I am a yeller, and this developed recently and I hate it, especially since I am most often yelling at my 22 month old son who’s only being a typical toddler. My yelling is more of an exasperated whine but my volume does increase and it’s not good for anyone either way. So I want to stop this and pronto. Luckily for me Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting has been pumping out posts on the very subject recently that has been helping me create an action plan to change my behaviour and address the underlying causes of it.
The steps, like she claims, are quite simple but very challenging because it requires constant vigilance and the strong desire to alter my behaviour and the beliefs behind it. Like any kind of personal growth, it will take time and conscious effort but it’s worth it. The first step is to commit to the challenge and I am doing so by voicing it publicly here in order to hold myself accountable to it. For weeks I’ve been saying that I want to work on this issue and have not been doing it because it is far easier to ignore a problem than to deal with it but now I’m ready to push myself into making this necessary change in my life.
So now what?
Well, according to her 6 Simple Steps to Stop Yelling, I must first curb my initial reactive behaviour which means stopping myself from yelling before it starts by recognizing the signs of my frustration/anger building and walking away if need be. This part is difficult during situations that I feel are emergencies like when Leo is about to press the power down button to my computer or trying to jam a DVD into the xbox, but dealing with it swiftly without yelling is still very possible, I just need to develop the tools. In these situations she suggests removing everyone from the situation then going through the calming down process from there. That, I can do. So I then calm myself down by taking full breaths (or any other kind of ritual I prefer) until I feel myself relaxing enough to parent consciously instead of reactively. I find that closing my eyes and meditating for a few breaths helps me but sometimes I do need to isolate myself in another room in order to do so. Once I can direct my thoughts and stress response away from seeing Leo as the enemy, I am then ready to interact with him and set appropriate boundaries while addressing whatever need he is trying to express.
Bringing humor into the relationship is a powerful tool in this. Jennifer who blogs at Hybrid Rasta Mama recently shared a very appealing way to release pent up feelings by growling like a bear. Doing this makes me feel like some primitive earth Goddess, empowered rather than out of control like yelling. She uses this technique with her daughter who not only imitates her but takes great joy in it, which is how life should be. We should not be afraid of our feelings, no matter how dark they may seem because they are part of the tapestry of life and by processing them in a healthy manner, they don’t seem so bad after all. You might even say that they are normal and acceptable.
Figuring out what is causing the issue to begin with is also vitally important. Discerning whether it is he that has crossed a boundary that I feel is important or whether I am just reacting to something completely unrelated will dictate my course of action from there. Dr. Laura outlines this thought process in her article It Only Takes 3 Minutes To Stop Yelling At Your Child by first figuring out what exactly it is that is upsetting me and whether it is a rule I wish to enforce or a belief that is detrimental to our relationship that must be let go. The concept of ‘pick your battles’ applies here, especially once you reflect whether it is important enough to get upset over and address, or to just let it go. Most of the time, it is rarely the present situation that makes me irritable but rather my beliefs about it and how I have dealt with those emotions in the past that makes me anxious. Taking the time to calm down before acting on those feelings and exploring them instead has been therapeutic for me. Addressing the underlying issues that are behind my reactions are important, which I have been working on also like gently weaning my son which has been contributing to my general irritability, and mucking through my childhood memories has been illuminating some darker aspects of my psyche as well.
Another important step is to mentally visualize myself reacting to frustrating situations differently as an exercise. Taking examples of past situations that I have yelled and create an alternate ending where I was calm and empathic will help re-wire my brain into thinking differently when the time comes. Sometimes I am wracked with guilt and regret when I think about those less than stellar moments but it also motivates me to try better because I am aware that it isn’t the person I want to be. The really important bit though is repairing the relationships after a blow-out by asking for a do-over (which works wonders in my marriage too btw). I’ve done this before with Leo, where I have apologised to him for my actions and asked for his forgiveness while explaining the feelings I was having that were hard for me to process. His response was to hug me. He was only 14 months old at the time. Believe me, they can sense authenticity.
It is important to me that Leo gets a healthy start at emotional intelligence, something I struggle with in my life that takes much effort to change. It affects every aspect of life because everything is interconnected and how both positive and negative emotions are processed and acted upon affect all relationships between the self and others. That is why reactive emotional outburst like yelling are destructive to everyone involved and needs to be addressed. By taking care of me, my emotional issues, I will also be improving my relationship with my son, my husband and everyone else too. By regulating myself my son will also learn the tools to regulate his own emotions eventually but for now I am supposed to be the one able to be his safe buffer while he learns, not the other way around. The responsibility is alarming but that is the reality of it because I am the parent. It is my job to set boundaries compassionately so that Leo can process his own feelings in a healthy manner. By staying calm when he is emotionally reactive or just being a curious child exploring his world, I am showing him how to behave appropriately. There is no better teacher than direct observation.
Do you or your partner have an issue with yelling? Or have you grown up in a home where there was yelling? How do/did you deal with this?