[pullquote_left]by Keri Siemens[/pullquote_left]
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I Have a Confession: I Yell at my Kids

I once heard someone refer to yelling as her “dirty little secret” and I can really relate to that. I think it probably surprises a lot of people to hear that I’m a yeller because in general I do not yell. I’m not a particularly loud person. I don’t yell at friends and I definitely don’t yell at strangers. I don’t even yell at my husband! But there is something about those four darling children of mine that brings it out of me.

And I yell. A lot.

I can’t tell you how many times I have found myself saying (aware of the irony even as it comes out of my mouth) “STOP YELLING AT YOUR SISTER!” or “YOU MAY NOT YELL AT ME!”

I’m not proud of this. I don’t want to yell. And of course I understand that no one can make you yell. It’s a choice, right? I mean, I get that I don’t have to yell at my kids. But seriously- WHY DO THEY MAKE ME YELL AT THEM?

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In those heated moments, I honestly feel like there is just no other option. How else are they going to know that I’m serious? How else are they going to understand how frustrated I am? How else can I possibly get them to LISTEN TO THE WORDS THAT ARE COMING OUT OF MY MOUTH??

But truthfully, I’m not taking the time to process it like that- I’m just exploding. It feels like an automatic reaction and I think, “I just can’t help it!

But then comes that insidious Mom Guilt, creeping in as it does… Because I realize that I can help it in other circumstances. I don’t yell at my kids at the grocery store, or when we have company over.  So it’s not automatic. I do have control over it… and yet I still yell. Guilt.

An article came across my Facebook feed a little while ago with advice on how to stop yelling at your kids. The author was saying she noticed that being in closer proximity to her children helped her to stop yelling. Instead of yelling across the house, she met them face to face. I thought, maybe it’s worth a try!

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Trying a New Parenting Tactic Alone Is Never a Good Idea

My husband was leaving on a trip for nine days (the longest we’ve ever been apart) and I knew I was probably going to struggle with staying positive and not yelling at the kids. I thought this would be a great time to try this new experiment and see if I could go nine days without yelling at my kids! (Yes I know, it was a terrible time to try this. I obviously have no idea what I’m doing.) I tried it for approximately three hours, failed miserably, and decided it was a dumb idea.

After surviving the nine days of single parenthood (which, for the record, actually went quite well, despite the yelling) I decided to revisit this idea of how to work on my issue. This time, I decided to figure out when I am most likely to yell at my children. 

CHILDREN’S ANTICS THAT INCITE MOM YELLING

#1: When they are disobedient.

#2: When they are fighting each other.

#3: When I am interrupted in the middle of what I am doing.

Are you ready for the miracle solution that I came up with? Well, it turns out I don’t have any great ideas for dealing with #1 and #2. Sorry. I’ll have to get back to you on that. Or better yet, feel free to share your awesome ideas with me- I would love to hear them!

STAYING COOL WHEN YOU’RE INTERRUPTED 3 TIMES IN 5 MINUTES

But- I realized that #3 was something I might be able to tackle. Afterall, I’m not trying to get my children to do something like obey or stop fighting; I’m simply getting myself to do something (not overreact). 

I realized that when I’m interrupted by children in the midst of a task that I am focused on (or more often, in the midst of several tasks), I don’t usually respond well. 

So when I’m in the middle of crossing things of my list (I LOVE lists and crossing things off of them!) and getting into a working groove, being interrupted by one of my precious children makes me want to pull my hair out. 

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HOW TO NOT YELL BECAUSE YOU’VE BEEN INTERRUPTED

But- I thought maybe I could start with some small changes. So here is what I came up with:

1. Dedicate high stress tasks to times of day when interruptions are minimal.

Trying to do my job at the computer while the kids eat lunch wasn’t working. Inevitably, as soon as I sat down in the other room, it was “Mom, I want milk!”, “Mom, can I have yogurt with my apples?”, “Mommm! She’s getting up from the table!!”, “Mom, I don’t like this kind of cheese!”, “Mom? Can we go to the park today?”

“YES! GET YOUR OWN YOGURT! I NEED TO GET WORK DONE!” I would yell. 

Now I plan work for AFTER lunch while the kids have “quiet time” (read books or play quietly). It’s not perfect- I still get interrupted. Because I don’t schedule anything else during this time, I don’t feel rushed to “fit it in” between other things, and my children know that is what I am using that time for, so interruptions are usually more limited.

 

2. Plan Your day Better.

My worst time of day is the “after school/ before dinner” hours. Older kids are getting home from school, younger kids are bored and hungry, everyone needs a snack, homework needs to get done, someone has to practice piano, Dad’s not home yet, I need to make dinner, the table has to be set, kids are starting to argue, Dad’s still not home yet!, someone needs a bandaid, someone else is pulling on my leg and crying for Goldfish crackers…

For me, prepping dinner in the afternoon or even doing a crockpot meal helped me be available to help out with everything else that needs to be addressed, and therefore, not interrupted during dinner prep. 

 

3. Consider Changing Your Routine.

Even if you don’t want to.

My other difficult time of day is mornings. I am not a morning person and do not appreciate being interrupted (i.e. spoken to or looked at) until I have had my coffee and a few moments to myself in the morning.

So, being abruptly woken by children, dragged out of bed and immediately bombarded with chatter, questions, arguments, breakfast requests and poopy diapers is not an ideal situation for me.

The idea of getting up even earlier than necessary (meaning, before the kids got up) seemed like a ridiculous notion to me for many years. But I eventually did it. I’ve been doing it for a while now and I have really, truly come to enjoy and look forward to this time, despite the early hour. Our mornings are now far more pleasant!

4. Be present.

It turns out there is actually some merit to that “dumb idea” of being in closer proximity to your children. When I decided to stop rushing off to do work on the computer during the kids’ lunchtime, I found other ways to be productive in the kitchen while they ate. I usually unload the dishwasher or start working on dinner prep. I am still able to get things done, but because I am in the same room it is easy to converse with my kids while I do it. I am also available to help out with requests. This is very helpful in breaking the cycle of kids yelling from the kitchen, mom yelling back, kids yelling again, Mom getting frustrated and stomping into the kitchen. Doing something like folding laundry in the same room where your children are playing works out in much the same way. It’s a win-win.

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I must admit- I am not always great at following my own rules or advice. It’s very easy to fall back into old habits or make exceptions “just this one time.” But I’ve found that when I do make exceptions, just being aware of the choice I am making is helpful. If I choose to do work emails while my kids eat lunch, I am more understanding about interruptions because I acknowledge that I have chosen something that is outside of my “rules” and may have the potential to result in frustration. And if it’s just not working, I do my best to step away from my task before the frustration sets in or the yelling begins.

I haven’t stopped yelling at my kids. Unfortunately, that’s a tough habit to break. But I’m working on it- and that should count for something, right? My husband leaves for another six day business trip soon. I don’t think I’ll be taking on any grand new experiments in parenting while he’s gone- but maybe it will be a good test for my new “rules”… Wish me luck!

See Keri’s other articles on modern day motherhood:

You Are Fortunate

Moms, We Don’t Need to Apologize for our Messy House, OR Our Clean House

Dear Mom:  An Open Letter to All the Hardworking Moms Out There

Learning to Accept the Changing Seasons of Motherhood

Why Finding Time to Play With My Kids is Hard…And What I’m Doing About It

I’m Accomplishing Exactly Nothing By Feeling Guilty

Every Mom Has Her Thing

Confessions of an Un-Fun Mom…And Why I’m taking a Step Back From Facebook

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