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How yelling less taught me one important lesson

How yelling less taught me one important lesson

 It’s 313 days since I last raised my voice at my daughter.

This didn’t come easily to me. It doesn’t mean I never lost my temper or never got upset. It just means I didn’t raise my voice or lift a finger. As difficult and strenuous as it may have been, it’s come with its share of slow but much-awaited rewards.

On a Thursday in July, 3 years ago, I gave gratitude for completing an entire week without yelling at a 7-year-old. At the same time, my heart was fighting inside, telling me I shouldn’t have even had to yell at a child. This tug of war, the battle between ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ yell, made me examine a very important aspect of being a parent.

Every time I yelled at Gy, it was for a number of reasons:

* I was angry

* I’d been defied

* I was losing control over the situation

* I was tired and beyond exhausted

* I hated when things didn’t go according to plan

Common factor for all triggers? Yes. That was me.

What I didn’t realise was I was offloading a lot of my expectations and emotions on to a child. And this isn’t entirely my fault. As parents, we all do it. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up over it though. We can, however, learn from the mistakes.

Kids are incredibly resilient and forgiving too. They’ll bounce back, hug you and forgive you all within the space of 5 minutes, maybe less. But you’ll notice that as they grow older, they are more observant of the way you handle stress and manage your emotions. And they watch and learn.

Slowly, I began trying to put into practice a few key concepts that I’d learnt in the last 3 years.

Let go of the small stuff

I stopped yelling at her for not doing her homework or completing her school work. I figured that she needs to learn these things at her own pace.

Take a deep breath

It’s tempting to want to explode when the fury of being defied hits you full in the face. My suggestion? Walk away and take a few deep breaths.

Listen to the reasons

Sometimes, kids do things because they are upset with someone else. You may not be the actual target but you end up being one anyway. When calm, find out if something else is bothering the child.

Spend more time with them

I know this sounds trite but it’s one of the things that really works. Whether the child is one year old or ten years old, it doesn’t matter. They want us to be with them, even if it’s for 30 minutes of uninterrupted time just reading, talking, playing or lying down together.

Let them make some mistakes

I’d get wildly upset that she wasn’t being careful with her belongings and roundly accuse her of irresponsibility. No surprise that she continued to be so. But allowing her to forget a few things and face the consequences has helped her learn this on her own.

Appreciate the good

In June this year, she started showing a marked improvement in her school work and I consciously started acknowledging that, telling her that it was admirable that she had started taking responsibility for herself. Praising the efforts, not the child, have gone a long way in building her self-confidence and also eliminated the need to yell.

Why is it important that I share this today?

Because we need reminders. Each reminder is an important lesson and it’s always the same lesson: Love.

In a world where we are constantly forgetting the good in favour of the horrific, we must remind ourselves that we have a genuine role to play in the universe. We are parents, caregivers to children who look up to us and address us with affection, trust and love.

Above all else, love. That takes care of just about everything.

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Parenting: The most challenging job

Parenting: The most challenging job

Parenting is challenging. Period.

I wish I could just put that down, print it up, stick it on my refrigerator and take a deep breath to relax every single time I felt like things were spinning out of control. But there are days when it seems like everything happens all at once and no amount of yellow post-its on every surface in the house is going to help me.

Someone once told me (almost derisively) that parenting is the one thing we have no course for, no exams to pass and no evaluation/appraisal to monitor our growth. While that smarted at the time, I can’t help but think how true it is to actually experience parenting. 

Parenting is challenging, www.shailajav.com



Imagine being flung into the deep end of the ocean with no life raft or instructions on how to swim. How must it feel? Terrifying? Yes, don’t even think otherwise.

I’m not here to scare you, new parents or parents-to-be. God knows I try to look at the positives as much as I balance out the days when I feel like throwing in the towel. It gets progressively harder too, as they grow older. Paradoxically, it grows easier as well.

Easier because you don’t need to worry about diapers, bottle feeds, sleep deprivation, colicky infants or weight gain. Harder because you have to start worrying about things like peer pressure, missed assignments, coping at school and the defiance that comes with age.

Yelling is counter-productive. I’ve learnt that the brutal way. Add to it the things that you love doing that don’t involve parenting and some days you want to just hit the pause button on all the worries that parenting brings and just delve into the comfort that writing offers. 

That’s why I write. I’m not ashamed of it either. It’s my best and most relaxing escape from my failures as a parent. It’s my go-to tonic when I feel helpless and at my wits’ end. Yes, I fail as a parent and it’s heartbreaking to admit it.

I fail every time I glare at Gy when she forgets her homework at school.

I fail every time I ask her in a voice, dripping with sarcasm, how she manages to find her way around the school.

I fail every time I stand and stare at her apparent lack of concentration when I am saying something.

Let’s face it. I tend to lecture. Hey, I was a teacher so it comes naturally to me. But whereas a classroom full of young adults come to actually listen to you, a pint-sized mini-you just stands her ground with open defiance not willing to lend you her ear. That’s beyond frustrating; it’s maddening! 

So, what do we do on the days when parenting seems like the most challenging job in the world? Here are my solutions:

  • Pick up the phone and talk to someone close- your mom, your spouse, a close friend. Don’t hold it in. Talking clears the mind.
  • Go for a walk. Fresh air works wonders on the frayed nerves of a frazzled parent.
  • Stay away from the trigger that causes you to feel like a failure. Re-visit it when you are in a calmer frame of mind.
  • Write it out. You don’t have to blog if that makes you uncomfortable. Write in a diary or type it out on the computer and put it in drafts. Writing is therapeutic and soothes tempers when they are flaring.
The scariest thing of all though? There’s no way I can be sure that any of this will actually work on a given day. There’s no guarantee that my child will love me unconditionally all life through. There’s absolutely no conclusive formula to determine if I am actually helping her or hindering her progress.

But I try. 

The best I can do is try, despite every cell in my body screaming and telling me otherwise on the days that seem the hardest, I’m determined to try and be the parent I need to be. That’s the most challenging job of all.

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The Mother of all Meltdowns

The Mother of all Meltdowns

There was crying. Loud, unabashed sobs.
 
Things were flung- at the door, on the bed, against the wall. 
 
Eyes reddened and the blood boiled to the extent that veins stood out on the temples.


It truly was the mother of all meltdowns. Last week, on a Wednesday afternoon, to be very precise, all of the above manifested to create a very scary and unexpected outburst.But it gets worse. (Oh yes! Worse!) 

All of the above was not Gy; it was me.

Mother of all Meltdowns, Diary of a Doting Mom, Shailaja V

What happened:

 As much as it hurts me to admit it, I broke my streak after almost a year of keeping my temper, maintaining my cool and handling tough situations with my daughter. 308 days of good parenting were flushed down the drain that afternoon.

Almost a year. Do you know how that feels? To go almost an entire year without raising your voice and then watch all Hell break loose in a flood of vitriolic fury? Oh and to do it two days before your daughter turns 9? Well, that’s just adding insult to injury.

The really funny part though? I didn’t yell

Nope, I didn’t raise my voice. It didn’t go a notch over the standard serious tone that says ‘Know-that-I-mean-business-young-lady‘. So why do I say that I broke my streak? That’s because I terrified the life out of two people- Gy and myself. There was so much palpable anger in the room that had it taken the form of a fire, it would have engulfed us both.

What caused the outburst is not important, but the anatomy of it will interest you. As I repeatedly asked her something and got only silence and a mutinous look in return, something snapped inside me. 

I could feel the yell welling up within and in an attempt to keep it inside, I balled up my fists and stood before her. After the fourth unsuccessful query, I picked up a doll on the bed and flung it across the room and watched it hit the wall.

Mother of all Meltdowns, Diary of a Doting Mom, Shailaja V



Then I saw the fear in her eyes, as she backed away from me, hands up in front of her face, as if to shield herself. Still, it didn’t hit me. I continued to stride forward menacingly and wagged my forefinger, forcing her to reply.

Shaking and whimpering, she cringed and moved to the corner. Frustrated, I stormed out of the room, slamming the door, the walls reverberating with my rage. This episode had been my worst in a long time- two years to be precise. The last time I had lost it this terribly was when I embarked on my Yelling less challenge.

My rage didn’t die down, not for a whole day. It simmered beneath the surface like a dormant volcano, waiting for the right moment to explode. Once it left the realm of pure fury, it gave way to sadness. So I sat in the living room and sobbed my heart out as Gy walked around on eggshells, watching me out of the corner of her eye. 

Ordinarily, I would have apologised, hugged her and smoothed things over within the hour. That day was different.

What I did later:

A whole day had to go by before I could clinically look at what had transpired the day before. One part of me was going through the standard emotions of rage, anger, cooling down, guilt, sadness, regret and vowing never to do it again. Another part was arguing that this was bound to happen since repeated instructions to Gy had failed to provoke a positive outcome.
 
I picked up the phone and called my mom and bawled. A good cry always helps. Trust me on this. Following that, I waited for Gy to get home from school, sat her down, hugged her close and explained that this could not happen again- both for her sake and mine. She nodded, still shaken from the memory of a mother who’d lost her head so completely.

We discussed that this episode was a good reminder of what happens when:

  •  we are not in control of our emotions
  •  we feel helpless 
  • there is lack of clear and level communication
  • there is no empathy for the other person- in this case, both ways.

The Outcome:

I was defeated by the very fact that this occurred, but a part of me is glad that it did. Now, instead of mere guilt over the incident, I am able to look back and learn from it.

Thinking back, there were a lot of things that happened last week that could had led to this- PMS, a sick relative, another in the hospital- but pinning my outburst on any/all of these would only be a temporary solution. Life is always going to get in the way. It’s never going to be a bed of roses, so it’s time we started triumphing in spite of our hurdles, not without them.
 
Since I haven’t really lost my cool this way for a while, Gy knew it was serious when it happened. It’s unfortunate that there is an element of fear now when it comes to telling me about something but that cannot be helped, except perhaps that with time, it will get better.
 
Life isn’t always going to be easy. Even a perfectly manicured garden will start looking shabby if it isn’t nurtured and tended to every single day. I have been neglecting myself- be it as a woman or a mom- and this was a wake-up call. If I care for myself just a little bit more, I would be in better control of my emotional health. This would imply a few adjustments in my schedule and I’ve started implementing them right away.

Mother of all Meltdowns, Diary of a Doting Mom, Shailaja V
 
 
Finally, despite our best efforts, mistakes happen. For all my yelling less tips and suggestions and that yelling less meter on my sidebar here, I am human. There are going to be pitfalls and slip ups along the way. What matters is not how I fall, but how I pick myself up and learn from that incident.
 
Writing this post was very very hard for me to do. It’s taken me a whole week just to come to terms with the fact, let alone put it down for posterity on my blog. But I have always found that writing about it and being honest-with myself and others- has been therapeutic. In doing this, there is hope that tomorrow will be a better day. And that, as we both know, is a wonderful thing to anticipate.
 




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Put the fun back in Parenting- Yelling Less: Tip Sheet #4

Put the fun back in Parenting- Yelling Less: Tip Sheet #4

‘Brush your teeth well. You don’t want to lose your teeth before their time!’

‘Did you remember to close the tap? What? You DIDN’T?’

‘Is your room neat? I am NOT picking up any more toys!’Kids are wired differently. But, I’m guessing you know that by now. If you’re a new parent, just stepping into those shoes, believe me, there are challenges ahead. 



Trigger: ‘Lack of interest’ in performing tasks

 
Chores bore children. Yes, no question about it. If you ‘tell’ a child to do something, 8 times out of 10, it’s not going to get done. And why should they do it? To them, it’s a task and just the word has an annoying ring to it- full of responsibility, dedication and work! Nobody likes it, take it from me. 
 
That’s what frustrates parents too. They see a child’s clothes on the floor, after they have explicitly told the child to put the dirty clothes in the hamper. They ask a child to leave the restroom as they found it, only to notice later that the child hasn’t. They instruct a child to hurry up  and finish a meal and come back 15 minutes later to find that exactly ONE morsel has gone in.
 
That does it! The child has ‘wilfully defied’ the parent! This sets off the trigger and soon, you have a full-scale attack on the child, who is reduced to tears, because Mom is busy yelling at him for not doing everything as he was told.

These are sample scenarios I have listed, some of which you can identify with and others you will agree with.  What was clear from my journey was the fact that I was giving orders and expecting instant obedience. Well, guess what; this isn’t the Army 🙂

As I moved ahead on this parenting path, one thing came to the fore. Every time I made something FUN for my daughter, not only did the task get done, it would be done at lightning speed and with a smile to boot!
 
 
What do I do now?

 

  • I make funny faces: Yes, I know how that sounds, but it works. Trust me! If the child is not closing the tap after use, make a face and say that you’re the tap, who is crying, because she forgot to turn you off. Kids laugh and do the job pronto 🙂
 
  • I get down to her level: Instead of ‘telling’ her what to do, I ask her what she’d like to do.  We discuss what would be the quickest way to pick up the toys. I suggest making a sound like a train, while she suggests prowling around like a tigress, picking up the scattered toys. We compete playfully and get the job done in half the time! That and a shared sense of responsibility work very well.
 
  • I model the behaviour I expect: There’s no way someone is going to do something, if they don’t see it being done first. Kids are no exception to this rule. If I put my clothes in the hamper every single day, sooner or later (most likely, later), the child will get a feel for the routine and do it himself.
 
  • I praise and reward: A few years ago, my husband picked up a Magnetic Responsibility chart, which has lovely reward icons with smiley faces on them for all chores. It’s an easy way to give them non-material rewards without having to repeat yourself ad nauseum. The colours make it attractive and fun!
 
  • I make tasks fun by making up a song: It’s annoying to repeat yourself over and over again for mundane tasks. I get it. We have a hundred other things on our mind and this tardiness and lack of ‘responsibility’ just gets on our nerves! So, I recently came up with an idea to make up a rap song for simple chores. Here’s one I created for brushing:
I’ve still got all my milk teeth, ‘Yo!
Let’s brush ’em up and make ’em glow!
 
I set it to a rap beat with my own beat box thrown in and she is up at 6 am, every single day, brushing and dancing her sleepy eyes away. No, you won’t catch me ever singing that in public 😉
 
And , we know that a day that begins with a smile just HAS to get better as it progresses!
Somebody told me last week that it’s important to put the fun back in Parenting. I have to agree that it’s less stressful and a whole lot more enjoyable when we do that.
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Welcome to my weekly feature: Thoughtful Thursdays


Here, each week, we will explore an aspect of positive parenting, a tool or a technique that has helped me in my journey. If you’ve visited before, you may be familiar with my Yelling Less journal. It was a week-long challenge that I undertook in July last year.


Ever since, it’s been a series of management tips for various scenarios. I owe a lot of my gratitude to The Orange Rhino, who was the original inspiration for my journey. 

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Do these tips help you?
 
Do you have any ideas to add to the ones above?
 
❤ Feel free to share your valuable comments and suggestions.
 
Thank you! 
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Linking this to Yeah Write Moonshine 167
 

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