parent opinion

Brene Brown has yelled at her kids fewer than five times in their lives. They're 14 and 20.

Do you struggle to put your shoes on before leaving the house every morning?

How about the wearing of pants? Do you find that challenging?

Is it tricky for you to remember to brush your teeth, or hair?

What about eating breakfast? If someone made you a piping hot piece of toast with your favourite topping on it and brought it to you exactly where you were, would you find it too difficult to eat it before it congealed into a freezing slab?

Simple tasks. Repeated daily. Not that tricky, right?

Except… in my house. For my two children to tick off these simple tasks, each day, is a challenge so great, an ask so unreasonable, a mission so impossible, that it cannot be achieved without one of the adults in the house constantly hovering, supervising, directing. And, let’s face it, shouting our freaking heads off.

This morning, mid-scream, I thought about Brene Brown. Yes, the Texan research professor who has possibly the most watched Ted Talk of all time (haven’t seen it? Where have you been? watch it, here), five best-selling books under her belt and a Netflix Special that’s all anyone’s talking about. I thought about her because I’d just listened to a podcast where she and Russell Brand shared parenting tips, among many other things. Brand has recently discovered fatherhood and domesticity, and he wanted to pump Brene for tips because: a) Her kids are 14 and 20, so, experience and b) She’s a guru, and you don’t get to sit down with one of those every day.

WATCH: Watch the trailer for Brené Brown Netflix Special: The Call To Courage..

Video by Netflix

Brene Brown told Brand that she and her husband were “Choice Parents”. I had to Google that, but when I did, I realised I’m one, too. Choice Parents aim for personal accountability in their kids. So, for example, to a stubborn toddler they might say:

“Joaquin, you have two choices right now. You can choose to put your trousers on, or you can choose to be shut in the cupboard with the lights off.”

When Joaquin, inevitably, does not put on his trousers, the Choice Parent shuts them in the cupboard. But as they do it, they say, with an appropriate degree of supportive disappointment in their voice, “This was your choice, Joaquin. I really hoped you would have made the other choice, Joaquin.”

Timely disclaimer: Neither the legendary Brene Brown or I endorse shutting kids in cupboards. It’s just a slightly disturbing metaphor for ‘Something the kid doesn’t want to happen’. Don’t @ me. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Brene says that because she and her husband Steve (a paediatrician, stop it) always follow through with the Choice thing, she can count the number of times she has raised her voice at her kids “on one hand”.

And that is why I was thinking about Brene when I found myself, this morning at 7.22am screaming, “If you put your hands on your head I can’t brush your hair! Move your hands, please. NOPE, not somewhere else on your head. Come on, darling… just move your… NO, not over your ears, that’s not going to work… JUST MOVE YOUR F*****G HANDS!”

Look, it’s hard not to shout. It’s really, really hard.

Because although we all know – especially us Choice Parents, who have, often, allowed our kids to choose the shouting – that yelling can make you feel better in the moment because you are stressed and tired and just need to let something out, it rarely works.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Brené Brown (@brenebrown) on

No child who is regularly yelled at does anything faster or better because they’re being yelled at.

I know, because I’ve been running clinical trials for, oh, about nine years.

Here are some of the things I’ve shouted in the mornings lately that I need more than one hand to count. Things I never thought I would say, never mind at a level audible to my neighbours.

“DON’T BANG ON THE STICK INSECT CAGE. THEY’RE HAVING SEX.”

“I TOLD YOU YESTERDAY, YOU CAN’T GO TO SCHOOL IN NARWHAL SLIPPERS.”

“LAUGH AT YOUR DAD’S JOKE . LAUGH! LAUGH!!!! WE ARE KIND IN THIS FAMILY.”

“YOUR BROTHER IS NOT A PUPPY. HE DOESN’T NEED A LEASH.”

“IF YOU DON’T BRUSH YOUR TEETH THEY WILL TURN BLACK AND FALL OUT AND IT WILL REALLY, REALLY, REALLY HURT.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“IF YOU DON’T PUT THAT DOWN/PICK THAT UP/PUT THOSE ON/TIDY THAT UP/EAT THAT THING… YOU WILL NEVER SEE THE IPAD AGAIN. I WILL THROW IT IN THE BIN. AND IT WILL BE YOUR CHOICE.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Holly Wainwright (@wainwrightholly) on

I wonder if Brene ever threatened to throw $400 electronic devices into the rubbish? (Jks, ours is a cheap Android knock-off  “iPad”, and no, we still wouldn’t throw it in the bin). I really doubt it, because Brene doesn’t shout, and if you were going to whisper any of the above lines, that would really be some dark, threatening shit.

I want to parent like Brene. I want to stop shouting. Stop giving my neighbours reasons to look away quickly when they see me outside. I want our mornings to be calm and pleasant. I want to have children who’ll reliably wear pants.

It’s a crazy dream, but Instagram is always telling me to believe in crazy dreams.

Apparently, Brene says, the Choice is mine. In the same podcast, the guru shared that, “It only takes one time [of you not following through on your ‘choice’ threats] for your kid to realise you are full of shit”.

And my kids worked out way back that I am full of shit. Because I have never once thrown the pretend iPad in the bin. Their teeth have not fallen out. Their dad’s jokes aren’t that funny. My son really does need a leash, at times. And banging on the stick insect cage never, ever stops them from having sex.

Tomorrow morning will be better. You can take that promise to the bank.

Have you learned how to not yell at your kids? 

Holly Wainwright hosts our family-life podcast This Glorious Mess with Andrew Daddo. You can follow her on Facebook, here, and buy her novels, here

00:00 / ???