A few weeks ago, with resolutions top of mind and a renewed zeal to be a better me this year, I came across a great article on the Huffington Post about yelling. About why we yell, the negative impact it has on our kids and how to stop yelling so much. You should check it out. The author, Rachel Macy Stafford, has a lot more street cred than I do. She has a Masters in education, is a certified special-ed teacher, an author and I’m sure a whole lot more. But like me, she is a Mom. Unlike me, she is a Mom who has found a way to stop yelling. I’m not there yet. But I’d like to think that I’m on my way. It seems that Rachel has crossed the finish line to a yell-free victory party and I’m just approaching the starting line. But really, what better place to start?
Her article got me seriously thinking. Why do I yell so much? Many of the reasons are the ones she cites — we’re about to miss the bus or we’re late for soccer/baseball/basketball/lacrosse/church/the dentist,/the doctor/etc. Or perhaps the kids opened a gift meant for a birthday party (which happened just last weekend). Maybe they splashed water out of the tub or spilled a glass of milk/water/juice. In short, like Rachel, I often yell when our kids are just being kids, doing the goofy, inevitable things kids do. This is a huge realization for me. They are just being kids! And I’m sure yours are too. Maybe you don’t yell as much as I do, but the next time the eggs hit the floor when a budding baker is just trying to help, I’m going to think twice and remember, “he’s just a kid.”
Of course, it’s not that easy. If I think about why I really yell, it’s not because I’m mad about the box of Cheerios on the floor or the sopping wet bathroom. It’s because I am tired. Exhausted. Frustrated. Overwhelmed. At my wits end. I’ve been known to stoop down to their level, the level where on a good day, I look them in the eye with empathy and understanding and provide an encouraging word or a hug. But on a bad day, well, it’s really bad. And I’m not proud of it. I’m not proud of looking a little person in the eye and yelling with all my might. It’s not pretty. It’s ugly. And it’s scary. And I don’t want my kids to be scared of me.
That was Rachel’s ah-hah moment – the moment she realized she was scaring her daughter. I know I’ve scared mine. And my four sons too. But still I yell. I do think there are different types of yelling — quite frankly, sometimes I have to yell to simply be heard above the din of our clamoring clan. Although, I’m sure an expert would say that’s no excuse. And it doesn’t change the fact that I’d like to yell less.
Going cold turkey is unrealistic but a little (and hopefully one day a lot) less yelling is my goal. I want to stop, for so many reasons. For starters, it’s mean. Rotten, mean and nasty. And generally speaking, I’m not. Or at least I’d like to think I’m not. Then, there’s the aftermath of the “Big Yell”. It’s not over when it’s over. They remember. I remember. And we all feel crappy. I don’t want us to all feel crappy. Happy beats crappy any day, right? And last but not least, while the snow blows and wind howls today, in just a few short months, those windows will be open. And I don’t want to scare the neighbor’s kids either!
So, before winter turns to spring, I’m going to do my best to yell less. To take a breath. To walk away. To remember they are just kids. And they won’t be forever…