I’m standing here again. Bottom of the stairs, just before 8 p.m. I just want them to brush their teeth. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. I just want the choppers scrubbed so my last image of them before they fall into a peaceful slumber isn’t a marred by a layer of scrunge coating the teeth I’ve paid an arm and a leg to insure.
I assure you there is no brushing going on upstairs. There’s pushing, giggling and someone farted, yet again. They have approximately 2.5 seconds of patience left before I’m gonna blow.
“BRUSH YOUR TEETH NOW!!!”
It’s suddenly silent. I can practically hear their eyeballs growing to the size of saucers. A faint whisper trails downstairs, “She’s mad.” Not surprising, all teeth are sparkling and my little darlings are in bed in less time than it took me to pick up the trail of socks and shoes lining the stairs.
As I load the dishwasher later that night, I wait for it to begin- the feeling of guilt that begins as a whisper, finally settling as a knot in my stomach. But, the feeling never comes. There’s no guilt or regret. No “shouldas” or “couldas”. I don’t feel an ounce of guilt for one reason: they deserved it.
They deserve it? Trust me, that’s not what the experts would say. In fact, in all my reading I’ve never discovered the book titled, Sometimes Your Kid is Simply Going to Be a Jerk. That would free many parents from the burden of guilt we feel when our kids misbehave and we don’t react with patience and love. We convince ourselves that every problem has a solution and if we are “good parents” we should be able to find it. We tell ourselves, I’m inconsistent with my follow-through. I’m not giving them enough attention. I have not been clear about expected behavior.
Parents talk about “natural consequences.” If he leaves his toys lying around, take them away for a specified amount of time. If she talks back or use unkind words, use soap in her mouth. If he doesn’t play nicely with his sibling, place them in time out. These are all natural consequences that we embrace because they are logical cause-and-effect outcomes. However, we are overlooking one natural consequence: anger. It may not look pretty, but sometimes the most natural and logical reaction to my child’s behavior is anger.
From the moment our children are able to point their chubby fingers at the smiley face picture when we say, “Happy,” they begin to understand human emotions. It is our duty to help them learn about all emotions- not just the ones that feel good. When they enter the real world they will encounter anger; and it will not always be packaged in a calm discussion. If they fail to complete a task at work, their boss is going to be angry. When they disappoint a spouse, he or she will be angry.
I asked my kids how they feel when I get angry and yell at them. They both told me they felt “bad.” My nine-year-old elaborated, “I feel bad. I know you yelled because I kept doing something you asked me not to do. You don’t usually yell for no reason. You’ve usually asked me a bunch of times.” So I continued on, “When I yell at you, do you feel like I don’t love you or that I will always be mad at you?”
My 6-year-old answered, “No, Mom. I always know you love me, and I know you don’t stay mad. You always come back in my room to talk to me and I get to say sorry.”
The most telling moment for me was when my nine-year-old said, “I know you still love me mom. You let me say sorry and try again. If you think you yelled and shouldn’t have, you always say sorry, too. I like that I can forgive you for doing something wrong, just like you forgive me.”
There are times I am justified in my anger because it is the natural consequence of my child’s behavior. However, when the anger fades and the yelling is over, the bond between us is not broken. It is in those moments they learn that Mom is angry, but still loves; she yelled, yet she still hugs; and they can seek forgiveness knowing it will always be granted.
I yell at my kids and I don’t feel guilty about it.
That’s just my normal.