It’s 313 days since I last raised my voice at my daughter.
This didn’t come easily to me. It doesn’t mean I never lost my temper or never got upset. It just means I didn’t raise my voice or lift a finger. As difficult and strenuous as it may have been, it’s come with its share of slow but much-awaited rewards.
On a Thursday in July, 3 years ago, I gave gratitude for completing an entire week without yelling at a 7-year-old. At the same time, my heart was fighting inside, telling me I shouldn’t have even had to yell at a child. This tug of war, the battle between ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ yell, made me examine a very important aspect of being a parent.
Every time I yelled at Gy, it was for a number of reasons:
* I was angry
* I’d been defied
* I was losing control over the situation
* I was tired and beyond exhausted
* I hated when things didn’t go according to plan
Common factor for all triggers? Yes. That was me.
What I didn’t realise was I was offloading a lot of my expectations and emotions on to a child. And this isn’t entirely my fault. As parents, we all do it. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up over it though. We can, however, learn from the mistakes.
Kids are incredibly resilient and forgiving too. They’ll bounce back, hug you and forgive you all within the space of 5 minutes, maybe less. But you’ll notice that as they grow older, they are more observant of the way you handle stress and manage your emotions. And they watch and learn.
Slowly, I began trying to put into practice a few key concepts that I’d learnt in the last 3 years.
Let go of the small stuff
I stopped yelling at her for not doing her homework or completing her school work. I figured that she needs to learn these things at her own pace.
Take a deep breath
It’s tempting to want to explode when the fury of being defied hits you full in the face. My suggestion? Walk away and take a few deep breaths.
Listen to the reasons
Sometimes, kids do things because they are upset with someone else. You may not be the actual target but you end up being one anyway. When calm, find out if something else is bothering the child.
Spend more time with them
I know this sounds trite but it’s one of the things that really works. Whether the child is one year old or ten years old, it doesn’t matter. They want us to be with them, even if it’s for 30 minutes of uninterrupted time just reading, talking, playing or lying down together.
Let them make some mistakes
I’d get wildly upset that she wasn’t being careful with her belongings and roundly accuse her of irresponsibility. No surprise that she continued to be so. But allowing her to forget a few things and face the consequences has helped her learn this on her own.
Appreciate the good
In June this year, she started showing a marked improvement in her school work and I consciously started acknowledging that, telling her that it was admirable that she had started taking responsibility for herself. Praising the efforts, not the child, have gone a long way in building her self-confidence and also eliminated the need to yell.
Why is it important that I share this today?
Because we need reminders. Each reminder is an important lesson and it’s always the same lesson: Love.
In a world where we are constantly forgetting the good in favour of the horrific, we must remind ourselves that we have a genuine role to play in the universe. We are parents, caregivers to children who look up to us and address us with affection, trust and love.
Above all else, love. That takes care of just about everything.