A couple of years ago I did the “No Yell Experiment.” It was fun while it lasted. Just kidding. I mean, it worked but then life happened. And boom, just like that I find myself parenting yet another ridiculous three year old.
With spring around the corner and some other changes that I’ve made (I quit the gym), I knew this was something I needed to work on. Again.
I did some research. I bought – and read – a book. I finished the first chapter and applied my new knowledge. I don’t agree with everything I read, but amongst all the advice, I discovered the solution: love.
Cheesy? Perhaps. But it works.
The other insight I got from my read was that almost every time you lose your patience with your kids, it’s on you. Meaning, you’re not really just stressed out about the situation at hand, but rather about everything else: you’re running late, the trains are messed up, work is stressful, and so on and so forth. I know this is definitely true for me. My reaction depends very much on my mindset, and I have oftentimes found myself impatient with my kids for reasons that have nothing to do with them. Does that make me human? Yes. But it doesn’t make me feel particularly good.
But let’s take a step back. Arthur can be a handful. He listens very selectively. He doesn’t pay attention. He continuously disobeys despite many warnings. Consequences are met with outbursts of massive proportions.
Here are the two things I need to do: stay calm and hug.
A couple of real life examples:
- Situation: The boys are taking a bath. Arthur keeps splashing so much that the entire bathroom is soaked. I remind him not to do that and clean everything up (rookie mistake – clean after bath time is done). He drowns the bathroom again. I tell him he has to get out of the tub. He’s furious, but I remain calm. He gets out. He screams. He stomps. He throws his towel at me. He is so angry. Here is where sometimes I can feel frustration rising inside and all I want to do is scream louder than my three year old. Of course that’s nonsense. Anyone who is not confronted by a screaming three year old will tell you as much. But the urge is there all the same. Back to our bath time fun. Rather than yelling, I take a deep breath and give my kid a hug. He stops screaming immediately and falls into me. He nestles himself into my shoulder, I wrap him in his towel, and once he has calmed down we talk about what just happened. Also, I was just stressed because I was making dinner and it was the end of the day and yada yada yada. The wet bathroom floor was actually not that big of a deal.
- Situation: A subway ride home and Arthur keeps punching his brother and being generally annoying. I say, “Stop that.” He responds with, “Stop that.” And so on. I tell him the consequence of this nonsense was that he didn’t get to ride his scooter home (all two blocks from the subway station). He.loses.his.shit. Screaming, hitting, pulling on me, making me trip, screaming. Oh, did I mention I have to buy milk? Yes, we are those people in the store. Anyway. I have no control of the situation. People are staring. I feel like a failure. Also, kind of resentful of my annoying child. Then I stop, drop the million things I’m carrying, remove Arthur’s helmet, and give him a big hug. And it all passes. He apologizes, I accept, he says he loves me, I say I love him. We talk about why he isn’t allowed to ride his scooter, and he gets it. The end.
The point is: No one gets the message when a parent loses his or her temper. It might offer temporary relief, but afterwards I always feel crappy. Kids can’t always control their emotions. They are still learning. They are learning their coping mechanisms from us. And the answer is, as Love Actually told us all many years ago, love. Compassion. Here is my pledge to hug instead of yell and talk later.
So, I told the boys that I am working on not yelling. Jeff and I made a commitment to not do it. Ever. With no one. Because it sucks.
So far so good. It’s funny. Unlike saying “I won’t have a drink all week” it’s actually really easy not to yell once it is simply not an option. It’s been two weeks, and I’ve slipped once. Julian actually became teary-eyes and said, “Mama, you went against our rules and against the book.”
Will I slip up again? Sure. I mean, probably. Maybe? But we’re making an effort here, and spring is a good time to start new things.