Do you want to turn into one of those crazy 'Walmart moms' who yells and swats at her kids for the smallest infractions because she's at her whits end? I doubt it.
The good news is that you don't have to be a lifelong yeller... and the better news is that you can break the patterns of your own childhood. Just because your mom was a yeller doesn't mean you have to be. Just because you've been a yeller to date, doesn't mean you have to continue. Here are a few tips and tricks - the first five are from the article, the last three are mine - to put you back on the path to sanity and sanctuary:
- Recognize your child's limits. Are you getting upset at something that is developmentally normal, like pulling all the books off the shelf or dropping their sippy cup off the side of the highchair 15 times in a row? Take a breath and realize that this is normal for their age and stage, but celebrate when they grow out of the phase! Patience can really pay off with this one, and there will be hundreds of teachable moments in the process.
- Bite your tongue. Are you yelling requests (and answering requests) through rooms or floors of your house? Are you calling them for dinner by yelling up the stairs? Are they shouting back that they want "5 more minutes Mom!"? Break the cycle and institute a new rule: If I can't see you, I can't hear you. Make sure that you follow the rule too, even when it's easier and faster to yell.
- Devise a battle plan. Are they same things enraging you every day? Fighting over toys? Getting out of bed at nap/bedtime? Pulling the dog's tail? Think through the things that really irritate you during the day (decide whether or not you're overreacting!) then decide on a consequence specific to the problem. Telling the kids that you'll take the toy away if they can't play nicely together with it might work. The author of the article took all the stuffed animals but one away from her son the first time he got out of bed, and took the last one if he got out again. She says that there's rarely a time that she has to take the last one. Thinking of consequences that fit the action will also teach your kids (and you!) about cause and effect, communication and self-control.
- Make a chore chart. Many times, morning routines can leave a mom at the end of her rope. No one is moving fast enough, something is always missing, everyone is running late. Can you wake up sooner to give more breathing room? What about a sticker chart that tells kids everything they need to do in the morning? What about having bins for each child to contain everything necessary to leave the house with (hat, mittens, shoes, pacis, blankies, etc). Make one for yourself too so you don't get frazzled with the kids when you can't find your keys, cell phone, purse or diaper bag.
- Drop a decibel. Whisper when you're mad. "Not that quiet hissing/Vulcan death-stare thing," but just speak calmly through a whisper. Kids will be curious enough to lean in and listen when you whisper.
- Make it a game. Kids love competition. If you challenge your kids to see who can get ready the fastest, clean up the most toys, (be quietest the longest!), you'll be amazed at how few complaints you get in the process. When my mom used to tell us to clean up our toys, she would time us for 15 seconds at a time and we would guess how many times it would take for all the toys to be cleaned up. Can they beat their own record? Try it!
- Feed them (or yourself!). It's amazing how your attitude can change when you need a snack. You're cranky, your patience is low and you feel out of sorts. Your kids are the same way. If you notice that they are always acting up (and causing you to yell out!) at the same time each day, try giving them a little snack 15 minutes beforehand. And the same goes for you. You can't get through the morning on just coffee and expect to have a full cup of patience too. This goes for interacting with your hubby too - have a snack before he comes home and you'll be surprised at how much more sociable and friendly you become.
- Realize that kids can become too accustomed to yelling. This is probably the most important tip to keep in mind. You want your kids to stop and notice when you're yelling, so save it for the important reasons to yell: to stop them from touching the hot stove or running into the street, for example. If you're always yelling at your kids, they won't realize a 'danger yell' from an 'everyday yell.' Save it for the big stuff.
Who is with me in taking a Vow of Yellibacy?!
This post is a summary and review of the article "You Make Me Want to Shout" in the December 2008 issue of Parents Magazine