Thursday, March 18, 2010


I decided to stop yelling at my children for Lent.

Of course, Lent is almost over and I started two days ago.

I make my own rules.

Many people give up soda or chocolate or something else that gives them pleasure. Good for them. I need as many legal pleasures in my life as possible.

Other people add something to their life, like additional spiritual practices  or service. Good for them.

Me? I'm giving up yelling at my children.

I'm doing this because that old phrase "anger is depression turned outward"  is true.

When I raise my voice, I am frustrated with circumstances or hungry or lonely or scared. It's like scratching a mosquito bite---it's so very satisfying to scratch until it bleeds. Then, however, you're itchy and bleeding. When I yell, I'm still hungry or lonely or frustrated or scared. But then I'm also wracked with guilt.

My child, doing his bedtime prayers, said, "Please help Mommy to stop yelling at me." Then, to really twist the knife, he told me that he's going to start saying "bad prayers" like, "Please help me NOT listen to Mommy."

In case you were wondering, I HAVE ruined him.

After I looked in his eyes and saw the brutal truth in his words: "Stop yelling," I went downstairs and cried and prayed and lit my Mary candle. I said these words as a mantra: "I am not going to be a yelling mom."

I said the words, and willed them into life. These words are real now, and I must tend them like a newborn babe.

This morning, Owen was a pill. Didn't want to get dressed. Didn't want to eat breakfast. I asked him if wanted toast, a waffle, or cereal for breakfast. He said, after much dithering, "scrambled eggs."

I repeated, "You can have toast, a waffle, or cereal."

He said, "Scrambled eggs."

I said, "I love you too much to argue."

He continued to be obstinate and truth be told, a bit of an asshole.

I said to him, "You are making me angry, and I am going to go into my room for awhile so I don't yell at you."

And then, I did. I rested on my bed, while Joel played nearby, repeated my mantra, said a little prayer, and came back out when I didn't feel like yelling anymore.

I then asked Owen if he wanted a waffle, toast, or cereal.

He said he wanted scrambled eggs.

I took a deep breath. I told him he was getting a waffle. We moved on.

And I didn't yell.

I'm sure I will yell again. You can count on it.

Easter morning is going to be an effing nightmare. After all, Lent will be over.

I kid.

I'm hoping this habit sticks. After all,  I'm not going to be a yelling mom.


clearness said...

All that "I want scrambled eggs" reminded me of Mr. Mom..........The orange juice and milk scene.

only a movie said...

You are so smart. I love this.

Melani said...

Guess I need to get a Mary candle. This post made me cry.

I can relate because I am a yelling mom and I swear too. Ain't that a kicker?

I start out nice and then loose all patience and with the time change it is gotten worse not better.

I think I will get a Mary candle this weekend, when I get groceries, thanks for the inspiration.

Anonymous said...

I love this. Of course, as I'm reading it, my new little gril is literally pulling my hair with one hand, trying to put her finger up my nose with the other and kiss my eye ball AT THE SAME FREAKIN TIME!!!!!

Clearly, I am a yelling mom. Much as, like you, I don't want to be.

My SIL went on a whisper campaign a few weeks ago. Whenever she wanted to say something louder, she said it quieter and quieter until she was barely audible. She said it worked for her. I tried it, but Simeon pretended he couldn't hear me, even when my lips were brushing his ear.

Perhaps I'll try it again. You're an inspiration, mom. Thanks.

Coby said...

So one day I was having a bad day, not liking how I was talking to my kids, apologizing for the umpteenth time, and I SWEAR God said to me, out loud, "Do you believe I can reach your children through you, in spite of your imperfections?" Apparently, I didn't, because I thought I had to be perfect in order to reach my children for the Lord and raise kids with character. I'm realizing this is part of a deeper pride issue for me.

One of my goals this year is to read through the entire Bible, and I'm realizing that God uses imperfect people to accomplish His perfect will. That means YOU. We're all damaged to some degree by our parents; my kids are going to need healing from things that I've said and done. But there's grace and forgiveness and mercy, because God loves us and is for us and wants us to be great at what we do (read, YOU).

I hope this didn't come off as arrogant, but rather encouraging. The short of it is that you don't have to be perfect to be a good mom. And you're a good mom. If it came off as arrogant, forgive me, and feel free to virtually slap me upside the head.

Ms. Moon said...

Look- I yelled. And my kids still love me. Mama Lion gets pissed, she raises that giant paw and she roars. Do you hear what I am saying?

Mel said...

Ms. Moon is so wise! I turned into a yeller too, noone was more surprised than me. But the scrambled egg thing? Been there. Sometimes, I think it's just a test of wills. It's good you're trying not to yell, and I think that counts for a lot. The good news is they won't remember most of it. The bad news is they're going to pick new and exciting fights with you for years to come. I haven't noticed it getting any easier, just different. I'm trying to be more patient, I really am, but I'm old and tired. I'm hoping when they're older and I'm senile we'll have the best relationship ever :)
good luck with the day to day stuff. Turns out I videotaped a lot of it and although I was less present when I was in director mode, the tapes tell the truth. We watched a couple of decades old tapes this week and they were pills. Still are. But how cute and funny and sweet too. All part of the package. Have fun and hope your patience holds.

Daffy said...

One moment at a breath at a time....

Cat said...

They can be so frustrating... I try to keep my tone of voice sweet or firm, but it can be so hard when Boy's hitting me or kicking me in the face or telling me no. Good luck with the rest of Lent...

Stephanie aka The Stark Raving Bibliophile said...

You're doing great! And you deserve a very tall, VERY strong drink after the kids go to bed the night before Easter.

Viv said...

I am a yeller. I am pretty sure it is deep in my Italian genes. It is also completely necessary, to be heard in a house with six children all competing for top vocalist. You have inspired me though, and because you have also reminded me that Lent is almost over...I might just jump on this bandwagon. It would also be a pleasant surprise for my mother to hear that this year I did something different, and gave up something other than Catholicism for Lent.

The Rambler said...

Yelling mom to yelling mom.

Were trying.

Heart ya!!

Caution Flag said...

A few years ago a counselor told me to stop yelling at my daughter, and to calmly restate my point and then walk out of the room. My daughter quickly followed me and continued her yelling. I don't think that lady was such a great counselor.

Robin said...

More than 2 choices is too much for a little one..but you handled it well..this is a painful post and one that we have all faced....but the real truth is..They will still love us..but will we love ourselves..?

Corrie Howe said...

Do you really do lent or are you just needing a reason to stop yelling at your kids? I agree that when I'm yelling it is more about what is going on in my heart than whatever is putting me over the edge.

I found working on the issues of the heart were more successful than working on the habit. Because "out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (or yells or acts negatively)."

Tracie said...

I have to yell or they can't hear me over their own screaming.

Hang in there. We're all doing the best we can. You're a good mom and the love you have for your boys shines in everything you write.

Mama Zen said...

Oh, man. Can anybody dish the guilt like a kid?

Joanna Jenkins said...

I feel your pain. I just had that exact conversation with my godson. Only this time I whispered the whole thing and it kinda stopped him in his tracks. Then I told him I needed a time out and went to my room with the door closed. (He's old enough to be left alone for a while) 10 minutes when I came out-- he was standing by the door with an apology for being rude.

I WAS SHOCKED. Don't know if it'll work twice, but I'm going with the whispering for a while.

Hang in there.

Organic Motherhood with Cool Whip said...

We all need a Mary candle and a yelling mantra. You are not alone. No one is perfect. But you are a wonderful mom, even if you yell sometimes. Hang in there.

Marla said...

Good for you, girl! I can so relate to this post. I hate yelling and yet I slip into it so quickly if I am not vigilant. You have re-inspired me. Thank you!

Bethany said...

Wiw. I think you did fantastic. I can't imagine a mom never yelling. Mom's need to yell sometimes, no? But I like your new practice. I think it teaches the kids too, how to control their own emotions and own them if they see you doing that.
I'd always heard the phrase the other way, that depression is anger turned inward!
But it makes sense both ways, doesn't it?

Here, have a Cadbury Egg. Hide from the kids and eat the whole thing yourself.

Minivan Lover said...

*teary* P and I had a hard day yesterday. I yelled. He got a terrified look on his usually sweet face and wailed.

After a bit I apologized.

I feel like yelling is not good. But if I can teach him to (in the future) acknowledge his own bad behavior and apologize for hurting others, than thats a good lesson too.