Why Did I Yell at My Kids? Because I Was Worried What Others Would Think if I Didn’t

"I’m pretty sure the other customers were thinking that I was being a less than ideal dad. Not the biggest deal, but it happens."

Welcome to “Why I Yelled,” Fatherly’s ongoing series in which real dads discuss a time they lost their temper in front of their wife, their kids, their coworker — anyone, really — and why. The goal of this isn’t to examine the deeper meaning of screaming or come to any great conclusions. It’s about yelling and what really triggers it. In this latest installment, Eric, a 44-year-old father of twin boys, discusses scolding his kids for acting up at a pizza shop and feeling more concerned about the on-lookers than the actions of his kids.

When was the last time you yelled?

Last week. Friday. Around 4:30.

That’s very specific.

I don’t yell very much. And when I do, I’m mad at myself for losing my cool. So I know exactly when and where. It was at our local pizza place. Once or twice a month, I’ll take the kids there as a sort of end of the school week treat if they’ve been good. They were pretty well behaved all week. Well, they were until this moment.

I’m guessing they did something at this lunch.

They sure did. I have twin 5-year-old boys and when one does something the other just likes to up the ante, you know? So, one of them started hopping up and down on the wooden bench of the booth we were in. Then the next did that. Once I got them to settle down, they took their straws and they were pouring out the shakers at the table and blowing crushed red pepper and garlic powder, which was making a big mess all over the place. Finally, after they stopped doing that — which, in retrospect, was a pretty funny sight — they were dipping their fingers into their sodas and flicking them at one another and me.

And that’s when you lost it.

That was when I lost it. I understand the cooped up energy that kids have and need to release especially after a long week — I need to release energy, too. But they were going about it in a way that was in direct opposition to dad. I’d told them 20 times to stop, and they were just being silly and not listening. When that happens, I yell. And boy, did I yell. I barked at them to stop, told them to finish their slices in silence, and we got in the car.

Did it work?

Yeah, it worked. Because, as I said, I rarely yell. So when I do, my shouts must hit them like a shotgun blast. They both went quiet and did as I said. But they were each on the verge of tears. And it also worked in the sense that it made me feel fucking terrible about myself. I hate yelling at my kids. Here we were, father and sons, eating some pizza on a Friday afternoon and I had to publicly scold them. I love being a dad but there are parts of it, obviously, that goes directly into the no-fun column. That was one of those moments.

What made you so mad at them?

Honestly, it wasn’t that they were being silly. They’re kids; they’re going to be silly. But we were in a public place that was pretty crowded. And I felt like everyone there was watching us and judging. Do I care what people think? Not often. But sometimes I do and I’m pretty sure the other customers were thinking that I was being a less than ideal dad. Not the biggest deal, but it happens.

Do you think you would’ve yelled if the restaurant had been empty?

Probably not. There wouldn’t have been that tension. I would’ve been very stern with them, however. They were acting like little animals and would’ve done that regardless and I would’ve had to get them to behave if people were there or not. My parenting doesn’t change when people are around.

So what happened when you got home?

Well, in the car, I asked my kids why I yelled. And in a moment of self-realization, one of my sons said: “Because we were being too silly.” So they knew. And I told them that being silly is totally fine and necessary sometimes, but that wasn’t the time and place. They understood, I think, and were well behaved the whole way home.

When we got home, they were still being timid. But I didn’t want to ruin Friday night. They’d obviously gotten the message. So I made a big bowl of popcorn and we watched a movie together. They had a good time. Friday night can still be Friday night if you yell at your kids for being idiots.

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