Hi, my name is “The Orange Rhino” and I yell at my kids. Actually, I should say that I used to yell at my kids. All the time. For whining, fighting with each other, leaving toys out, not listening to me, refusing to get in the bath…the list could go on and on.
I used to yell at them for what now seems like just about everything and anything. I yelled for supposedly legitimate reasons: “Seriously, you colored on the walls, again?!” And I yelled for not so good reasons (after all, spilled milk is just spilled milk). Sometimes I’d catch myself before the yelling got out of control. And sometimes…well, sometimes I didn’t.
One particularly hard morning, our handyman caught me out-of-control-screaming at my four boys. We’re talking red-in-the-face, body-shaking, full-on screaming! I was mortified. But it was a life changing moment; it caused me to do some serious soul searching. I could no longer accept that yelling at my kids wasn’t a problem. I could no longer accept all the excuses about why I couldn’t change: I’m too tired; I don’t have the time; nothing else will work. And I could no longer accept that my kids were starting to think of me as a screaming, mean scary mother instead of the loving, patient and firm-but-kind mother I knew I could be.
So I decided to change. I made it my mission to go 365 days straight without yelling at my boys. And I did!
It took a lot of hard work and support. I discovered my triggers and created a plan for them. I had an awesome online support group. I created fun alternatives to yelling so the journey didn’t feel like a chore. I wore orange to remind me of my promise and to remind me to find warm words. And I made a promise to myself to go one moment at a time and to forgive myself if I slipped.
But one of the most important reasons I succeeded was realizing that my kids weren’t always the problem—sometimes I was. That all of the “reasons” I yelled weren’t always the real reason. As I tracked my yelling to figure out when and why I yelled, it became abundantly clear that a lot of the time, (maybe even 9 times out of 10) I yelled because of me.
I really wasn’t yelling because the kids made a mess or were slow getting ready, but because…
- I had a fight with my husband.
- I was overtired.
- I was pre-occupied.
- I was feeling down.
- I had PMS (also known by me as Pushing Me to Scream).
- I was overwhelmed.
Basically, I yelled when I was not in the calm, patient place that I needed to be in order to respond to my kids in an equally calm, patient way. And let’s be honest, it was way easier to blame my kids’ behavior instead of looking within and accepting that a lot of the time, I was the real cause.
And sometimes I yelled even when I was in a good place. I would yell because their behavior was just bad. The time one son deliberately pushed the other down a few steps? Yeah. That time I yelled. But looking back, even in that moment, I yelled because of me. Yes, the pushing triggered me. But my kids didn’t make me yell; I let myself yell. That moment triggered another important insight that helped me succeed. I can’t always control my kids’ actions, but I can always control mine. I have the choice to yell and cause my kids to tune me out. And I have the choice to decide not to yell so that I can deliver my lesson in a calm way that has a better chance of sticking.
Here are some more tips that can help you, too, yell less and love more:
Direct Anger Where it Belongs
Identify the personal trigger so that when they flare up at the same time the kids start whining you can say to yourself, “I am not mad at the kids, I am mad at …”
Take a 5 Minute “Mommy Break”
Call a friend and vent. Or cry and then say “time’s up!” Listen to favorite music. Sit down and drink a warm cup of coffee. Get some fresh air.
Schedule a Yell
That’s right. Schedule a yell. Some days when things are bad and I know a yell is highly likely, I take my kids to the park and we all run around yelling. It releases the yell and relieves tension.
Share Your Emotions – Gently
It’s important for kids to learn about emotions and empathy so try saying something like, “Mommy loves you, but I am feeling a little sad right now. Can you be extra loving and gentle with me?” You’ll be amazed how empathetic kids can be!
Count Down to Bedtime, Figuratively Speaking
On hard days, I start counting minutes to bedtime, but in a positive way: “Five hours to bedtime. That is only 5 hours. You can do it!” Go a minute at a time if you have to.
I am still not yelling at my kids. Actually, I should say that I am yelling less and loving more. I have slipped. Let’s be real; it’s hard to remain self-aware, to remain mindful of the choices I make and to control my actions given the stresses of life. But when I do slip up, I forgive myself, apologize to my kids and focus on what is going on with me so I can move forward. So be kind to yourself, get support and be proud of your efforts to yell less and love more!