I felt my face turning hot.
I tried to take a deep breath.
But there was already dragon fire, burning a hole in my chest.
It was 8:27am.
For the fourth time that morning, our toddler had thrown a toy toward his baby brother. This time, it was a tiny metal airplane that nearly hit the baby’s face.
That’s it. I’m DONE.
And with that, I let it go.
The dragon fire screamed uncontrollably out of my mouth. Every bad thought I had. Every negative emotion in my being. Hot hatred was emitted in the form of verbal vomit, and it flowed right into my young son’s little ears.
“STOP THROWING TOYS! YOU COULD HAVE HIT YOUR BROTHER! I’M SOOOO SICK OF THIS!”
And there it was.
As I took a deep breath, I realized I felt a lot better. Wait, that’s a lie. I didn’t feel any better. The dragon fire in my chest had subsided, but now, I had a huge lump in my throat.
I messed up.
As I turned to look at the confused little boy who was the unlucky recipient of my rage, I immediately wanted to melt into a puddle of shame at his feet.
Those perfectly-curious, innocent crystal blue eyes were as wide as I’d ever seen them.
And behind them, I could see what he was trying desperately to process.
Why did my Mommy just scream at me?
I felt awful. Terrible. Dirty. The lowest of lows.
And, in that moment, I decided I was soooo much better than a fire-breathing dragon.
I’m Janie. A woman who is strong, compassionate, and loves her children with all of her heart. That’s who I am.
I’m not a monster.
It’s nothing short of a miracle that, soon after, The Orange Rhino connected with me on Facebook and I soon became intrigued with this fellow mommy blogger’s mantra. After a handyman caught her yelling at her sons for playing with her spare breast pump parts while she was pumping, she pledged to a 365-day no-yelling challenge. Every day was a struggle, and this mom-of-4-boys turned that amazing journey into a book, called Yell Less, Love More, which is a brutally-honest, real-life look at how to stop yelling at your kids.
In it, she makes some pretty dark confessions (like that she once dented her wall in a sippy-cup-throwing rage), and by 20 pages in, you trust her completely. She is you. She is a loving yet flawed, passionate yet frustrated, authentic yet human mother who’s trying as hard as she can to show grace to her children, even on the days when she really just wants to scream in their face. By the end of the book, her brave confessions about real-life mommyhood, paired with her accessible, no-yell application points at the end of each chapter, accumulate to make you feel that it’s possible for you to get through the next hour without yelling at your kids. And then, who knows, maybe the whole day, week, month and year.
I was honored to get an advance copy, and in reading it cover-to-cover, I learned so many great, applicable, real-life tips for stopping the fire-breathing dragon that sometimes rages inside of me. Here are my favorite Orange Rhino no-yelling tips, along with some of my own:
1. Post newborn pictures of your children in your home’s worst trigger areas. I have hospital photos of my babies posted in my bathroom, so I can gaze at those innocent, fragile faces when I get frustrated that they are following me into the bathroom when I’m trying to get ready. And getting all my shoes out of the closet. And breaking my black nail polish on the tile floor. (True story.)
2. Yell at other things, like your purse, the toilet or the pantry. I have to admit, I LOLed the first time I read this in the book, but it makes total sense! Usually, the urge to yell has more to do with my own frustration than with my children’s behavior. The Orange Rhino points out that things don’t have feelings; kids do.
3. Take the focus off the tough moments by asking for a group hug. This can instantly lighten the mood, and help you remember that your children really are children. I also like to ask my kids, ‘Do you need a hug?’ when they are having a tough behavior moment. 99 percent of the time, the answer is ‘yes’ as they fall into my chest with a satisfied sigh.
4. Put both your hands in the air when you feel like you’re going to lose it. The Orange Rhino does this a lot, and she says it’s very effective. It’s kind of like a ‘time out everybody listen’ symbol and her boys really respond.
5. Take them outside and spray them down with the hose! Let me speak from personal experience and say that this is a great stress reliever for both of you!
6. Label your triggers. It’s so much easier to fix a problem when you’ve diagnosed it. I know that my triggers are: when kids throw their food on the floor, when they throw toys at each other and when they are being whiney or rowdy while I’m trying to make dinner. So now, when I’m going into those times, I am mindful that these are trigger times. And I plan ahead. For instance, since dinnertime is one of my toughest times of day, I’ve started prepping dinner while the boys are napping or putting food in the slow cooker in the morning, so there’s less stress for me at trigger time.
7. Chew on gum, an apple or carrot to chomp out frustrations. The Orange Rhino loves doing this, and it makes total sense. I also often put a stick of gum in my mouth when I’m annoyed, and it seems to help. The mintiness seems to kind of cool me off, even if it’s just in my head.
8. Take pictures of small annoyances or ‘naughty’ moments. I love this tip from the Orange Rhino! I post lots of naughty kid pics on my Instagram, and it’s enlightening because I look at them later… and laugh
9. When you are disciplining, say your child’s age aloud. Like, “Porter, you are only 18 months, so I understand that it’s hard for you to follow directions.” It helps remind me that this is a little person I’m dealing with.
10. Turn up the music! This is a personal favorite of mine, as it always lightens the mood and makes the late afternoons (my worst time of day) go faster. Sometimes the baby even starts dancing and we all have an impromptu dance party in the living room!
11. Start a staring contest, or tickle the child you want to yell at. Another mood lightener!
12. Try the smile trick. This is another great way to get the kids to laugh when they’re being ornery. When I have a child who’s being especially difficult, I get a very stern look on my face and say, ‘Don’t smile!’ When the smile inevitably starts, I pretend to scold him and say, ‘Hey, I saw that! And I said don’t smile!’ Works every time.
13. Take a cue from Frozen and just let it go. The Orange Rhino shares a story, which was very poignant for me, about a family trip to the beach. The first few days of their trip were incredibly disappointing, because it was raining, so they really weren’t able to enjoy their vacation as they usually did. On top of that, once the weather finally did clear up, they left to go to their favorite beach, only to find out it was closed. Things like that used to set her off (and do with me as well), but she just decided to let it go. Her response was so novel that even her husband noticed and commented on it. Needless to say, the family still had a blast, and so did she. There’s no benefit to sweating the small stuff and focusing on how disappointed you are when your expectations aren’t met. So force yourself to stop.
14. Remember, it’s not them; it’s you. In other words, I have the power to take charge of my own behavior and schedule, and to fix the things contributing to the yelling problem that I can fix. For instance, I know that when I don’t work out in the morning, it’s much harder for me to control my temper throughout the day. This is something I can control. So, I try to work out every day (except, of course, right now when I’m sick as a dog from
morning all-day sickness). But most other days, it’s a step I take in order to keep from yelling, and to keep my own sanity too.
15. Give yourself positive affirmations. This works in so many areas of life, and parenting is no different. Tell yourself: ‘I am a loving parent who is in control of my voice.’ And then don’t be surprised when you start living that way.
16. When all else fails, call a friend. I think of it like I’m a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, calling my sponsor when I’m about to slip up. We all need someone to hear us. Or, maybe you just need a good laugh, and you know your sister or best friend has the exact words that will turn your day around and make you forget that the baby just dumped his whole bowl of cereal on the floor. Call your friend, and spare no detail as you b*tch to her about every single thing that’s pissing you off right now. Who knows, you might even find out that her parenting day is even worse than yours.
Being a great parent is all about small choices. And I’m trying to make them everyday.
Because I don’t want to be a fire-breathing dragon.
I want to be an Orange Rhino.