This morning I read an article from Belly Belly titled ’10 Things Parents Should Stop Doing Today’.
I read a LOT of parenting “stuff” but I reckon this one might just have been a game changer for me. Our household consists of me, my fiancé Tom and our two girls, Rose (3 in a couple of weeks) and Willow (9 months this weekend). Oh, and three cats, and two guinea pigs. There’s a lot of shouting (to be fair, the guinea pigs are usually pretty quiet). There’s also a lot of foot-stamping, pouty faces and bottom-lips you could trip over – and then Rose has her grumps too.
Pre-Willow, I didn’t yell. In my defence, I didn’t need to – Rose was a well-behaved 2 and a bit year old. Then I became a Mother of Two and she started acting out on the odd occasion, as you would expect. Then April arrived and so did our Threenager. (https://bungalowburn.wordpress.com/2016/05/18/threenagers-the-awful-truth/). Ouch.
Since then, Rose has got naughtier. More defiant, more noisy, more boisterous, more emotional, more unpredictable – and my yelling has got louder and more frequent with each of her outbursts. And I hate, hate, hate it. I hate that one night last week it caused an argument between Tom and I. I hate that I shouted at Rose for throwing (very heavy and bruise-inducing) bath toys at me. I hate that my shouting then caused Tom to call out “Carly!! Do you know how you sound??” And I hate that he was right. We argued about it because I DID know how I sounded and I didn’t need someone to point out how horrid my yelling had become.
I don’t shout when people are around – and that just shows I know it’s a horrible thing to do and it’s not how I want to parent. Also, Rose has become more shouty. On a couple of occasions last week I shouted and she went to hit me in response. Not good.
With that in mind, and remembering last week’s ‘Bath Gate’ too, I read the Belly Belly article and point number six leapt out at me. “Shouting is intimidating and can be scary”. The article also highlights that shouting is ineffective (correct), makes bad days worse (Oh SO correct) and then – the hardest hitting point – it is as ineffective as smacking and could damage your relationship in the long run (*gulp*). Painful – because the truth hurts. My first thought was of my Grandpa. I used to be scared to death of him as a child and yet he never raised a hand to me (that I can remember), but he ALWAYS raised his voice. I remember him angrily shouting, red in the face, towering over me if I’d been naughty and I was terrified. I used to stand at the window and cry as my Mum drove off from my Grandparent’s house when I was there for the weekend, not wanting to be there at all. I still remember it now. (Our relationship did improve as I became an adult, but I was never as close to him as I am to my Grandma).
Shouting at Rose has become automatic. She’s naughty, I ask her to stop. She ignores me, I raise my voice. She ignores me again, I loudly threaten punishment (toys removed, ‘time out’, etc). She still ignores me/looks defiantly at me/repeats her action again and I. Just. Lose. It. I yell. I shout. Probably almost as loudly as my Grandpa used to. And you know what? It doesn’t usually make the blindest bit of difference to her behaviour – and it makes me feel like shit. BUT, I now realise, if she were to look afraid, I would feel EVEN WORSE.
So today, I didn’t yell. Not once. Even when she scraped her Frozen wand along the side of our car after Tom had warned her not to. Even when she ripped a plant up in the garden, took her trousers off and threatened to wee on it. Instead, I took her hand and walked her to her beanbag for a time out (via the toilet on the second occasion). And you know what? When I went back in and explained that she must listen to us and she must not damage things, she said sorry and she hugged me. That was it, dealt with.
We didn’t have a perfect day. I’m not sure those even exist where three-year-olds are involved. She was still naughty, she very nearly p*ssed in the garden and she wouldn’t stop throwing random things into the trolley at the supermarket. (Nope, still don’t need any pickled anchovies, thanks). Tom still shouted a few times (but I didn’t tell him about my experiment until this evening) and we had a couple of beanbag time-out stints. But bedtime was nice and calm, I even started to lose the urge to shout as the day went on and I feel like I had a ‘good parenting day’ today. I felt calmer, more in control and just generally better than I have for a long time. It was a Better Day.
I’m hoping we have an even better one tomorrow. (Preferably with no destroyed plants or random outdoor urination). Lets just hope I don’t find her happily drawing away in red felt tip pen on the new washing machine again. Ahem.
*Counts to ten*