You win some. You lose some. And sometimes you do both in the same day.
As a mom, one of my biggest faults is that I tend to be a “screamer.” If you’re a mom, I’m sure you’ve been there. Little pint-sized bundles of sass push and push until you reach your boiling point.
As of late, my eldest has been in the habit of completely ignoring my requests. Just flat-out, complete disregard for what I’m saying. Don’t get me wrong. He’s a great kid. Sweet as apple pie and he wears his heart on his sleeve. But, when it comes to pushing my buttons, he’s got my number! I’ve tried a million strategies to discipline: timeouts, counting, rewarding, taking things away, and, yes, even the last resort…spanking. Sometimes one of these strategies works, sometimes none of them do. Regardless, I have yet to find something that works on a consistent basis…cue the screaming. I’ve been so frustrated lately with the circus our home has become, that I’ve resorted to screaming – hoping that the louder and more forceful I speak, the better both of my children will listen. Following a big blow-out, I always have the good old fashioned Catholic guilt. “I’m a terrible mother,” “I’m destroying their little personalities,” “I need to have more patience!” are just some of the thoughts that pass through my mind.
Typically, I’m pushed to my boiling point when we’re on a schedule. We need to be somewhere by a certain time, and my little gentlemen just aren’t cooperating. How many times does a mother need to say “Put on your shoes!” before someone hears her?! Mostly I feel like I’m talking to a brick wall. Like, a 20 feet tall brick wall, made of solid concrete foundation block.
Such was the experience last week, when I was on my own for the morning (no daddy), and needed to get my oldest to preschool. The entire morning was a freakin’ clown show. Just trying to get the two of them dressed was like trying to wrangle monkeys on crack. By the time we had made our way to coats and shoes, I was done. It came spewing out of my mouth like hot lava from a volcano. Thank GOD no one else was around because it must have looked a little freaky. I was stomping my feet, balling my fists and screaming like a toddler myself. Afterwards, my four-year-old looked at me with fear in his eyes and started balling that “I want my daddy.” Stick a knife in my chest and twist, because I had just FAILED as a mom. Ugh… Later, as I was driving home from the preschool drop-off, I even tried to convince myself that it really wasn’t that big of a deal. My mom had been a screamer (sorry Mom!) and I think I turned out ok. I don’t have any unresolved self-esteem issues. I have an excellent relationship with my mom – we’re very good friends and I love her to pieces. I feel like I’m living a pretty happy life with a loving husband and two beautiful children. Maybe screaming isn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be. And then I ran across the following articles…
As the title of the first article suggests, a recent study published in Child Development, found there to be a correlation between yelling and depression/aggression. The study specifically targeted children between the ages of 13 and 14, though I can’t help but think the same would ring true for any child subjected to yelling, even at a young age. As I read this article, I was taken back to my post-preschool drop-off pep talk. “My mom had been a screamer and I think I turned out ok.” Maybe not. You see, as a teen, and throughout most of my adulthood, I have struggled with depression. It’s also something that runs deep in our family and is known to be genetic. So there’s that. But maybe, just maybe, it had something to do with yelling. I decided right there in that moment that I would try to make a change.
As mentioned before, I’m Catholic. It’s currently the time of year that we Catholic’s do best: Lent. Traditionally, we give up something during this time to reflect on the 40 days and 40 nights that Jesus spent in the dessert fasting. In the past, I typically “do” something instead of “give up” something. By Tuesday, the day I ran across these little articles, and 20 days into Lent, I still hadn’t made a commitment to my own Lenten sacrifice. So here it is: for the remaining days leading up to Easter, I resolve to give up yelling. Of any kind. That was Tuesday. It is now Friday and so far I have been 100% successful. And you know what? – it is making a HUGE difference! I also discovered a little technique that my four-year-old’s preschool teacher uses. Counting, with the addition of the child’s name. For instance, “Billy, stop hitting your brother. Billy-one, Billy-two, Billy-three…” My son’s preschool teacher must be a genius, because it works every.single.time. My oldest HATES it when I use his name while counting, and has started ceasing his behavior as soon as I start the mantra. So, between not yelling and the name+counting, I’ve found a strategy I can live with.
Again, this morning I tackled the preschool duty alone, and we had a great morning! We made it out the door on time, perhaps even a bit early! The three of us had a great little conversation on the way to school and as I walked out of the preschool after kissing my son goodbye, I felt my heart swell to the size of a beach ball. It felt really, really good to have had a scream-free morning! Following preschool drop-off, was a successful Target run with my two-year-old. We usually leave Target in a crying, screaming fit (him, not me) and today with a little creative thinking to ward off the tantrums, we made it through without incident. I can’t help but think that the scream-free parenting set the tone for the day and laid the foundation for happier, more relaxed children.
After the post-preschool pickup today I was feeling so confident that I decided on an eat-in lunch date. Both children, at a semi-sitdown restaurant for lunch, alone. Was I crazy? Or was it some kind of scream-free high? We got in line to order our sandwiches and my youngest immediately knocked over one of the display signs. Then, they both proceeded to run around the line like banshees. Finally, the oldest mocked a death complete with air gasping, and a slow fall to the floor where he lay with his arms and legs sprawling and his tongue hanging out of his mouth. In the middle of the restaurant. Right between a college-aged couple who was giving me the stink-eye and a middle-aged man who smiled with understanding. After getting our sandwiches we sat down at a table, and in a fit of rage to get to the chocolate milk first, my youngest knocked the bottle of milk out of my hands, sending milk cascading all over the floor. And…end scene.
Yup. That’s my life in a nutshell. Tiny little moments of success followed by giant catastrophes. But I’m sticking to the “no yelling” pledge. It may not make our lives completely perfect, but I think it’s making a difference. Previously I would yell because I was frustrated and I thought it would help blow off some steam. But I think it did the opposite. I think it actually made me more stressed. So giving it up has actually brought a little calmness to my crazy life. If you doubt me, and you’re a screamer, I challenge you to try it for a week. I promise, Mom’s Honor, you and your kids won’t be disappointed.
Side note: A friend of mine once recommended a book that I have yet to read – it’s on my “to-do list.” Maybe you want to give it a try too. It’s called “Scream Free Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool” by Hal Edward Runkel.