I yell at my kids. I also make excuses for yelling at my kids. I didn't always yell. I was one of those moms who was praised and envied by others for my calm demeanor. I took classes in behavioral therapy for a job I once had. I worked as a behaviorist. I know all about positive and negative reinforcement, ignoring behavior, yadda, yadda, yadda. What I didn't know was that when you start potty-training your child, you can lose your mind. I lost mine. My first-born was ready, or so I thought, at 2. He showed interest. He could communicate effectively. He could remove his clothes and keep dry for more than an hour. He also peed on the floor, the walls, the rug. He pooped in his underwear...a lot. During one of his first experiences in a public restroom involved his curious little mind making him lick the public toilet. I screamed. I almost fainted, I think. It was really all a blur. Once he used the potty appropriately, I didn't understand why he would urinate all over the floor the next time. I had read about children being afraid of being separated from their poop and having an issue with the potty. He had no signs of that. All I could see was a frustration-inducing child who knew better. Once I started yelling, there was no turning back. It's completely ineffective. I know this. It didn't and doesn't happen daily. I never, ever, belittle my children. I do not name call or shout insults. I simply raise my voice to ridiculous levels. I'm not proud of this. I'm actually pretty embarrassed. It's easier to say this over the "interweb" than it would be to a mommy at a playgroup.
Then, he turned three. The back-talking started and tantrums. The books talk about the "terrible two's" and children throwing ridiculous tantrums. He never did that, until he turned three. Now, he is almost four and makes faces while I'm trying to talk to him. I don't believe in corporal punishment, but sometimes I'm thinking it's looking more and more appealing. I'm sure it'll be in style again at some point. There's a twenty-year cycle for things in fashion, right?
This brings us to my middle child. I had decided that I wouldn't even think about potty training until he was two-and-a-half. That was until he was eighteen-months-old and wanted to use the potty. I let him and he peed in it. Then, I let him take the reigns. Right after his 2nd birthday he took off his diaper and refused to wear one. He wanted Big Boy Underwear. He got his wish. He still has accidents, especially if he's engaged in something else....and in the house. He can go hours when we're out and about, but at home, it's like he pees every time he blinks. I believe our living room carpet feels like the sprinklers got tripped...they haven't been. It's pee. Amazingly enough, I don't yell at his potty accidents. I do yell when he dumps his grape juice on the couch or smooshes the baby's face with his hands. The baby is 2 months old...I am just not capable of calmly reacting when the children are jumping off the edge of the couch into the middle of it while the baby is resting peacefully on the Boppy... Or while they fight over the baby, physically, pulling on his limbs... Oh, I wish I was one of those calm moms. They take Valium, right? (Mommy's on Valium, so ineffectual...)
I'm working on the yelling. It's really not so easy to keep your cool. I found this blog in the New York Times. It's true...the topic of yelling at your kids isn't talked about all that often. Mommy's talk about how not to yell and alternative solutions. They scoff at those who yell. They all seem so calm, cool and collected at the playground and in the store. Meanwhile, I'm ripping my child across the playground, threatening toy removal and time-outs. Not really, but it seems that way, even if I'm just sitting there. I've thrown a toy or two across the room, yelling that it's going in the trash. I, too, always apologize for my erratic behavior. In making mistakes, and I sure make tons of them, I want to teach my children that they will be made, it's okay, and apologies - heartfelt ones - follow those mistakes. There isn't a lesson to be learned by my yelling at them to get out of the kitchen because they are underfoot and I've got hot food, utensils and pans all over the place. I'm working on it...