Here's something that happens in my house all the time: my boys (who are 7 and almost 5) are playing in the living room. Gradually, the volume level and chaos they create gets to a point where objects are careening off the walls, I can't focus on my task at hand because my eardrums are on the verge of rupture, and the cat is hiding under the coffee table with a puffed tail, visibly plotting their demise.
"Guys," I say mildly. "Tone it down, okay?" I don't know why I start there, but I always do. I always think, THIS time they'll listen, right?
Wrong. As they whirl around like Tasmanian devils -- not even the snorting, slobbery-tongued, comical Looney Tunes character, but more like the ill-tempered screech-growly real-life variety -- I progress to a series of equally ignored admonitions: "I'm not kidding. Knock it off. Stop being so crazy. You're too loud. Guys. Guys! GUYS!"
Eventually, I unhinge my jaw, take a deep breath, and access The Voice. "GODDAMMIT. YOU. WILL FIND. SOMETHING QUIET TO DO. RIGHT NOW."
And that's when they listen. At the precise moment I lose my composure altogether and I'm millimeters from some un-take-backable action (like the time I furiously scooped up a massive armful of my son's toys and marched everything straight out to the trash) (granted, he'd been a serious shit that afternoon) (but, yeah, I probably could've handled that differently), that's when they suddenly pay attention to the words coming out of my mouth.
I don't mean they sort of reluctantly behave, either. I mean they drop everything in a heartbeat and scramble to obey whatever order I've given them. They go flying out of the room like they've got invisible Evinrude outboard motors bolted to their rear ends. They trip over each other to get out the crayons or Legos and immerse themselves in silent, eye-darting activity. Sometimes they disappear into their rooms and tidy their books and adjust their bedspreads for a while until they work up the nerve to come creeping back into the living room 20 minutes later, grinning at me like nervous dogs.
I mean, it sort of makes me feel bad, you know? You'd think I had a habit of whipping out a cane switch every time I had to raise my voice.
But mostly, it makes me a little crazy. Why, why, WHY do they wait until I'm fully saturated with irritation before they actually pay attention? Why do they shine me off like I'm the mwah-wah-wah Charlie Brown teacher while I'm using a normal-yet-stern motherly voice? Why is it only after I've tumbled directly into Mommy Dearest territory that they start behaving? When I use my Scary Voice, they practically snap off terrified salutes, for christ's sake.
It's not even necessarily a yelling voice (although I can't lie, it often is). It's just ... well, maybe you know what I mean, here. It's the Scary Voice. It's the Voice of a Woman Who's Fed Up. It's the voice that says, I'm not necessarily in favor of spanking but I might change my philosophy about that right here and now.<
If you've seen Bill Cosby's "The Same Thing Happens Every Night" routine from Himself, you know The Voice. You can hear it here at 6:33:
My favorite part of that? "These brain-damaged people have the nerve to looked surprised!" RIGHT? This is what happens with my kids, they push and push and push and push and then I flip out on them and then they rush to behave, with terrified OH SHIT expressions on their faces. As if they hadn't just been acting like deaf, feral monkeys while they ignored my increasingly grumpy scoldings. As if my I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS!!! reaction had come out of nowhere.
I guess the good news is that they do, eventually, pay attention. But lord, why does it have to be so hard? I don't like losing my temper any more than they like getting in trouble. Why not listen earlier on, kids? WHYYYYYYY.
Do you experience this phenomenon in your household too?
by saltlifemamaJanuary 15, 2013 at 3:43 PM
Yep, my boys tend to completely ignore me until I am loud enough for the neighbors to hear me. Then they stare at me like HUH? Once i have screamed my way into their little world then I use my deathly calm voice. Its at that point they know mommy is not to be crossed.
Recently we found out the ds2 had extensive hearing loss from fluid in his ears so I give him a free pass. Ds1 has no good excuse. He just seems live in his own realm.
by MessedUpMamaJanuary 16, 2013 at 11:07 PM
Yes it happens here too. Except that they don't get scared they get mad. They tell me that I shouldn't yell at them. Even the logic of "If you listened to me when I told you to do something and did it the first time, I wouldn't need to yell at you" doesn't seem to sink in.
by LoveMyLosJanuary 17, 2013 at 6:48 AMLol yep
by smushy79January 17, 2013 at 7:37 AM
This is my life....
I want it to change. I go to bed at night sometimes and lay there feeling like the worst mother in the world because I yelled at them. And I told myself I wouldnt.
Yep here too. And the bad news is, the cycle is almost impossible to break. Once you start using yellling its like suddenly you cannot possibly mean anything you say until you yell. My oldest dd (5) has it in her head that eventually I will get to yelling and thats the end, but until then she has wiggle room. Im trying very hard to fix it, but its an uphill battle.
ahhh ds2 is the same way!! i will yell till i am red in the face and still he will just look at me...dh comes along says "o do this or that" and he just does it ugh so frustrating!! i have by the way tried the calm approach to no avail it just doesn't work.
side note it is the oppisite for ds1 he listens to me not dh.
What gets me is they don't listen to me unless I'm yelling, or almost-yelling, but they listen to dh when he uses a quiet voice. Grrr!!!