Guilt. Anger. Disappointment. Sadness. Hopelessness. I felt all these things and more every single time I yelled at my four boys, ages six and under. It's now been 328 days since I have yelled, and I am more than grateful. I share my story with you so that you too can get rid of those awful feelings and make this the year of no more yelling! My story isn’t scientific and it isn’t backed up by an advanced degree in childhood behavior, therapy, life coaching or any topic you might think relevant to this subject. What it is, however, is an honest, from-the-trenches account from a real mom, and it is something that YOU can do. I am not going to tell you it was easy. It wasn’t. It was hard. BUT it was DOABLE.
And I am not going to tell you it is one, single, concrete thing you can do at the moment you want to yell. It isn’t. It is a process and it takes work. BUT again, it is DOABLE.
Step 1: Acknowledge that you need to change, Decide that you want to change, and fully Commit to changing. I didn’t just casually do these things; I REALLY acknowledged, REALLY decided, REALLY committed. Changing a bad habit is a big job. It required an equally big amount of energy and focus. I gave The Orange Rhino Challenge MY ALL. I took it seriously, I made it a real priority, I believed in it and myself, and I promised myself I was going to do whatever it took to succeed.
Step 2: Set a Goal. Yes, 365 days straight is a bit severe, but it was a clear and inspiring goal for me. Pick a goal for you that isn’t too vague, isn’t too overwhelming but is also motivational and measurable. Pick a goal that will help you yell LESS and build confidence. Some ideas beyond 365 days: 30 days without yelling, 30 bedtimes without yelling, one week without yelling. For more ideas read this blog post: Forget 365.
Step 3: Share your Goal to Create Accountability. I told my friends and family about my goal in order to make it “real” and not just a casual idea. Yes, it was hard to admit that I yelled too much, but I knew it was important to have a group of people to be accountable to and share my progress with.
Step 4: Create a Support Network. There are four people I wouldn’t have survived this without.
- (a) The Pep-Talker: The person you can call when you want to quit who will always tell you not to, that you can do it and that you’re doing great. This is my hubby’s job!
- (b) The Texter: The person (people) you can text whenever you feel the urge to yell. Choose people who you know will reply back quickly with a supportive “don’t do it!”
- (c) The Children: As in your children. Whenever my boys sense I’m getting ready to yell they say, “Orange Rhino!” It works wonders. Wonders.
- (d) The Orange Rhino Facebook Community. These are the people who can give you advice, encouragement on bad days, and hoorays! on good days. These are the people who will stand by you without judgment, who will remind you that you are not alone and who will inspire you to keep going.
Step 5: Track your Triggers. This is the part no one wants to do, but needs to do! My first 10 days I wrote down on orange post-it notes when I yelled, why I yelled, my mood, my kids mood, time of day, etc. Tracking helped me:
- (a) Create a mental alarm system that now goes off BEFORE I yell. (ie. Warning! Legos all over floor. You will yell. Prepare yourself for self-control. )
- (b) Identify small problems that can easily be fixed and larger problems that can be focused on one at a time (ie. rushing in morning makes me yell, put out breakfast plates at night)
- (c) Gain self-awareness that 9 out of 10 times underneath the “trigger” was the real trigger -- my mood -- and that therefore I needed to focus on my role in the “wanting to yell situation,” not just the kids. (ie. I want to yell because the kids are too loud, but REALLY I’m just tired.) -- And ultimately...
- (d) Create a preventative measures plan to practice (eat well, exercise, go to sleep earlier, don’t bottle up emotions, etc…)
Read my post on Tracking your Triggers here.
Step 6: Start practicing slowly. Learning not to yell AT your kids is a big change; take baby steps and know that it takes practice! First, I taught myself to yell AWAY from my kids. I still yelled, but not at them, not in their faces. Instead I yelled in closets, toilets, cupboards, cars, boxes, shoes, bags. I yelled anywhere BUT at them. After, I trained myself to turn away AND not say the mean words. I let out yells (ARGH!!!!), animal sounds (Roar!), whistles and whatever else came to my voice. The key here is repetition and accepting that “I can not always control my kids' actions, but I CAN always control my reaction.”
Step 7: Keep Practicing! After ten days of feeling silly yelling into the toilet and making animal sounds all day, and realizing that I DID have the self control to not yell at my boys, the desire to yell faded. I turned my energy towards (1) finding and practicing new ways to stay calm, (2) identifying, understanding and alleviating triggers, and (3) owning up to my own mood as the REAL source of the problem. Yes, I kept working at everything until I found my groove. For 100 Alternatives to Yelling that I tried, click here.
Step 8: Keep Goal top of mind. I practically decorated the house and myself in orange for a month straight to keep my promise top of mind; and I still do. Serve orange foods, wear orange, post sweet, gentle, “I can’t imagine yelling at that precious” baby pictures in problem areas, do whatever works to keep you focused on your goal.
Step 9: Persevere when you yell. I restarted several times. I was discouraged until I started reminding myself that this was a process, that it would take time, and that the upside of yelling was that I learned about a trigger and what response to calm myself didn’t work. I didn’t fail; I just got more data points for how to succeed! Besides, telling myself I failed just made me feel crankier and yell more. So I stopped being so hard on myself, and when I did yell, I forgave myself, apologized to my kids, and promised to keep on trying.
Step 10: Celebrate when you succeed. Any moment I didn’t yell was a success, even if I had yelled moments before, and I celebrated those moments with either a fist pump in the air (yes, I did that!) or posting on Facebook. Everyone needs visual positive reinforcement too; my countdown clock on my blog does that for me. Other ideas for you: Make an orange heart on a calendar for every day you don’t yell, put an orange M&M in a jar for every moment you don’t yell, place an orange post it note on the wall near where you didn’t yell. Get creative but praise yourself!
Step 11: Stop Yelling, Start Thinking, Continue Calmly. And yes, despite all of the above, there are still moments where I feel a yell brewing. And then I turn to this mantra. STOP the Yell. (Close my mouth, clench my hands, count to 10). START thinking (What’s the trigger, what calms me down, how can I proceed) and continue CALMLY.
And above all else, know that you are not alone, that I believe in you and that I am here to help you!
* It was HARD to learn to not yell and HARD to summarize all I did in a short blog post. If you want more information, comment and I will add it in future blog posts or point you in the right direction!
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