I am a yeller. I come from a family of yellers. There are a lot of us in my family, so someone is always trying to find time to talk. My husband, basically an only child, made the comment one time that he had been waiting for a space to say something but it never happened. That was when it was just my mom and her brother in the car with us, not a full-on family meal. We are loud people in general but tend to be really loud when frustrated. I grew up in a big, old house and voices carried quite easily. It was never a mystery as to what was going on in another part of the house. Once, my brother got so mad at my mom while doing math homework that he yelled all the way up the stairs and kicked a hole in the wall. I do have a brother who is strangely quiet most of the time. That is almost more disconcerting to me considering the rest of the family. Basically, we are loud and prone to losing our tempers. (I blame that last part on my mother’s Scotch Irish heritage.)
Now fast forward to motherhood. Oddly enough, I really don’t lose my temper with my husband. This isn’t to say he is perfect, but for some reason, the things that he does don’t bother me in that way. I can think of three large fights we have had in almost 15 years, and I don’t think any of them involved yelling. My children, on the other hand, they have the ability to get under my skin. Part of it is my Type A personality and constant agenda that is in my head, and part of it is when I have to ask someone to do something more than one time. As much as I do want them to listen the first time, I understand that it is most difficult for the mom to be consistent as she is the one who is with the kids the most. (Read my bio to see what I did in my past life and you will understand the true irony in putting up with this.) And I know that there are fixes to this problem that will result in less frustration, but let’s save that for later.
Basically, it is irrelevant how we got there or what happened. The problem is that we are left with me yelling. I don’t yell at my kids a lot, but when I do, I feel a massive amount of guilt about it. I also feel like I am the only mama who yells. Of course I spend zero time hidden in other people’s houses while they are home alone with their children, so that might not be true. Do you yell at your kids? Please tell me I am not the only one. Either way, I want to stop or majorly reduce the frequency of my grownup tantrums. Turns out that I just needed a little push in the right direction.
We spent Spring Break in southern Florida with most of my extended family. I stayed with my parents, sister-in-law, four-year-old niece, and three children in a condo. If anyone official asks, it was just six of us in the condo and the other two stayed with my grandma, aunt, and uncle in the next building.
I didn’t think about yelling or not yelling the entire time I was there, but I just didn’t do it. Part of it could have been that we were on vacation, but let’s face it: our life really isn’t THAT different at home. I still spend most of the week with my younger two because they are not in school full-time and still had many of the same responsibilities that I have at home like cooking and laundry.
The real difference was that I didn’t WANT to yell in front of the rest of the people in our condo. I didn’t want to lose my temper or say something I would later regret. When I was frustrated that my three-year-old wouldn’t put on his pajamas or my six-year-old was fooling around instead of eating, I would take a breath, pause, and ask again. It was almost as if I needed those extra eyes to help me be more compassionate.
You may have heard the phrase “dance like no one is watching.” My new mantra is “parent like everyone is watching.” I want to find that patience that I have when I am trying to maintain composure around others. I know it is there; the presence of my parents and sister-in-law was a gentle reminder. The only irony is that it took staying with my parents, the people who taught me the art of blowing my top, to learn this lesson.
We have been back for a few weeks. I can’t say that I am perfect, but I am working on it. Like any pesky habit, it will take time and practice as well as reinforcement for not yelling. Once I have a handle on this, I will go back to that compliance training, because my kids do need to be able to follow directions the first time I ask. I’ll save that for another post!