What my Son Reminded me About (not) Yelling

I had full intentions of this post being about blueberry picking. You know, about what I wrote on Facebook last Saturday right before we headed out:

“My boys have wanted to go blueberry picking for years. I always forget to find a place to go and then remember when it is too late. I always feel bad and always share their disappointment. But not this year! Just told the boys we are going in 5 minutes and their eyes popped out of their heads from excitement. And the Orange Rhino lesson in it all, because you know I always find one….

Getting it “right” will happen – even after several attempts/letdowns. And when it does, it feels great and makes all the work worth it. If you are feeling disappointed in yourself because you keep forgetting to stop yourself from yelling before it gets too late, do not lose faith. You will remember at one point. And that point will feel so great that it will give you the desire to work even harder to remember the next time – and it will give you the confidence to know that you can remember to not yell before it’s too late.”

I even took pictures while blueberry picking to reinforce my metaphor that good things eventually do happen. See?

The blueberry bush starts off with just one beautiful, exquisite blueberry. And then as time passes and the bush is exposed to more sun, another one pops up. And another one. Soon, the whole bush is full. Just like my (and your!) Orange Rhino Challenge journey. I started with no yell-free moments. Then I had one. Then I had more exposure to yelling situations and more practice handling them, and another yell-free moment popped up. And another. Soon, my life was full of beautiful, exquisite yell-free moments. Nice metaphor, eh?

But I am not going to write more about blueberries, about what I had planned. Instead, I am going to share what happened after blueberry picking because it is far more powerful.

On the way home from our blueberry excursion, we drove by a country fair. Our family loves hot dogs and cotton candy so obviously it was the perfect place for lunch. We pulled up and my oldest son goes, “Mom, look, horse and pony rides. I think I am ready to ride one, can I?” Heck yeah my dear! Overcome that fear. As my oldest saddled up, #2 and #4 on ponies behind him, my husband took #3 to scout out which stand had the best fried food. Horseback and pony riding a major success, my three sons and I started wandering to meet my husband and my other son. Within seconds of stepping out of the paddocks, my two older boys spotted the sign that later brought me to tears.

“Face Painting.”

My first thought: I know just where my other son is. I guarantee he is getting his face painted as his fun activity since he chose not to do a pony ride. My second thought: I know two other boys who will be begging me for face paint any moment!

DSC_0202Sure enough as we got closer to the face-painting stand, I recognized this precious little curly hair kid with an almost done Spiderman face. And sure enough, the pleas started up my other sons. And well, the morning had been awesome and I felt generous and happy and all that jazz so I said, “Sure, why not!”

As #3 hopped down, overjoyed with his new face, my older two started peppering the artist with questions,

“Can you do Darth Vader?” #1 asked.
“What about Darth Maul?” #2 asked.
“Sure, we can do those.” She replied.

#1 and #2 eagerly hopped up into the chairs.

Just then, my husband returned with lunch in hand.

“Daddy, daddy! I’m getting Darth Vader!” #1 shouted from one artist’s chair.
“Daddy, daddy! I’m gonna be Darth Maul!” #2 shouted from the other artist’s chair.
“Mommy, mommy, I don’t like my Spiderman face. It’s not fair. I wanted to be Darth Vader and Darth Maul. I didn’t know she could do them.” #3 sobbed.

And I mean sobbed. His tears went right through his brand new Spiderman face causing it all to drip, drip, drip.

“Oh sweetie, I am sorry you are disappointed now. You look awesome though. I love the Spiderman look and you love Spiderman!” I said, desperate to console him.

And not just because I didn’t want him to feel upset, but also because while the day had been great thus far, this mamma was starving and the heat was starting to get to me. I could just feel that I didn’t have the best mindset to gracefully and lovingly deal with the pending “#3-style-meltdown” that I knew was seconds away. You see, #3 was also starving, tired, hot and well, legitimately disappointed. Oh, oh how I so very much wanted to prevent the pending meltdown. Needless to say, my attempts did not work and the meltdown began. Louder sobbing. Screaming. Not wanting to be held to be soothed.

And needless to say, NOW was the time that I think everyone at the fair decided to get face paint. I looked at the growing line of people waiting; I felt the sets of eyes watching my son and me growing; and I felt my embarrassment and desire to nastily snap, “Enough already!” grow.

After a few more failed attempts to de-escalate the meltdown, I finally said,
“Look, I know you are upset. But I need you to stop screaming and crying. We will leave in a few moments but we can’t walk away just now.” (My husband had gone back for food for us. You can only carry so many hot dogs and fries, you know?!)

I immediately regretted saying that – it was so not the message I wanted to send. And then I immediately felt grateful because what my son said next I will never forget.

“But mommy, I want to stop crying. But I just don’t know how to.” 

Mommys milk makes me sleepy

I am just little. I don’t know how to stop crying. Please be patient with me.

My five year old’s wonderfully honest, insightful, and heartfelt statement put an immediate damper on my growing desire to yell. Oh how that statement blew me away and immediately got my mind and heart to a better place.

His statement reminded me that I wasn’t dealing with an adult, but with a child, a five year old child who was understandably still learning to cope with tough feelings and who, by the look on his face, felt sad and maybe even a little scared that he didn’t know how to control himself. His statement reminded me that I needed to help him in that moment, not hurt him with my frustration.

His statement reminded me of times I have felt the same way, rather of the weekend prior when I was just bawling my eyes out to my husband out of stress and I so wanted to stop, but just couldn’t. His statement reminded me how awful it feels to be so frustrated that one can’t stop crying; his statement reminded me to find empathy with the situation, not exasperation.

And most importantly, his statement reminded me that when I don’t yell, good things can happen. Sure, a meltdown isn’t so good. But hearing this eloquent statement from my five year old? Exquisitely good, on so many levels.

You see, this munchkin of mine has a speech delay. He has made a lot of progress but our current struggle is getting him to retrieve words and express himself verbally when he is frustrated, instead of throwing things or screaming. Lately, it has been a serious struggle – for both of us – because the intensity of his outbursts has been steadily growing and it has been increasingly hard for me to help him (and remain yell-free.) So to watch him stop a meltdown faster than usual, and then hear him express his frustration while feeling him open up to me, asking me for help (a major, major first) well, it brings tears to my eyes now and it brought me to my knees then. No seriously, it did.

I had been squatting to maintain eye contact up until this point, but once I heard him so sweetly, and with such sincere confusion say, “But mommy, I want to stop crying. But I just don’t know how to,” I dropped to my knees and hugged him as tight as I possibly could. I didn’t care that my shirt was now covered in red and black tears. I didn’t care anymore about all the judgmental eyes that still watched. I didn’t care about anything at that moment except being there for my son; about calming down so that I could comfort him and let him know that it really is okay to cry, that it takes time to learn how to stop; so that I could tell him how proud I was of him for using his words, for communicating his needs so clearly.

That was a turning point for my son and me, a turning point so desperately needed. Even though I am often patient and loving (and yell-free) during his meltdowns, I have admittedly been harboring a growing anger and annoyance that he isn’t progressing. That chip has made it harder and harder to remain yell-free. But this statement, but this innocent statement by my son gave me a new level of understanding and empathy for his personal challenges. A level of understanding and empathy I have so desperately needed. His statement was an exquisite gift to me because now I feel I can be there for him in a better, more effective way. And it was an exquisite gift to himself because it showed him that not only can he communicate but that he can also ask for help, that he doesn’t have to handle his frustrations alone. Eech. Totally crying again. Folks, this moment was just amazing for us. My son let me in. He let me in.

And guess what? It wouldn’t have happened if I had yelled. If I had yelled, he would have yelled back and pulled farther and farther away from me, physically and emotionally. If I yelled, I would have shut down his ability to retrieve those words he so desperately needed to say and I so desperately need to hear.

If I had yelled, rather, if I had quit The Orange Rhino Challenge when it got tough, when I felt disappointed that I wasn’t “getting it right,” then this moment wouldn’t have happened. It certainly isn’t always easy to remember to not yell, but when I do remember, it is always easy to feel like all the hard work to not yell is indeed worth it.

* * * * *
I share more about my journey, especially with this son, and how I came to have more yell-free moments in my life in my new book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” Part parenting memoir, part parenting guide, my book shares honest stories, simple steps to follow and 100 Alternatives to yelling. It hits shelves in October but you can pre-order it here to make sure you are one of the first to have it!

Facebook, You “Make” Me Yell at My Kids


Dear Facebook,

I have a love/hate relationship with you (I know, I know, I am so not the first to admit that!)

I love that because of you I can feel a little bit “connected” to my friends who I don’t get to see on a day-to-day basis. I love that because of you, I feel like I know about their lives, their joys, their sorrows. With four kids under eight, even though I care immensely about everyone in my life, I struggle to keep in touch as much as I like. I struggle to remember big birthdays and anniversaries. And to be honest, as much as I know being connected with friends (like really connected) is important to me because it makes me happier and therefore a better mom/wife/daughter/friend/person, I still struggle to prioritize “be connected – in a real way– with friends.” So instead, I turn to you. You help me have a sliver of the connection that I so very much seek and it makes me feel a little less guilty and a little more okay that I am sucking at keeping in touch with those I care about. So thank you for that.

And obviously, I love that you gave me a way to create a supportive community two years ago when I started The Orange Rhino Challenge; without that community I am not sure I would have made it! And today that community is a source of love, support, and inspiration not just for me, but also for 50,000 others. Pretty cool. Pretty darn cool. So thanks for that too!

10307204_10152600745523707_6815964752845370236_nSo yeah, there are two really strong reasons why I love you and why I open you up everyday, okay, lets be honest, several or more times a day. Oh, wait, one more reason. I love the pages that daily pop up sharing inspirational thoughts; those really help me stay focused during tough days. But Facebook, oh, oh dear Facebook, the problem is that when I open you to see about friends and to check-on / check-in with The Orange Rhino Community, I don’t just see, but I feel.

I see pictures of my friends that I immediately love and smile at because I can tell my friend is happy and then… I feel jealous because it seems she is happier than me/living a life better than me/skinnier than me/a better mother than me because she does cooler things than me.

I see a link to a parenting article a friend shared and I can’t help but to click through because the topic speaks to me and then (more times than not)… I feel incompetent, judged, and overwhelmed by all I “need” to do or change in order to feel better about my parenting and that I am no longer on the “wrong side” of the judgment.

I see pictures of husbands and wives who seem to be so naturally gravitating towards each other in the picture, who so “clearly” enjoy each other and so “obviously” have some secret marriage ingredient I am missing and… I feel sad about the marriage boulder that hit a while back and that we don’t have lots of this type of picture lately (even though I know we will soon.)

I see The Orange Rhino Community page growing; I see the messages and the comments…and I feel so excited and happy. Excited that we are growing, that more people are feeling less alone in their struggle to yell less; excited that I still have a safe, judgment free place to share about my journey; excited that there are people I can reach out to and offer support because that brings me such joy. And then I feel overwhelmed because there is so much more I want to do for The Community and sometimes I feel guilty that I haven’t replied to as many messages or comments as I so desperately want to (and as you all so very much deserve.)

And well sometimes I see a really nasty comment on The Orange Rhino page and then… I feel very hurt and scared to continue on my public journey.

Yep, I “see” a lot on you Facebook but really, I “feel” a lot more.

I would love to say that the warm, fuzzy feelings you inspire last all day long and are so powerful that they immediately squash the yucky-I-feel-so-insecure feelings that I shared above, but that just isn’t the truth. It’s the opposite actually. It seems that for whatever reason, once conjured up, it’s the yucky insecure feelings that last all. day. long! Emphasis on all.day.long! This so ain’t cool! These feelings not only immediately put me in a grouchy, defensive, and agitated mood but they also immediately consume all of my thoughts leaving me completely distracted.

And guess what?
Distracted mind + Bad Mood = the perfect setup for yelling at my kids.

tip 46 squeeze dont screamWhen I am not fully present and focused on just being a parent, and instead focused on yucky feelings (or to-dos for that matter,) it is infinitely harder to be an Orange Rhino because my mind isn’t clear enough to focus on what I know I need to do to keep myself from yelling. When I am pre-occupied it’s just very hard to remember to: pay attention to my kids emotions and needs, notice cues that I am getting closer to losing it, think of alternatives to yelling, tell myself encouraging thoughts, and find perspective so that I don’t yell when I am pre-occupied otherwise. (Shoot, its hard enough to remember these things when I am in a good mood and feeling naturally calm and loving!!)

And you wanna know something else? Since you so often push me towards this grouchy, pre-occupied mindset, I have labeled you as one of my Yelling Triggers. Yes Facebook, I like you and all, but you make me yell. I know, I know. That’s a cop out. The real triggers are my insecurities, or better said, feeling that I am not “good enough or doing well enough.” It’s just easier and feels better to blame you! Ha! Seriously though, here’s the thing. You are truly a trigger for my triggers, so we need to work on our relationship. I like you but I love my kids, and my family and friends, more and I don’t want to unnecessarily yell or snap at them because you set me off.

I am not entirely sure where our relationship will go from here, but I do know a few things:

  • I don’t want to dump you because of your positive qualities so I will still be around, just a bit less. (And please know, checking my email/phone has the same effect as you. I tell you this so you don’t feel like you are the only one causing me strife; as an Orange Rhino I know no one wants to feel alone!)
  • I do need to take responsibility for my part in hanging out with you; I need to set better limits as to when I look at you so that if I am triggered, I am not in a situation where it will impact how I interact with those around me.
  • I need to work on my impulse control so that when I slip up and sneak a peak at you when I shouldn’t (sometimes a girl just needs to scroll to escape the craziness, you know?), I can successfully refrain from clicking on potentially triggering articles.

I hope you understand where I am coming from and aren’t hurt. If you are, please just don’t trash me in a status update because that would you know, make me feel bad, and then I would dwell on the hurt feelings, and then my son would innocently ask for a snack and I would snap at him. Thanks for understanding and being a good friend,

Your friend,
The Orange Rhino

If you would like to learn about all those things I know I should do to keep from yelling, check out my new book: “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” It hits shelves October 1, but you can pre-order it now by clicking here!

Dear The Orange Rhino Community:
Fear not, the page isn’t going anywhere!! Ever! I am though, actively creating new ways to achieve the same community feel and means of communication elsewhere as I have learned I am not alone in my struggle with Facebook (and well, my “friend” Facebook seems to not like sharing my posts with you!) One place I will be spending more time? The private Orange Rhino Community forum! It has been updated to provide better security and more bells and whistles. It is a great place to meet other Orange Rhinos sharing similar specific triggers as you (i.e. ADHD behaviors, potty training madness, homework battles) and who live in the same area. Check it out! www.theorangerhino.com/community AND if you want to make sure to see my blog posts, sign up to receive notifications of new posts by this fancy, schmancy new tool: 




Learning to “Hold” a Yell

In honor of my Facebook post last night which read: {New Tip for Bedtime} 
Tried something new tonight as not yelling has been hard, hard, hard lately I brought my water bottle to bedtime with me. I carried it around at all times, you know, like a lovey?! When I was frustrated, I took a sip of the cold water to cool down, literally and mentally. When drinking, I can’t yell and I have to slow down. Two upsides: (1) kids got sips throughout bedtime and didn’t need water when tucked in and (2) I didn’t yell. Downside: When I finally settled in to bed with my 4th child to read with him, I realized I desperately had to pee but that I was also wiped from the day/night and had no desire to get up. It made for an uncomfortable story time, but hey, I’ll take it as I will go to bed feeling much more comfortable with how I handled bedtime!


Originally posted September 2013

When I loaded the boys into the mini-van for our four-hour drive north last month, I assumed that no one would sleep and that we would need to stop every hour for someone to go pee. I mean assuming anything else was just setting myself up to be frustrated and annoyed, right?! So I mentally prepared myself for a long trek with lots of noise and lots of stops. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t try to make a peaceful, quick trip happen though! Yep, I had everyone try to pee twice before we left and I timed our departure with naptime for #3 and #4.

Well wouldn’t you know it. Within fifteen minutes of driving, not one, not two, not three, but ALL FOUR of my boys were sleeping! And wouldn’t you know it, an hour and a half later they were all still sleeping! Which is great, right? Miraculous even. Well yes, and no.

No because I had drunk a cup coffee to stay awake and had forgotten to try and pee twice myself! Yes, this mama had to pee wicked bad and there was absolutely, positively no way in hell I was going to pull over and wake up four sleeping kids to pee. Nope, wasn’t gonna happen. I didn’t even entertain the idea! You couldn’t have paid me to pull over and end my quiet, peaceful and easy drive up north. Sure I had to pee so badly that I had stomach cramps but the downside to that was far less than the upside of my boys not yelling at each other, asking me “are we there yet?” over and over, and complaining that they had nothing to do.  Pulling over just wasn’t an option. And then again, peeing in my pants wasn’t really an appealing option either.

So I did what I think most parents would do in said situation; my boys slept and I squirmed.

And I crossed my legs. And I squeezed. And I looked out the window for distractions. And I tried to think about everything but peeing. And I told myself over and and over “that I can do this, just a little bit longer, I can do this.”

And then, well then I had an Orange Rhino moment and I laughed so hard at my absolute ridiculousness that I had to squeeze even harder because after four natural births, well, you know, sometimes pee happens.

You see it donned on me at that moment that learning to hold pee and learning to hold a yell are very similar.

They both take paying attention to signals that you are about to explode and then acting accordingly to avoid said explosion.

They both take focus and putting mind over matter.

They both take practice and doing it over and over so you can go longer and longer.

They both take distractions so that you don’t think of the strong desire to do said action.

They both take positive thinking, telling yourself over and over that you can do it.

They both take choosing to do all of the above no matter how hard because the alternative is not really a desired option.

And they are both behaviors that can be learned and achieved over time!

Seriously, all ridiculousness aside and the fact that it is a wee bit crazy that I compared not yelling to not peeing in one’s pants, just think about the similarities. It is kind of uncanny, right? When I stopped and realized the similarities (which by the way was a great distraction and kept my mind occupied on something besides the growing need to pee my brains out), I couldn’t help but to think,

“Wow, all the skills that I thought I developed to not yell I didn’t really just develop, I already had them and had them since I was a child when I got potty trained! I just applied them to a new situation.”

My point in sharing this story and risking looking like a total fool for comparing something as difficult and personal as learning to not yell to something as trivial as not peeing in one’s pants is this: you already have some of the skills to yell less. You already know how to work hard to control yourself physically.

Yes, the desire to yell is a heck of a lot more intense and frustrating; it’s a heck of a lot more anger filled and most definitely a heck of lot more emotionally charged. I am not in any way trying to diminish that. I guess what I am trying to say in a most absurd but also light way to combat the heaviness of yelling as a topic is that…

You can do it.

You can yell less.

You have the skills within you already. You just need to apply them in a slightly different manner. Here’s how:

  1. Pay attention to your personal signals that a yell is coming on so that when you feel them the next time you know to run to the bathroom and scream in the toilet instead of exploding at the kids.
  2. Focus all your energy on one task, one goal, that of yelling less. Focusing on too many goals at once is too much stress!
  3. Practice not yelling over and over again. Accidents happen, trust me, since my fourth son was born I have had two. Totally mortifying. But hey, it happened and I learned that I need to focus harder on not laughing on a full bladder! So if an accident does happen and you do yell, forgive yourself. Let the shame and embarrassment go and know that there will be another opportunity to practice and succeed.
  4. Set yourself up for success by placing distractions around the house, or rather reminders to not yell. Place pictures of the kids in yell zones (great way to feel love not anger) and place orange rhinos up to remember to be warm and calm.
  5. Be positive and believing in you; tell yourself over and over that, “I can be calm and not yell.”
  6. Choose to not yell because you know not only does yelling not work, but that is just isn’t a good option. Choose to hold it together, to squirm, and to squeeze your hands in frustration instead of yelling. Choose to try your hardest even on days when you want to scream your brains out.
  7. Tell yourself that you are learning to yell less and that it takes time, just like potty training. I know wasn’t born knowing how to hold my pee or um, other things. Just ask my parents or the nice couple at the beach sharing a romantic picnic. I may or may not have walked over to them totally naked at age two and squatted on their blanket and left them a present. Like, a smelly one. Moving right along…. Seriously, it takes time to learn how to not yell but it can be done!

Okay, it’s official. This post is weird. I just told you that I pooped on a blanket as a kid and that I have pee accidents at the age of thirty something. If nothing else is achieved from this post, I hope you are laughing with me. Because laughter is a great way to be in a good space to achieve all of the above!

Happy holding your yells (and pees!)

Learn how to hold a “yell” with my 30-day guide, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can Too!” It hits shelves in October 2014 but you can pre-order it now so that you are one of the first to receive it! Click here to pre-order.