There’s something cathartic about doing this challenge. Admitting to the world that I’m not a perfect mother was tough — but by getting it out there, on my terms, it removed the fear of someone else pointing it out. Don’t bother judging me; I’ve already decided I need to change.
This morning Justin complained at the top of his lungs about having to get dressed and brush his teeth, about his brother coming into his room uninvited, about his brother having gotten dressed first (never mind that he could’ve been done first if he had just shut up and done it):
“I don’t want to get dressed! I’m not brushing my teeth! What? Brayden’s done? That’s not fair! I hate it when he gets dressed first! Why did my brother get dressed first? That’s so not fair!” And on and on.
Normally when he rants like that I respond first by raising my voice (partly because I doubt he could hear me otherwise, as his shouts are drowning out every other sound), and when that doesn’t work, I yell. It drives me batty that he’s so quick to scream when things bother him (especially when those things seem so inconsequential, at least to me…but I know part of that is his Asperger’s at work). So I usually end up yelling right back. (Where do kids pick this stuff up, right? Argh.)
So today I gritted my teeth, gave him an angry look and calmly explained that he had to get dressed and brush his teeth so he could do his Saturday job (vacuuming his room) and therefore earn his allowance. I don’t think the words meant anything to him, if he even heard them; he responded only to my tone, and since I wasn’t getting overexcited, he eventually calmed down too. Whew.
So in that case, I’d say my trigger was my son’s irrational outburst. Great.
I had another close call when I was trying to get the boys to pick up their Pokemon cards that were scattered all over the floor. After 10 (yes, 10…I counted) polite requests for them to clean up the mess, I finally (calmly, but with an edge in my voice) explained that I wasn’t allowed to yell, but they were making me really angry because they weren’t doing what I was asking them to do. The mess did get cleaned up — eventually.
Would yelling have made them move faster? Unlikely. It would have let me blow off some steam, but there was actually less steam to blow off because I didn’t let myself get all worked up. Plus I didn’t have to waste time trying to comfort upset children.
Did they get the message that I was upset? That’s the question I struggle with. I’ve seen other moms be completely calm in situations where I would’ve lost it, and I’ve sometimes wondered if the kid really understood how angry Mom was. Did they get that they really shouldn’t do that? I dunno.
One of the most effective ways I’ve found to stop myself from yelling is to pretend there’s a hidden camera recording everything I do. Like many people, I act like a more patient, compassionate parent when there are other adult eyes watching me. But why should I save my best behavior for strangers? Why shouldn’t the most important people in my life get the best part of me?
In a way, this experiment is about more than just yelling. Really, it’s about rediscovering the good in each other that we so often take for granted. Not yelling means finding more pleasant ways to communicate. And that’s good for everybody.