To yell or not to yell … that is the question

So. Yesterday after I picked Blake up from camp, we hit a snag in our usually idyllic evening routine. Instead of waltzing into the house per my daily instructions, he decided to run into the middle of the street and lie down. Like – facedown – in the middle of traffic. With my hands full of a baby, a bag of groceries, and his camp attire, I was frantic. With no hands to yank him back to the sidewalk, I built a protective mommy-fort around him with my body and started yelling for him to get up. This led him to gently place his blanket over his body in protest … which only made me yell louder.

This comes to mind because I recently saw a quote via Facebook as follows.

If you find yourself still yelling at the kids out of frustration, you may still be holding on to the belief that it is better that your child listen and follow through to your request even if you have to yell. Not true. Your relationship with your child is primary and when you yell, you damage that connection. Your mantra through the day is, “keep the connection. control the situation, not the child.”

My question, then, is when is it OK to yell? Or isn’t it? I have to admit – yelling didn’t make Blake listen any better to my request to get off the street. In fact, it seemed to make him even more determined to stay there. I also could have chosen to drop the baby and groceries and drag him kicking and screaming out of the street – which I would have done had there actually been more cars coming at the time. In general, I try to avoid things that will cause him to meltdown even further, especially if we’re in a public space (unless he’s in danger). But is that the best route to take when trying to discipline a 2.75 year old child? Or should I be more assertive in kicking his butt (figuratively!) into shape? When we finally got inside, I was so happy that the event was over that I (embarrassingly) admit – I didn’t punish him at all. I just took a deep breath, told him I was disappointed in him (um – at 2.75, I don’t think he cared) and went on with the night.

Another quote, also shared via the same Facebook site, said this:

The less authentic parental power you possess, the more you will resort to force. A confident parent is a calm parent with authentic, healthy authority.

My issue, I think, is that I am really not a confident parent — at least not when it comes to discipline. With values? For sure. Love? Absolutely. Creativity? Hell yeah. But with discipline – not at all. I’m really not sure why that is.

My father was an extreme disciplinarian. I remember once my brother literally falling out of the car while we were driving (he had been playing with the door handle). When we stopped to pick him up, what was the first thing my dad did? Was it hug him? Tell him how happy we were that he hadn’t been killed? Hell, no. He smacked the crap out of him because he had been playing with the door handle. I guess that kind of extremist discipline has always stuck with me as the “wrong” way to go. But as an extremist myself in most other aspects of life, I’m not sure how to find the middle ground where discipline is concerned.

Not that I have a problem with it. I just don’t know how to do it well. I don’t have an imposing force. Threatening time outs seems to work a lot better for my husband than it does for me. Though I am super quick to jump down a stranger’s throat if I find them doing something wrong, the same doesn’t seem to apply to my children. I don’t want to be a screamer, and I am definitely not going to be a smacker. But I don’t seem to have the heart to listen to him cry enough to be a disciplinarian at all. Thus far I’ve been pretty lucky in that Blake has been a super sweet, big-hearted kid, and I haven’t had to pull out the discipline card that often. But for times like lying down in the middle of the street, I definitely need to have a better answer lined up. Because as sweet and big-hearted as he is, Blake is also extremely stubborn – like, as stubborn as I am. And I know that’s going to get me into some major problems down the road if I don’t nip it in the bud right now.

I guess my question is – what is the best way to discipline your child? I need some help. What works, and what doesn’t? When is it better to let your kid have a fit because you’re disciplining him, and when is it better to divert his attention to something else to get him to stop? When is it OK to yell, and when should I be trying to talk it out? Why am I the worst parent ever? Why don’t I have these answers? Ahhhhh!


2 Comments to “To yell or not to yell … that is the question”

  1. Debbie G. says:

    Oh Jess… I don’t know that anyone can really answer this question. I’m right there with you.
    You know where your boundaries lie, which is a good thing. Sometimes, you do have to get their attention. And the yell can be effective for that in certain situations. It did probably alert Blake to the fact that this was a different situation than usual, because you don’t yell, but motivating a stubborn almost 3-year-old is a different story. Unfortunately, there are times when we DO have to make things happen, because we do know better than them. We’re the parents.
    Because you’re confident in other areas of parenting, you’ll find the confidence you need here. Is it hell on earth to listen to your child cry? Absolutely! Does it sometimes need to happen because you’re not going to give in. Also yes. You’re doing a great job. The fact that you’re asking questions shows your love for your kids because you want to be better for them. Keep up the good work, mama!

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