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When I began this task, someone asked me why I had opted for ‘yelling less’ and not ‘zero yelling’ as my target. I’ll be honest; I never thought about the idea of zero yelling, because raising my voice seems to have become part of my daily routine over the past couple of years. And I also notice that this yelling is confined to just one recipient- my daughter. Am I ashamed of that? Certainly. Throw in a whole lot of guilt into the mixture, together with regret, tears and self-pity, and you have yourself a very sorry picture of what I look like by the end of the day.
I also think the ‘less’ made the goal appear more realistic. Over the past year, I noticed that Gy would respond to one of my commands only when I raised my voice. I put it down to simple defiance and got angrier by the minute, until it was an all-out screaming fest. The last three days, I have ensured not to raise my voice when I want something done. It entailed getting eye contact with her and putting away whatever task I was doing and speaking to her in a normal tone.
Today, we had plans to go out for a movie and a lunch. While the task itself is fun, getting ready on time is a whole other story. We are talking about bathing, dressing, eating breakfast… and all in the space of 30 minutes!
To change things up, I began by making a game of it. I roused her from bed, told her to jump in the shower, telling her I would do the same. Whoever got to the breakfast table first, bathed and dressed, was the winner. I even laid out her breakfast on the table, all set to go. In the fifteen minutes that it took me to shower, dress and reach the table, I was greeted by the pleasant sight of Gy sitting there, chomping away on her third puri! All without a single yell- Hurray!
The next event occurred that evening. V recently purchased a scooter for Gy, which she loves to ride in the lobby outside our apartment. She has the requisite safety helmet, so I am not too worried. She was riding it outside, while I was working inside the apartment. I heard a thud, a crash and a sobbing sound. Instinctively, I dropped everything and ran out to check. Sure enough, she had fallen and scraped her arm.
Now (don’t judge me), the first thing I would have normally done was to put my hand on my hip with a ‘I told you so’ coupled with ‘How many times do I have to tell you to be careful?’ expression. This would have been followed up with , ‘No more riding the scooter today.’
Today, the ‘less yelling’ was playing on my mind. I helped her up, checked to see if the bruise was bad or if any other injury was visible and asked her what she wanted to do. She fought back tears and said, ” I am a brave girl. I won’t cry. You please tell Appa I said that.” In response, a smile lit up my face and we hugged each other. Within ten minutes, the wound was cleaned and she chose to take a break from the scooter on her own, opting instead to have a long conversation with her father over the phone, about the movie she had seen that morning.
As I type this out, I realise how much better a ‘yell-free’ day can be. My first instinct now is not to instruct or advise, but to listen. And to think, that something as simple as ‘yelling less’ can do that for you.
How are the others on this path doing? Do share your stories.