One beautiful afternoon in September, I was sitting on the back porch watching my four children play joyfully. My oldest child, age seven, came over and hugged me. “This has been a great day, Mom. Thanks for not yelling at us.” He scooted off to play, and I sat there in shock.
“Thanks for not yelling at us” hung in the air.
Quickly, I recounted our day and realized he was right – I had not yelled at them all day. I thought back to the week before, where I had called my husband crying, because I was so over homeschooling and being a mom and trying to have a sane home all at once. That day had been full of yelling. I was sad that my children noticed the difference in the tone of the day, but even more heartbroken that I had not realized it at all.
As they continued to play, I posted on my Facebook account:
“I am, by nature, a yeller parent. I realized just now that I have not yelled at my children today and that they are behaving beautifully even when I have been calmly correcting them. Not sure if it is a chicken or the egg kind of thing. Any other yeller parents out there, or former yeller parents? I’m thinking this might be the eye opener I need.”
Almost immediately, friends started commenting on how they don’t know how to not yell, how they hate raising their voice, how they are embarrassed to admit that they yell, and more. One friend commented, “I would never talk to my students like that, so why my kids? That always bothered me.” I was struck by her honesty. As a former school teacher, I could never imagine yelling at my students. My children, who are homeschooled, are my current students – what makes them different from the hundreds of children I taught in the past? If I wouldn’t want someone else to yell at my children, I shouldn’t either. Then and there, I conscientiously chose to not yell. It has been five weeks now, and I have noticed several huge changes in my family.
There is less stress in our lives.
Before, when I yelled at my children, it ended with everyone angry and frustrated. My children dragged their feet doing everything I asked them to do until I raised my voice, and even then, I was busy being upset rather than guiding them. When I remain calm, they are able to understand the purpose of my instructions. I start by checking for understanding. Instead of yelling at them to pick up toys, I calmly state “Kids, this room is messy. We are going to clean it now. Please repeat my instructions back to me.” My expectations are clear, and I am calm. I didn’t realize my children were not hearing me before – all they heard was yelling and anger. When I am able to get on their level, check for understanding and calmly tell them what my expectations are, they listen better. Everyone has less stress that way.
I don’t have to repeat myself a million times.
Whoa. This is a huge change in our lives. When I don’t yell, they hear me. When they hear me, they know my expectations. I still have to repeat myself every now and again, but usually only once, and I don’t raise my voice. Before, they knew they had until mom started to yell before they absolutely needed to get to brass tacks. I state, calmly, what the consequence will be if I need to repeat myself. I don’t repeat myself a second time – I just follow through with the consequence. I rarely have to follow through on a consequence now.
The children remain calm when they get frustrated or angry.
This unexpected result dawned on me recently when my second child (almost 5) caught himself mid sentence and stopped yelling at his younger sister (age 3) who had taken his toy. He calmly asked for the toy back and she, to everyone’s surprise, obliged him. He thanked her, and that was the end of it. A few minutes later, the youngest (age 2) did the same to the 3 year old. The 3 year old followed her brother’s example and calmly asked for the toy back. Surprisingly, she returned it. Everyone had resolution without getting upset. When I yelled in the past, I modeled that yelling was an acceptable way to get results. By remaining calm, I am modeling better behavior. Our children are truly our greatest mirrors.
In all, I have seen tremendous changes in our family dynamic by changing this one thing about myself. In the past five weeks, I faltered and raised my voice once. My youngest started to cry. My oldest, whom I yelled at, looked hurt and defeated. No one gleaned anything positive from it. Parenting is tough as it is, so why should I add more stress, heartache and sadness into it by not treating my children with the love and respect they need? When we as parents show our children that we can resolve things calmly, they are able to learn to do the same.
Kari Calhoun is a native to New Jersey, but moved to Baton Rouge in middle school. She and her husband Mike have been married since 2005 and have bounced around in the military until coming home to Baton Rouge for good in 2015. Even though she is originally from the northeast, she considers herself to be a naturalized Southerner and is proud to claim diplomas from both LSMSA and LSU. She is former high school English teacher, but now concentrates her teaching abilities on her four children, Luke, Mark, Leah and Mary, who are homeschooled. She and her family can be found around town learning new things, exploring new sites and trying new experiences. She is actively involved in both MOPS and church. When she has free time, Kari enjoys crocheting, sewing and wandering the aisles of Target.