I know, it is a bit of a provocative title isn’t it! I write it because I just heard my birth children’s Tae Kwon Do instructor sit the kids down and explain why he was apparently being hard on them. It got me thinking about shouting as it is something I have been struggling with recently. I have to confess I have shouted way too much at my kids. It’s either the level of noise that they are making or the fact that they are about to do something dangerous. Mostly however it is just because I feel ignored. The Tae Kwon Do instructor felt the same and with the kids grading just around the corner he was not happy with how much the kids were mucking about.
There are so many levels to adults shouting that I cannot get into all of them but I do want to start with what it is in us that makes us feel that we have to shout. If I feel undermined or like my time is wasted I tend to shout. If I feel like the instructions were clear but they are being ignored, I shout. Shouting is about control and to some extent shouting is often about winning.
The Tae Kwon Do class took the shouting well. They all have a good relationship with the instructor and most of the time he is a good humoured and speaks at a normal volume. The kids feel safe because they know the instructor is safe. What about our foster kids though? In their past often a shout can be followed by violence. Maybe shouting is a reminder of how worthless you are because of your birth parents frustrations about the fact that they despise their own lives and they want you to feel that pain too. Maybe, for them, shouting is the normal violent communication response from adults.
What happens then when safe adults start using the same tools as those who have been unsafe to our foster kids? In the least part it provides a mixed message and a contrary one. “I only shout because I care” could well be a paradox to these kids. In the most extreme we are pushing them into a reliving of trauma or anticipation of a horrible event. Either way we have to be more creative and gentle.
We are going to drop the ball on this, of course we are. Shouting can feel like all we have sometimes but I would encourage and challenge you to try other options that are going to change your kids’ worldview. I hope that you can find a language that is powerful without shouting and that is gentle but life changing. When you get a moment reflect on this is in your own life. Hopefully you will find that you can then empower rather than control and that your relationship will blossom as a result.