The Birth of the No Yell Challenge

A good mama doesn’t yell.  Okay, there’s no truth to that.  You can still be a wonderful mama and yell.  A lot.  I have been for the last seven and a half years and not one of my three children has been fucked up past the point of no return.  So, yes: I think you can be a good mama and yell.  Sometimes it just feels good to let it out.  But then it feels really bad after.  When I am alone at night, I think about the day.  Think about the lows and highs.  Think about the interactions that bring a smile.  And the interactions that bring a cringe.  Most of these are images of my yelling.  It feels bad.  All of us mamas do the best we can ninety-nine (okay, eighty-five) percent of the time.  But those remaining moments are the ones that stick out like big jagged, guilt-ridden spikes in the day.  I want to try to round those edges and eliminate some of that guilt.  The birth of the No Yell Challenge.

Things that make me yell:

I have three boys: seven, four and two.  There are really tough things about a two year old.  He yells at me, hits me and snots on me.  But the worst is when he wants me to do things that I just can’t do; when he hands me something and says “Do, Mama!”.  Do what?  “Do, Mama!”  Do what?  What do you want me to do?  “Do, Mama!”  You get the idea.  Then comes the yelling, hitting and finally, the snotting.  As his voice gets more frustrated, mine gets more frantic.  What?!  What do you want me to do?!  Show me!  What?!  See, can you feel your blood pressure rising just by reading that?  Seven year olds are tough too.  Nothing is ever fair.  Nothing.  Is. Ever. Fair.  Ever.  His little brothers get more [insert snack, quantity of time, treat, new toy] than him.  They get away with more too, right?  He’s right, they do.  We depend on our oldest to do the right thing, set an example and help us out.  Talk about pressure.  Four year olds: part child, part baby, part emotional monster.  So sweet, so loving, so dramatic.  Learning how to get away with things his dumb older brother gets in trouble for.  Soak up all the new (obscene) words, (gross) noises and (annoying) habits of his older brother and trains his little brother on all the basics of (bad) behavior.  They are a well-oiled machine of terror.  And I adore them. Madly.

Will any of these behaviors cease when I stop yelling?  Nope.  Not one.  So why?  Because of all the things that will begin if I stop.  I tried this once before and got to about three weeks before I fell off the wagon.  I could probably tell you in hours at the time because that is the most appropriate unit of measurement when you try not to yell.  It. Was. Hard.  Really hard.  But something began to happen.  I started being a better listener, a better negotiator, a better communicator.  I became what I wanted them to be: calm, rational and articulate.  So now I am starting again.  And chronicling it.  Hold me accountable people.  I have no promises other than to be honest.  Honest about how hard it is, when I fail, where I have success and how it feels.  And hopefully there will be results.  Or I will add a “Donate” button to this page for the therapy fund.

If there is anything I have learned about being a parent it’s that when we feel alone, we are worse at our job.  Knowing there are others out there who struggle with the same things, make us beat ourselves up a whole lot less.  We are able to focus more on our strengths and less on the things we do wrong. We need each other.  So this is your formal invitation to join me!  And if you can’t join us brave (crazy) mamas (and Dads, if you are man-enough!), we could really use some cheerleaders.

Three, two, one!  On your mark, get set!  No yelling… starting now.

Are you up for the challenge?


8 thoughts on “The Birth of the No Yell Challenge

  1. We started to NYC yesterday, as a couple. We talked to Harrison about how we are all going to work together to stop yelling, to help each other out and to be nicer to each other. So far, so good. Trav and I have already started communicating better with each other. We’re able to sense when the other is struggling and switch roles to give the other a break. It’s also made us realize that yelling is often our go-to form of communication with the three year old, and that’s just not fair. I look forward to taking this journey with you Mama. Love ya!

  2. Yes, Sarah! I TOTALLY relate…and I’ve been trying this “no yelling” thing to no avail. I’m on board to give it a try with you…at least for my neighbor’s sake. Ha. No, for my children. I agree that stopping the telling won’t stop all of the behaviors that trigger the yelling but I do believe that stopping the yelling will halt and change the typical scenarios we find ourselves in. I know at least with my 7 year old boy (I’ve also got an almost 4 girl) it is almost like I can see the script, performance, habitual pattern playing out before my eyes, powerless to stop it. Obviously I can’t depend on him to change things since he is 7 and doing what 7 years old do but I think by altering the pattern, changing the script, we can change what happens after. Sounds so good on paper and in my head but when I am faced with the live action situation it is so easy to just fallback into the yelling and the subsequent reactions that follow. So, it is nice to hear I’m not alone on this journey!

  3. Geez…sorry for all the writing errors! Not only did I respond from the IPad (so it replaces words without warning) but I sent quickly just as my student arrived. Oops. I’m supposed to be an English teacher. Ha! 🙂

  4. Sarah in France! I love what you had to say about the interactions being a “script”. This is so true. You can really see it play out. We need to break the cycle with our response… It’s the only element within our control. And by the way… you sound super smart- is it bad that I didn’t notice any of your “typos”? 🙂

  5. The spelling error’s really do not matter in this subject. I think you are so right Sarah. I really Love the no yelling idea. I do not have any children yet, however I really want to apply this method to my parenting style.

    • Thanks, Laura! Mamahood is as hard as it is rewarding. Constantly trying to be better and adjusting your tact is the only way to get through it! And with the support and kindness of other strong women! Thank you!

  6. Pingback: Back on the Wagon… Again | Mama Gets Real

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