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May 16 2012

Dr. Sears Made Me Cry

By at 10:42 am

I yelled at my daughter this morning. She’s not even 2, and I yelled at her. More than once. Even as I was doing it, I knew that I shouldn’t be raising my voice, that I didn’t want to be responding to her that way. I knew that my yelling was not only ineffective, but it was hurtful, and not the way I want to parent my daughters.

And yet, I couldn’t help myself.

I have all sorts of excuses, reasons, whatever you want to call them.  My husband is traveling for work this week, and I’m stressed out by solo parenting and my own work demands. I’m getting over a cold. It’s raining. I was up three times in the middle of the night with her sister, before being awakened at 5 am for the morning. My new diet is stressing me out. I hadn’t had my coffee. She wasn’t behaving well, and I did ask nicely several times. Blah blah blah.

Yes, I know that yelling isn’t the worst parenting move I can make, but it’s not the best one either. I should take a breath, give myself a time out, use my words (as I told both daughters to do over and over again this morning), or just get over whatever it is I’m in such a tizzy about; chances are it’s not that important. But this morning, somehow, I couldn’t do any of those things.

I ultimately apologized to my daughter, and we had a nice snuggle. I got the girls to daycare, kissed them good-bye, and headed to the gym before going into work. (Mommy’s working on her positive coping skills here, people.) Once I got on the treadmill, I popped in my headphones and listened to a public radio interview with Dr. Bill Sears, the “guru” of Attachment Parenting. (Yes, we’re still processing the latest issue of Time Magazine.)  At one point, Dr. Sears stated that children who were attachment parented are more empathic than other kids.

In that moment, I had to restrain myself from bursting into tears. I left the gym, and as I sat in the car in the parking lot in the pouring rain, I managed to convince myself that my sweet, loving, smiling daughter will undoubtedly become a psychopath by age 9. All because I yelled at her this morning.

From a personal and professional standpoint, I know it’s all bullshit. Other than Dr. Sears’ own observations, there is absolutely no data measuring the impact of attachment parenting on empathy. The reality is that most parents, attachment parents or not, do a good enough job, most children are empathic most of the time, and yelling at a kid from time to time won’t actually destroy her tiny soul for all of eternity.

Now that I’ve had a cup of coffee, a few deep breaths, and a moment of perspective, I’ve come to some important conclusions:

1.  For the most part, my aversion to attachment parenting has nothing to do with the specifics of the practice. But I have little patience for those who insist that any one style of parenting will result in better children, as Dr. Sears so clearly stated this morning. It’s just not true.

2. I need to develop some skills for slowing down, breathing, and responding more calmly when my kids are driving me nuts.

3.  I’m not always going to get it right, and that’s ok.  No parent ever does, and like I said, most kids turn out ok, most of the time.

4.  I really need more sleep. Or more coffee. Or both. But probably just more sleep.

So, parents, help me out here. Do you yell at your kids? How do you feel about it? What skills have you developed to manage difficult situations with your kids?


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