I never used to be a 'yeller'. Before kids, definitely neverrrrrrrr. And even with one and two kids, I was never really tempted to yell at them. Cranky, tired, frustrated - sureeee. But I just wasn't a 'yeller'. #yet
(Please note, I also thought I was a very patient person before I had kids... ha!)
So, that was the beginning of giving myself permission to yell. Not a happy beginning or proud progression, I have to say! I've realised that often the yelling is provoked (still) by my own frustration at being unsure how to otherwise handle behaviour - or simply not having the energy/desire to handle it as I know I should - especially when rushing! Other 'causes' might be my annoyance at their childishness interrupting my other plans or simply 'kids being kids' somehow still being a surprise even after this many years of parenting!? ;) Really, these are excuses, not reasons, aren't they?
I wouldn't say I yelled daily or even usually weekly... (depending!!) but I also saw it was creeping up in me as an easier 'go to' response when I was really exasperated. Eeek :( But this isn't about counting how often I yelled or how often you yell and ranking it on any kind of scale! It's about challenging myself to step up to being the parent I want to be. And maybe sharing my story may encourage you too, if you also struggle with yelling. You are not alone! And it's a different story for everyone but we are all still mothers who want to do our best for our kids - that's the point, right? #hugsallround
I think we would all agree 'parenting by volume' is not the best technique! Far from it. Obviously, it hurts the hearts (and ears!) of our children. Aggressive behaviour is not how I want to teach my children nor how I want them to behave. And what kind of example is it, to show them such lack of self control, when we are trying to teach them those very skills? (And how much older are we?? Ahem).
Soooo, ten days ago, in the middle of the long summer school holidays and also in the midst of a pretty busy and stressful time for our family, when we, (the parents), had a lot of outside things going on distracting us from the children, I could tell I was too easily feeling 'disrupted/frustrated' just by them being kids. So, in the very worst time, it suddenly seemed like the very best time to set myself a 'no yelling/kind voices only' challenge.
And the key? Unlike all those other times I had told myself 'Never yell again! It's awful! Just don't do it!', I decided to 'set myself up for success' with two extra steps. A little advanced preparation makes all the difference when you are really determined to break a habit!
Two Steps to Help You Stop Yelling...
1) Set a DEFINED LENGTH TO YOUR CHALLENGE. This makes it feel much more achievable. I randomly chose 10 days! Which is quite a lot to be honest, maybe I should have set it shorter, haha! But once it was set, I was determined to meet my goal.
2) TELL THE KIDS. They sure keep you accountable!! Over breakfast one morning, my kids and I had a chat. It was a frank and honest talk about yelling. I had to humble myself to tell them I was sorry about how I had yelled in the past, why I didn't want to yell anymore and that I was going to work hard on stopping - with a 10 day goal. They immediately wanted to sign on for themselves too, haha! And were generally just sweet and excited and supportive. So I made a simple little sign for the wall and then every morning I would ask them if I had yelled the day before. You know, kids don't hold back, huh?? #brutalhonesty And how sweeeeeet it was when every morning they would answer 'no yelling!' and I got to cross that day off the chart... felt pretty proud, heehee :)
PS There was one day where they said 'Well, you weren't yelling but you were huffing a lot and being a bit harsh'. Oops.
The toughest thing to realise was, ironically, that it was not that hard. I guess what I had to admit to myself is that previously I was giving myself permission to yell. I was excusing it, justifying it, blaming it on the kid's behaviour rather than my own frustration, unrealistic expectations and simple lack of self control. Having three little sets of eyes on me, cheering me on and keeping me honest and accountable made a world of difference. Having a defined goal made it seem even more achievable - and makes the competitiveness kick in for yourself too! And being forced in those 'tempting situations' to pull up my parenting bootstraps and find other more effective (and mature!!) ways to deal with my children made me a better parent.
On the last day, my seven year old said to me 'Mummy, when this challenge is over, can we do it again? Another challenge? Again and again and again? Because it's so nice around the house with no yelling'. Ziinnnng. She is right. And I can only agree. Will I never yell again? I can't make promises like that and no doubt it's likely I will lapse again (I'm only human!!). I only hope that this little challenge reminds me that I actually do have the self control to not yell, and that I do not have to give myself permission to yell, instead I can aim higher, do better, be gentler. I can stop, bite my tongue, and choose another strategy rather than the 'easy way out', the 'quick release' of yelling. I feel like a cycle has been broken, a terribly hurtful downward spiral has been interrupted, and my earnest prayer is that it is broken for good. In its place I want to put new, more gentle and calm strategies that still set clear boundaries without the 'cheap cheat' of yelling to get results. Things I already know but too often chose to ignore in those 'white heat' moments!!
The peace in our home is a worthy result of this little experiment. Do I still get frustrated, exasperated and sometimes just downright angry with my kids? Yes, yes I do. Not bragging on that either... more things to work on!! And while I am learning to better control my responses, I will also be working on my heart. Ahhh, parenting. We are learning and growing right alongside our children, huh? I am all the more thankful for God's graciousness and my children's forgiveness as we walk this challenging but rewarding path of 'family' together.
PS If you want to take on a 'no yelling' challenge, there are heaps of great resources and websites around the internet. One of the very best is the Orange Rhino blog. She even has a free app you can download, where you can set goals and even 'reminders' at certain challenging parts of the day. About half way through my challenge I downloaded this and it was great. I had a daily reminder at 4.30pm, lol!! Another gorgeous blog with lots of lovely idea for better connection with your kids is Handsfree Mama.