The Screaming Idiot

Dan is in line at Wal-Mart, waiting for the 52 people in front of him to complete the most complicated grocery transactions in history. In the meantime his child is picking up everything on the impulse-buy shelves. After traversing the endless corridors of shopping hell and spending $500 after planning to stop and grab 2 things for dinner, now Tommy wants everything that within reach on the check-out aisle.

Dan has asked this child to please stop about 50 times and yet the child persists in his curiosity. The tension builds in the situation until finally everyone around this father and son begin to feel the change to the air. A breaking point is coming. Finally the father unleashes a torrent of yelling on his smaller counterpart. The child’s curiosity is lost in the flood of cursing and spittle flying from his father’s mouth.

The father reaches down and lifts Tommy bodily from the floor placing him in the cart. Then the final battle begins. Tommy wails into the open space about the affront from his father. He throws his head back and screams as tears roll down his face. Dan leans in until he is face to face with the child, a look of malice on his face to rival any warrior from the pages of history, and says simply, “Shut up.”

Tommy recognizing the danger sobs a few more  times as he tries to regain his composure. Afterwards he sits in the cart; a pout on his lips. Every now and then there is a quiet intake of breath and the child wipes a tear from his eyes.

Knowing that he’s won the day the father stands tall and proud. Never again will he be beholden to the stresses of hearing “I want” or “What’s this?” or “But why?” while standing in a check out line. Now there is a path to victory. Now he knows how to maintain the peace.

Meanwhile his son is quietly broken.

We’ve all had moments like this. You’re stressed, you have a million things on your mind and at that moment you kind of hate life. Your child, unaware of the stresses of adult life and the strain its putting on you mentally is asking a million questions or playing with everything breakable within arms reach. At that moment it’s not hard to react like Dan.

What is hard is to undo the damage that a reaction like Dan’s does to your child.

You have to remember that a father is a kid’s first hero. There’s nothing you can’t do. As a father to a small child you have super strength, super intelligence, and every other quality that every super hero EVER had. Your child idolizes you and wishes to be you (the same way that they’ll pretend to be their superheroes later in their childhood). And, because they love you, respect you and look up to you they want you to like and love them. They want you to notice them and speak with them.

When your reaction is to yell and scream every time they act out you’re slowly breaking them. Their image of you is falling apart. You slowly fade from your position as their hero to a dictator. Your child will begin to inwardly cower every time they think they’ve stepped out of line. They won’t approach you to just be with you and spend time with you for fear of what you’ll do.

Mentally and emotionally you’ve broken your child in a way that no one else on Earth has the ability to. You’ve taken the one person in their life who stood for everything safe and stripped that safety away. The trust they had put in you fades.

It’s a child. A CHILD. They are naturally curious about everything because they’ve only ever seen a tiny portion of the world in their short lives. They want your attention because, again, you are literally everything to them. And, yes, they will act out in public from time to time because, as a child, they don’t know anything about etiquette.

Because of these things you yell at them, possibly spank them, curse, fume and put your finger in their face.That sobbing they do afterwards? That’s not them rationalizing what just happened. That’s them letting their hero go. That’s them blaming themselves for being a bad kid and disappointing their hero. They don’t understand why you’re so upset. They lack the cognitive ability to think through the situation logically. That sobbing? That’s them breaking. And it’s your fault.

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Now. I’m not here to preach. I’m not going to stand on my little corner of this soapbox and tell you I’ve never yelled at my child or gotten so frustrated I cant think straight. It happens to everyone. If it never happens to you, congratulations on being the first robot to procreate.

I will tell you this: if, and when, I yell at my child, within 30 seconds of me doing it I’m holding him and telling him that I’m sorry I yelled and explaining that he has to listen when I tell him to do things. And I don’t put him down until he’s calmed down. Also I’m not talking about dangerous situations. If my kid takes off with a pair of scissors, yes I will probably yell to protect him, but again if my yelling scares him I will pick him up and try to calmly explain that he was putting himself in a dangerous situation. This is true no matter if it’s in public or at my home. I don’t care where I am; if my child needs me to comfort him I’m going to man up and do it.

However, there is a select group of individuals that I am talking about. Not the good parents who are trying to protect their child, or those that apologize after they yell. You’re normal and just trying to raise your kids without completely screwing up.

I’m talking about the idiots who publicly shame their children and then act proud that they “outwitted” a 4 year old. You are pathetic. Your children are not there to make you more comfortable or give you someone to scream at because you’re too much of a pussy to stand up to the real sources of your anger. You can’t stand up to your boss, or your wife, or some jerk named Bob so you find someone smaller and weaker to bully? I feel for your children. I hope that as they grow they find someone who they can look up to that, even when they are a disappointment, will try to be a good role model for them.

Seriously, if you can’t think of a better way to control a small child than having a meltdown you need help. There’s not a power struggle there. It’s a child. You don’t have to yell and scream like an idiot, or get in their face. I understand it’s frustrating, but as an adult you should be able to deal with frustration without losing your mind.

In the meantime, the next time your children push you to the point when you’re about to yell, and scream, and make a complete ass out of yourself in public maybe you can pick up your kids and give them a hug and tell them you really need them to quiet down and be still. Maybe set them in the cart and talk to them. Treat them like they’re, at least, worthy of having you as a parent. If you can’t do that, if you can’t change, then at least try to be a complete ass near someone who will step in and call you for it. An actual father who won’t let you tear your kid down just because YOU don’t know how to behave in public.

Want to learn how to start changing? Want to learn how to be a better father, husband and neighbor? Read Becoming Superdad to start you on your way.

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Posted in The Old Stuff.