Tell me. Who do you yell at most frequently in your life?
Your parents? Your siblings? Your spouse or partner?
Your friends? Your neighbors?
Your coworkers? Your boss? Your business partners?
How about your kids?
Think about it and let it sink in while I tell my story.
This is the story of how I used to raise my voice at my kids until I had an epiphany four years ago and promised myself not to communicate by yelling anymore.
I actually have a very long fuse. I am very tension-averse and try to stay away from conflict and controversy like the plague.With that said, I have my particular pressure buttons and specific conditions that shorten my fuse.
Within the lights of this background info, I can proudly claim that I didn’t use to yell at my kids frequently. I raised my voice at times but yelling (in my own narrative) was rare,
when it happened it was EPIC. Like a roaring lion, a flame-breathing dragon epic. It would take me a long time to get there. I would nag and bicker, and talk sternly on the way. If the triggers didn’t stop, at the end I would just blow up like a volcano.
When I blew up, I would be scared of myself as much as the kids were, believe me. When I screamed at the top of my lungs, kids would sometimes react by crying but they would definitely know they had to stop what they were doing and disappear. I would put myself in a separate room to calm down. It was never a pleasant scene.
About four years ago, on was a regular school morning, there were nagging and bickering. Kids were unhappy about something that I don’t even remember hat now. I was tired, most probably sleep deprived and needed to get them ready for school on time. I tried every which way to stop the complaining and bickering but it didn’t stop. You’d think they would get some clues from me but they didn’t. And it just kept going until I blew up. I screamed like a mad woman, throwing a bowl filled with oatmeal in my hand in the air. I kept screaming as I walked into my room in front of my shocked kids, closed the door, waited until I calmed down.
I came out of the room, delivered an “I’m sorry that I yelled at you BUT…. you had it coming” line and sent them to school in whatever condition we were in.
The rest of the day sucked. It sucked really bad. I felt terrible. I questioned myself on why I yelled at my kids? Why couldn’t I control myself? My kids were old enough to remember these episodes. I could see my son was learning from my behavior and reflecting my exact same reactions back to us. At the end of the day, no one was winning.
As I continued to contemplate I asked the questions at the beginning of my post to myself. “Who else do I snap at other than my kids?” The reality stabbed me like an ice pick right through my heart. I never yell at anyone else but my kids. I went through all the list above and no one. Not my husband, my siblings, my parents, my friends.
I thought about the reasons which made me yell at them or would make me get upset with them and raise my voice. I would never get angry or yell at anyone else if another child or an adult would do the same thing. I asked myself:
- Do I yell at the repair guy who attempts to come into our house with muddy shoes? No, I calmly tell them to go back and take them off or put on a cover.
- Do I yell at our guest who spills a drink which might stain the carpet or the furniture? No, I calmly tell them “oh, no worries, I got it”.
My heart ached when I realized that I was liberal at raising my voice or yelling at our little kids for the smallest things that I would never treat anyone else that way if they were to do the same thing.
That was the moment of revelation for me and the moment that I promised myself that I would never yell at my kids again.
How was I going to do it?
For me it was simple. I was going to do the same things, use the same self-control or anger management methods I used to stop myself from yelling at any other person who ticked me off for a reason or another. If I wasn’t yelling at others, I definitely could “not yell” at my kids as well.
That evening, when my husband came home, my kids immediately told him about their morning where “mom went crazy”.
Hoping it wasn’t too late, I decided to put together a strategy and talk to my husband and my kids about my plans. We sat down and had a family meeting. I apologized to my kids for my outrageous behavior which scared the hell out of them. This time it was an apology without a “BUT”. I promised them that I would never ever yell at them like that again and I needed their help for that.
Yelling at my kids was what I would call accidental parenting. An unconscious reaction without giving any thought. It requires strong awareness of your feelings to stop you from getting to the point of explosion. I focused on tools to help me keep self-aware and make my kids aware of my emotions to stop me from yelling at them.
Be aware of my own triggers
I needed to make sure that I was aware of my internal conditions which might push my trigger points. Babies and children are not the only human beings who are prone to throwing a temper tantrum when they are hungry and sleep deprived. My mom prohibited me from doing any type of extreme diet when I was a teenager because I would be totally intolerable. Luckily, I learned that lesson early on. Hanger is one thing, but sleep deprivation is my kryptonite. I really cannot function properly when I lack a good 8-hour sleep. I think that’s why my kids were sleep trained right away.
Help kids clearly understand my triggers
I needed to explain them the things that really really got under my skin so that they would know and avoid that behavior. I have two main pet peeves which get on my nerves.
- Constant complaining and
- Someone doing things I clearly told them not to do.
I know these two are kids’ fundamental jobs but I can’t help it. I still remind my kids on a daily basis that they have to stop complaining and work their brains to come up with a solution to their own issues.
Provide early warning signals to my kids
This is not so obvious but kids don’t get clues of other peoples feelings and temperaments when they are immersed in their own drama. I had to give obvious signals to them that they were pushing my buttons. Our signal was telling them “Don’t let the MOMSTER come out”. Momster would never come out anymore, we all knew it. Still, it is a good early
Remove myself from the incident site
You know when your children throw a temper tantrum, the biggest piece of advice is to remove them from the situation or the source of anger. Well, this also works for adults too. If I feel like I’m getting upset, first I tell them I’m getting upset and if we cannot figure out a solution by a regular conversation I just leave them there and got into another room or go out to take fresh air. It helps all of us to take a break, regroup and come back later to resolve our issues.
Have a conversation in our indoor voice and figure it out
It’s hard to calm the bubbling feelings down and center our attention in a civilized conversation. I can tell my kids’ fixating into their own arguments in their own head, whether it thinking they are treated unfairly or they aren’t getting the way they wanted I try to keep the lines of communication open to help them express their feelings, understand our point of view and figure out a solution to their issues. Or sometimes I use a “parent/child journal” where we write our issues, concerns, feelings in a special private notebook so that the other party can read in a peaceful mind later on.
From that point on, I really did not yell at them again. We just used our signals, early warnings, and reminders.
There have always been instances when I felt I was getting there but we worked through them together to avoid from getting me to the point of explosion.
I wish I could say …AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER
Moms don’t get a break even when they have the best intentions.
This is quite ironic but my “not yelling” has recently been causing a surprising frustration which we are working on right now. I don’t yell anymore but that doesn’t mean the kids don’t get upset, need parental guidance(!) to remedy their unwanted behavior or deserve appropriate civilized consequences to their actions. We have serious conversations and I give my usual parental lectures in case of emergencies.
Apparently, I am lacking enough variety in my tone, and since I am not yelling anymore, my son thinks I’m angry every time when I talk to him about something serious.
One day, I was talking to him about something ordinary. He was getting irritated and started responding me in an annoying way. I asked him what his problem was. I was just telling him to be aware of a situation. He told me that I was getting angry at him for these things he wasn’t responsible for. When I told him I wasn’t angry at him at all and I was just talking in a serious voice he responded to me:
“Well, since you are not yelling at us anymore, I can’t tell what your angry voice vs. your serious voice is”.
Can a mama get a break, please?
Then we had to work on more signals to indicate that I wasn’t angry but we needed to have a serious conversation about something important.
At 12.5 and 10 years, we are still in progress. We are trying our best to keep the communication lines open as we’re going into “TEENS” head first. My husband definitely has a better hand in communicating with my son with his vocal qualities.
Whenever you feel like that there is a scream building up at the back of your throat, ask yourself:
“Would I yell at someone else for doing this?”
If the answer is no, use the same methods you would use to stop yourself or avoid from yelling others and spare your sanity and conscious.