February 26, 2014

Tooting My Own Horn

This week has been a good week so far.  I have taken two midterms. On one of them I missed two, but with the bonus questions I was able to bring my score to 103%.  Woohoo!  And on the test I just finished, I got 98%.  I couldn't be happier.  

And I have had a really good week as far as volume goes.  I intended, for my project, to just record my behavior for ten days, but I could already see by day five, that just having to write down every time I raised my voice, made me so aware of it that it has already greatly diminished.  I only raised my voice once yesterday and not at all today.  And I haven't yelled at all.  Not so good for my paper, but great for me.  And I can see the difference in my whole family.  My kids have turned their volume down as well and temper tantrums are cut off before they get out of hand.  I am really liking that.

This week, someone left the bathroom door open and Charlotte always makes a beeline when she can get in.  The last time she got in, she brought out the plunger.  Yuck!  So I tend to get aggravated at the boys when they forget to shut the door.  But this time, when I realized she was in there, I reminded myself that it was a mistake, took a breath, and went to see what she was getting in to.  She had climbed in the tub ( I didn't realize she could do that yet) , had gotten down all her toys and was happily playing like she was taking a bath.  When I told her it was time to get out, she didn't come to me, but got her toys and put them all back on the shelf before reaching for me to get her out.  I like this new me.  Everyone is happier and that makes me happy to see.

February 19, 2014

Enough Yelling

This word 'enough' is already turning out to have a profound effect on my life.  Being more authentic in my life can sometimes be painful, and admitting to mistakes that need correcting can be scary, especially in a somewhat public forum.  But I want to be authentic and I want the changes I make to be real.  That means confronting some not so comfortable truths about myself so that I can change them.  I am a work in progress and as the man says, "God ain't through with me yet".

I grew up in a very loud house.  With seven kids how could it not be loud, right?  But it was louder than even that because there was so much yelling.  I was the fourth, so there were three older kids becoming teenagers with attitude before me, and three coming after me with toddler attitude, so maybe it was quieter earlier on.  I don't know.  What I know is that I grew up becoming just as loud as everyone else, you had to be just to be heard.  I remember, sadly, when asked to write a letter as a teenager to my future husband, I wrote that he needed to enjoy arguing because we were sure to do it often.  That is just the way I grew up and I thought my marriage would be just the same.

Then I met Adam.  He is a quiet person, not a yeller at all.  We don't argue.  We do disagree, but usually we are able to work it out with conversation.  I could count on one hand the times either of us has raised our voice to yelling at the other about anything and it was always me.  I don't remember Adam ever yelling at me.  Ever.  But when it comes to our kids, I have fallen back on what I knew growing up.  I lose my cool when I am tired, or I get frustrated, or the kids are doing the same thing I have told them not to five times already today, or NOT doing what I have already asked them five times to do, and I yell. 

I have noticed that on occasion I see someone else lose their cool and yell at their kids, and I sit back thinking, wow that wasn't that big of a deal, why the yelling?  I am sure they would look at me the same way when I overreact and yell.  I know that if I see it in others and feel uncomfortable with it, it is the same watching me doing it.  And that doesn't even start to cover how the kids must feel when I lose my cool and overreact and the yelling is directed at them.

There are days I feel overwhelmed and yell because I just can't handle any more and its my go to coping mechanism.  If I yell loud enough, they will stop doing whatever it is, right?  Wrong.  What I have seen is fear in my children's eyes.  They know that Mom is out of control.  I can see it happening sometimes like I am standing to the side, but am helpless to stop the train. 

I have had enough.  I had a bit of an epiphany a while back about it.  I don't raise my voice to anyone else.  I try to have patience with other adults, and even with other kids I have tons of patience. I rarely raised my voice as a nanny.  And I do it because I respect people.  I don't think people who yell have a lot of respect for anyone.  So, why haven't I been respecting my kids?  And while I tell them not to yell and to treat everyone with respect, my actions/words to them are speaking WAY louder and teaching them the opposite.  I don't want them to have the habits I am now trying to break.  And I don't ever want to see fear in their eyes. Respect yes, fear no.   I have been working on it for the last few months, and getting better.  And I know my kids are getting better.  We talk about how I talk to you with respect, so you talk to me with respect.  It has cut down on attitude/temper tantrums and every one's reactions have toned down.

In one of my classes, we have been asked to pick something in our lives that we would like changed and do a six week experiment on adjusting our behavior and write a paper on it.  I could easily have chosen eating better, better study habits, etc., but I really wanted this to be meaningful and life changing for me and for my family.  So I have chosen yelling/raising my voice.

I am taking about 10 days to document how often I raise my voice to my kids on a daily basis, and how often they raise theirs. My theory is that if I am not loud, they will be more calm in their behavior as well.  While I am better, it still happens more than it should.  Then I will be instituting measures to decrease the volume.  Most are just for me.  I need to get more rest so I am more able to handle daily hassles.  I need to take some time when I feel overwhelmed and do something that brings that pressure down.  I need to take a minute before reacting when I see something that would normally blow my top.  I have never understood those mothers who calmly go get the camera when their kids have made a disaster and take a picture.  My first response is to lose my temper.  I will be working on that.  I need to see the humor more in mishaps than the work of righting the mess.

Yesterday I caught myself raising my voice to my toddler because she pulled a couple glass bowls out of the dishwasher as I was trying to unload it and dropped them.  They didn't break, but I instantly raised my voice telling her "NO, you could get hurt if they break."  Really she was just trying to be helpful and do what I was doing.  As soon as I heard the words come out of my mouth, I regretted it.  She needed a thank you for trying to help, not censure.   I need to remember that most of the time, things like that are teaching moments for my kids and instead of teaching them how much I love them and assisting them in the learning process, I am teaching them is that Mom is always a grump and sometimes scary.  And when I lose my patience when they are just trying to learn, I am teaching them that they are not good enough.  Well, it is me that is not good enough.  I need to teach them by deed, and by my words that they are good enough, that they are capable and that they are loved enough that I don't lose my temper over nothing.

So.  Enough. No more yelling/raising my voice in anger.  I will respect them and teach them the same in their communications both with us and others.  I will update once the paper is written, but I am already seeing the difference in my kids, especially my oldest, who really functions much better with calm words than loud upset words.

I do want to make it clear that I don't think my house growing up was bad.  I knew that we yelled about it and then it blew over.  I didn't hold on to things or worry about it.  But I know that not everyone is that way.  My oldest is definitely not that way.  He worries about things.  He is so sensitive and I need to remember that when I talk to him.  He takes even the littlest censure to heart and hates doing something wrong.

When we know better, we do better.  I know better.  Its time my actions showed it.