I am not alone when it comes to frequently losing it with my children. My research shows that screaming is a common problem in motherhood. While there are specific circumstances in which yelling is imperative, such as with safety issues or an emergency, I confess that valid reasons for my outbursts have been infrequent.
In my study, moms listed the top anger-causing stressors as fatigue and being overwhelmed with demands on their time. Stressors or not, a loss of control often leads to self-imposed guilt. And families are too often left wounded and confused by a yelling mom.
I remember when Seth, then 2, was supposed to be in his crib and going to sleep. My husband, Curt, was out of town, so I was facilitating the bedtime routine solo. After giving Seth a bath and reading him a bedtime story, I retrieved one last drink of water, listened to his prayers and settled him for the night.
I was eight months pregnant and exhausted, so my focus, after closing his bedroom door, was on relaxing with a good book and drifting off to sleep. In less than five minutes, I heard the door of his room creak open.
"Seth," I said sternly, "you better climb right back in your bed." He closed the door, and I could hear him climb back into his bed. This scenario repeated itself two more times. Finally, I put down my book, heaved myself out of the recliner and charged into his room yelling, "You are driving me crazy; stay in your bed!"
Seth began to cry, and through his sobs he replied, "But it's just so lonely in here."
A wave of guilt engulfed me. My sweet toddler had been wounded by my loud, angry words.
That was several years ago, and I've since learned that being honest with myself and recognizing the destructive influence that screaming has on my children is the first step in changing this pattern of poor communication.
Here are other habit-changing behaviors:
- Committing to lowering my voice toward my children when the stressors propel me toward screaming has been an effective way to keep my emotions at more steady levels.
- Taking time to discuss with my children, according to their age and understanding, about why I may be on edge can help all of us be more sensitive to one another.
- Realizing that I am not alone in this struggle has strengthened my resolve to break the screaming cycle. Friends help spur me on to change.
Whenever the triggers for "losing it" are present, I recognize the problem, lower my voice and acknowledge I am not alone in this struggle, which helps defuse my anger. The response I give my children is always more appropriate."
The freedom from guilt has been my catalyst to parent in the way that God desires. After all, my goal is to reflect Him well to my family.
Sue Heimer is an author and Christian speaker on topics ranging from "Living a Life of Faith" to "When You Feel Like Screaming — Help for frustrated mothers."