The Day I Realized I Was Bullying My Kids

by Alissa Marquess on September 5, 2013

This post is brought to you by Playful Learning.

I was being a bully…

I watched the kids’ video from Playful Learning Put Ups and Put Downs Course  with my kids, thinking it would be helpful for them, hopefully help us decrease sibling squabbles.  I didn’t realize I would get an emotional 2×4 to the head as I listened to the description of Put Downs.

A simple way to get out of a yelling cycle

In a Parenting Rut

For most of the summer I had been doing great on not yelling, on enjoying my kids and having a good handle on my anger triggers, but after some emotional upsets and long days alone with the kids I was operating on a short fuse.

In the video, kids describe both verbal and non-verbal Put Downs.  They talk about how Put Downs make us feel.  It’s not like information I don’t know, but suddenly I had an “Oh $#!+” moment as I watched the kids demonstrating Put Downs.  I had been in a foul mood for a couple days – really snapping a lot at the kids, speaking harshly and doing more yelling than I care to admit.

I suddenly saw my own yelling at my kids as a bunch of Put Downs.  It struck me hard.

Stopping your parenting anger Related:

Evolution of a Mama Tantrum and How to Stop One

Yelling wasn’t effective teaching.  Yelling didn’t get my point across, nor did it even make me feel better – it made me feel worse.

I had heard my son describe yelling like “being hit”  before.  Here was another analogy for me to reflect on.  My yelling and annoyed/angry voice was a big Put Down on my kids.  Instead of taking care of myself I had been taking out my emotions on my kids,  bullying them because I felt bad.

The tough part is that sometimes kids are….well, really annoying. and button pushing. and limit testing.  And sometimes life happens – you don’t get a break, family tragedies unfold, the dryer breaks, the dog pees on the carpet, you lose sleep.  Sometimes you get into a dark parenting rut, and that’s where I was.  I didn’t really even want to connect with my kids.  I just wanted a break, but one wasn’t coming soon and my kids still needed me.  They didn’t need my Put Downs.

Instead of Yelling - Put Ups for my Kids

Instead of Yelling – Put Ups for My Kids

I had been putting down my kids with my body, my voice, my face.  It made me feel bad, which added to the bad feelings – you know.  I needed out of this horrible cycle.  I decided in those moments when I wanted to snap I would find a way to remind us of who we all wanted to be instead of harping on the bad behavior – Put Ups instead of yelling.

I was really stressed and needed a visual cue to cut out this Put Down behavior in myself, so  I cut out a bunch of bright pink hearts and explained to my kids that I was feeling sad lately and having a hard time being nice and I wanted that to change.  I told them I would give them a heart when I wanted to remind us all that we were kind people and we could treat each other with love.  I gave them a couple hearts in case they wanted to give them out too.

Using Put Ups to Reset

I got a chance to try this out right away.  At the grocery store my six year old tried to shove me aside to get onto the cart.  I bristled wanting to bark a ‘hey! that Was RUDE! You need to SLOW DOWN!!’ type response, but, that’s what he’s been seeing and it hasn’t been working.  He’s simply been imitating the rude voice.

I took a breath remembering the hearts and stopped to kneel beside him.

In a calm voice I said “Hey, that was rude, you just pushed me.  I need you to  treat me kindly.” I handed him a pink heart (visual cue!)  “I know you are kind.  Can you tell me a kind thing you do?”

He thought I wanted to hear something kind about me and said, “Mama, it’s kind when you take us to lunch at the grocery store.”

“Oh, thank you.  And what kind things do you do?”

“I help my sister get out of her car seat.”

“Yes, that’s kind.  I love you.  Are we ready to shop now?”

And with that we were reset and I had not added more fuel to my anger, nor had I added shame to my six year old.  He remembered that he was capable of being kind.

At home I started to flip out about…uhhhh….something I can’t even remember (must have been super important ;) )….and my oldest waved a pink heart at me, “Mama….remember!!” he said warningly.  Ah, yes, trying to be loving…

Later I interrupted an angry pre-dinner outburst between the boys by giving them both hearts. They didn’t want to stop their argument/play and it took a while for me to get them each to say something kind, (“Nope, when you have said something kind about yourself and your brother THEN you can go play again…”) By the time they were done, they were happy to head away from the crazy mama giving out hearts and play a bit more peacefully in their rooms until dinner was made.

Out of the Anger Rut

The pink hearts only lasted a couple days, but it was enough to get us out of that grumpy resentful space.  The physical reminder of how  we wanted to be acting helped me break that yelling cycle and begin a new positive cycle of imitating kindness rather than yelling. It’s not the perfect be-all-end-all solution to yelling, but it’s a good way to break the cycle.

If you want to stop yelling see these related resources:

If you’d like to check out courses from Playful Learning (affiliate link), I am happy to be able to give CWK readers a special 20% off couponUse the code: CREATIVEWITHKIDS when you check out to get your discount.

Do you ever get in anger or resentment ruts?  What’s your trick for coming out of the dark?

95 comments
Merje Shaw
Merje Shaw

Re: coats and the cold outside- nothing makes a toddler wear a coat faster than feeling cold so I have been known to take the coat with me and the refusing toddler and dress him just outside the front door. Saves arguing with a little monkey :)

Ann Rushton
Ann Rushton

I am thankful for this post and everyone who commented. It makes me feel understood and like it's not just me. Bless us all.

Caroline Gardiner Was Pullen
Caroline Gardiner Was Pullen

I'm in this kind of situation with my daughter who is almost 3, how can I apply something like this to her because she still doesn't quite understand what kind means or why we tell her to do certain things such as out a coat on because it's cold which gets frustrating when we have to leave and it's freezing outside etc? I just seem to be constantly shouting at her at the mo

Creative With Kids
Creative With Kids

I think we all have those moments throughout life - I know I do. It's always easier to look back and correct ourselves than it is to give ourselves grace in this moment.

Creative With Kids
Creative With Kids

Good work Amanda McKeown :) It's a good start to moving out of a bad cycle - sometimes we need that ray of hope before we can move forward, right? :)

Amanda McKeown
Amanda McKeown

I tried it yesterday and today, and it's been AMAZING! :D

Lisa Burnham Bakowski
Lisa Burnham Bakowski

Thank you for posting this. I'm in a rut right now and fighting my way out. I love this reminder!

Ann Rushton
Ann Rushton

I don't know if it is any comfort but you're not alone. :)

Gloria Ransom
Gloria Ransom

So many parenting helps at would have been great to have when raising my kids. Did the best I could with the tools I had, but I can look back and see so many ways I could have reacted better, and wish I could have do overs.

Cher
Cher

Bless your heart for being so absolutely honest with yourself and more so for sharing it with the world through your post. Parenting is tough. That's it. Tough. Parents are human and flawed and what we do in error is usually with the highest of intentions, but yes, we fall short. We pick ourselves up, apologize ( such a great lesson in itself to model for our children) and continue with the cycle of asking for forgiveness and bestowing it. Such is love, unconditional love.

Mary
Mary

Hi i wrote a post couple weeks ago i have 3 boys, 10,4 and 3 my husband is a truck driver so we only get to see him once a week so u all can see that its always my boys and me so even if i do need that space or a break from my kids i cant because i cant just push them away they are my boys and they are mu reaponsibility but my big issue and still is that theres always screaming and yelling at my house, if its not one kid its the other one my two youngest are the ones that are always pushing my buttons and saying "your mean" I hate you" when i dont buy or give them what they want it breacks my heart that me as a mom cant controll my own kids and ita embarrasing when i go out and my two little ones are running like little animals all over the store and screaming its so embarrasing any tips on how i can keep my boys next to me and be able to have a nice quiet shopping day without the screaming and yelling at the midle of the store? Help And if i go doen to their level and tell them to be quiet its like i tell them " keep running and screaming" they get worst after i tell them to stop :( please any advise will help.

Mary white
Mary white

I we'll never yell that my grandson I love my grandson and I am the worst one to yell but I am going to brook that God we'll be with me

Lillian Connelly
Lillian Connelly

It's so hard when you really need a break and just can't get one. I can relate. I love this idea and think I might try it when things start getting to exhausting or grumpy around here. Sometimes we all just need a little redirection and a new perspective so we can keep going.

Rachel
Rachel

reading this blog post put a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. thank you thank you for writing this. tomorrow's a new day right? the first day of the rest of our lives?

Rebecca Bloom Engelstad
Rebecca Bloom Engelstad

I didnt say that more yelling was going to "save" the world. what I said was "if more parents became a parent instead of friends the world would be a better place!" AND if more firmness were to be spoken after a 3 strike system the child will get it. you DONT need to yell all of the time and it certainly is NOT a first resort in this house BUT occasionally a louder voice is necessary.

Alison Loveday
Alison Loveday

Thinking that not yelling enough is the reason 'the world is screwed up' is just bizarre. Yelling is a loss of control - not the way to assert it!

Lucie
Lucie

Bulls**t! I'm sorry but unless your whole family is a bit "free spirited" than a normal child will soon start thinking that his mom is some kind of a crazy cookoo hippie waving pink hearts around instead of disciplining and explaining boundaries. Yes, she stopped a scene and stopped herself from yelling in the shop but did she ever explain that shoving a mom, or anyone else for that matter, is just not acceptable and will not be tolerated, ever (which it shouldn't!)? No, she skipped this part... And to stick up for the yelling parents. I do understand that it's bad when we yell at the little monsters because we are simply already in a foul mood but how about making a video where parents explain how they feel when their kids are being horrible for no particular reason, how about those up downs?! I'd make kids watch that :-P But, of course, don't shout if you don't really have to :)

Edu Art 4 Kids
Edu Art 4 Kids

I found that I learned on my oldest. She was my guinea pig unfortunately and my youngest (of 6) really benefited from my mistakes. You should know that even though I really yelled a lot at this oldest, SHE is the most amazing mom. So don't get too down if you've yelled too much, its never too late to change and you never know how its going to affect your kids in the long run.

Kate Lees
Kate Lees

I think this is great. I want to teach my kids respect and boundaries, but I also want to teach them effective communication skills and how to recognize and deal with different emotions. I need to lead by example, and I'm not doing it. I'm going to try something like this. Thank you.

Fern Warren
Fern Warren

I love this so much! Thank you for this! I love it so much, that I have shared it on my 'The Grateful Mummy" facebook page and will also make sure I tell people about it on thegratefulmummy.com blog too and spread the word. You are amazing to open up and share about something so vulnerable, you inspire me! Thank you for opening up to help so many others!

Creative With Kids
Creative With Kids

The exciting thing as I move out of yelling being an acceptable way to get my needs met is that I see my kids, my husband, even my mom following and learning more effective communication methods. It's a longer process, but over time were getting better at asking for what we want, knowing our own limits, upholding consequences...it's more complicated than a phone keyboard Facebook post allows, but I know we can parent effectively, not permissively and do so without yelling. (Well, I'm pretty danged imperfect, so with a minimum of yelling.) -Alissa

Rebecca Bloom Engelstad
Rebecca Bloom Engelstad

No Robyne Irish, I don't think so. I love and nurture my kid just as much as any non yell parent. We spend 100% of our time together as previously stated...I don't yell right away. If I have said no and explained why I said no then ur gonna get yelled at.

Rebecca Bloom Engelstad
Rebecca Bloom Engelstad

No, I have a 3x system. If I have to repeat myself then I yell. I don't yell right out of the gate but, my kid is 6 he should already KNOW that no means no! If more parents said no more often the world wouldn't be as screwed up ad it is. I grew up getting yelled. We lived on a farm you worked from a very young age. You learned to get it right the first time or you suffered through the yelling. I turned out just fine, as I'm sure my kid will too.

Robyne Irish
Robyne Irish

Children need love and nuturing! Yelling occurs when the parent looses control! We've all done it but to suggest it's the right thing is awful! Perhaps you can learn something from this article Rebecca!

Rebecca Bloom Engelstad
Rebecca Bloom Engelstad

The yelling will stop when children start doing what they are told and stop thinking they are owed something! The children are taking over the world because parents DONT step up and be parents. STOP being your child's friend and START being a parent!

Charlie
Charlie

Thank you! I'm a single mum of 3 & recently my 13 yr old told me I'm an awful mum! I do shout a lot & that was the one thing she asked me to stop doing! I'm full of shame & disappointment at myself & I've been trying so hard not to shout for 3 days now, it's hard but I'm determined to continue & your article was just wat I needed at just the right time xxx

Tyler and Keili's Mommy
Tyler and Keili's Mommy

This had amazing timing for me, it has been a very reflective day. Anyway, thank You so much for this real life article. I am 26 and on my second round of stay-at-home-mom of two in diapers while nursing, (messy, oh so veeery messy.) Dad works and I am here with a very, strong willed, mechanical and loud 2 year old boy (27 months,) and a very sweet but co-dependant, screaming 7 month old girl. Yelling, mean faces, not so nice wording/words etc are a daily... I definitely realize there is so much room for growth but, I am so glad I can admit this to more than my mom who is helpful, but She was a screamer/flailer (there are 4 of us and all hyper and strongwilled...) either way, this was so helpful just for myself, I feel like I am screwing them up and yes there are wonderful times we have together and one-on-one but it seems like it is moment to moment with these two. So much to say and my phone is dying. I did just want to say thank You!! Ashley

Vicki @ Knocked Up and Abroad
Vicki @ Knocked Up and Abroad

What a innovative way to deal with those yucky parts of parenting we all struggle with. I despise being a yelly Mummy but haven't been sure how to deal with it. I like the idea of this and might try and tackle it although I'm wondering if my children are slightly too young to understand (3 & 1). What I love most of all about this approach is that the kids also get hearts to give. This definitely indicates to the Mummy when she has stepped over the line. Something I'm sure wouldn't be realised otherwise.

Alissa Marquess
Alissa Marquess

Thank you, Cher. Your words on parenting are both encouraging and we'll said. Thank you again. -Alissa

Alissa Marquess
Alissa Marquess

As it turns out Mary, I do have an entire post on Grocery Shopping with Kids: 13 Ways to Make Grocery Shopping with Kids Less Torturous. Or maybe even fun. The 'giving them jobs' bit really helps me. So that may give you some ideas, however I know it's not the complete answer. I think I would also try looking through some of the posts at ahaparenting.com by Laura Markham, she addresses situations like this frequently. And you are always welcome here, even if it's just to vent. ::hugs::

Alissa Marquess
Alissa Marquess

The next moment is a new moment :) Best wishes Rachel.

Alissa Marquess
Alissa Marquess

Hahaha, you cracked me up. I suppose this definitely can be read in that tone and seem like I am a heart waving hippy (though if you met me I wouldn't seem that way.) My kids get boundaries. The tricky thing about describing situations with kids in a blog post is that I am not always able to convey the whole picture, and once something is posted it's out there. The hearts were used in our family for a day or two to get us on a different track, not permanently. I think the main thing they worked for is that I was completely FRIED at this point in time and more yelling/shouting/anger was just making things worse. I needed to try something off the wall as a way to interrupt the cycle. Thanks for stopping by :) Alissa

Alissa Marquess
Alissa Marquess

Charlie, sending you love today. You do not have to be perfect to be a good mom. You do not have to never yell at all. The most powerful thing you can do is to love yourself and show yourself compassion as you keep learning. When you feel that shame welling up, maybe you can think of it as a chance to practice being kind to someone in a moment when all you want to do is a heap on anger and guilt. You can be kind to yourself and in that practice, you'll also be practicing how to be kind when you are at your wits end with your kids. So glad you stopped by. You are loved.

Patricia Hope
Patricia Hope

Hi Charlie, I know you're not feeling proud of yourself at the moment but I think it's wonderful that your 13 year old felt able to tell you what she did. I wouldn't have dared to say anything like that to my mother at all. So you must have done something right - that she wasn't too cowed to speak out. :-) I know how hard it is to be a single parent and it's not easy to stop shouting using willpower alone. In fact I think it's almost impossible. Something that helped me be calmer when my children were small was eliminating sugar from my diet - I mean any refined sugar in any food that I ate. I noticed a marked change between the times I was sugar free and the times when I had some. Sugar is a stressor and creates mood swings and can prevent us from keeping control of our temper.

Rebecca
Rebecca

I'm a stay at home mom of 3 (5 yrs, 3yrs and 20 months) and my husband works various shifts and picks up overtime whenever he can, so very often it's just me and the kids. Our 5 year old daughter and 20 month old son are very (VERY) strong willed. A book that both my mother and mother-in-law read years ago, because one of my brothers and my husband were strong willed children, was The Strong Willed Child by Dr. James Dobson. I just got this book and it's been updated to The New Strong Willed Child. I just started reading it and have found it very helpful so far. Many of the pages I just read are now highlighted in all kinds of different colors! I hope that it can help you as it has me.

Lucie
Lucie

:) The point is - don't shout at your kids if you don't have to. And yes, if you are in a foul mood, it's not fair to take it out on them. On the other hand, we all have kids so WE KNOW! Moms, don't beat yourself up, it happens to the best of us :) We understand and know you are trying. Just don't feel bad... And the little monsters WILL survive! ;-) Lucie

Alissa Marquess
Alissa Marquess

Thanks Rebecca. Sounds like you have a busy little crew there :D

Alissa Marquess
Alissa Marquess

RIGHT! And now I am tempted to write a blog post called "The little monsters will survive." Thanks, ~Alissa (Who is generally very earnest, but less serious/heartyhippy than she comes off as in some of her blog posts) ;)

Lucie
Lucie

Can't wait to read that one! Can tell already it will be my cup of tea ;-) Lucie

Trackbacks

  1. […] Need an idea on how to be more positive with your kids and stop yelling? Try this. […]

  2. […] Getting out of the Yelling Cycle  – The day I realized I was bullying my kids and how I turned it around. […]

  3. […] Okay, time for me to share something I’m not really proud of – I’ve found myself in the habit of yelling at the kids.  It isn’t like I curse at them or tell them how horrible they are.  What happens is that I find myself raising my voice out of impatience and using more Put Downs than Put Ups.  I love that last term Alissa uses in her post, “Getting out of the yelling cycle“. […]

  4. […] 5. http://creativewithkids.com/the-day-i-realized-i-was-bullying-my-kids/ […]

  5. […] also read something recently that hit home with me, a blog post about yelling at your kids. So I decided that the boys and I would  make summer contracts. At first I was just going to make […]

  6. […] For most of the summer I had been doing great on not yelling, on enjoying my kids and having a good handle on my anger triggers, but after some emotional upsets and long days alone with the kids I was operating on a short fuse.  […]

  7. […] reminders. She created little yellow hearts all over her house as reminders not to yell. She was inspired by another favorite, Alissa from Creative with […]

  8. […] The Day I Realized I Was Bullying My Kids – Creative with Kids […]

  9. […] Use Put Ups like Alissa from Creative with Kids explains so well […]

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