How To Deal With A Spouse Who Frequently Yells At The Kids
- Strategies for dealing with challenge of spouse who frequently yells at the kids.
Ask the Author: Question & Response
I have been looking for an answer to this problem and maybe you can help. I am married and have two young children. My wife is the type of person who yells a lot. Raising her voice almost constantly to correct the children. I have grown to dislike her, mostly from the way she treats the kids. I have learned to let my ego go and care little about how she treats me, but I do care about how her mean, nasty reactions are affecting my kids. Even if divorce was an option for me, it likely wouldn’t keep her from the children. I have tried many times and many ways to get her to just show the love she has in her, instead. Somehow no matter how positive the results are she diverts back at the first sign of the kids not listening. Is there another way?
– Christopher, New Jersey, USA
1. Let’s get this first point very clear, you can not yell at, argue in front of, or be demeaning to a child without changing that child forever. Each and every time a child is yelled at, it chips away at that child’s confidence, self-esteem and soul. There is little difference between being physically abusive and that of being mentally abusive. A child is a delicate work in progress. Each and every time you interact with a child, you mold that child. To mold a child means to determine or influence the quality or nature of that child. Imagine a child as a diamond. When you are loving, supportive, encouraging and compassionate, you are polishing this diamond. When you are yelling, hurtful, demeaning and cruel, you are covering this diamond with your dirt. A child will always be a diamond, yet it is up to you to help him see and reflect this truth, or hide and bury this truth.
2. You wrote: “I have learned to let my ego go and care little about how she treats me.” Ask yourself, how does your response affect the way she treats your kids? Does your lack of care make her angrier toward you or the kids? If this is so, it is not useful. If your response decreases her anger toward you or the kids then it is of some use, but it is not the answer. From the way you write the question, it appears that your wife has some understanding that her behavior is not the most productive, appropriate or most loving way of being. The anger she expresses toward the kids really has little to do with how your kids behave and most everything to do with how she feels about herself. She is, in the best way she now can, asking to be helped. Her anger is an external call for help and healing. She is, in the most literal sense, yelling for help and healing. It is of no use to “care little about” this call. This call must be answered in one way or another. And it is your courage that will determine if you and a professional can assist her in productively expressing her inner pain, or if your children will have to deal with it. Either way she will find an outlet, and either way you have to take full responsibility for the part you play.
3. You, your wife and children are not separate beings. You are all one connected unit. If you assist your wife in growing and developing kinder, gentler and more productive disciplining tools, this growth and development will also affect and touch you and your children. A wiser, kinder and more loving wife will help develop wiser, kinder and more loving children, and equally help build and develop a wiser, more loving, peaceful and caring marriage. Each and every time you assist your wife in developing better coping tools, you are equally gifting your children a steadier and more fertile base to grow from. Each and every time you assist your wife in creating a more peaceful and joyful heart and mind, you are gifting yourself and your children with a more joyful and peaceful life.
4. Your children are brave. In some ways, you have all come together to assist your wife in becoming more self-loving. Talk openly and honestly with your children. They are wiser than even you think. Establish boundaries for them. Although they would never acknowledge it, this is something that they do desire. Explain to them the situation using age appropriate language. Explain to them that this is something that you all have to work together to resolve. Remind them over and over again that your wife’s behavior, her yelling and anger, is not, for the most part, a result of their behavior, but a result of how she feels about herself. Remind them over and over that your wife’s yelling is not an appropriate response and that you are working with her to correct this behavior. Tell them what steps you are taking to correct this behavior and how they can assist you in helping their mother.
5. Your wife does not want to yell at your kids. Your wife is in serious pain and is subconsciously trying to release some of this pain by yelling. Outwardly she may not show it, yet every single time she yells at the kids – these actions are literally cutting into her soul. This behavior only increases her level of inner pain while decreasing her level of patience toward herself and others, which then increases her negative responses. She is actually unconsciously punishing herself because she does not believe that she is worthy of peace and happiness. She needs to get that she is hurting and punishing herself through this type of response, that she is truly not healing the cause of her wounds. If she needs professional counseling to get this, then get this for her. If she’s afraid to face her inner pain by herself then find a way to go to couple’s counseling. Again, you are not only doing all this for her, but also for yourself and your children.
6. Your wife can only offer others what she herself has. A person who has self-love and compassion will offer love and compassion to others. A person who is hurting and in pain will offer pain and hurt to others. What is within – will flow to the outer world. Thus, the change needs to begin from within. A professional will give both of you step by step directions on how to dismantle this current behavior and deal with these same issues in a more loving and productive manner. The professional will be able to non-judgmentally delve into your wife’s past, bring up the events and behaviors that she saw, experienced and learned that she now uses. Slowly your wife and therapist will define what triggers her behavior. They will then work on dealing with these triggers in a more productive manner, instead of having her go off on your children. Your wife will now understand why she is feeling the way she does, catch herself feeling this way, then correct the thoughts in her mind and not take it out on the kids. Again, if she is defensive about individual one-on-one counseling, then you must go with her to couple’s counseling until she feels more comfortable with the process. Understanding why she feels and acts the way she does will increase her sense of control over her thoughts and emotions. The knowledge that she can indeed control her thoughts and emotions will bring greater peace of mind to her and your whole family.
7. Set clear-cut positive goals. Agree on what these goals are. In any situation in which you are uncertain, first ask: “What do I want to come of this?” Clarification of the goal comes at the beginning, for this will determine the outcome. The value of doing this is that you will perceive the situation as a means to make it happen, concentrating your efforts on making it happen. This will increase your control over the situation. Thus, now you will be able to manage the situation instead of just being an unwitting accessory to it. If the situation is used for growth its outcome will be a greater sense of peace. The Godself knows that the situation is as the goal determines it, and is experienced according to the goal. No one will fail in anything.
8. Both of you should start to journal, to write down what you are feeling. Do not give up on things that are in any small way working. Write down what seems to be working and continue to develop them. Write down what has worked, why you think it worked, and what you could have done to make it work better. Remember that you are not doing all this just for her, but for yourself and your children, and even for your children’s children. For your children’s relationships with their mother will heavily influence not only their relationships with other women but also their relationships with their own children. Write down your emotions and feelings, read them to your partner. Sometimes it’s easier to express something on paper first and then read it to your partner. Journaling helps in bringing what is within – out. For if you keep what you are feeling about your partner inside of you alone, this will end up weighing you to the ground. It is okay to feel “negative emotions.” It is okay to feel pain, hurt, resentment and anger. But it is of the utmost importance to get these feelings out of you in a positive and supportive setting where they can be looked at, understood, learned from and, if possible, corrected.
9. Give your wife as much positive reinforcement as possible. Whenever you see her dealing with the kids in a positive manner, make sure to acknowledge her for that behavior. Thank her on a daily basis for all the little things she does to make your day and the kids’ day more pleasant and manageable. Call her just to say “hi” and see how she is doing. When you get the kids on the phone remind them to be supportive of their mother. Serve as an example for her and together get a gym membership or take yoga classes to help both of you in releasing the daily tensions. Make an extra effort to truly listen to her when she’s talking to you. Find ways to complement her and help her feel good about herself. Give your wife a break from the kids. During your time home, for at least 45 minutes each day, take care of the kids 100% and let her do with those 45 minutes whatever she wants to do for herself. Once a week, have a date night without the kids. Take her out to dinner. Make sure she makes time to get together with her girlfriends at least once a week for lunch or dinner.
10. Bring God or whatever higher power you both believe in back into the marriage. You don’t ask God for too much, you ask God for too little. He but waits for you to call upon Him. Bring prayer into your relationship. Hold your wife’s hands, look directly into her eyes and pray honestly and openly, directly from your heart to God, and in that instant you will feel Him. You will feel Him, but not because He has just heard your call, but because He has forever held you both in His arms. As God shines on you, allow the light of love that you both have for your children to shine on any issues you may have. Your children are God’s greatest gift to you and your greatest gift to this planet. And your children will end up treating this world and the people in it as you and your wife have treated them. They are an eternal extension of both of you. You and your wife’s hard work and internal development will not be lost in time. Your dedication and effort will touch many generations to come. Know that some day when your children are themselves parents, and then themselves grandparents, they will one day sit back, look toward the sky, smile and bless your every effort.
This question and response can be found in the book - There is Another Way: Overcoming Real World Challenges. If you enjoyed this Q&A, you'll really enjoy the book which is filled with inspiration and effective strategies for overcoming life's challenges. The book is due to come out this March. Click here to sign up for our newsletter so that you can be notified when it is ready. Thanks.