Confessions of a reforming yeller
Not just once in a blue one either. I don’t want to admit this to myself, much less to you, but it’s more like all the time.
Well, maybe not all the time. But it may feel like it could be any time to my boys, ages 3 and 5.
I actually didn't realize how often I was doing it until I consciously tried to stop.
I signed on to take what's called The Orange Rhino Challenge, laid down by a woman in the blogosphere who found herself in a similar situation.
I make a concerted effort to parent consciously, which is to say I put a lot of thought into the things I do and why I do them.
For instance, I don't really spank my boys, because I'm not one of those people who can do it calmly after counting to 10 or whatever.
The few times I spanked them, it felt more like hitting someone in anger. It just didn't feel right. Besides, if I have the presence of mind to count calmly to 10, I can usually figure out another way to deal with the issue at hand without using mine.
It turns out I'm in good company, as the New York Times ran an article a few years ago called "For Some Parents, Shouting is the New Spanking."
Recently I yelled at my oldest to quit screwing around at 10 p.m. because that was the only time I had to myself all weekend and I really wanted to get some writing done. But it sounded harsher in real life than it does here on paper.
Sam did that thing where he flinches at the sound of my voice rising, and I realized it wasn’t even him I was mad at. I sensed the injustice he must feel when he's just being a 5-year-old and gets reamed out instead of simply being corrected, with a logical consequence attached to misbehavior.
"I just want you to snuggle me, Mama," he said. There were tears, his followed by mine.
So, we snuggled. And I apologized for yelling and told him I would work on that.
As I snuggled with him I wondered: What if I’m just a yeller? Maybe that's just the deal and we can laugh about it later like my mom and I laugh about her “flying hand.”
But right now, it’s not funny. Right now I have a little boy who doesn’t deserve getting yelled at even if, or perhaps especially if, he's pushing my buttons.
Logically I know I can do better than shouting, but it seems to be my default mode. What if I can’t change?
Those were some of my thoughts as I prayed about the situation. Then I stumbled upon The Orange Rhino website and learned about the no-yelling-for-365-days challenge.
In it’s most basic form, it’s like this: If you yell, you have to return to day one and start over.
I have yelled so loud, my throat hurt. Recently, in fact.
Sometimes it’s HEY! Yelled from across the room or the front seat of the car.
Sometimes it’s GET IN THE CAR NOW, ensuring we get the day off to a cheerful start. Sometimes it’s GO TO SLEEP, because that’s as relaxing as any lullaby.
But always, it makes me feel like a jerk. And always, it makes me wish I hadn't.
With the Orange Rhino challenge, I started off with five days on the calendar marked in orange.
Some would say that's not much to be proud of, as I shouldn't be shouting at small children in the first place. They may or may not have small children who display insanely impulsive behavior at totally inconvenient times. Either way, I don't worry much anymore what Those People think.
What I'm more concerned about is making personal changes that create a happier home. What I am proud of is that my boys will always know it's OK to make mistakes as long as they keep learning from them.
They will know that because they watch me do it every day.
By the way, I had to start over again. But I'm back to three days in a row of no shouting.
This morning, I told my youngest he was my favorite 3-year-old on all the planet. He said I was his favorite mommy, but couldn't resist adding:
"I don't like it when you yell like a T-Rex, Mama. But you are being a good triceratops."
Jake insists Rudolph is a cow rather than reindeer and a rhinoceros is a dinosaur. But I get his point.
To hear more of my parenting confessions and updates on this challenge go to www.nathaliesnotes.typepad.com. Or, to join the challenge yourself go to www.theorangerhino.com.
Contact Nathalie Hardy at email@example.com.