Think Before You Yell

One by one, the four and five-year-old girls leapt off the diving board into the water. Meanwhile, my five-year-old clung to the pool’s edge and sobbed to the swim coach. I’d enrolled my shy daughter in swim class to help prepare her for school, and therefore I did not intervene.

I simply sat on the bench next to the locker rooms and observed. But minutes passed, and her crying did not stop. I walked over to my bag and fetched the beach towel. Sitting back down, I opened it, and my daughter scrambled out of the pool and clung to me, soaking the knees of my jeans.

I held her until she relaxed and then asked if she was ready to try again. She did try again, but immediately started crying just like she had before. I told the swim coach we were calling it a day. In the locker room, I helped her out of her swim suit and worked the snarls from her hair. Frustration welled up inside me. I wasn’t proud of it, but it was there. I’d tried so hard to find a social activity that would benefit my daughter physically, too, and for those first five swim classes, I’d thought this was it.

We were passing the lobby’s tea station when my daughter squeezed my hand three times, signifying, “I. Love. You.” Tears stung my eyes. I glanced down at her and squeezed back four times, signifying, “I. Love. You. Too.”

Wordlessly, we walked out of the YMCA. My daughter extended her arms to the sky and cried, “Mommy! I can feel the rain!” I lowered the umbrella so I could feel it as well.

I assumed, when we got home, that the rest of the day would go smoothly. It didn’t. The afternoon plummeted when my five-year-old still wouldn’t calm down. So, I ironically yelled, “You are out of control!” and struck the hallway’s wall with my open hand.

My hand stung. I backed away from the wall as if it’d been my child’s face. I went to the couch and sat down. My five-year-old must’ve sensed a shift because she came out of her bedroom and clambered up on my lap. She looked at me with those same red, tear-swollen eyes that had observed me when she was six months old.

Looking at her, I thought, I’ve failed. She’s five years old; she’ll remember this. I turned on my pregnant side and ugly cried for a good ten minutes.

My daughter was so alarmed that she patted and rubbed my back. Hopping down, she went to the bathroom and returned with a wad of toilet paper. She wiped my tears and unzipped my sweater—all things that I do for her whenever she’s crying.

I held her on my lap again and said, “Sometimes Mommy doesn’t know how to be a good mommy. Sometimes Mommy messes up. I shouldn’t have reacted out of anger like that.”

She nodded, still watching me with those somber brown eyes. I then clutched her and prayed God would help me be a good mother. I prayed He would help me measure my words and not raise my voice: my default whenever I’m stressed.

The next day, my husband and I noticed that our five-year-old wasn’t hearing well. On Monday, it got so bad, she couldn’t hear us ask her a question when we were eating supper at the kitchen table. I made a doctor’s appointment to get her hearing tested. Turns out, she didn’t have an ear infection but just a massive accumulation of ear wax.

But, even after using the ear cleaning kit, her hearing didn’t return to normal. All week, I had to measure my words while speaking to her. I had to touch her arm so she would look at my lips as I spoke. And then, on Wednesday, when my daughter’s hearing started improving, I started losing my voice. Now, not only did I have to touch my daughter’s arm and speak carefully to communicate, I also had to whisper.

It’s been three days since I lost my voice, and I still sound like a man. But I am grateful. I must choose each word that comes out of my mouth, and whenever I do speak, I think of those words entering my daughter’s ears and sensitive spirit, and it teaches me to guard my tongue, which can bring life or death, depending on how I use it.

Have you ever lost your temper as a parent? How did you learn to rein it in?


Jolina is a wife, mama, daughter, friend, and oftentimes stubborn child of God who loves dramatic soundtracks, old books, new places, abandoned trails, people-watching, telling stories, pulling weeds, and petting chickens. She's glad you're here.

8 thoughts on “Think Before You Yell

  1. As a mother, I’ve let words fly so many times, I can’t count. I regularly second-guess my impulsive reactions, and in the end, I have to beg God for grace from Him and those who’ve borne the brunt. <3

    Thanks for your transparency. I pray Miss A overcomes this quickly! 🙂

    1. Miss A said today, “How come everything’s so loud?!” And then, when I whispered her name, she turned her head, which hasn’t happened all week. So I guess whatever was going on cleared itself up (we’ve been battling congestion/colds for about two weeks). But what a lesson this has been! Keep the ears clean and the tongue guarded. 😉

  2. I lost it more times than I can count when my kids were small. Mostly, it happened when I hadn’t taken the time to attend to my own self and my own needs and the overwhelmingness of being constantly on as a parent swept over me. I learned that sharing my own “stuff” with other adults really helped. And remember that you are modeling amazing skills for your daughters when you cry in front of them and explain that you can’t always be good or perfect. To expect perfection from ourselves or our children as human beings is to expect the impossible. Sending hugs!

    1. Thank you for your kindness, Audrey. As strange as it seems, that afternoon on the couch really seemed to bond me and my daughter. We’ve each been more patient with each other this week, and I hope it continues. And, yes! Having personal time to recoup and other parents to talk to is a necessity during this stage of life. 🙂

  3. Yes. I have lost my cool. I think the important thing is to stop, pray, and later ask our kids to forgive us.
    We’re not perfect. As long as they see that we’re doing our best, turning to God, and willing to apologize, they’ll be OK.

    Did you say your expecting again? Congratulations!

  4. I learned yelling from my father. I’m not proud of the way he taught me to kill with words out of self-defense. It hurt SO bad when I realized how I was yelling at my kids. I think the best thing is to wait until you’re calm, sit them down and confess to them that sometimes a mommy gets it wrong. That mommies need Jesus to help them do and say the right things. And ask for their forgiveness. Children can offer grace that puts us adults to shame. My children are both grown now and we have very close relationships. One is a parent herself and she gets it. Mommies need lots of prayers for strength and to be what they should be. Don’t we all?

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