How to Fight Yelling Triggers and Win

Last Friday, Every. Single. Possible. Major trigger attacked me in full force.

P.M.S.? Check.
Lack of sleep? Check.
Hyper, loud kids from the school, no school, school, no school snow routine? Check.
Too much to do? Check.
Lack of exercise? Check.
Cluttered house? Check.
Fight with husband? Check. Actually double, no triple check!

And it was said fight with husband that really put me over the edge. It wasn’t the other triggers because I prepared for them.

I knew within minutes of waking up that the other triggers would be hanging out with me that day, attached to me at the hip, going everywhere with me, taunting me to yell every step of the way. So I prepared for them. I took some Ibuprofen, had a coffee, did some light exercise, picked up one pile to feel accomplished, and told myself “you will get to your to-do list when you can, it isn’t anything urgent, don’t stress.”

And for the most part, these preventative actions and thoughts helped me to fight those triggers and keep them at the back of my mind and not incessantly bothering me as I went through the morning, one of my hardest times of the day. I learned early on in my Challenge that if I can get through the morning without yelling then for the most part I can get through the day without yelling. Conquering the morning gives me confidence that I can succeed and well, confidence and success breeds more confidence and more success.

Anywho, as I came down the stairs last Friday morning, my triggers and my four little munchkins followed me. But so did my growing, but slightly unsteady, confidence so I actually felt okay. I felt I had acknowledged my triggers, dealt with them, and that the morning would be hard, but manageable. I felt that I could indeed choose love over yelling.

And then BAM!

My husband and I started bickering. (Not in front of the children mind you; we are really good about that!) We each said some not so nice things. I cried a lot. As our “chat” continued, my anger grew and grew… a lot. And as our “chat” ended, I realized that my desire to yell had also grown… more than a lot!

As my husband headed out to work, and I stood fuming, probably with smoke coming out of my head, ears, nostrils and every pore in my body, my sweet #2 dared to innocently ask me,

“Mommy, I can’t find my hat. Can you help me?”

I turned around to him, ready to explode and scream, “NO! Go find it yourself! NOW leave me alone. GO! SCOOT!” You see, I hadn’t “come down” yet from the intensity of the fight with my husband and I had no desire to be bothered. Shoot, I had no desire to deal with anything. I just wanted to scream and shout and let it all out. I most certainly didn’t want to look for a hat or deal with the rest of the day for that matter because I knew it would be tough and trigger-full!

As I began to open my mouth, I felt my heart beat rising and my hands sweating. I knew what that meant: a yell was coming. So I did what I needed to do…

I closed my mouth.
I closed my eyes.
I took a few breaths.
And then had a little pep talk with myself, repeating to myself one of my favorite lines that keeps me from yelling,

Orange Rhino, it’s not him that’s the problem, it’s you. It’s not the missing hat that’s making you want to yell; the fight is making you want to yell. The lack of sleep, the PMS, the dirty house, all of it is making you want to yell. You aren’t mad at your son, you are frustrated with other things. Don’t yell at him. Don’t take out your anger and frustration on him.”

It must have been a long pep talk and a lot of breaths because #2 said to me,

“Mommy, are you sleeping? Wake up. I can’t find my hat!”

So I did what else I needed to do…I woke up.

I woke up and embraced the reality that I needed to let go of the fight (enough) so that I could be present for my kids in the way I wished.

I woke up and embraced the reality that yes, it was going to be a hard day, but that I didn’t want to make it even harder by unnecessarily yelling at my son over a hat.

I woke up and embraced the facts that as much as I let go of the fight, that it would still taunt me that day. And that as much as I knew I didn’t want to yell, that I would still be tempted that day to do so because of all the triggers fighting me.

So after we found the hat – in the exact place it was supposed to be by the way – and we got half the house to school, I did what I needed to do to help set me up for a good-ish day.

I planned for when I could get in a long walk to help relax me and keep the kids out of the house and going crazy.

Tip12

I called my mom and let my frustration out so that I could distance myself even further from it.

I “indulged” and let #4 watch some extra T.V. so that I could clean and de-clutter and find some inner peace.

And I told myself over and over and over again that,

“I will get through this day. I will get through. I can do this.”

I got through the day without yelling. It was touch and go at a few moments (okay, lots of moments,) but I did it and then I collapsed readily onto the couch with a nice glass of wine and some trashy magazines! I mentally toasted to preparation and how creating a plan to fight my triggers means that my chances of yelling less and loving more go up immensely. Does planning also mean time and energy, both of which I am generally short on every.single.day? Absolutely-frigging-lutely!!! But in order to manage my triggers, I know I need to plan for them. I need to know what they are, when they are alive and desperate to push me, and how to tame them so that I own them, not vice versa.

My triggers used to own me.
It wasn’t fun. It was ugly. It was a brutal existence.
Now that I own them, it is no longer brutal, but a much more beautiful existence because knowing and owning my triggers is the core to a non-yelling existence.

* * * * *

Here are some related posts I wrote about the power of tracking triggers.
Tracking my Triggers
What Triggers My Triggers
The Root of My Yelling

Let’s Talk About…Yelling.

I used to hide the fact that I yelled at my boys because I felt like I was the only parent out there who yelled more than she/he pleased. I mean, why share my weakness so I could feel even weaker in comparison to all the other clearly perfect, super-pulled-together and patient parents?

I used to hide the fact that I yelled at my boys because I feared that if I shared my secret that I would be ridiculed and judged by said perfect parents. And besides, let’s be real. Yelling is just one of those parenting topics that isn’t delved into deeply at play dates or date nights because no one wants to talk about it…because so many of us do it and so many of us carry the shame and guilt! Who wants to bring up such a heavy conversation during a fun time? Not I said The Orange Rhino. Yes, in my experience, “yelling at your kids” is a taboo, off-limits subject that you loosely laugh about, “hahaha, I yelled today, who doesn’t” but don’t really talk about, “yeah, I yelled, and I hate myself for it” because it is just too hard, too uncomfortable to talk about!

I used to hide the fact that I yelled at my boys because well, because I felt so incredibly ashamed and disappointed in myself; both for yelling and for not being able to stop said yelling! I didn’t want to admit to anyone how much I struggled because I knew that “going public” would just make my struggle more real, more embarrassing, and more importantly that it would push, no demand, me to actually change. I didn’t want to try to change again because I didn’t want to fail…again.

Yes, I used to hide the fact that I yelled at my boys because it was easier and safer than sharing my dark, ugly, guilt-ridden parenting secret with anyone. Hiding my secret so often left me feeling alone, screwed-up, and sad. I yearned to talk about it, to ask for advice from friends, to find support from my family, but I hesitated because I worried that I might just end up feeling more alone, more screwed-up, and more sad. So I kept my secret hidden for a good couple of years.

During those years I cried myself to sleep sometimes because I felt so awful that I said good-night to my boys on a “yell-filled” note instead of an “I really love you note.” I cried to my husband because I felt such anger at myself that I had become a yelling parent, something I never in a thousand years dreamed I would be. I cried to my mom because I felt such frustration that I couldn’t get my act together and just stop yelling already. And I cried to my boys after I yelled…again…and again when all I wanted to do was find patience, calm, and love.

Now, to be clear. I didn’t yell around the clock, 24-7. Maybe I lost my cool a few times a week. To be honest, I have no sense of how much I exactly yelled. I just have a very strong sense that it was too much for me; for my kids. I had the strong sense that I didn’t want to yell anymore; that I didn’t like how it made me or the kids feel. So I decided to change. I decided to come out of hiding and find the support I knew I needed.

Of course, I didn’t come completely out of hiding. I created the name “The Orange Rhino” for myself to not only protect my children but also to give me a name to inspire me to not ell for 365 days. Rhinos are naturally calm animals that charge when provoked (um hello?! Yep, I totally charge with my words.) And the color orange, well that was to remind me to be warm and to give me the energy and determination to keep it together and succeed! I have loved being anonymous – not because I am hiding, but because it has allowed many others to read my story and feel it is his/her story as well. Without a name or face, what I share isn’t just mine, it is ours.

Tomorrow that will change. I will officially put my face out there. I will not lie, I am nervous. I knew this day would come but I just didn’t think it would come with only 24 hours notice and not a lot of time to prepare me, my family, or well, this Community! But, I am also excited because I truly believe in this Community and I want to talk about it louder and wider so that we can reach more people and hopefully help a couple of parents fall to sleep at night with a happy feeling instead of a huge pit in his/her stomach from “crap, I yelled again,” guilt!

And to be honest, I am excited because it means I can really push the conversation about yelling. I can hopefully encourage people to start talking more about his/her struggles with yelling so that we, as a collective parenting community around the world, can learn from each other, get support, and well, find comfort knowing that we aren’t the only ones struggling! Parenting is hard. Period. Parenting with hidden struggles is that much harder. And who needs harder? I know I don’t! So lets talk about yelling. Talking about sex is so “been there done that!” Okay, bad pun. But you know what I mean! It is time to talk about a new subject without embarrassment.

It is time to talk freely and comfortably about yelling so we can help each other.

Okay, call me idealistic, but I so very much hope that sharing my face and no longer hiding will help take the “yelling conversation” out of hiding too. I so very much hope that our Community, our supportive, nonjudgmental, and resourceful Community, will continue to spread the word about “Yelling Less and Loving More” so that talking about yelling is no longer taboo, but tolerated.  No, scratch that.

So that talking about yelling is no longer taboo, but totally welcomed and appreciated.

Want to “Talk Yelling” with me for the next 30 days? Do you want support to get started to yell less and love more? Join my 30 Day Challenge starting WEDNESDAY, January 22nd. Click here to learn more and sign up!

One Key to Yelling Less

I will never forget the morning I was outside in my driveway playing with my boys and two of them started melting down at precisely the same moment and then wailed together at precisely opposite moments creating a loud, screeching symphony of horrific sounds. Their oh-so-not-beautiful chorus of yells lasted a good couple of minutes and could be heard around the block I am certain, and obviously by my three neighbors walking by at that exact moment. I began to usher my boys into the garage trying desperately to remain calm and collected in front of my new audience. With both yellers inside for a break to chill out and wipe snot of their faces, I ran out to get a lost lovey and instead found the eye of one of my neighbors.

“Oh Orange Rhino, that was quite impressive how cool, calm, and collected you stayed during that. I don’t know how you do it! We heard them before we even reached your driveway!” she laughed.

I laughed right along with her and replied,

“Yeah, kinda loud right? Oi! But thanks for the kind words. And, um, trust me, I am so not cool, calm, and collected, but thank you!” I felt grateful for the compliment, but also embarrassed because I was yet to be an Orange Rhino and I was anything but cool, calm, and collected when I was inside my house and free of potential judgment from a public audience.

“If only she knew the truth,” I thought to myself as I ran inside as the yelling symphony kicked in full force again…but this time with a third voice. Mine. I never yelled in public for fear of said judgment, but in private, well, that is a whole different story.

An entirely different and ass backwards story.

In private, I assumed no judgmental eyes watched me so I felt more comfortable yelling like a banshee.  Obviously, I should have had my vision checked every time I thought that. Did I not see the beautiful children standing in front of me, watching me every second of every minute of every hour of every day? How did I not get that they too were an audience and that they most definitely judged me and came to nasty thoughts about me that I would never dream my children would think?

Fortunately, shortly after my neighbor’s comment I finally fully embraced that my kids were indeed also my audience, my way more important audience, and I didn’t want to just appear cool, calm and collected in front of neighbors and others, but, for the sake of my children, I wanted to be cool, calm and collected in private as well. The Orange Rhino Challenge was born very soon after that and I began my journey of yelling less and loving more. And I actually began feeling comfortable and confident saying, “Yeah, I am cool, calm and collected, and it feels great,” a lot more often.

Yes, now that I am an Orange Rhino, on most days I feel cool, calm and collected. Those days it does feel great to be so “together” and I feel ever so grateful that I took The Orange Rhino Challenge and that it pushed me, that I pushed myself, to change and be the same person in public and private. But let’s be real. There are also days, or at least moments, where as much as I try to be cool, calm, and collected I am much more like frustrated, frazzled and f…g fed up!

Yesterday morning I was definitely in “F” territory. Frustrated. Frazzeld. Fed up. And feeling like a really big failure. #1 has not transitioned back to school well at all (have any of us?) and woke up so elated that it was Sunday and not a school day that he bounced off every square inch of every wall in our house possible. And I? Well I had yet to drink my Gummy Bear juice and was not bouncing here and there and everywhere! #1’s energy of course got my other sons going so soon I had four bouncing off the walls boys and I just couldn’t find the energy to join the circus (often times a good alternative) even though it was evident that the boys were having so much fun laughing together being silly. Although their energy and shenanigans caused no harm and they were all playing together beautifully (an outright miracle these days,) I still felt the need to put an end to it. So I became cranky, cold and crotchety.

“Knock it off,” I snapped.
“NOW.” I repeated, a little more firmly and a lot more frantically than my first statement.

I just needed quiet and peace immediately so I could start the day more smoothly, and well, so I could get to my cool, calm, and collected happy place! Even though I didn’t yell, I didn’t like my voice and I certainly didn’t like that I poured my poisonous attitude into the happy morning, sucking the cheerfulness of my four bouncing bears right out of them as evidenced by eight eyes blankly and sadly staring at me.

So I corrected the situation as best as I could.

“Sorry I snapped guys. I just need some coffee and to wake up a bit. You can keep all your energy and playing going – just take it to the basement where you can be as silly as you want, ‘kay?”

Their eyes softened and they ran yelling into the basement. And I, I immediately made my coffee! As I sat at the kitchen counter, my mind started going back to “F” zone instead of the cool, calm, collected zone as hoped.

“Ugh. I failed. I handled that in a way I don’t like and haven’t done in ages. I am so frustrated with myself.”

And then the coffee must have kicked in because my mind went where it needed to,

 “It’s okay. So you snapped. Let it go. You’ll do better next time.”   

And better I did.

Because the wonderful thing about kids is that they give you lots of chances to practice handling “tough” moments “better next time.” Ha! Yes, my boys give me lots of chances to practice being cool, calm, and collected, like when they decorate the house in toilet paper to make a snow storm, peel an orange while walking around the house and leaving the peel every where, and refuse to get in the car and instead engage all brothers to stage a protest of all errands.

But, and more importantly, they also give me lots of chances to fall head over heals in love with them again and again and again with their outright adorable stories, infectious laughs and tender hugs and kisses. But here’s the catch.

I can only fully embrace these chances to love more if I forgive myself when I have a so-called “failure” parenting moment and find myself totally frustrated with my behavior. Yes, I can only take these chances to love more if I tell myself it is okay that I wasn’t “perfect,” and that I can, and will, do better next time.

If I don’t forgive myself and move forward the only chance, no the only certainty, is that I will miss out on the chance to see and embrace opportunities to love my kids more because I will be too busy loving myself less. And well, that just isn’t something I want to do anymore. Been there, done that and missed too many stories, laughs, and snuggles for years before becoming an Orange Rhino. Letting go and believing I will do better next time is what I want to do, what I am doing, because well for this Orange Rhino,

Failure is out and Forgiveness is in.

Failure is out There are days and moments when I will feel frustrated, frazzled, and f… fed and I will be tempted to add “failure” to the mix. But on those days, in those moments, I will fight to add forgiveness instead because it is a huge key to getting back to the cool, calm, and collected world where yelling less and loving more happens much more readily!