I’ve seen my wife get angry before, believe me.
I’m a guy, she’s a girl, we’ve had our share of disagreements. I’ve heard her yell, seen her scowl, watched her throw stuff. Guys do guy things, women are insane; it is what it is. Every single guy on earth knows what I’m talking about. Right, John Wayne Bobbitt? Andre Rison? Chaz Bono?
But Mom-rage is different than Wife- or Girlfriend-rage. And the first time you see your wife get angry at your kid? Yikes.
If you’re smart, you and your spouse spoke about your child-rearing philosophies before you ever pulled the goalie. But even if you had a lawyer draw up a contract ensuring you would both handle things a certain way, those philosophies have a way of going out the window once there’s a kid in the picture. Especially when it comes to discipline.
My son is old enough now that he knows when he’s misbehaving, and proper punishment is becoming a necessity. Make no mistake, as cute as he can be at the very young age of not-even-two-and-a-half, he knows when he’s doing something he shouldn’t be. He is, after all, at the ripe old age of almost-two-and-a-half. He’s testing our limits, and having a blast doing it. We tell him not to do something and you can bet your ass he’s gonna go right ahead with it and then laugh in your face while he does.
Needless to say, the days of letting his bad behavior slide due to innocence or lack of general cognizance are gone, along with baby food, pacifiers and facing backwards in the car. As we battle an increasingly stubborn and defiant little boy, Mom and Buried and I are learning about both our own approaches to discipline and, inevitably, each other’s.
We’re taking our first real steps into the ocean of actually Raising a Developing Person (as opposed to wading in the kiddie pool of Making Sure He Survives), and witnessing one another’s early stabs (not actual stabs) at laying down the law can be jarring. Especially when a yell is unleashed.
I know how intimidating my own yell can be; I’ve seen the look on my (former) boss’ face. And I definitely know what it’s like to be yelled at by my wife: it will send a shiver down your spine. There’s no reason for my son to experience that kind of fear. He’s got plenty of time to feel the wrath of a woman scorned; Mommy needn’t be the one to teach him about it. Just as Daddy shouldn’t be the guy to teach him how to take a punch.
The yell has its moments. When he’s about to run into traffic or shove a fork in the socket or pick up the treat the neighbor’s dog left on the sidewalk, it’s downright required. But over-reliance on raising your voice not only creates a toxic environment for a child – and a marriage – it eventually loses its power. Yell too much and all you’ll be left with is a kid who doesn’t care and a constantly throbbing headache. You’ve got to let them know you mean business in as firm and direct a way as possible without causing passers-by to call the cops.
That’s why you need to cultivate your Parent Voice.
No one is born with the Parent Voice, despite how effective your own parents may have been at deploying it. It’s something that needs to be acquired through years of practice. The important thing to remember is that it’s not about volume – it’s about tone. Use the correct tone and your son will stop in his tracks. Of course, knowing about the tone and actually mastering the use of it are two vastly different things (knowing is truly only half the battle), and it can be hard to not fall back on the yell.
Anyone in a relationship can testify to how easily frustration can boil over into a terrifying shouting match, but at least adults get make-up sex. Children get psychological scars.
Again, yelling can be effective, and sometimes kids need to be scared of their parents. But we’re going to rely on the Parent Voice as best we can and be as selective as possible with the yell.
We’re not trying to end up with no George Constanza.