I managed a whopping 10 days without yelling at my children. During that time, I only snapped at my younger daughter once (a "nasty snap," starting me over on the Orange Rhino challenge) and yelled at my husband twice (starting me over again). Then, between last night and this morning I pretty much yelled at everybody.
Oh well, I'm back on the wagon and sharing what I've learned over the past couple of weeks. In no particular order:
1. Yelling is a habit. Like any other habit, when we make a clear choice and decide to invest 100% of ourselves to changing a bad habit, we absolutely can achieve it.
2. Yelling is an addictive habit. We get hooked on the adrenaline that courses through our bodies in the build up of stress, straight through to the point of yelling, and in the aftermath of guilt. After not yelling for several days, and then choosing (that's right - choosing, or to put it another way, granting myself permission) to yell, I could feel that old familiar and luring rush.
3. Yelling is a choice. Like it or not, every response to any stimuli is a choice. "I don't have a choice" or "It's the only way I can get through to them," and "nothing else works" excuses are big, fat BS. Yes, is big fat BS! Are you going to agree with your 2-year-old that they had no other choice but to bite their brother or whack their sister in the head with that toy car? No. You tell them to use their words if they're upset. Not screaming words, either. Well, Mommy? Time to stop telling and do some showing.
4. Yelling is bullying. We all want to protect our children from the experience of being bullied, don't we? Well, what about when we are the bully? Next time you start yelling, try to step back and watch yourself objectively. Or go write it all down right after so that you can look at it later. Or set up your smart phone and hit record during your most stressful times and play it back later to see how you behaved. Yelling is bullying.
5. Yelling is part of a vicious cycle. You yell, you feel bad for yelling, you yell some more and your kids yell back. The worse you feel, the more you yell. I have good news, though - it works the other way, too. The more you keep your cool, the better you feel and the less you feel like yelling. Trust me - I have experienced this recently and it is glorious. Like springtime.
6. Yelling totally damages self-esteem - your children's and your own. I have clear evidence of this in my house and it is the number one motivation for me to stop. Being yelled at feels scary and dangerous to children. And yelling, the really big yelling, feels scary and dangerous when we're doing it, doesn't it? Ever lose it in such a big way you almost wonder who the hell this maniac yelling at her kids at the top of her lungs is? I have. It feels horrible and I lose all respect for myself. Then we go and tell them they made us yell, or made us frustrated or made us mad. They didn't make us do anything or feel anything. Only we can choose that. Own it.
Instead of, "You make me so mad when you don't listen," try, "I get so angry when I am repeatedly ignored that I feel like yelling!" Own your own feelings. That's they only way our children will learn to own theirs. We are their role-models, so model what you want to see because they internalize everything and then reflect it right back at us! They are little sponges and I can guarantee, that if you're a yeller, you have self-esteem issues and so likely do your kids. Sorry to be blunt, but it's my mission to improve lives and that takes getting real with yourself.
7. Yelling at your kids is both taboo and yet, strangely socially acceptable among parents. We all do it. "What else can you do?" we say to each other. I want this to stop. Not in a judgey-preachy way, but in a supportive, "Yes, you can keep calm!" way. Because you can. I can. We can.
8. You can stop yelling. Yes, you can. Didn't I just tell you that? If I can, you can! If a mother of 4 boys ages 6 and under can, you can. If a mother of a pre-teen girl and 3 younger kids can, you can! You absolutely can! It takes a willingness to take a good hard look at yourself, a 100% commitment to change and practice, practice, practice!
The good news is that dramatic shifts take place within just a few days. Give yourself a goal of just 3 days and I promise that you will see results you thought you'd never see! Even after 1 day you'll see results. Your kids will be happier, you will feel happier! I was surprised to find myself laughing more, connecting more, playing more... those results will drive you to do even better.
And when you mess up and yell or do what The Orange Rhino calls a "Nasty Snap," you will simply start over. You will start over until using "your words" in a reasonable voice becomes your new habit. Until then, scream in the freezer, another room or in the toilet, just not at your kids (or spouse).
Stop making excuses and stop yelling at your kids.
Have you joined the challenge? Share what you've learned below. Haven't joined? Be brave and share why.