Saturday 25 January 2020

Why screaming at children doesn't work

Picture posed
Picture posed
David Coleman

David Coleman

I would like to ask your advice on my family life. Both my husband and I have very bad parenting skills and very short fuses.

My husband works from 6am until 2.30pm five days a week and I work two and a half days a week. My husband comes in from work and goes straight into his parenting role.

I know that this is hard going for him but I try and give him some time off when I come in at 5.30pm. Nevertheless it can be pretty full on with two lots of homework and a 20-month-old.

I would love to have a peaceful household that involves being a parent without shouting at my children or feeling like I am constantly fighting with them. I regularly search the internet for stuff about dealing with situations positively and calmly. However, any good I get from it is undone by my husband as he won't read it and is not dealing with situations the same way as I am.

This results in he and I disagreeing and eventually it always ends in yelling. I try so hard to explain how this resolves nothing and leaves us with three wonderful children who know no different but to deal with their anger and difficult situations by shouting and screaming.

I know we need to change; I don't want my children growing up thinking that yelling and shouting is the way to resolve things. Please help!

David replies:

I have no doubt that your lives are busy. With both of you working and having three children at various stages of school and toddlerhood it must feel like it is all go.

No wonder you and your husband are tetchy. You are probably exhausted and may even resent the amount of work that is required to keep the family going. Ironically you both can probably really sympathise with each other's plight yet you don't seem able to talk about it in a supportive way to each other.

Indeed, it sounds like you and your husband are almost in competition with each other rather than working co-operatively. This seems to me to be the place to start.

I could imagine that your husband feels criticised and blamed every time you come with a new parenting approach that you have found online.

He probably resents the intrusion of all these 'new ideas' since the corollary is that you seem to be suggesting that his current ideas must be wrong.

I am sure this is not your intention.

You sound like you just want to find the best way to deal with your children so that things are happier and easier for everyone. But, however you are approaching this now is drawing resistance rather than acceptance from your husband.

So, go back to the drawing board and sit down with your husband some evening when the house has finally quietened down.

Talk about your desire for things to be calmer and easier and ask for your husband's help to find a solution, rather than presenting him with a solution.

There is no doubt that having a shared and agreed approach to raising the children will reduce division between you. The best way to attain that might be to do a parenting course together. There are many to choose from and your local HSE services may be able to either offer one.

There are also many courses to be found online.

Other ideas that might help you are to arrange, with each other, that you each get formal time off, regularly in the week. That time off is there to recharge your batteries. Sometimes it is just a chronic build-up of stress that leads to constant bickering.

Given that you and your husband won't always agree, it is helpful to plan that you will take your disagreements away from the children. You are right to recognise that if the children only ever see you fighting that they too may learn that you always try to assert yourself by shouting others down.

It also sounds like you might want to take some time to work out what are the things about your family life that you love (so that you can replicate them more often) and what do you dislike (so that you can find strategies to change them).

This may include either or both of you learning how to understand and regulate your anger. It is unrealistic to expect that you won't get angry, but it is possible to learn how to deal with that anger so that you don't end up taking it out on everyone else.

Counselling, either individually or as a couple, may be the way to get a better handle on anger and why it is so present and easily triggered right now.

What is positive, however, is that you recognise you need to do something to support your children better. Open discussion, with no strings attached and no guilt-tripping, may help your husband to reach the same realisation.

Change is possible once you both want to give it a go.



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