Am I My Child’s Bully?


bullyEach day I pray to become the kind of mother I idealize – gentle, kind and understanding. However, each day I seem to fall short. In some way or another, I encounter every one of my daily tests with more anger and upset than the last, seeming to only disprove the idea that practice brings about perfection. If such things were true, I would by now be the master of sensitivity. But, I’m not. Instead I yell like so many fascists before me, barking orders, screaming rants, going off on tirades about one thing or another. I make a fuss over things that don’t really matter. And, worst of all, the one who feels the brunt of my upset is my daughter, the sweetest six-year old one could ever imagine. So, what’s wrong with me?!

That is a question I ask myself quite often these days. Why do I yell at my daughter so often and so loudly even though, clearly, she is a good kid? After taking a strong, hard look at myself in the mirror, I uncovered some pretty terrible truths. I am ashamed to admit it but, honestly, I yell at her sometimes just because I can. Because she is there. Because she is sweet and little and can’t fight back. In other words, I am her bully.

As all mothers do, I have feared the presence of bullies in her life from the moment she was born. One of my greatest wishes for her, when she was a baby, was that her life would be free from such pains, lined instead with the happiness of rainbows and sunshine. Reflecting on my own childhood, however, I know that too often this is not the case. I remember the emergence of bullies in elementary school and the helplessness I felt, being beholden to the cruel whims of my school-yard tyrants. Sometimes I would come home in tears, wishing that those monsters would dissolve with the hands of time. And, eventually, they did. For me. But now the tears resurfaced when I realized that a monster had returned. Only this time, I was it.

It didn’t happen overnight. No one wakes up in the morning and affirms that they want to be this way. Situations that make us feel powerless or overwhelmed often lead to this despised state. Sleepless nights, a failed soufflé, a long line at the DMV. Or worse – unemployment, divorce or death. The quality which shows a difference in people, though, is the way that these situations are handled. Some carry on with gentility and composure while others scream and yell. It’s a choice. And, so far, I have been making the wrong choices.

One morning, when my daughter spilled breakfast on her school uniform, it was my choice to scream about it. It was my choice to belittle her, enforcing the notion of her carelessness, causing her to feel bad enough about herself that she stared at her shoes for two minutes. It was my choice to carry on about how many loads of laundry I had to suffer through each week. How little time we had. How often this seemed to happen. Instead of just chalking up the spill to gravity or remembering the fact that I, too, spilled spaghetti sauce on my shirt just the day before, I took out my frustrations on her. And a little bit too easily, I might add.

When I think about it, it seems that I often yell because I am a mother and I think that somehow justifies things. My mother also yelled and she did so for what seemed like my entire childhood. So, I figure, since I still love my angry mom I know that my daughter will still love me regardless. At least that’s the hope I’ve always clung to. However, as the years consume her innocence and age increases her awareness, I know that I may be fooling myself. In the end, yelling may not be so excusable. In fact, these actions, these choices I have made, may be shaping her to become a person who is no quicker to forgive or understand than I am. And what’s worse than being a bully? Creating another one!

So, where do we go from here? If it’s all about choices, and I have made the first step in recognizing the error of my ways, I suppose what comes next is simple: TRY HARDER! Though it might seem like just another thing in my long list of “to do’s,” it is truly one of the most important tasks I could ever accomplish. I mean, I’m a mom. A stay-at-home mom, at that. This is my job, but it’s also my joy. It’s my life and it’s also my daughter’s life. It won’t count that I was an awesome housekeeper, able to keep dust off of counters and organization in underwear drawers, if my child grows up to be unhappy. Yes, I am tired. Yes, I sometimes feel that there is no “me” in my life. And, yes, I often get overwhelmed by my endless workload, the fact that I don’t get days off, and I have no co-workers to commiserate with about my experiences; but, none of that excuses a short fuse. And nothing justifies my tirades.

So, enough is enough. From here forward I aim to try harder. Do better. Allow for mistakes. Listen with an open heart. Laugh at gravity. Love beyond the good moments. Care for her, cuddle her, applaud her. Treat her, each and every second, exactly as I would like to be treated. Set a good example for who I would like her to be, and in so doing, be the Mommy I want to be – gentle, kind and understanding. After all, my daughter will soon find out that the world is a cruel place, but home should always be her refuge and I should always be her biggest supporter, building her up instead of tearing her down. Because I’m a mom, not a bully.

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14 thoughts on “Am I My Child’s Bully?

  1. I know your pain. I’m up thinking about my daughter. She is what I’d describe as a free spirit; so silly, loves to dance, makes friends easily. But lately she’s been cracking her fingers and pulling on her hands. There’s a nervousness about her. I dropped her at a birthday party today and while the other kids were playing and trying to include her she just stood there and looked uneasy. What? Who is this kid? Where’s my cutie unafraid of anything? Perhaps she’s like this because I screamed my fool head off at her in the car for her not giving me cell phone back quick enough. But this is not a lone event it’s happened too much. I’ve tried to check my yelling but I’m weak and fall back on hold habits. So now I’m up early feeling sad about it. I love her as she is and now I’m changing her and I hate that. She is the joy of my life for her I will try harder, my hardest to be a better parent. I’m taking a positive discipline course as a step in the right direction. We are not bully’s. Thank you for sharing your story.

    1. Sometimes, with all of life’s pressures, it’s hard to keep our cool. I think as long as we keep trying, that’s the essence of what makes us good. No one achieves perfection. Maybe the key is to stop trying for that and only aim for love. I’m groping in the dark…making it up as I go along…but, right now, that sounds like as good a plan as any.

      Thanks for sharing your words and your experiences. I appreciate hearing from other moms!

  2. thanks for posting, I have two lovely kids and would lay my life for them, yet I shout like a mad woman sometimes that they just stare at me. Such times I feel so hopeless yet I would never choose to run away from it all coz I have to keep trying to be that better mum, aggghhhhh, wish I could stop yelling.

    1. If wishes were horses then beggars would ride – an old adage my mom would always quote to me.

      I know what you mean, though. For me, the way I’ve come to quiet my feelings of guilt, is to recognize that the key is love. As long as I show them my love, do my best to treat them well (as long as they aren’t pushing every last one of my buttons), and keep trying to improve myself, then at least I’m doing part of the job properly. We all slip and err along the way – as long as we keep getting back up, that’s all that matters.

      Of course, when the yelling does come out, just be sure to lock yourself into a closet with a box of chocolate and tissues…and the rest will work itself out! 😉

      1. thank you for sharing this. This took some guts I think but is very important for others to read because many of us,working mothers, are in similar shoes. Quite frankly, reading your story made me cry. I feel sad for your daughter. But you are NOT a bully. You are a good mom and you are doing your absolute best. Sometimes, we are just so frustrated that we dont know what else to do other than yell. I am sure she will turn out OK. And it is great that you intend to become the mother you want to be.
        My daughter is younger, only 2, and i until recently I started yelling at her a lot because she did not listen to me. I am a single mom, often sleep deprived, had a stressful job I hated, and come from a family of yellers, so I had a short fuse. But because yelling did not seem to help, I realized that something was wrong and I just needed to learn better ways to parent my daughter. And this is all it is, asking for help! Right now I am reading articles on positive parenting.org website and I also have a child development specialist I can ask questions from. So the last month or so I stopped yelling (almost). If I feel like I want to yell at her, I leave the room.. And it seems that it improved our relationship and our connection.
        Good luck to you and to your baby. And again I applaud you for being so honest and posting this. Thank you!

      2. Thank you for your words. Sometimes I think it would take a miracle to totally stop yelling…but, for the most part, it has gotten better. There are good days and bad, great moments and not so great ones. It is just a journey…and I try to show her that she is loved multiple times a day. I think (and I hope) that is the key to her happiness and our strong bond.

  3. I have not read all of the comments to this post and the reason that I am here is not to find advice for child rearing but instead to better understand the pain within me which could be as a result of being yelled at by my mom. As a child, the one thing that I wanted more than anything was for my mom to apologize to me. I knew that what she was doing was wrong. I was very offended and abused.
    When I had my own son yelling cam naturally and I knew why. I had a great teacher. ( and I think my mom had one too) But I never forgot what I, as a child, wanted from my mom. I would apologize to my son and ask his forgiveness. This is the key when things go bad. Of course change of behavior is necessary otherwise your apologies are meaning less but on the way to reform one needs to apologize for the offense. This gives you humanity in your child’s eyes, that you make mistakes too and it dignifies your child as also as being human and deserving of respect. This is what undoes the damage an starts the healing of your relationship so as your child grows, her love and respect for you will grow.

    1. Apologies are important. And so is change. I work on that every single day. Some days, the change is easier to attain than others. I think we all have to allow ourselves meltdowns…even parents. It’s part of being human. Though I don’t savor those imperfect moments, I cherish my children and am thankful that they teach me what it means to truly love. Sometimes we just need to cut everyone slack and do a world reboot. As long as we try our best, and keep trying, that’s what it’s all about.

  4. Thanks for sharing this. I have a 5 yr old and a 2.5 yr old. Some days I want to pull my hair out. My 5 year old has started asking me why can’t I have more patience, or sings that stupid Daniel tigers neighborhood song,” when you feel so bad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.” He is SO sweet, but it really makes me want to yell more lol
    I’m not perfect. In this world where everyone acts so perfect, has the perfect life etc, it’s so nice to know that I am “normal”. I’m not the only one who yells 🙂
    I will try harder too! Seriously, thank you. Thank you. Thank you for this!

    1. I once read that cursing when you are in pain has scientific properties which lessen the negative sensations. If that’s true, then maybe something similar could be said for yelling when the stress of parenthood gets to be too great. I mean, we all need a release or else we’ll blow up! 🙂 You are definitely normal! I would worry more about those stepford wives who pretend to be perfect. THEY are the real problem! 🙂

  5. Thank you for posting you thoughts on this! Here lately, I have been wondering myself if I have been bullying my boys by yelling at them. I was bullied in school, so I know how it feels, but when I become angry, I don’t always stop and think about what I am doing until after I have done it, whether it be yelling or belittling them when I think they have done something wrong. My husband has a short fuse, so he yells easily as well. When I see this, it makes me think of my own actions, and how we can change those actions so we aren’t bullying or putting down our children! My parents passed away before I had both of my boys, so I can’t go to them for advice, but instead, I just have to think back on how I was raised and I honestly can’t recall a time they actually yelled at me. SO, I need to try harder (and my husband also) to not yell at the kids when they do something wrong. Instead, I need to address the situation, calmly explain why what they (the boys) are doing wrong, and what they need to do instead. Also, I need to let them know that sometimes I might slip up and yell at them, but I am working on trying to correct the situation. I do not want my boys to become bullies and I know that we lead by example! Again, thanks for posting this! It really helped!!!

    1. Thanks for reading!

      As long as we keep trying, I think that is the key. But, there will always be moments when we slip up. As long as we keep reminding ourselves about what is important – our families – we will be able to get back on track!

  6. My daughters, ages 11 & 8.5, are well loved and adored. We do our best to shower with love and kindness, and teach good morals. When we argue, we make up and talk about it, apologize. I feel we do so much right. But, we yell. Not at the top of our lungs, no name calling or insults, just emotional and sometimes aggressiveness. Our yelling isn’t over homework, backpacks being ready, or hair getting combed. It happens because my girls cannot get along with each other. They constantly fight and bicker. When their friends are over, it’s worse. They do it in front of them. We are constantly refereeing and listening to their sides. We try not to take sides. It is so bothersome that we will pull them aside when their friends are here, and remind them half a dozen times that acting this way isn’t acceptable and please figure it out, or no more playdates. Not just on those occasions do they bicker, but it’s about everything. We remind them that this is not pleasant for us and impacts our calm. We plead with them to stop. They won’t listen. We yell. How many times can a parent endure the constant battling between their children and not snap at them for that behavior? We try modeling as best we can as parents, but we are human. If we have a disagreement, we talk it over afterward and make up. We are at our wits end. I am constantly trying to be a better mom. I don’t want to be a yeller, like my mom, and grandma were. I want it to stop. Who we are began before we were born.

    1. Sometimes kids don’t listen and that is precisely what makes us yell! I wish there were a magic pill to make everyone get back on track and be kind to each other… Until they invent that, all mothers will have as salvation are the late night hours after kids have gone to sleep. Hang in there! I’m sure hormones are greatly to blame…(theirs, not yours!)

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