photo by takomabibelot
“A loud voice cannot compete with a clear voice, even if it's a whisper” -- Bary Neal Kaufman
Oh, it is an ugly confession, but a necessary one.
I sometimes (not always) (but sometimes) (more than I would ever want to) (it's an ongoing struggle) yell at my girls.
I mean really, really yell. Loudly.
And it's awful and I hate it - oh, I hate it - and I'm willing to do anything to stop.
I'm afraid I come by the behavior honestly. My mom tells me often that her biggest regret from the years she spent raising us is how much she yelled at us. My mother had four kids in six years, so I tend to extend heaping measures of grace upon all of her parenting choices now, but yeah. It's a pattern I've found I'll continue with my own children if I don't stop it. Now.
And it is up to me to stop it. Every single one of the writers on parenting whom I admire and respect share a common message - parents themselves must possess discipline before they can effectively discipline their children.
So in the past few months, I've been doing something that seems silly but is highly effective for me.
When I feel those big feelings bubbling up - that frustration, that anger, that rage (yes, rage) - I force myself to go into "whisper mode." I make the conscious effort to lower my voice immediately and dramatically to a whisper. Over time, it has become a sort of signal to the girls that Mommy's Getting Angry, You Won't Like Mommy When She's Angry, but that's not really the result I'm looking for.
More than anything, practicing the art of whisper when I get angry is a physical reminder for me to bring myself under control. There is nothing about screaming at my children that illustrates effective parenting. If my children see that I can't be trusted to bring my own big feelings under control, what hope or motivation do they have to find peaceful and healthy ways of dealing with their own big feelings?
So for now, it is the whisper. Maybe, hopefully, I evolve and grow beyond this problem. Or maybe I'll find myself hissing a whisper into a cell phone with AJ on the other end when she's not quite seventeen and headed off to an unauthorized road trip to the lake with her friends. (not that her mother ever did that.)
Side note: There are times when a quick, loud instruction is needed. Times when, for example, one child is standing on the ottoman, poised to leap off onto an unsuspecting sister below. Oh, it's not all tea parties and tiaras around here. I may have two girls, but we have an incredibly high rate of sibling-on-sibling violence, to be sure.
I would love to know - any who have the courage to confess to a yelling problem, what techniques do you employ to break that habit?
beach picture photo via Eduardo Merille