Saturday, October 24, 2009

some clarity?

this week, i read this NYT article about yelling. specifically, yelling at our kids. and why it's so hard to stop. and how guilty it makes us feel.

i've been thinking a lot about this lately. i've seen friends on various blogs, via email exchanges, on facebook talking about and discussing the same things.

yelling at our kids sucks. and it makes us feel terrible. and i hate how much of a rush and release i get from doing it.

just this week, we were at play therapy (of all places) at a local university, and the kids were so wound up afterward that they were running aroundandaroundandaroundandaround and even coming dangerously close to knocking over a coke machine. while this was going on, i was trying to have a brief conversation with aedan's therapist. just you know, the routine stuff, how is he doing, what can i do to help him be a better person. except every 5 seconds i kept saying "please stop doing that. if you do that one more time there will be consequences when we get home. please sit down and talk to each other until i am done. please do not run up and down the halls because students are trying to have class."

sometimes they would stop and look at me and keep right on acting out. sometimes they would just keep running, not even slowing down to listen. i could feel myself getting madder and madder, except you know i was out in public and talking to a therapist-in-training no less, so i couldn't very well shout "JUST STOP IT RIGHT NOW!" (which i think would have been very effective at that point).

when i got home, i wanted to go straight to bed. and i told rick i thought it was because i had spent so much energy holding my tongue (not to mention the horror of having my kids misbehave so badly in front of someone whose job it will be to analyze child-parent relationships) that i was just worn out.

so i know that yelling takes no energy, while NOT yelling can take every ounce of my being, and usually does. and boy, it's sometimes just convenient to take the easy way out. that is, in the comfort of my home, when no one else is watching or listening.

but the thing is, sometimes i go overboard, and i see it on the kids' faces. and plus, i remember that all-familiar phrase (which i now repeat to my kids on occasion) my mom used to say to me: "why do you respond to me only when i yell? i am tired of yelling!" i totally get her frustration now. parenting is just plain hard.

so while i was pondering all of this, and thinking about the article and also about how to make our house a (potentially) more peaceful place, i thought, you know, it's time i did a sticker chart. actually, i can't lie: the therapist helped me come up with this idea. well, i had thought of doing it a while back, but remember i said i sometimes want to take the easy way out? yeah.

so i was thinking we should institute a sticker chart, because believe it or not, our kids seem actually to be motivated by little pieces of sticky paper. and trust me, they are not really motivated by much in the way of discipline. spankings don't scare (not that i EVER spank...), the corner doesn't seem grueling enough, grounding for the afternoon only provides respite from the family and gives them a chance for downtime (obviously not what i was going for), and they don't have favorite toys that they would be lost without (i've tried this...not effective around here). on top of that, they don't really watch any TV during the week, which is when we have the most trouble.

so stickers it is. sometime this weekend i'm going to make a chart and we'll start this on monday. and after 10 stickers, they get to take a trip to the bookstore and get a new (hopefully on sale) book. because around here, books are like crack. (yes, i am so thankful!)

they will be able to earn stickers once, at the end of the day. we'll use that chore board/rule chart i made a while back and then promptly stopped using, and we'll stick to the house rules we made together there. so if they do (relatively) well following those rules and participate in helping around the house, they will get a sticker for that day. we'll sit down each night and evaluate how they did and decide together whether they've earned one.

then i thought, well why is it okay for me to ask them to start making a huge effort to follow all these rules while i run around yelling and freaking out over things i need to keep it together on? so i think i am going to make a sticker chart for myself too. it will help hold me accountable. and the kids will see that i am making an effort too. because, i'm being honest here, it's just going to be really hard for me to stop yelling, just like i think it's going to be hard for gillian to stop hitting her brother or for aedan to stop having emotional breakdowns when he doesn't get his way. so we are all trying together to be a better family.

i'm excited. ask me in a week how it's going... :)


Amelia Plum said...

I think that's a wonderful idea! Your post is great, so honest & forthcoming. Parenting can be really difficult but I think you're already making huge strides in just being aware of the problems attached to the yelling, the guilt it makes you feel, and how draining it can be to bite your tongue. I especially like how you noticed the difference in trying so hard not to yell given the situation you were in but that it can be so different at home or if you don't feel watched. Maybe it's odd to say I like that, more that I identify with your struggles. Look forward to hearing how the week goes.

Toby and I are seeing a children's therapist, who is wonderful, with the kids and one thing she told us to do was come up with 3 rules (more than 3 can be too confusing or kids won't remember them all) for the kids. She said to decide on the three things that are most important to us, and to let the other things,not necessarily slide, but decisions can be infinitely easier if you know how to choose your battles. So far we had be honest, be kind and be respectful but I'm wondering if be helpful should possibly replace honest or kind.


Christina said...

I think a lot of us moms yell. I hate doing it, especially when I know my little toddler can't understand what he did was wrong. I've always done a bit of a timeout for both of us when I get frustrated. I would go lay him down and let him have some down time to cry while I cooled down. Now that he's a toddler, I find myself putting him down for a rest while I cool down. This week it was soup all over the living room, he did get a "Noooo!" out of me, but then I just took his hand, walked him to the kitchen and wiped him off and took him to bed to lay down for awhile until I got the mess cleaned up and cooled down. I wanted to yell, but reminded myself it wasn't his fault, he's just a toddler and has no idea what he did was wrong. He just thought it was fun. So by the time the mess was cleaned up, I went in a grabbed him, gave him a hug and kiss and we were both good to go. He honestly likes his down time in bed, he just chats with his toys or looks in his mirror at talks to himself. So it does us both good. I just hope I can keep it up as the years go on. The yelling wont ever completely stop, but I hope when it does happen it's for a darn good reason!

elise said...

It is so hard to NOT yell. Great point. It's exhausting. Now that I'm working on it too, I'm learning this! We can be the not-yelling moms support group. I needs to buy me some stickers for my not-yelling chart. love this post!

karin said...

I don't know where I've been lately that I just read this post. Oh, yeah...I know where I've been..dealing with life stuff.

Anyway, I totally agree with Amelia about how honest and forthcoming you are here. And, when other moms are willing to be honest it helps the rest of us feel like we are normal and not crazy.

How is the sticker thing going? I hope it is helping. And, I like the reminders that for the younger kids they are not often doing things to make us mad, which it feels like a lot of the time. And, when you said it takes more effort not to yell than to actually yell. I guess we should try to stop and be proud of ourselves when we handle a situation better than we have and celebrate that, rather than all of the times we feel guilty about our mistakes. Lots to think about...

Also, I am interested in hearing about your experience at the behavioral therapy sessions. How did you find out about it? How long have you been attending?