I grew up with a dad who had a throbbing vein on his forehead. When he got mad, he blew up. His face turned red and he yelled. When he got really angry, he spanked me with his work boot.
When my twins were born, friends asked me if I was reading any parenting books. I smiled, shook my head, and said confidently, “Nah, I’m just going to parent on instinct. I’ll know what’s right for my kids.”
What the hell was I thinking?!
By the time my daughter turned three, she had honed her temper tantrum skills, and so had I. One day, she spilled 64 ounces of bubbles onto the lawn and I lost it. I screamed at her, spanked her, and put her in time out.
I was an apple off of my dad’s tree. I was developing a nice forehead-throbbing vein of my own.
My daughter hadn’t quite bought into the situation, however. After I blew up over the bubbles, I went to kiss her goodnight. She said, “Dump bubbles out.” My heart sank. The blood drained from my face and from the forehead vein.
I told her, “Yes, sweetie. I’m sorry, I lost it. I’ll try to do better, honey.”
The next night when I went to kiss her, again she said, “Dump bubbles out.” A lump formed in my throat. I looked around for my husband, hoping he wouldn’t hear me.
I whispered, “Sweetheart, I love you. I know I yelled. I’m sorry. I’m working on it.”
She did this for 21 days. 21 days! Each night she said, “Dump bubbles out.”
And I apologized for 21 days, “I’m sorry honey, I screwed up.”
I needed help, but it was hard for me to get help because I felt shame about my yelling. My shame was evident in the fact that I only yelled behind closed doors. Out in public, I never yelled.
Now let me be clear: It wasn’t hard physically to get help. There’s a million people who want to help you with your crappy parenting skills. It was emotionally difficult. I wasn’t good at swallowing my pride.
When I came out publicly as a former “yeller,” it shocked many of my friends and people who had known me for years.
But eventually, I did get help because here’s what I realized: My kid’s going to get bigger. They’re going to be the kid sitting next to your kid in highschool. They might grow up to be your boss or co-worker. Or they might grow up to be mayor or President of the United States.
That’s your kid too. Your kid’s gonna grow up, and I’m going to have to drive my minivan on the same streets as them.
When we get our driver’s license, we have to take a class, to learn how to be a good driver.
Why or why don’t we have to take a class or two when we become a parent?
So for the love of God, for the love of your children, for the love of all of us, fellow humans on this life journey, take a parenting class.
Jeanette Hargreaves is a parenting coach, public speaker, and author of The Day I Threw Banana Bread and Almost Went to Jail: True Stories About How I Used to Lose My Temper (and How I Learned to Stop).