I saw this meme on Facebook the other day that made me laugh.
Especially now that the weather is nicer and windows are open, my neighbors will truly be privy to my “mum voice”. It’s a voice that even makes myself cringe. Sometimes I yell so loud that my throat hurts afterwards. When that happens, you better believe the kids have now moved to clean up or get dressed, instead of continuing to play with their Beanie Boos like they were the first 4 times I instructed them.
But something else happens. It happens to me. And it happens each time. Regret. Guilt. Shame. I feel horrible- and not just because of a sore throat. These three little humans that I am desperately attempting to raise as productive, kind members of society, are now frantically scrambling to do the task. They expertly avoid my eyes, while their eyes are brimming with tears. I can’t help but feel like I’ve broken them somehow each time. And I tell myself I will NOT yell at them like that again. I don’t want to be a yelling mom. I literally do not yell at anyone else in my life (nope, not even my husband). It begs the question:
Why do I only yell at my children?
Several months ago, I saw friends start sharing various articles regarding why children act worse for their parents than for anyone else. A quick Google search will bring up a plethora of posts, most of which say a similar thing: our children consider us to be a safe space. They spend their time at school or daycare trying to keep it all together, being on their best behavior, and not being able to fully express all the emotions their little bodies are capable of. So when they get home, they kind of let it all out, because they know that we love them and will keep loving them, even IF they are sassy. Is that the same for us moms?
I own a lice treatment clinic where I spend large amounts of time with all different types of children, primarily trying to get them to sit still so I can pick out the tiny, moving bugs and their eggs. Many of the kids are squirmy, loud, even misbehaving- I’ve been kicked and hit- and NEVER ONCE have I ever raised my voice to any of them. We constantly have crayon drawings on our walls, and goldfish crackers in our furniture, but again I just shrug and say “that’s ok! They’re just kids!” So WHY can I not give this same grace to my own children? Turns out I act worse for my own kids than anyone else too. Is it because we’re in our “safe space” and I know they’ll always love me no matter what, just like those articles say about kids?
To be honest, I’m not sure why. And I am at the point where I don’t think the ‘why’ has to matter. I just need to change this cycle of scream, regret, ask for forgiveness, repeat. But how?
Well, having been a hairstylist for nearly two decades, I have been blessed to get to know many women who are moms. In our time together we discuss, lament, and strategize to be the best moms we can be. Some of these women have grown children, so they give me an incredible perspective- from the other side! Here are a few tips, that I have picked up from these discussions, and have begun to implement in my home:
I set the tone of the home– I personally struggle with attention, organization, and time management. These add to the recipe for a chaotic morning, trying to get out the door on time with all items needed. As the adult in the home, it is my responsibility to provide them with tools for success- chaos is not helping. So with that in mind, I have implemented and continue to strategize ways to keep myself more organized. This is a journey for sure, please send help! ?
Start with small goals– Yes, I would love for my kids to always and without asking: shut off the lights when they leave a room, shut the door when they come in, put their dinner plates in the dishwasher, get dressed in a timely manner, pick up their toys when they’re done etc… But for now, that’s not all happening. So we need to start baby-stepping, with one thing at a time. My kids now have to get dressed before they do anything else in the morning. That way when it’s time to leave, we’re not waiting (and yelling) for someone to finish getting ready. We have been to school early and no yelling for two days in a row now- happy dance!
EXPECT a response the first time– one of my clients is a teacher for behaviorally challenged children. She told me how she’s set the expectations for her students “I direct them ONCE”. For example if she says “get out your pencil and a green notebook”, she only says it once, and then continues with the lesson. There is no repeating of the command. If you don’t have your notebook and pencil out, you are already behind. How many of you moms are drooling at the idea of not repeating yourself a million times? Now… I am certain this won’t happen the first time I try, so it will take consistency for it to become a learned behavior. Her advice on how to achieve this with your children is this: “pick up your sweatshirt and bring it to your room” means that you give approximately 5 seconds for the instruction to be followed. If the instruction is not followed, you grab their hand and physically walk them to perform the task, saying at completion “thank you for doing as you were told.” As they start to realize there is no wiggle room for interpretation, they will do things the first time they are told. This will take patience and perseverance, so please share your success with all of us moms to help brace us up for the task!
Know your triggers– It has become apparent to me that my fuse is much shorter when I don’t feel good about myself. When I am already in a bad place emotionally, it doesn’t take much for me to yell. For me this often happens after I overeat and am feeling horrible about my body image, or when I look around at a messy living room or kitchen and feel overwhelmed. It happens when I’ve woken up late, or have taken too long on my hair or makeup and we are now on a time crunch. All of these things are not the kids’ fault and shouldn’t be taken out on them, but with one drag of a foot they end up taking the brunt of my disgruntlement. Knowing my triggers, I can plan ahead to stop them in their tracks!
Recognize the power of apology- Even with the best plans and intentions, I do know that I will still yell sometimes. Using some of the tips here has definitely helped, but I am still an ol’ yeller and may always be to some extent. But what I have also realized is that there is something to be said in the lesson of having to apologize. Because I DO apologize and we DO talk about why mommy yelled, and why it’s not ok to speak to each other a certain way. I do believe that when I ask their forgiveness, it shows them that I do really love them and care for their feelings. That they are important enough to me, to ask for their forgiveness. It also teaches them to humble themselves and apologize when they are unkind to each other or someone else.
With all the craziness that can happen to my kids “out there”, I truly want them to feel that our home is their safe space. While emotions are good and should be expressed, they shouldn’t hinder the safety of our space. I don’t want them to obey me out of fear. I want them to be contributing members of first our household, and later of society.
Do you have any tips that have helped you stop yelling so much? Comment below or on Facebook.