Do you yell at your kids too much? If you feel like you do, chances are all the yelling is caused by the #1 reason moms yell at their kids.
Guest post By Sheila Wray Gregoire, To Love, Honor and Vacuum
From Erin: I am delighted to have Sheila posting at my online “home” today. She is someone I look to for wisdom in both motherhood and marriage. I have definitely struggled with the subject of today’s post. I am right there with you, mamas! We are learning together! <3
Do you yell at your kids too much?
When I was younger and I pictured myself as a mom, I never pictured exhaustion and endless laundry and children thinking I’m torturing them because I’m washing their hair. I pictured idyllic baking times with the smell of chocolate chip cookies wafting through the house, or fun craft days around the table.
And so it was a huge surprise to me when I often found myself so aggravated with my two little girls that I would raise my voice. A lot.
How could I, who loved my kids so much and who so wanted to be a good mom, yell at my kids? I went to Bible studies and read books on children’s self-esteem. Truly, I wanted to nurture their hearts. Yet, far too often, my frustration level reached the roof and my voice exploded.
When my children were early into the elementary school days I realized that this had to stop, and I started analyzing those times when I yelled. What was it they were doing that was making me lose my temper?
As I dissected those times, I did learn a few things that my husband and I needed to correct in my kids: they had to have more consequences for fighting over toys; they had to nurture their relationship with each other; they had to have consequences for not listening to me the first time, and we did work on those things.
But the big thing I noticed was this: when I was yelling at my kids, the root of it almost always had to do with what was going on with me, not what was going on with them.
Wow. Was that humbling.
Let me give you just one scenario to show you what I mean:
The girls would be playing happily in the living room and I’d think, “let me just take 10 minutes and check e-mail and see what’s happening in the world.” I’d sit down at my computer, check my e-mail, and then check a news site. That would lead me to a blog post, which would send me down a rabbit trail until I’m looking at some article on 10 Celebrities You Never Knew Were Married.
And then I’d look up and it would be 2:15. We needed to be at piano lessons at 2:30.
So I’d jump out of my chair and say, “Girls, let’s get moving! Go grab your piano books! Time to hit the road!”
But, Katie wouldn’t be able to find one of her shoes, and Becca’s practice book would be missing. And then, Katie would announce that she hadn’t actually practiced this week. Also, she was hungry. And thirsty. Plus, she didn’t like her hair in this braid.
The yelling would start.
Yet if you study this situation, the problem was really not with the girls. The problem was that we were a very busy family, and I wasn’t handling organizing our schedules very well. I too often took the easy way out (not making the girls practice piano when they should), and I let my own time get away from me.
Usually when we yell, we think it’s because other people are bugging us. But often it’s because we’ve created a situation, either by overscheduling our kids’ lives or by not handling our own organization well, where it is virtually impossible for everybody to “get with the program”.
I found five steps that greatly reduced my frustration–and brought the volume down in the house!
1. Plan Uninterrupted Down Time with the Kids During the Day.
When the girls hadn’t had my attention in a long time, they tended to fight with each other more. However, when I spent time reading to them or going for walks with them, when they were playing without me, they tended to get along much better. When they have Mommy time and Mommy input, there’s a greater level of peace between them.
If you are frantic all day, trying to get all the kids to school and lessons at the right time, then they won’t feel peace. They’ll feel hurried and hectic and they’ll become frustrated, too. And often this is the primary way we moms operate: we’re constantly barking orders and playing defense to our schedule.
But if you have time to sit still with them and laugh, then you create goodwill in the family. You lower the stress. And you make those times when you do have to hurry much more of an exception.
2. Schedule Regular Clean Up Times Throughout the Day.
One of the biggest things I yelled at the kids for was their mess. They’d play with Legos and leave them everywhere, and then they’d get out the dress-up clothes. And I would step on those Legos.
I tried the rule, “don’t get something new out until you put something else away,” but the kids weren’t big on it. And, to be honest, neither was I. If I hadn’t learned to do that in over three decades, how could I expect them to do it in less than one?
So we started a different system: we had three cleanup times throughout the day, without fail: after breakfast, after lunch, and before dinner. I’d set a timer and put on some music and they’d go to it! But I had to enforce it; I couldn’t expect them to do it on their own.
The days when we did that were good days. The weeks when I let it slip were also the weeks when my temper slipped.
3. Know the Schedule–and Plan Buffer Zones
If I had remembered that piano was at 2:30, and that it always took 10 minutes to get out the door, then I would know we had to get ready to leave at 2:05, not 2:15. I started checking my schedule everyday, and then getting the girls ready to leave ten minutes before we had to get out the door. That way if anyone didn’t like a braid or needed a drink, it wasn’t a major crisis.
4. Use a Timer for My Own Downtime
Everybody needs downtime, even moms. And that’s okay! But instead of stealing time “when they’re quiet”, and then goofing off until they decided to act up, I started simply planning my down time with a timer. “I can sit here and be on my computer for 45 minutes, but then I have to get my work done for the day.”
If you sit at your computer until you’re interrupted, it’s guaranteed you’ll be interrupted by someone who is whining, needy, or angry. But if you stop when the timer goes off and start doing some housework, then if there’s a minor squabble it’s far less bothersome to deal with.
Usually when we yell we think it’s their problem.
But what if the real problem isn’t that they’re not getting with the program, but that your program itself isn’t much of a program at all? When the mom is disorganized, the kids will be aggravating. But when mom is organized, then the yelling tends to stop.
Take a look at the last 3 times you really yelled at your kids. Analyze the situation. What was going on? Were you in a hurry? What was your schedule like? Is there something that YOU can do differently to prevent getting annoyed with everyone and everything? Let us know in the comments when YOU usually yell, and let’s talk about how to deal with it differently!
Sheila Wray Gregoire blogs about marriage, parenting, and even *gasp* sex! She’s the author of To Love, Honor and Vacuum, for every woman who feels more like a maid than a wife and a mother. And she blogs everyday at her blog with the same name–To Love, Honor and Vacuum. Her girls are now grown and out of the house, but they still interrupt her with phone calls when she’s trying to get some serious goofing off done. Oh, and she’s Canadian, eh.