This is a guest post from Sarah Faulkner. She is a homeschooling mom in Washington state. She has five kids, ages 13, 11, 9, 5, and 2.

The goal of learning from being a kid to an adult is defined by every parent. My husband Andy and I set our homeschooling goals. We created a list, and steps on how to achieve everything on this list. Unfortunately the list did not include how to handle busy days. Nor did it include yelling at my kids. Being insanely angry at my kids was never on the list either.

I seem to be having a life lately where I am completely slammed from dawn to dusk. When I have several days like this, they all seem to coalesce into one big long day, until a day of utterly collapsing occurs. Unfortunately it affects my temperament, emotions, and reactions. The irritations seem to grow continuously, until I explode. Which was exactly what happened last night.

The day before had been what I was hoping to be a slow down day. We had to drive 4 hours to court (for a child in our care). Normally this is a source of high stress, but since I already knew what the session would entail, I was not worried. It would not be life altering for me or the kiddo, so it took a bottom rung on the stress meter. We arrived an hour and half early, I have done this too many times to ever trust the system to care about time. Court started 2 hours early and we caught the tail end.

That night I barely made it to putting the kids to bed. All my frustrations over the past 3 weeks had seeped into my soul and I was an angry walking nightmare. Andy took one look at me and didn’t speak to me for the rest of the night. I love a thoughtful man. Zach had made a fort in the living room, with a request to camp out in it. Fine–whatever–just go to bed. I was asleep when I felt the thumping under my bed. The scratching on the mattress slowly brought me back to a consciousness that was still cranky.

I flew under the bed and yelled, “What the hell are you doing!?” I knew what was happening before I even moved, Zach had crawled under my bed. Why not just tell his Dad (who was up reading) he was scared? Hell if I know. He scurried out and ran into the dark living room. This tells you how scary I was: he would rather be in the dark scary living room than near me. Andy put his book down and got up to tend to Zach, still not speaking to me. I love that guy. I crawled back into bed and fumed myself to sleep.

These moments of bad parenting, I am very thankful for them. They are what ensure my children grow up to not go to jail. If you feel like a failure when loosing your cool with your kids, don’t worry. Most likely you are being a good parent. Last night, Zach learned how to be angry. He learned that when you are extremely angry you don’t hit anyone, follow them and yell, swear horribly, or fall to the floor kicking and screaming. He learned how to catch yourself losing your cool and how you keep it to yourself. I can’t teach him how to control his anger, and he might need to self-soothe using different methods than me. That’s ok, what’s important is not that he learns how to calm down, but rather how to be during anger.

There are so many things to learn outside of education that are just as important as learning the basic subjects. It’s easier to accidently model these lessons when your kids are at home all day with you. The next time you lose your cool with your kids, pat yourself on the back; you are teaching them life skills. At least, this is what my therapist told me.

10 replies
  1. Clean Veggy
    Clean Veggy says:

    This is a healthy foundation your building and I agree 100% that no matter how sincere your intention is. Nobody is going to listen to a “do as I say not as I do” speech. That type of thinking is long gone now and children can’t be expected to have better ethics than their parents.

  2. karen
    karen says:

    I don’t really understand this post. Yelling at kids is good because you’re not hitting them? Sorry. Can’t get there.

    But you know, I don’t accept yelling from my friends either.

    • Karen
      Karen says:

      PS–I am concerned that my comment will sound shaming and unhelpful. I also feel that a lot of people think, “Oh everyone yells … it’s just that some folks won’t admit it.” I actually don’t think that’s true. I surfed a little & found this interesting site about a mom who stopped yelling:

      http://theorangerhino.com/about-me/

      Note that she felt _bad_ about yelling. I think most moms with a yelling problem do. If you don’t feel bad about it, maybe it’s not hurting your kids.

      • Karelys
        Karelys says:

        Or maybe they don’t have a yelling problem.

        I see Sarah trying to figure out life as she goes together with her family. Which is a lot of what many unschoolers end up doing.

        I think Sarah is under a lot of stress and the best she managed was to yell because she was at her wits end. And it’s a good thing for a kid to see that when you cannot do it perfectly and you’re about to lose it, yelling is the least bad way to do it.

        One time I was driving on the snow and I had to break suddenly because kids came out of nowhere. I hit the breaks and my car slides. I swerve hard to the left and I hit a car that came out of nowhere (corner). No one gave me credit for making a good decision. My insurance paid for the accident and I paid my insurance a higher premium for three years. But going 10 miles an hour sliding on ice, it was a good decision to swerve hard to the left than to run into a child(ren). All that people saw was that I hit a car. It was the least worst outcome then. And I own it.

  3. jessica
    jessica says:

    I’m going to be straight here:

    It’s not okay, ever, to take out your personal anger on your kids. If you are at your wits end try to get counseling (ditch that therapist), go for a jog, get help in the form of a sitter or nanny, relatives or friends around (on a schedule so you can look forward to these things in the moments of upsetting circumstances) or at last resort put your kid(s) in school to give yourself a break. Look, it’s better than destroying a healthy parent child relationship, if you have no other options. You have to learn how to control your emotions, even when it comes to kids and parenting.

    I was really bothered that anyone would condone this as a form of teaching a child what is right. You scared the shit out of your child. How is that a lesson? What would have happened to him if he stayed in your room? He removed himself from the awful situation. You can’t take credit for that.

  4. Dee
    Dee says:

    Wow! These comments… !

    Yelling at your children every day and not noticing that it’s not the most ideal way of communicating- ok you have a problem.

    Loosing your cool- once in a while and reflecting over it- you are human and being good at it.

    You have the ability to break down and analyze traits and doings that are less than flattering to yourself. (90% of the population don’t have this skill).

    You admit you lost your cool. Doesn’t anyone see this as excellent?
    If she’d instead written about the same situation explaining how her kids/husband/the universe were behaving poorly and how unfair it is – I would get your comments.

    You can’t protect children from everything. It’s good to fight- so that you know that you don’t want to have a relationship where you fight.

    That’s an experience – you reflect over the situation and hopefully gain some understanding to why it happened- maybe even reflect over what part of your own behavior led to it- not faulting yourself, just being real about it.

    I imagine her son could have learned that seeking comfort from someone already burdened is a bad idea.
    Next time he might reflect over his parents moods/situations (empathy) and go for the parent that is open to/able to be empathetic towards him.

    In the long run- he’ll learn about timing. So that he doesn’t ask for a raise when his boss has had a bad day, didn’t sleep and dropped his lunch on the floor.

    Love isn’t avoiding conflict- its handling it.
    Being there- not leaving the situation- owning up to it.
    That’s love.
    Instead of protecting your kids from human behavior – teach them to read the situation, calculate possible outcomes, do and then reflect.
    Not taking someone’s bad mood personally is a great ability.

    “Wow- she must be having a bad day- maybe I can do something to help”.
    Instead of reacting – understanding. And giving love instead of blame.
    Just like her husband seemed to do. Noticing- and doing his part to not add to her bad mood.
    Result= thankful wife.

    To Sarah- you are great.

  5. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    “She has five kids, ages 13, 11, 9, 5, and 2.”

    How plausible is it to work some delegation of duties in the household among the children here? It appears to me that Sarah is taking on too much responsibility and work for whatever reason. Without knowing the full picture, it seems as though the 13 and 11 year old could help with the care and homeschooling of the younger children. I picture a healthy family as everybody working together to overcome the inevitable hurdles. No one member should have to bear undue stress without sufficient help from other members of the family unit.

  6. Teryn
    Teryn says:

    Kids do learn valuable lessons from seeing people deal with their anger appropriately. My grandpa used to count to 10 under his breath when he was angry and I find myself doing the same thing at times. I even caught my 5 year old doing it when his brother said something mean to him the other day. I also become unhinged after several busy days accumulate and the kids just wont go to bed when I’m exhausted. It’s very difficult to have self control when you are not taking good care of yourself. But I personally feel like crap after I yell at my kids so I had to find a different way to deal. Now I just lock our bedroom door to rest without interruption for a few hours if I know my husband is awake downstairs because the kids will always come to me first at night. Once they try the door and it doesn’t work they go search for someone else. I think next time I’m even going to put a note on the door that says, “Go ask your dad. Mom is sleeping” since a couple can read now. When my daughter was a baby and never slept and cried all night my husband and I took shifts for nighttime parenting. That was how we survived that time with our sanity and we still employ the same idea now when we have sick kids or one of us is desperate for sleep. I think the struggle of parenting will always be that our humanness limits us from achieving the ideal. We are all works in progress, learning right along with our kids how to be grown ups.

  7. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    Modeling is incredibly important, and not just modeling excellent behavior. But modeling how to be humble and admit you were wrong, and how to deal with being selfish without being hurtful to others.

    Life isn’t easy or perfect (even with one kid- I’m sure Sarah is laughing), and kids need to learn to deal with their need for grace at a young age, just as adults need to deal with it too.

  8. Jim
    Jim says:

    If you feel like yelling then yell, be authentic. If you feel like it’s getting out of control then fix it, be authentic. Kids are resilient. They know you love them.

    After seven years homeschooling three boys who are now teenagers I’ve learned something myself – don’t take yourself so seriously and don’t take the world upon your shoulders. Be honest with yourself and give it your best.

    It’s really irritating that people offer up their opinions about out what YOU should never ever do, or what YOU should always do, or what is never okay for YOU, or are bothered by the way YOU live. Toxic people. Stay away from them, don’t listen to them.

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