Despite the fact that I have a degree in Early Childhood Education and more than ten years experience working in child care and preschool services, when it comes to this parenting gig I am still struggling with some things, just like everyone else. At the moment, one of my biggest battles is with shouting.
I shout. I shout way too often. I loose it and I rant and rave and yell.
It doesn’t have to be something major to set me off and in the beginning it feels quite good to yell. It feels good to let it out. It feels like this is the only way I can get my message across, the only way I can regain some control. When I begin shouting I feel powerful and totally justified.
But then the moment passes and I suddenly realise what I am doing. I suddenly see and hear this angry person spewing forth angry words on the people I love more than anything in the world. It scares me that I could ever feel like this expression of rage is justifiable and it makes me sad.
When I blogged about not wanting to regret shouting I was surprised at how many people tweeted, commented or emailed to say they felt the same way. It made me feel a little better to know that I was not the only one with a yelling problem but it also made me think. I don’t have all the answers (not by a long shot) and I know this will challenge me (a lot!) but I’m going to work on ways to shout less… who’s with me?
Before I Start Yelling…
It’s always easier to stop something before it begins don’t you think? And it’s easier to be successful at something if you set yourself up for that success. So I’ve been looking at how I can stop yelling before I am even angry. What can I do to change myself and the environment so that I don’t even get to the point of wanting to yell?
Find Your Triggers
After thinking about it for a while I realised that I often loose it and yell when I am frustrated by something other than my children. When I am feeling stretched by everything I have to do, when other things in my life are not going right, when I feel generally stressed and out of control, that is when the little things set me off into that downward spiral of yelling.
While the fact that I take my stress out on my kids was a hard truth to face, it is actually quite liberating in a way. This is something I can actively change. I can’t change the fact that four year olds whine and that seven year olds like to say “It’s not fair” a hundred times a day, but I can change how many things I put on my to do list. I can identify those things that stress me and work out ways to either let them go or deal with them better.
What are your yelling triggers?
A Positive First Response.
The idea is simple…. work out the types of situations that frustrate you and pre-plan a ‘positive first response’.
For example – It really pushes my buttons when my girls whine about how things are ‘so unfair’. When it happens I want to scream at them and tell them not to be ungrateful and send them to their rooms, except I know that won’t achieve anything and that isn’t the way I want to parent. So I sat down and I thought about it. I thought about why they say that, about how they are feeling, about what they understand. I thought about what I could do and say when they say that and I wrote myself a little script.
So now when someone says those fateful words, and I’m in that moment of wanting to yell I don’t have to think too hard to come up with a better response. I can just recite my little script… “Being fair doesn’t mean being equal. Everyone gets what they need when they need it, that is fair.” and hopefully not yell.
When I’m in the Moment…
When I am in the moment… right there… angry and frustrated and feeling unheard. What do I do then? How do I stop myself tipping over the edge and being the crazy shouting Mum?
It seems so obvious, just walk away, but oh boy it can be SO hard for me to do!
When I am on the verge of yelling I need to just take a breath and walk away. I don’t have to engage in whatever the problem is right then, that instant. It is ok for me to step away and come back when I have had a chance to think things through and find some rationality. If it really is a problem it will still be there when I come back to it, or perhaps it’s not such a big deal in the first place and giving the kids a chance to sort it out on their own is a fabulous thing.
Not only does taking a break give me a chance to calm down and not yell, it also shows my children that it is ok to walk away, it is ok not to fight, or to take a moment to yourself when you need it. I think that is an important lesson to teach.
Redirect Your Energy
When my kids lash out at someone or something I often tell them that it is ok to feel like hitting but it is not ok to hurt someone or break something and that they could instead hit a pillow or kick a ball to get that feeling out. I need to take my own advice.
After I’ve walked away I’m going to do some mundane physical activity. I’m going to redirect my frustrated energy into something like folding the washing, or cleaning the bedroom, or gardening. I need an activity that I can do without thinking too much, to give my brain a chance to slow down and think things through, and I need an activity that is physical enough to help get out some of that tension.
What would your mundane activity of choice be?
Make a Funny
Humour is something I’ve been using more and more of late. Doing something to make everyone laugh can really change the tone of the situation. When everything feels like it’s about to go to hell in a hand basket try telling a fart joke or singing a favourite song replacing the half of the words with ‘poo’.
“Baa Baa Poo Sheep, have you any poo?” Come on… who can yell when they are singing something like that??
It’s hard to stay angry when you are being silly and funny. It is hard to yell when you are busy telling a joke or acting the fool. Being funny can be enough to remind myself of the parent I want to be.
After I’ve Yelled
I feel crap after I’ve yelled. I feel like a big huge parenting failure. But there is still something positive I can do, even after I’ve yelled.
Saying I’m sorry, and really meaning it, is important. I don’t need to go into details and tell my kids what a terrible mother I am, they don’t need to hear that. But they do need to hear that sometimes everyone makes mistakes, sometimes everyone gets angry and says or does things they don’t mean, and that is ok. Even when I’m angry I still love them and even when I’ve made a mistake they still love me.
Cut Yourself Some Slack!
I can beat myself up for days after I loose it. I easily fall into that cycle of self talk that goes something like… “I suck at this parenting gig, why on earth did I think having four children would be a good idea, they deserve better than me….” But you know, that is not going to help me be a better parent. I am not perfect, I will never be perfect. I make mistakes, and that is ok. Instead of being down on myself I’m just going to pick myself up, dust myself off and try to do better next time. After all… that is all we can do.
As I said, I don’t have all the answers and I’d love to hear the things you do to try and avoid yelling at your kids. There are some fabulous posts on discipline at Parenting Passageway that I find super helpful. Are there other blogs or articles that you find helpful?