What I Really Meant To Say When I Yelled At My Toddler

I don't know about yours, but my toddlers were infuriating 99 percent of the time. It's a good thing they were also so darn cute. Yelling at my kids is not a parenting skill, it's more a hazard, but I'll cop to being totally imperfect because there are things I really meant to say when I yelled at my toddler. Hopefully, by getting the things I really meant out there, I'll be able to actually say them with my soon-to-be toddler instead of regretting that I didn't with my no-longer-toddlers.

I think a lot of parents walk a similarly fine line when trying to discipline their kids while simultaneously still making clear that we love them. Yelling is incredibly triggering to me as an emotional abuse survivor, but I had no idea my temper would be something I'd have to contend with as a parent. It was that important to me to not yell at my children.

Sadly, it's all too common for me to lose my temper with my kids. There are so many things I wish I could change now that my two oldest children are 7 and 5 years old, but I can't. So I'll settle for learning from my past mistakes with my two older children and, as a result, creating intentional practice around not yelling with my youngest child. That practice starts by admitting the things I should have, could have, and wished I had said to my former toddlers, instead of losing my temper.

"I'm Frustrated"

When I yelled at my 2 year old for scribbling on our rental wall with permanent marker, what I meant so say was, "I'm frustrated I have to figure out how to clean this up! I'm frustrated our landlord (who is also my mother) is going to be pissed! I'm frustrated that you are acting like a 2 year old!"

"Mom Is Taking A Time Out"

So many times I should've said this, and then done it, instead of staying in a situation that was beyond frustrating.

"How Should We Clean This Mess Up Together?"

Instead of expecting a child to behave like an adult, I really wanted to teach them what is expected of them. I could have done that by giving them an opportunity to come up with ideas about how to clean their own messes, and then showing them how to act responsibly by doing it together (and by being age appropriate when it came to my expectations).

"Please Respect My Request"

OK, anyone who has a toddler knows that this statement is likely not to be understood by them. However, does that mean we can't say it? Language is important, and particular language uses a unique tone that relays respect and intent. If this is how we want our children to act as adults, we ought to model it for them now.

"Bwah! Hahahahahahaha!"

Why laughter, you say? Well, dear reader, because sometimes humor is the most effective way to diffuse a situation. They will be able to listen after you are able to breathe. (And by "you," I obviously mean "I.")

"We Don't Hit, We Hug"

How is yelling at my toddler after they've hit someone teaching them non-violence? Hint: it's not.

"It's OK To Have Big Feelings"

I spent much of my teens trying to figure out how to stop myself from being "too emotional." When I realized that wasn't in the cards, I spent the majority of my 20s trying to figure out how to forgive myself for having all these emotions. What I really needed was for someone to tell me, as a little person, that big feelings are part of a life and that it's OK to have them.

I want to make sure my kids know that their big feelings make them human, not bad. This way, instead of feeling shame, we can work on how to regulate those feelings responsibly so no one gets hurt.

"It Can Be Scary, But I Have Big Feelings, Too"

I really mean to validate my kids' scary experiences instead of losing my temper. Sometimes just feeling that acceptance and normalcy can help deflate a tense situation. By letting my children know that we all experience big emotions, I hope they'll one day be able to say something like, "If mama has big feelings, too, then I will totally be OK because she is OK."

"Can We Try That Again?"

We all make mistakes and we all, as parents, raise our voices when we don't want to or it would be best not to. Instead of punishing our kids for mistakes or poor choices, I would love to encourage them to try it again. My oldest is so rigid in thinking mistakes last forever and are indicitive of future failures, so I made up a song for her:

"If at first you don't succeed,

Try-try-try again!

If you fall off of your horse,

Get back on and ride again!"

I need to remember to use that song, and enforce that mindset, more often.

"How Would You Like To Do That Differently Next Time?"

Instead of losing my temper over a mistake, I'd really like to teach my kids that mistakes happen. It doesn't make you a failure to acknowledge a mistake. On the contrary, it gives you the opportunity to learn and try something new next time.

"I Love You"

Because gosh darn it, I do. Every time I lose my temper I'm so worried my children won't remember how much I do, in fact, love them. However, that is the most important lesson I can ever teach my kids. Usually it's because I love them so much, and I'm trying to protect or teach them, that contributes to me losing my temper. That is totally on me, and totally something I am committed to working on.

Next time? I'll just say "I love you" instead of losing my temper.