In January 2012, I promised my four sons, then ages 5 and under, that I would go 365 days straight without yelling. I had just been caught yelling at them by the handyman, and the disappointment I felt for having become a yelling mom (a mom I so never thought I would be), coupled with sheer embarrassment, pushed me to finally admit that enough was enough and I needed to change.
After numerous starts and re-starts, I finally met my goal on February 6th, 2013, and, well... I just kept going and going. The upsides to not yelling, like fewer temper tantrums, fewer tears (from both my kids and me), and less berating myself -- along with more listening, enjoyable bedtimes, and laughter -- made all the hard work so worth it that I had no desire to pull back my efforts! I have only had a few slip-ups since that February day, but with new health concerns for my 3-year-old, new parenting challenges, and new personal struggles, I am finding that the increased level of stress is making it much harder -- like, much, much harder -- to respond calmly instead of yelling.
So, when December 31st rolled around, instead of sitting down to make a list of any new resolutions, I decided to make a list of reminders for how I could continue to succeed at my old resolution of not yelling at my kids. I hope my list helps you out as well, because if there is one thing I learned on my Orange Rhino Challenge (that's the fancy name I gave to my yearlong promise), it is that I am far from the only parent struggling with this resolution!
Preventative Measures to Keep Yells From Growing in the First Place
1. Schedule a scream if you wake up on the wrong side of the bed or get a stressful phone call. Letting out a big ol' yell outside, in the garage, or into the closet relieves tension instantly and gets you to a less grumpy place.
2. Take care of yourself. Prioritize sleep, exercise, me-time, and connecting with friends so that you are in a better place to combat personal things that can push you to yell, like hunger, exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed and experiencing any tough feeling of parenthood, such as loneliness or not-good-enough-ness.
3. Surround yourself with orange by sticking orange Post-It notes in oh-so-popular yelling areas and by wearing orange clothes so that everywhere you go you are reminded of your promise to be an Orange Rhino and not yell. That and, well, orange gives off a warm and energizing vibe -- a vibe desperately needed to keep yells away!
4. Laugh, talk and cuddle with the kids whenever you can, because when you are all connected and regularly enjoying each other's company, you all behave better! Seriously. Joyful moments breed joyful attitudes. Remember that!
Tips to Stop a Growing Yell When Preventative Measures Don't Cut It
5. Re-tape newborn pictures that have fallen down off bedroom doors, so that when naptime is a struggle, or when some darling child needs one thousand and one cups of water to fall asleep, you are reminded of how fragile your child was, and always will be, and you are inspired to proceed with gentle and not harsh words.
6. Exercise to get your body, instead of your mouth, moving! Drop and do a push-up so you don't yell a put-down -- or do jumping jacks so that you stop feeling so jumpy and irritated. Let the endorphins released from exercising (stretching included) bring you to a happier place.
7. Start vacuuming, scrubbing the floor, or wiping down counters to get a similar calm-down effect. Added bonuses? You also get a cleaner house, more sculpted arms, and, if vacuuming, a noise to drown out the yelling of the kids, which you know can be a major trigger!
8. Stare at a favorite picture in the room of you and the kiddo driving you nutso, so that you focus on the positive memory you shared and not the current negative moment you are experiencing. In other words, zone out for a minute so you don't blow up for 10 minutes! Remember, if no picture can be found, staring at an inspirational quote or personal mantra also helps get you re-centered. One favorite mantra: "I can do this. I will not yell."
9. Say, "I love you sooooo much," so that the blatant reminder of how strongly you feel about one of your munchkins dampens the desire to yell. Saying "I love you" is like an elixir to stop yells, especially when it is said over and over again -- which, let's be honest, will be necessary sometimes!
10. Splash cold water on your face to cool down. Or put your head in the freezer, whichever. You know you can get hot when a yell starts to grow, which can make you get irritated. And if you get irritated, then you will probably want to yell even more! And if you want to yell even more, well... then literally cooling down is a lifesaver. Note: If you are in the car, open the window and put your head out like a dog. Just watch out for passing cars, of course! Ha!
11. Find perspective by saying you are grateful for whatever annoying thing happened. For example, "I am grateful my son spilled his milk all over the floor because it meant he was trying to learn how to do it himself." Or, "I am grateful my son spilled his milk and not my coffee. That would have been a disaster."
12. Sing out emotions, or just sing for the heck of it, because even though you have an awful voice, it gets attention! Plus, singing "I am so angry I could yellll" makes you laugh both at yourself and at your kids (in a good way, of course), because their mom-is-a-wicked-awful-singer expressions are priceless.
Alternatives to Yelling When All Else Fails and a Yell Is Inevitable
13. Turn the yell into garbledegook (I am not sure that is even a word, but that is the entire point). When a yell is literally on the way out and you are too late, jumble all the words and sounds up so that you sound ridiculous. This will not only stop the kids in their tracks, but it will also make you all laugh, which is an instant mood changer. Likewise, talking like a robot or as if you have marshmallows in your mouth can also work.
14. Squeeze the nearest squeezable thing (and no, this definitely does not include kids!). Think Play-Doh, kitchen towel, cereal box, pillow, jacket, steering wheel, or seat of a chair. What also works is putting your hands in your back pockets and squeezing (the pockets, that is, not your butt!).
15. Just let out a primal scream, but leave all words out. The reality is that sometimes it does feel good to scream; it just doesn't feel good to yell negative sentiments at others. So if a yell is most definitely coming out, let it out, but just save the words and aim it away from the kids. (P.S. I always follow this up with an, "I'm sorry I lost my cool.")
And last but definitely not least, the most important of all ways to ensure that you don't get into your old yelling habits, should you slip up -- rather, when you do, because you might be an Orange Rhino but you are still human: make sure to immediately forgive yourself. Remaining mad at yourself will just make you grumpy, angry, and disappointed -- three surefire ways to make it even harder to keep yourself from yelling when the next tough moment arises.
For 85 more ideas on how to stop yelling at your kids, and for a detailed step-by-step guide to further help and inspire you, check out my new book, Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids-and How You Can Too!.