thing that they wanted to happen. In all this time, I tried to remain as calm as I could when all I wanted to do was go downstairs and have as much of a child free evening as I could.
As you can see, it can be good to read things to get perspective on how we deal in situations, but it does not always work, sometimes our first reaction is to shout. If we could sometimes change that first reaction then maybe we will feel better about ourselves in the evening when they have gone to bed and forgotten what it was they were upset about.