This past weekend I threw a small birthday party for my oldest son who was turning 15. It wasn’t a big event, just some family coming over for cake. But as I was standing in the kitchen thinking about the things I wanted to get done before everyone’s arrival, I could feel myself getting anxious.
I asked my kids for help, and when I was ignored, it took about 2 seconds before I was yelling. It didn’t end well — it never does — and everyone’s mood was down. Then my son said, “Well, this is going to be a great party, just great.”
And I realized I need to stop. I need to stop yelling at my kids so much.
I know what you might be thinking when you hear a mom say she’s going to try to stop yelling … because I’ve thought all the same things when I’ve heard it:
Oh please, what bullshit.
Yelling is a huge release.
I just can’t commit to that.
It’s the only way my family listens to me.
Stop showing off.
You are a martyr.
Shut your stupid face hole.
My anxiety comes out of my mouth louder than it needs to when I am having a moment, which is a few times a day, and I get so heated I can’t help it. I feel like I have no control.
But I’m realizing the impact it has on me and my children. I don’t want to use yelling as a release, but I’ve gotten so used to doing it, I don’t even stop and think before I let it go. After I’ve yelled, I never feel better; I always feel worse.
Would I want my kids’ teachers acting the way I do? No way. I’d be pissed.
Would I be okay if their father yelled at them as much as I do? No, I wouldn’t. I’d be furious.
Yet, here we are.
I use my yelling as a coping mechanism when I feel out of control and am very aware it’s a reactive behavior — and it’s hypocritical. Aren’t we always trying to teach our kids not to be reactive, but to think before they speak and act?
An article in The New York Times explains, “Yelling may be the most widespread parental stupidity around today.”
But there’s proof to back up that statement. A study in The Journal of Child Development shows that when we yell at our children, it has the same effects as “physical punishment.” While it might give us a quick fix and some relief, it can cause our kids more anxiety and stress. They are more likely to become depressed and develop behavioral problems. The article goes on to make the point that yelling at our kids “merely imprints the habit of yelling onto the children.”
But what the hell are we supposed to do instead? I literally feel like most days there are no other answers.
Dr. Alan Kazdin, a professor of psychology and child psychiatry, tells The New York Times that a proven way to go about turning off the yelling is a method called the ABCs, which stands for “antecedents, behaviors and consequences.” Basically, instead of yelling at your child for not doing something, you give them plenty of notice to do it, then praise them when they do.
It takes more planning and patience than yelling does, of course, so I’m going to have to put forth a lot of effort to make these changes. I can already feel my vocal cords getting anxious.
I decided to try Dr. Kazdin’s technique last night when, just before bed, I found unfinished homework in my 15-year-old son’s backpack with a note from the teacher that said “please finish and hand in tomorrow.”
Instead of doing any homework yesterday, he decided to lift weights and talk on the phone. When I asked him what he had for homework he said, “Nothing.”
Cue the rage.
But instead of yelling for him to come down that very second and finish it — which was my gut reaction — I calmly walked upstairs and told him his math homework looked really good but he needed to finish it in the morning before school.
I then kissed him goodnight and told him I loved him and ran out of there as fast as I could in case the yelling got the better of me.
This morning he was up early, siting at the table finishing his homework. After he put it in his backpack, I praised him for doing it, and all was well with the world. This never happens, folks. Homework has always been a fight with him, a yelling fight.
I did it, I thought. I got him to do the right thing without yelling and I feel so much better.
I was so inspired that I even signed up for the Stop Yelling Challenge from Amanda Rueter, M.Ed. It’s free and gets emailed right to your inbox and has proven techniques to keep your from yelling at your kids.
If you’re looking for more motivation and inspiration, check out this post from Parenting From The Heart. It’s a short read and provides a great tool for parents: warn your kids and tell them you are starting to feel angry and give yourself a moment to walk away. The book Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids also comes highly recommended if you refer to have a book on hand as a reference.
The bottom line is most of us yell and we aren’t proud of it. Yeah, there was a time when I didn’t want to stop because I didn’t think it was having that big of an impact on my kids. But it does effect their mental wellbeing. And that makes me want to try my hardest to change.
So, I told my kids I wanted to take the #noyellingchallenge. As soon as I told them, they started pushing my buttons a bit as a joke because they are smart-ass teenagers.
I told them they needed to take the #noannoyingmomchallenge, to which they told me that would be cheating and I need to stop yelling without any outside help.
Please send me lots of positive vibes and good luck. Like a shit-ton of luck, because I’m going to need it. Obviously.