Have you ever caught yourself yelling at kids you don’t even have? My parents sure did. To this day, I have no idea who all those young people were that they were upset with, but I’m sure that one of them was definitely me.
There are a lot of kids out there who have lingering images of their mother or father that are hard to shake. The face is red, the bottom lip curled in frustration, the voice filled with exasperation, and the sheer volume of the words coming from that face still makes their eardrums hurt. In a bit of defense for these parents, what that child or teenager did just prior to the “Look, I can make my face imitate Lucifer’s” event, explains a lot of what that child is receiving. But it doesn’t justify it.
Collective truth: kids know how to push our buttons—buttons that are often hardwired to nuclear devices within our demeanor. More so if that’s what our parents did to us. Double or triple down on the number of kids pushing those buttons and you start to worry if your face will get stuck in that expression.
We swore we’d never do the same when it was our turn. But now that it is our turn, we just… swear… really loud. Maybe you don’t use actual profanity, but the volume you put behind your righteous frustration still has an expletive impact. Scorched earth policies, brain wave activated flame throwing, and take-no-prisoners anger has been known to come out of mom’s that held the “Most Likely to Take Mother Teresa’s Place” status in their high school yearbook. It’s what happens when you haven’t had a decent nights sleep for several years.
When you figure in our title, our age, our size, the fact that we have all the money and also happen to know where they sleep at night, the standard kid doesn’t stand a chance. Like it or not, when we use volume to manage our kids we unwittingly turn ourselves into toxic high controllers. A high controller is someone who leverages the strength of their personality or position against someone else’s weaknesses in order to get that other person to meet their selfish agenda. Screaming at a child or a teenager is one of the easiest ways to control them. Incidentally, it’s very effective. But it’s also humiliating, insulting and demeaning. We teach them that it’s perfectly okay for them to be yelled at and they have no other alternative but to take it (which would be an awful future waiting for them), or we teach them that it’s perfectly okay for them to also yell when they need to express their frustration (which would be an awful future waiting for the person they marry or the kids they end up having).
We weren’t designed by God to respond well to being yelled at. That’s why it usually brings the worst out of kids. When someone is venting their anger towards a child at a high volume, it activates defense mechanisms that shouldn’t have to be called upon when dealing with someone who is supposed to love them so much.
One way to keep yelling under control is to maintain a clear understanding of the proper use of yelling. After all, God invented yelling. Just not for the purpose we usually use it for. Perhaps if we knew the proper reasons, and limited our yelling to them, there’d be more kids smiling when we raised our voice.
There are three God-given reasons to yell at a child:
- When they’re outside of the reach of normal conversational volume and you need to tell them something important (like, “It’s time to eat!”). Don’t cheat. It’s easy to figure out the proper use of this one out without conveniently appropriating it even though your child is right in front of you (and you happen to be really angry at them… and it’s very important to you that they know it).
- When you’re cheering them on. The volume of the crowd in the stadium always did wonders for me when the quarterback handed me the football. But it put some extra pep in my step when I could hear my mother’s voice above them all.
- When you’re warning them of danger. I’m not talking about the danger they’re going to face when their father gets home, or when you finally find that Taser. They’re inclined to respond positively to our loud voice when they know it always has their best interests in mind (rather than just ours).
The apostle Paul made figuring out the proper use of volume easy when he said:
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” — (Ephesians 4:29).
If God granted exceptions to these rules, what do you think they should be?
What have you learned to do regarding your frustrations with your kids that keeps you from ramping up your volume to toxic levels?
Written by Tim Kimmel
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