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I Followed My Daughter on Her Walk Home From School Because I Fear For Her Safety

"Overprotective? Not at all. I needed to know what she was listening. And she wasn't.".

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. Here, Kenny*, a 34-year-old father who lives outside of Charlotte, explains why he followed and yelled at his daughter on her first walk home from school 

Tell me about the last time you yelled.

I work in construction. So I yell at guys all the time [laughs]

Okay, when was the last time you yelled away from the worksite?

A few weeks ago.

What happened?

I scolded my daughter very loudly and in public in our neighborhood. 

Walk me back a bit. What caused it?

I’d made a promise to her that the first nice day we had this spring, she could walk to school with her friend. It was conditional though: she had to show me that she was ready for the responsibility. So, throughout the winter, we’d take these family walks that followed the route to school — it’s about a 10-minute walk from our house — and I’d make sure she was paying attention the entire time, following the proper route, noticing the houses on the block, stopping at corners, and staying on the sidewalk. I’d quiz her later on — in the car, during dinner — about where to turn and what not to do. 

How did the preparation go?

It went fine. Took a little while to sink in. She’s only 8, so she needs some time. She’s a great girl but she can be a little space cadet. Our initial walks were filled with a lot of me asking where do we turn at this next corner and her going ummmmm. But she got the hang of it and by the time we’d practiced the route enough and gone over all the precautions, I was satisfied that she understood. 

So what made you yell?

Well, that afternoon of her first walk, I’d planned an hour off work so that I could drive to her school and keep an eye on her walk home, make sure she was doing things right.

Do you think you were being a little overprotective? 

Overprotective? Not at all. I needed to know what she was listening. She’s 8, for chrissakes. And she wasn’t. So I see her leave with her friend and watch her on their way home. And not two minutes into her walk, where do I see her? Walking beside her friend on the side of the road, not the sidewalk. Now these are not crowded roads, and she wasn’t in the middle of the street, but the point remains.

What’d you do?

I came down the road, honking my horn — we have a family honk: three quick taps on the horn followed by one loud one — and pulled my car to the side. She knew it was me immediately. I roll down my window and scream at her to get in the car. And I ask her friend, who lives around the corner, to get in too. Then, I talk to them in what I think is a stern, but, given the circumstances, calm tone. I said I thought you were ready for this responsibility but I guess not; didn’t we go over this? Why didn’t you listen to me? and so on. 

How’d your daughter respond?

She was quiet during the short drive home. But after I dropped off her friend, who lives around the corner from us, she started sobbing. I felt my insides knot up because of it, but she needed to know that there would be consequences to her actions.

What was the punishment?

She didn’t listen, so she couldn’t walk to school for another two weeks. And it would be a trial basis again. That wasn’t a surprise; this was agreed upon earlier. 

How did she handle it?

She kept crying and then finally settled down. She was mad but I explained to her why, that I’m looking out for her, that I need to know that she’s going to be safe without me and her mom nearby, that I was worried about her safety. I think she understood. 

Did you apologize for yelling?

Apologize? No, not at all. She didn’t follow the rules. I did explain to her why I raised my voice, which is an important distinction. I told her again that its because I want her to be safe, because I don’t want anything to happen to her. 

Has she walked yet?

No, not yet. But I’m sure that when she walks next time she’ll stay on the sidewalk.

Do you think you’ll follow her in the car next time?

Oh absolutely. Dad’s gotta know.