After my third child was born, it became especially apparent how much my anger was affecting my parenting. I found myself getting angry at the littlest things- the dog's nails on the hardwood floors, a stray toy in the kitchen, and toothpaste spots on the mirror would send me into a rage. Although I wasn't yelling at my children, they were feeling the effects of my not-so-gentle approach to the world around me. More, it wasn't me.
I first noticed it when my oldest daughter quietly shuffled my middle daughter out of the room when I got angry at...something. I don't even remember what it is, but it was enough that my then 4-year-old could see that she needed to remove herself and her little sister from the situation. I saw it happen but given my mental state, I couldn't break my rage at the moment. After a few minutes of spitting fire at the world around me, I did what I always did- I went into the playroom, apologized to my girls, and gave them a big hug. But I knew I couldn't keep living like this. I couldn't keep making them live like this--this was not my parenting style.
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That night I looked online at parenting blogs, research, and stories of other mothers who were like me. I came across a blogger who talked about changing her method of parenting and it spoke to me. Like me, she was inherently a 'yeller.' Her children, who were older than mine, seemingly only responded to her when she yelled at them to do what she asked. But after challenging herself to stop yelling, she found that she seamlessly transitioned into a more gentle way of parenting. That's what I wanted.
Challenging herself. That's the part that spoke to me. I had found that if I told myself, "I'm just going to do this obscure tactic and then things will be better," it never worked for me. I needed something concrete. Something I could work towards every day with a tangible outcome. Although this mom just decided to "stop yelling" one day, I knew that wouldn't work for me. So I decided to try something a little different.
For the first day of my challenge, my goal was to spend the entire morning (until lunch) with a gentle parenting approach. I failed. Miserably. I remember getting very little sleep the night before with our newborn daughter, and I was feeling awful. It didn't take me long to yell at one of my children for something.
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The next day wasn't much better. I lasted for almost the entire morning but by lunch, I was praying for bedtime to come as fast as possible.
Every single day for over a week, I found myself failing. I failed myself. I failed my children. My anger and my rage was getting the best of me and I continually thought to myself, "Is this just the person I am now? Is this just how my life will be and my children will grow up?" But then I found myself internally screaming, "NO." Because it is up to me to parent how I want to parent. It was not up to my postpartum depression.
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After a few weeks of trying and failing, I decided to record the number of times I yelled per day and then try to beat that number (by getting a lower one) the next day. And by golly, it worked. Every single day I found myself decreasing the number of "yells" I had per day because I simply had a number to work towards. I could remind myself that I'm getting close to my target number, and this helped me to muster up the control not to yell. I felt like I was being held accountable, even though that accountability was just a piece of pen and a new beautiful journal (which I also bought myself for motivation- retail therapy works, people!).
I am now three years past my no-yell challenge. I continue to fail, every single day (how does it take so long to put shoes on?!) but I also continue to try every single day, too. Being intentional in my parenting and my talking with my children has helped me be a better parent in immeasurable ways. I have also been able to pinpoint different triggers, find what helps me, and recognize health and wellness benefits for myself to ensure I practice self-care.
Do I still yell? Yes, I have three children. Do I love them? Unconditionally. Am I learning how to be a better parent? Every single day. And hopefully, that learning never stops, because it helps me become closer to my children and a better parent.