Saturday, March 21, 2009

Thoughts on Shouting

This is sort of a journal type entry written for my own benefit but you can read it if you feel so inclined.
My kids are relatively well behaved.  They never (I may be jinxing myself here) write on walls or rip pages out of books.  They don't climb the curtains (and this isn't only because we don't have any.  I'm sure they wouldn't if we did) or hit other kids at school.  They're tame.  They're good.  I believe there are three likely reasons for this: 1) they are calm kids by nature 2) I'm a stickler for not letting them do anything I don't want them to from the very first time they try and 3)  We are only given what we can handle and I could not handle hyper kids.  

I love watching those parenting shows.  Little Angels, Tanya Byron's House of Tiny Taraways, Supernanny etc.  It's so surprising to see what some kids get away with.  I love cheering the mother on when she's following the counselors advice.  I love seeing the change that comes over the entire family when the parents learn what behavior of their own they need to change in order to change their children's.  I love that I can always anticipate what advice they will be given because it's very logical to me (and maybe because it's what I studied in school).

But I see those mothers, too.  The desperate single mother who's convinced that her four year old wants nothing more than to rile her up all day every day.  While following a new bedtime routine she takes her son back to his bed 30 times saying calmly, "Good night" as she walks out the door over and over and over.  And then he whines one more time and she goes into his room and throws off his blanket and screams in his face "WHAT DO YOU WANT!?!  JUST GO. TO. SLEEP!!!"  Very, very loudly.  

I'm thinking, am I so supposed to be shocked that a mother would do that?  I feel so much empathy for this poor mother.  And I have screamed in my own kid's faces before.  I mean screamed.  And I've never even had bedtime issues.  And I know all those tricks you use to get good behavior.  And my kids are generally good.

They're not perfect, though.  And I'm even less so.  Lately I have felt awful that I yell at my kids so much.  It is often almost my first reaction when they do something wrong or whine about something silly. 

Last Friday I had an awful migraine.  Or it might have been my blood sugar.  I had a terrible headache, I was nauseated and lightheaded, shaky and I just felt like bawling.  Greg was at a business dinner and David was whining about everything.  And I mean everything.  He would not do what I asked and I was just waaaaay past my limit and I went up to him and I held his shoulders and screamed in his face.  

Of course I felt terrible about this later.  Terrible.  Even though I knew I wasn't being myself, I realize that I just shout at the kids all the time.  Pretty much daily.  Some days are worse than others.  

On the drive to church on Sunday Greg had recorded a lecture from some Perry Symposium (or something) in which the speaker talked about the omission of the "without a cause" from after the "He that is angry with his brother."  The talk was compelling.  I mean, I know that we know that the "without a cause" was an addition to the original text, but it was fascinating to hear about the various versions and how and why it was added etc.  

The talk was very academic.  There was very little talk of the gospel or any sort of sentiment in the telling.  But it was very striking.   After an hour long speech, he ended with evidence that we are not meant to be angry (including a rebuttal to the common "What about Jesus and the money changers in the temple" argument.)  His closing paragraph was a short.  I don't even remember what he said.  I just remember feeling that there was no room in my home or life for shouting.  I knew it about anger in general, but I felt it about shouting in specific. 

As if I didn't know that before!  Duh!  As if I didn't feel bad any time I yelled at the kids.  As if I didn't pray to be a more patient mother all the time.  But this was just one of those moments of change.  

This week I didn't yell at my kids.  Well, I started to maybe 4 times.  I would ask them to do something and they wouldn't do it a few times in a row, then I'd ask them one more time a few minutes later and whining would ensue (this is what makes me mad.  They should be apologizing for not doing it earlier, not whining that I was going finally force them to do it!)  I would start in with the stupid, "I've asked you to do this 4 times. . ." in a raised voice, totally ready to be MAD.  Then I stopped myself and said, "Okay, I'm not going to yell. . ." and magically I didn't feel mad at ALL!  And the kids smiled!  And happily did what I asked (sort of).

So I feel like I just was not angry with my kids this week.  We even had FHE about anger and specifically shouting.  We've all decided that it doesn't belong in our home.  Aaron had just recently started yelling "NOOOOOO" very loudly when he didn't get his way, and I know he learned it from all of us (the kids yelled at each other a lot, too).  I really hope we can completely reverse this.

It's working so far, and I'm feeling really good about it.  It feels so nice to have control over myself.  I feel like I'm finally starting to set a good example for my kids.  Finally. 

24 comments:

Kazzy said...

I can't even tell you how many nights over the years that I have gone to bed thinking to myself how I SHOULD have handled a stressful situation with my kids. I have even gotten out of bed and gone downstairs to their bedrooms and apologized quietly in their sleeping ears, hoping it helped them to sleep better. We do our best, we re-evaluate, we start over the next day.

I agree with you about shouting. My husband grew up in a very quiet house so he helps me see when things might be escalating, which is very helpful. Good luck with your new resolve. I am sure you guys will nail it!

Annette Lyon said...

I love these kinds of parenting epiphanies. Yelling isn't one of my issues--but I have PLENTY of others. It really is amazing to see the change in kids when YOU change.

(Thanks for posting my ad! I was thinking it was the giveaway button and then did a double-take. You're totally awesome!)

Elizabeth said...

I LOVED this post, kind of like an answer to my question this week. Why do my kids yell at me? Oh, because I yell at them. No, really, it just happens sometimes, and I want to reverse the whole situation, but didn't know how. So, thanks to your awesome blog, I will try better this week to 'keep my cool' and not explode over the things these crazy kids do. But, I don't have calm kids like yours, mine are hyper and crazy, so I hope your method will work. Wish me luck!

Melanie J said...

Yelling used to be one of my issues. My older son really hates it and we had a few talks about it, and I've gotten much better, He knows he can't push me too far, so he's quicker to respond when asked to do things but it's almost more like he wants to reward me for using a normal voice when I ask. It's pretty cute.

Jen said...

About a year ago I was at my parents with all four of my children, and - as usual - was yelling at them to get in the car, etc. etc. My dad was standing there, and said - I remember when you never used to yell at your kids.

And it's true. When I only had two - and even three - I rarely ever yelled. Then somewhere around child number three and working 30 hours a week I started yelling.

But Dad's comment stuck, and I too am trying REALLY HARD to get out of the habit. So we can work on it together. Good luck on your end.

PS - whining is what gets me too. I HATE it!

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

I don't think I'm a screamer, more of a barker... constant negative nipping when they're really getting on my nerves. And yes, their negative behavior is a reflection of mine. I love your post because it reminds me that we can and must take hold of our negative parenting habits, be accountable for them, and make them right. Thanks for that.

Alison Wonderland said...

Oh the yelling. We all do it, I think, but you're right, we shouldn't. Maybe I'll work on it too.

Maybe.

Heidi Ashworth said...

Yay for you! Not that I don't yell at my kids. Especially the Big Guy. Especially on Tuesdays. It's hard because very often he just doesn't get it until I get really mad. I hate it! I never really needed to yell at the other two bc the MC was such a people pleaser and the LG is clearly perfect. (ha ha!!)

Erin said...

I needed this post Lisa. I don't yell at my kids too much, and when I do it generally gets results, so I usually think, hey that worked and they really deserved to be yelled at. So I really needed a change in attitude. Thanks for helping me see that.

Lara said...

This is what makes you such a wonderful mother. You realize you're not perfect, you realize you have limitations, and you do your best to be better next time.

I could have written this about the yelling. For me, it's a PMS issue. Major. And, although my kids just kind of roll their eyes at me (mostly because it's ALWAYS over something completely ridculous that at any other time of the month wouldn't faze me at all), but I still feel HORRIBLE. I'm working on it, as are you. And I hope to someday say that I had PMS and my kids were annoying and I dealt with it in a calm manner.

Lara said...

Oh...and we totally just had the SAME FHE last week. For the same reasons. My 2 year old has become an absolute curmudgeon, and I know that I'm probably mostly to blame because my husband never yells. Then again, he doesn't get PMS. :)

Mrs4444 said...

I'm happy for you, Lisa; that kind of epiphany is so healing. A good way to encourage quieter voices in your house is to a) Lower your own voice to a below-normal volume (they'll lower there's to meet yours) and b) change the lighting. Sounds funny, probably, but I find it really works at school when I turn off the overhead lights and just turn on a table lamp, instead, once in a while. It also helps to get enough sleep at night :) Patience takes inner strength, which comes from rest. I find my urge to yell is at it's greatest when I am tired (duh!)

P.S. You are such a wonderful bloggy neighbor; thanks so much for talking up Friday Fragments to your friends this week :)

Heather of the EO said...

It's so hard. They really push our buttons, but I feel the same way. I don't want our house to be a yelling house. I want it to be peaceful. I'm sure sometimes we'll fail, but we're trying. Great post, Lisa.

Becky said...

I remember a Sunday School lesson last year where we talked about how getting angry is a choice. SO if we're working on choosing the right, we shouldn't ever have to get angry. Ever. At first I was extremely skeptical, but I think I understand a little better now. So far, I'm just working on controlling my behavior when I get angry. The not getting angry in the first place? Well, maybe someday.

Good luck with this very worthy goal.

Abra said...

my mom yelled a lot. Then one day, she just quit. When I asked her about it, she shrugged her shoulders and said simply; "One day, I got up, and decided I wasn't going to yell anymore. So I don't."
My mother is a strong woman.

I aim to wake up one day and just decide that I'm not going to yell either.

susette said...

I'm coming over from Mormon Mommy Blogs, asking for your help. I am in the running for a round trip airfare paid ticket to Connecticut, to meet a friend I became acquainted with through blogging. She is a super fun person and is holding this contest. I entered a funny story titled "Grapejuice Floaties, Now Marry Me." The person whose story receives the most votes will win a trip to meet this generous lady, whom I'm hoping to meet. The voting ends tonight-midnight. I used to be ahead but there is a story coming up from behind out of nowhere, and it's a tight race now. I would so much appreciate your help. Her blog is www.becausemomsaidso.blogspot.com and the voting is on the sidebar on the right. "Grapejuice, Floaties" Just go there and cast a vote for me, please. Thanks so much-you're awesome! ♥♥

Melissa said...

Lisa, thank you for your honesty here. I also have a yelling/anger problem, although I feel I have gotten much better at not doing it so frequently. I can only attribute this to the grace of God because I have prayed so many times to be able to overcome this weakness of mine. But it has taken years. I guess I'm a slow learner. But I definitely feel that improvement has come, and I marvel every time I don't get mad and yell when I would have in the past. Still not perfect (in this regard, and many others) but working on it!

Wendi @ Every Day Miracles said...

Hi! I came over here from Heather's blog today. Honestly - I came because you quoted Quincy in your comment left on Heahter's post. Yeah - kind of lame reason to visit someomes blog. But, my 6 year old is a pure Little Einstien adict. :) So, here I am. And I am glad that I came. You have some woderful thoughts on being a mommy. :)

Kimberly said...

This hits so close to home before me. About a year ago I started making some major changes in the shouting department. It was something my mum said that was the catalyst for change. I'd been whining about what a difficult child Emma is and my mum said, "You need to stop thinking about what she's doing to YOU and start thinking about what you're to do HER."

Our home is a completely different place now, and Emma's behaviour has changed drastically. After our ten day visit at my parent's house, during which I didn't yell at Emma even ONCE, my mum took me aside and told me how proud she was of me.

And you know, while that felt good, it's nowhere near as rewarding as seeing a loving smile on my daughter's face more often than I see a pre-shout flinch.

Good for you for working on this. It's hard and it's humbling, but it is so worthwhile!

pam at beyondjustmom said...

What a lovely, heartfelt post about the issues we ALL struggle through. In our house we yell upon occasion--sometimes it feels necessary, and sometimes it's just to be heard. It's inspiring to hear how your efforts are working. Once I heard a talk about mothers setting the tone for the household, and it stuck with me. Time to be intentional about setting the tone again. Thank you!

Nance said...

This was good for me. We yell a lot at our house because our kids don't listen to us until we yell. We need to fix this... somehow. Right now we are working on not being sarcastic with our kids (my husband heard this advice in a talk in church). My 6 year old knows we shouldn't be sarcastic with them, and reminds us when we are. It's lovely. :)

David, Jamie, and Carsyn Sibert said...

I hear you on the screaming thing. I think I break the record. Jamie told me that I need to stop yelling at Carsyn but it makes me feel better. I feel that if I hold it in then I will get a tumor or something. Haha. By the way, I changed my personal blog to onceuponatimeinpoland.blogspot.com. I write it like a story from a fairytale since I like to write.

Susan said...

Tom was trying to train Thomas to use an appropriate voice when he was frustrated on Monday morning. At some point after Tom said "there's no need to scream" Thomas said "Mom screams." Tom quietly said how mom has a lot of responsibilities and difficulties and I don't know what. Once again, timely blogpost here. Only I'm not sure what else I want to do. I'm all jumping-jacked-out. Tom still uses it, but I'm bored of it. Tonight I yelled at Thomas after asking him a million times to stop making noices like "blah, blah, blah" while I tried to help him with his homework. I also yelled at Tyra when I had reminded her multiple times to practice her flute and she said "yes mom" and sat down on the couch by Tom. It worked for both of them. I just reminded them after prayer that they don't like being yelled at and that they'd have to obey when I ask nicely so that I don't have to yell. A lot of times saying "this is the last time I'll ask you nicely before I yell" and that often works, kind of like the 1, 2, 3 counting for the little girls.
Anyway, good luck with that. My experience with the super lowering the tone is that the kids are happy not to hear me, even if I'm saying "come in for ice cream."
Also: without physically getting in the middle of an argument, how do you get fighting kids to stop without yelling? Looking for an answer here...

Marivic_Little GrumpyAngel said...

I was never ever really a yelling Mom, until my kids hit middle school/adoloscense. I think I was a better Mom to younger kids than to teen-agers. So I think you are in the right track, controlling how you respond to your kids at this stage of the game. I'm still working on not getting furious when my teen-agers do stupid things. I just thought they'd grow smarter instead of stupider and did not really prepare much for this stage :-)