A few days ago I mentioned I gave up yelling. It happened one day after I stumbled across the pin of the blog The Orange Rhino. I've given up yelling before but always found myself blowing it after just a few days or sometimes a few hours. Let me tell you folks, eight year olds know how to push your buttons. But I hate yelling at my kids. Often I can feel myself teetering on the edge of out of control and while my logical brain is saying, "stop it, this isn't making anything better," my emotional self is just angry and wants the world to know it. Afterwards I feel horrible and when my children scream at me I often wonder how I can expect anything but, when I have clearly modeled such an undesirable behavior to them. I also constantly have the mantra running through my head that negative has such a greater affect (it's called the negative bias and it exist in everything that we do) and the well known adage that it takes five positives to offset a negative. So essentially I always felt in the hole. I would do all this wonderful stuff for my kids but then I would yell and I'd think, great in that second of a lack of self control I just took myself back down to ground zero. But here on the internet I found a woman who was a self proclaimed yeller 1, almost at the end of finishing 365 consecutive days of not yelling. It was like a revelation from God, proof positive that you can be something else, that it is possible to change, that me, a yeller could stop. And so from the moment I read that, I just stopped, I refused to allow myself to yell at my children in anger (yelling across the park to get their attention...that was still ok :). I went a day, then two, then three. I said to Dr. J, "This is going to sound really silly to say out loud but I haven't yelled at the kids in three days." He said, "That's not silly, that's amazing." At four days I posted it on Facebook (because nothing is ever official until Facebook right and mentioned it on my blog. It has now been 13 days and I've decided that for Lent 2 this year I'm going to just keep calm and continue on in my goal of not yelling at the kids. Now typically Lent is a time to give "up certain types of luxuries as a form of penitence." And so I've given up things like sweets, chocolate, or salt before but I think yelling can totally apply because giving up yelling is my commitment to give up what for me personally is my own lazy parenting, my half hearted attempts at self control, and releasing my tendency to hold onto anger.
Giving up yelling has been a liberating feeling. I can tell you that I feel like an amazing mom right now. All of the good, positive stuff I do gets to stay in the positive side and I don't feel like it is being taken down because I'm constantly trying to make up for being the crazy yelling mom. My house has been calmer. My kids are being more loving. My son has told me multiple times this week that I am the best mom ever. It is not to say that there have not been rough times or that my kids have changed their behavior to match me. In fact there was a night when late homework and a temper tantrum while not resulting in a yell definitely resulted in me being majorly relieved when a certain child finally went to bed. Also my kids have still yelled at me when they aren't happy about the way something is going and while they are doing it there is this part of me that says, "Hey they are showing disrespect, how are you letting this go." But this other part of me, the better part says, "You can do this." And what comes out of my mouth is the very calm, "I can see you are really upset about this but while you are being disrespectful I need you to go upstairs. Feel free to come down when you are feeling a little more calm." And that's it. And maybe my son or my three year old yell at me while they are stomping up the stairs, "I hate you." But maybe I just say, "That kind of talk hurts my feelings." And then I just ignore the next five to ten times they say it. And five minutes later they have calmed down and they come bouncing down and I say, "Guys we need to be careful of the words we say because they hurt people's feelings." And then it is over. And instead of these long drawn out horrible fights between us, there is them freaking out, me being calm and we shave a whole 45 minutes off the whole thing. So maybe I don't "show them they have to respect me." Maybe I'm "letting them get away with it." Maybe I don't match them word for word. But MAYBE none of that stuff ever worked in the first place. Maybe that is just a way to get fear or blow steam. Maybe in the end our kids get to a point where we can't dominate them and instead we need to learn to teach them, help them see the right paths, applaud them when they make the right choices and be there to help them get up when they make the wrong ones . Maybe that is better. Dr. J has said he definitely notices a difference in this house and so have I. And maybe that difference will start to percolate in, and maybe someday they won't feel the need to yell at me when they get upset. Maybe, just maybe I can undo what I've already done.
There have been some casualties along the way. I'm coming to realize that control must be the first one. We can't control our children forever and so instead we need to learn to be a gentle guide or a shinning light of what we want and to realize in the end that this is their life and sometimes the choices they make are not the ones we would have wished for them. Feelings of needing to be "respected" have had to be let go. Fear is not respect and that's all yelling has ever gotten me. Pride needs to be let go. The fact is that even though I think I'm always right, sometimes, just sometimes, I'm not. I've had to let go of the idea that my frustration is always the kids fault. So often the are just the target because of circumstances that are beyond their control. I'll give you an example of this. Just this last week I had a morning doctor's appointment for Tiny T. I knew it was going to be a stretch because I needed to leave shortly after the Elders got on the bus for school. Unfortunately Peach was just having a hard time getting herself together. She took her time picking out shoes, she spilled milk, she had trouble with her seat belt in the car. I knew we were going to be late and I could feel myself getting frustrated but I also realized it wasn't Peach's fault. Yeah sure maybe she could have done things a second or two faster but she isn't the one who scheduled a doctors appointment for so early and she also wasn't the one who wasted five precious minutes earlier in the morning on Instagram instead of getting the kids up just a little earlier. That was me, and now we were here, she was doodling a bit and I was getting frustrated, but it was me who led to this situation. So I swallowed what was going to be my snap to "Hurry it up," and I called the pediatricians office. "Hey," I said, "We are running about ten minutes behind, you know two kids and all." "No problem," they said. The moment I wanted to yell was gone. We have to let go of ire caused by our choices and our embarrassment or annoyance at our kids for acting like kids when we put them in situations that are not necessarily natural to them and then they act out. And finally I'm starting to let go of caring about what other people think about my children. My behavior with my children should not be controlled by fearing that other people will not approve of my children and will think I'm a bad parent if I can't "control them". First off there is a really good chance most people are not even judging me so why should I worry about it. Second off, I need to remember it's always easier to be the Monday morning quarterback or in this case, the person not dealing with the toddler meltdown. Third off if people really do want to judge me and can't see how this would be a struggle for them, then who needs them, I mean I never really even liked those people anyway right, so just let it go ;-). So wish me luck as I try to rock out this Easter Season by continuing to fill my house with calm, because after all I am the mom!
1 I realize there are people out there who never yell, I have a list of some of the most amazing, self-controlled, loving moms that I aspire to be, but I am not them and sometimes when I think of them I feel hopeless, but this woman wasn't them either and she was doing it. That brought hope that I could to.
2 Even though I am a Mormon and belong to a religion that just doesn't join most of the rest of Christianity in really rocking out Easter I have been celebrating lent off and on again since my late teens, thanks to a friend named Aurora, because I love Easter and I want to celebrate it to it's fullest, not just listen to a couple of talks on one Sunday and eat ham.