The “Secret” Trigger I am Focusing on to Help Me Yell Less at my Kids

As you all know, this past summer I found myself yelling at my kids way more than I liked and as a result, I found myself re-reading my book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” (I also found myself feeling embarrassed, but more on that later!)

And you all also know that as a result of following the 30-day plan in my book, it became abundantly clear to me that the reason I was yelling so much was because I wasn’t taking care of me. At all. I shared with you all that once I did start taking care of myself again, that I became an Orange Rhino, again. This was a totally true statement. But there was a big piece I didn’t share; the whole “how I really started taking care of me” bit. I just didn’t feel brave enough to share that truth; it was too raw, too brutally honest, too potentially damaging, too well, lots of things. But I have decided that it is too powerful of a truth to not share, so here goes.

* * * * *

One day this past summer as I tracked my triggers and tried to figure out why the heck I was yelling so much, I found myself aimlessly surfing the Internet (no doubt trying to self-soothe my frustrations by getting lost in the world of celebrity gossip and hysterical e-cards.) While surfing, I stumbled upon a quote that struck a nerve and made me really think. Like, really, REALLY think. The quote more or less read,

“We give to others what we feel within.”
Repeat.
“We give to others what we feel within.”

Maybe, just maybe, the reason I was yelling so much was because I didn’t feel love within so therefore I couldn’t give it to my boys?YES! YES! YES! Finally all my struggling to Yell Less and Love More made sense! Maybe, just maybe, the reason I was yelling so much was because I didn’t feel love within so therefore I couldn’t give it to my boys?

“Could that really be true?” I thought to myself. “Did I really have no love within?”

Based on the pit in my stomach, I knew that I had found the truth I sought; I knew that there wasn’t enough love within me. Or more appropriately, I knew that I had love for my kiddos and my life, but that the love I had for myself was so lacking that it was overpowering all the positive feelings within me.

And more painfully, I knew that because I didn’t have much love within to share, I was instead giving out what I did have within: an abundance of anger, frustration, shame, disappointment, concern, and strong dislike.

Fortunately I didn’t have to look hard to figure out where all these intense not-so-loving feelings were coming from. I couldn’t stand the fact that I was (am!) the author of a book about not yelling, a book with alternatives to yelling, simple steps to follow to yell less, and stories to inspire and yet here I was spending my summer not doing any of what I knew to do to keep yelling at bay and being anything but inspirational. Yep, here I was a mere seven months after my book published and I had to turn to it for advice. This reality was crushing me. Crushing me. I couldn’t stop saying things to myself like,

“What is wrong with you, why can’t you just get it together?”
“I feel like such an imposter, writing one thing and doing another.”
“I am so disappointed in myself and I bet people will be disappointed in me.”
“I am so ashamed of myself; I am so angry that I have slipped.”

Nor could I stop saying not-so-nice things to myself about other aspects of my life for just as loving thoughts and actions are contagious, so are negative thoughts and actions. As my negativity about my “yelling too much, and I should know better” grew, so did my negativity towards myself about my relationships, my work in general, and my body.

My goodness, I was yelling at myself, berating myself, seemingly all the time. I wasn’t just giving out what I felt within, I was giving out what I was doing within! Of course I was yelling at my kids when I was with them; it was just a natural, instinctual extension of what I had done moments prior!

Thank goodness this wasn’t entirely a new trigger that I didn’t know how to manage. Thank goodness I knew exactly what I needed to do to yell less!

I needed to love myself more so that I could yell at my kids less.

I needed to love myself more by allowing myself to be proud of my successes (520 days straight without yelling and a book) instead of letting myself magnify my misses.

I needed to love myself more by forgiving myself for past yells while reminding myself that while I might be an Orange Rhino, I am still an imperfect human and that is more than okay.

I needed to love myself more by giving myself compassion. Of course I was struggling to yell less, I had just had knee surgery, followed by a blood clot, all with four kids home for summer vacation!

I needed to love myself more by letting go of what I hadn’t done to focus on what I could do.

I needed to love myself more by accepting my body as more than a number on the scale; it was the home to four children for thirty-six months in five years.

I needed to love myself more by telling myself that I am doing the best I can in this moment and that counts for a heck of a lot.

I needed to love myself more by nurturing myself with quiet time and “doing what I love” time.

I needed to love myself more by stopping all negative thoughts before they have a chance to grow and fester.

And I needed to do one other thing. I needed to learn how to do and say all of the above on a daily basis, not just every once in a while! I needed to learn how to make loving myself an unwavering and natural part of my life so that I wouldn’t once again find myself sliding into old yelling habits.

Loving myself more and yelling at myself less is arguably one of the biggest and most important triggers to manage.[pullquote] Loving myself more and yelling at myself less is arguably one of the biggest and most important triggers to manage.[/pullquote]I knew the power of this trigger when I started my Orange Rhino journey and now I know it even more. Of all my old triggers to push me to yell, it is the only one that was strong enough to re-surface.

I am yet to get even close to mastering this trigger, but just knowing that I need to really work at it has made a difference. Thought-by-thought, hour-by-hour, day-by-day, I am working to be kinder to myself. I am reminding myself of all of the promises above. I am reminding myself that if I want to give out love, and I so very much do, then I need to foster love within. And ironically, I am reminding myself that I must be patient and kind to myself, that I must love myself as I learn to fully love myself, for steady change will not happen instantly.

I know I have a lot more learning to do to make this new habit of loving myself a prevailing part of my life, but I can tell you this much so far: loving myself more since this discovery this summer, has already resulted in yelling less, a lot less. It hasn’t been easy, that’s for sure, but it has been entirely worth it. I am no longer giving out a variety of negative feelings but am once again giving out pride, enthusiasm, kindness, support, encouragement, laughter and love. I am giving out the best of me instead of the worst and am getting back the best of my kids instead of their worst. Yelling at myself less, loving myself more, well it’s a win-win for everyone.

* * * * *

Yesterday was my birthday. As I found myself grateful for all the presents I received, I decided I would gift myself the commitment of really, really learning to love myself more. Yes I have been working on it the last five months, but I know that I need to, ehem WANT TO, make a deeper commitment. I look forward to my continued learning over the next twelve months and I hope I share it with you all as frequently as I wish. I will, however, love myself and be kind to myself when I “fall short” of my goals 😉

 

YLLM1To learn how you too can track your own triggers and yell less and love more – both at your kids and yourself – click on the book to the left.

 

Just Start Somewhere.

Dear Diary,

I have been avoiding you for quite some time now.
Yes, avoiding you.
Please don’t take it personal.
This is most definitely (and legitimately!) one of those “it’s not you, it’s me” situations!

I could list 1,001 reasons why I haven’t been writing but at this point, are they really relevant? Are they really what I want to focus on? Do I really want to focus on the past or do I want to move forward and focus on the present, the future? Yes, that is what I want – to move forward. I am certain there will be a time and place when sharing my 1,001 reasons for not writing with you will make sense. And I am certain there will be a time when I feel more comfortable sharing them (I know, odd coming from me, the one who feels comfortable sharing everything), but right now is not the time.

And that is really hard for me to do because folks, if you haven’t guessed it yet I am an anal-retentive, logical, sometimes-organized person! The whole idea of writing posts that don’t reflect my life chronologically drives me bonkers! The whole idea of not thoroughly explaining to you all how I have arrived at this type of post drives me bonkers! I want to explain to all you newish folks why I started with “dear diary” and how this post actually fits in within the grand scheme of The Orange Rhino Challenge.

So why don’t I write those posts you ask? Why don’t I take you back in time with me? I don’t know! I go to write those posts and I hit a block. Actually, I hit a lot of them. Think of it this way. You know how when you don’t call a friend one day and think, “oh, I will call her tomorrow?” and then tomorrow doesn’t happen or the day after or the day after that? And then before you know it more than a month has passed and you still want to call but feel so bad for not calling that you don’t actually make the call?

Yeah, well that is how I am feeling about my relationship with writing right now. Oh how many times I have yearned to write to you dearest diary. Oh how many times I write to you in my head but then avoid writing to you in reality. Oh how many times I sat down to write to you and instead surfed Facebook because the distance between us had grown so much and with it my hesitance., and my fear but we will save that for another day. And oh, oh how many times I said to myself, “just write already, you know you want to, you know you will feel relieved once you start, you know it is a great stress relief, just do it!”

But I couldn’t just do it. I guess you could say that I fell out of my habit of writing. I lost my groove (am I allowed to even admit that here?) and I think we all now how hard it is to get back into a groove. It is brutal! The whole “no more eating chex mix for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert” practically killed me yesterday but alas, I had to get back into the groove of eating better as my body was begging me too. And don’t even get me started on the having to get back into the going-to-school-groove after vacation. Yesterday was Such. A. Tough. Morning. And Day. And Night. Everyone is tired, cranky, disappointed, just wanting to be in pajamas and therefore struggling. Fun times!

I did manage to get into those two grooves yesterday and have continued them today. Partly because the out-of-groove period was so short and well mostly because I had no choice! But getting back into the writing groove? Well clearly it hasn’t been so easy-peasy! But I desperately want to get back into the groove so yesterday I did something about it.

I just started somewhere. Anywhere. 

Just Somwhere 1.4.16I told myself to, “just sit and write, stream of conscious style like you used to do. Write to your ‘diary’; it might not be your ideal format for this post but it will get you started so just to do it.”

“Just do anything,” I said to myself. “It doesn’t matter if it is good or meaningful or post-worthy, it just needs to be a start. You just need to start writing. You just need to start practicing again, to get the flow going.”

So that is what I did, that is what I am doing. And wouldn’t you know it, it feels fantastic! I can feel my desire to write to you again, as in sooner than a year from now, growing. Feeling fantastic is a pretty contagious feeling and all I needed to get to that feeling was just starting somewhere.

Just starting somewhere…
Without fear if I would succeed.
Without fear if I would continue to succeed.
Without fear of what people would think.
Without fear of whether or not I would do it right.
Without fear if I was doing enough to get going.

Without fear of well, anything that could keep me back from just doing.

It wasn’t easy letting go of aforementioned fears but I can tell you, it was worth it. AND, if you are like me and are struggling to go after something you want, perhaps, oh say, learning to Yell Less and Love More in 2016, it will be worth it for you if you let go of any fears, hesitations, excuses, concerns you have that are holding you back from starting your own journey to be an Orange Rhino. You don’t have to let go of those feelings forever, just long enough so that you can Just Start in the moment. Because once you get started, once you start to gain momentum and feel fantastic, you won’t want to stop. Trust me.

Will you, will WE, have setbacks along the way? Will you, will WE, have setbacks oh say hours after we started? Probably. And then we will just start somewhere again. We will take any step forward that we can and that step will matter because it will move us forward.[pullquote]Will you, will WE, have setbacks along the way? Will you, will WE, have setbacks oh say hours after we started? Probably. And then we will just start somewhere again. We will take any step forward that we can and that step will matter because it will move us forward.[/pullquote]

Great you say, but what blooming step can I take? Here are a few in no particular order because again the point is to just do something, anything to help close the distance between your goal/desire/dream of yelling less and your current state. They may seem like small steps, but small steps are bigger than no steps and more importantly, the small steps will lead you to where you want to go!

  1. Tell a friend you want to yell less. Tell more if you have the energy, and if not, no worries! You can grow your support circle as time continues.
  2. Surround yourself with orange reminders. Print out one orange rhino (download here) and put it up. Add more as your commitment grows.
  3. Write a diary entry to yourself about what is holding you back and let it go. Email it to me if you want to officially send it off and free yourself of it.
  4. Track your triggers for just 1 hour (here’s a free download or you can find it in my book with more details) Forget days. Just do an hour. Just get started.
  5. Set you phone timer for 20 minutes. Tell yourself that you just need to stay calm and choose a more loving tone for 20 minutes. You can so do that! If it needs to be 5 because it is a tough day, then do 5. Just start somewhere!
  6. Pick one, just one tip you want to try today and use it over and over and over.
  7. Adjust your expectations to help you get over your hesitance by telling yourself, “Today I am just getting started. I don’t need to worry about success right this moment. I just need to get started. I just need to get my mind more engaged in The Orange Rhino Challenge.”

Just starting somewhere certainly isn’t easy, but I think that not starting at all, that wanting to do something and not doing it all is a heck of a lot harder and a much greater burden to carry.

* * * * *

Phew! I did it! I achieved my goal for this week. Did I struggle all last night and this morning about sharing this without any connection to all of my last posts? Yes! Am I sitting here thinking I should save this post for later, for when I have written the posts that lead up to it so that everything is “in order” and “done the way I would ideally do?” Heck yeah. But again, I can’t do that. If I wait, if I don’t just take another step forward by posting, I will get stuck again and I don’t want to be stuck – I want to be moving forward, closing the distance between my dreams/hopes/goals and where I am today.

Who is with me? Who is moving forward today? What 1 step are you taking?

* * * * *

YLLMcrop2 If you would like more details to get started, you might enjoy this blog post: 12 Steps to Yelling Less or my book which gets a lot more detailed! You can the entire scoop on it here: “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too! A thirty-day guide with tips, stories, and insights. 

 

Yell Less by Saying “No” More

I wrote this article for Empowering Parents earlier this fall when I felt a huge desire to say “yes” to every volunteer opportunity that came my way. I have learned from my journey to Yell Less and Love More though that saying “no” really is okay and a great way to say “yes” to a more calm me and household! I share this today because the idea totally applies to the Holiday Season and the inevitable pull to do perhaps more than one needs to or should! Enjoy…

10703595_10152767635452177_5860047255170585397_n-2 Read here: Yell Less by Saying No More  

 

Yelling Does NOT Define Me as a Parent

Hi, my name is The Orange Rhino and I used to yell at my kids.

In fact, I yelled so much that I started The Orange Rhino Challenge, a promise to not yell at my four boys, then ages 5 and under, for 365 days straight! As I started publicly writing on my blog about my journey to yell less, I received a boat load of wonderfully loving and supportive comments such as, “Thank you so much for sharing your story and letting me know that I am so not alone!” I also received a couple of well, how should I put it, um how ‘bout, outright nasty and hurtful comments. The following is a sample of one of the nasty comments. Mind you, it isn’t verbatim because the email was so incredibly hurtful that I erased it immediately so that I wouldn’t dwell on it. (I knew at that point that dwelling leads to yelling and that it needed to be avoided at all costs when possible.) Anywho, after reading about my challenge, one woman wrote to me,

“You know, maybe yelling isn’t your problem. Maybe your challenge shouldn’t be about not yelling. Maybe it should be about not being a parent. I think your problem is that you shouldn’t have had kids in the first place, that you are an awful mom if you yell so much that you needed to create a Challenge to stop.”

Um, can I get an, “Ouch!?”

I felt incredibly attacked at the moment and her comment immediately started pushing me into self-criticism mode. Was she right? Was I an awful parent? Did I have no redeeming qualities? Was I not meant to be a mom? Fortunately for me, my oldest son had ever so quietly snuck up behind me and read the entire email and then started a heartwarming conversation that quickly pulled me right out of self-criticism mode.

“Mommy, why is she saying you shouldn’t be a mom? Are you not going to be my mom anymore?” he asked tears forming in the corner of his eyes.

“Oh sweetie. You weren’t supposed to see that. Of course I am always going to be your mom. I am not going anywhere.” I said as I pulled him into my lap.

“But mom, why did she say those mean things about you?” he implored.

“Well, because she thinks that because I used to yell at you ‘so much’ that I had to become an Orange Rhino that I am an awful parent.” I stated, fighting back tears.

“But mommy, you aren’t an awful parent. You are a great mom.” He said ever so sweetly as he wiped a tear off his cheek.

Um, can I get an “Awwww?!”

blog_v4To be honest, I haven’t thought of this story until just today. I had simply pushed the memory as far back into my mind as possible because not only did her accusations hurt, but more so, they really, really struck a nerve. But then I received numerous emails today in response to an old blog post titled, “A Mom’s Regret About Yelling,” and this painful memory came flooding back. Fortunately, a powerful insight came right after!

In the post, my son was headed off into Kindergarten and that to me symbolized the start of him officially being with teachers and friends more than with me. I wrote about how disappointed I was in myself that I spent so much of the last six years, my unshared years, with my son “complaining and yelling instead of loving.” I felt so incredibly sad and let down and wrote that I regretted that I hadn’t enjoyed all the time I did have with him because I was so often yelling and being, well, grumpy.

Sitting here tonight, processing the comments and my post and my painful memory, I just want to go back two years and give myself a hug. I just want to go back and say to myself,

“Girl, it’s okay. Yes, you used to yell. Yes you regret all the times you did yell. That’s normal and expected. No one likes to do not nice things. But you know what, you’re missing something. You were looking at the situation from your eyes and not your son’s. You saw yourself as having yelled sooooo very much that you missed soooo very much. You saw yourself as just a yeller and nothing else. I am not sure that is the truth. Is that what your son experienced? Did he sometimes see you as a yelling parent? Yes. Do you wish that weren’t the case, does he wish that weren’t the case? Yes.

But do you know what else?
He didn’t just see you as a yelling parent.

Because even though you did yell more than you felt comfortable with and probably more than acceptable, you didn’t yell 24/7. You did a lot of other things too, a lot of great things that you shouldn’t regret for a moment. It is because of those great things that your son saw you as a parent who sure, used to yell, but who also used to and still does…

DSC_0810Give him kisses on his boo-boo’s.
Tuck him in at night.
Comfort him when he has a nightmare.
Play Candyland with him all night long.
Encourage him when he’s lacking confidence.
Take him apple picking.
Plan special birthday parties for him.
Teach him to do new things like riding a bike.
Help him with homework.
Laugh with him during water fights.
Advocate for him.
Teach him how to build a master Lego.
Throw footballs to him.
Love him fiercely in a way no other person could.

So dear self, please, please don’t beat yourself up about the past, about the moments you yelled. Yes, by all means remember the past just enough so that it continues to inspire you to daily work at being an Orange Rhino, but don’t hold onto the past so much that it is the only thing you see when you look at yourself as a mom. Those yelling moments aren’t the only moments that make up your journey as a mother. Those yelling moments don’t define you as a mom. The whole package defines you and the journey has just begun.”

community_v4Obviously I can’t go back two years and tell myself this to help me feel better and perhaps stop a few tears. But I can write it now so I can and share it here with all of you, so that is what I will do!

Dearest Orange Rhinos,
You aren’t an awful parent because you are struggling with yelling. You aren’t just a yelling parent, you are a heck of a lot more too! Don’t let yelling define you as a parent. Instead let how you find the strength, courage and determination to change, along with your fierce love and commitment to your kids define you.

Xoxo,
The Orange Rhino

challenge_theP.S. I write this now and in a few days, maybe weeks if I am lucky, I know I will begin to once again doubt myself as a parent and will focus on all I am doing “wrong” instead of seeing all that I am doing “right.” I know I will forget that all my inadequacies and mistakes as a parent don’t define me. I know I will forget that there is more to me as a parent than the negative stuff I love to highlight. And I know that I will forget that every day I tip the scale away from “yelling/cranky/not-doing-this-or-that-right” towards “Loving More” and that THAT is what really matters.

 

 

book_v4To learn more about how to tip your personal scale towards the “Love More,” side and to realize that yelling doesn’t define you, check out my new book due out this Saturday, November 1st! “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” is a 30-Day guide with 100 alternatives to yelling, simple steps to follow and honest stories to inspire you on your own journey to “Yell Less, Love More.” You can pre-order it here! 

My Secrets to a Peaceful Bedtime Without Yelling

I had the wonderful opportunity to actually, get this, sit down, drink a cup of hot coffee and hang out with a friend the other night. It was marvelous. Absolutely, marvelous. We covered all the basic gossip stories, you know would Kimye make it as a couple, what about Jen Garner and Ben Affleck, all the basic here’s what our kids are up to stories, mine finally potty trained, mine is still sick, and we covered all the basic how are yous, how are you feeling about work, about life, marriage, motherhood etc. And this is where we ended up talking about bedtime and how brutal it can be.

You see, I was on “vacation” and when I am on “vacation” with my kids, they NEVER ever go to sleep easily. Like never, ever! Did I mention, never, ever? I mean, it’s not like bedtime at home is a peace of cake but whoa is it easier than on “vacation.” Bedtime is simply a disaster on vacation because of all the, “I want to stay up late because you know it’s vacation mom,” and “I don’t want to share a room with all my brothers,” and “I don’t like the sheets at Grandma’s” and the “This room has weird shadows my room doesn’t.” And well, it is also a disaster because of the decrease in routine and increase in, eh hem, sugar and adrenaline.

Anywho, so we got talking about bedtime and my friend said,

“How the heck do you not yell at bedtime? I mean really. Does someone else do it for you?!”

My boys, just chilling, catching some rays. Can you imagine if bedtime was always this relaxed?!!

My boys, just chilling. Can you imagine if bedtime was always this relaxed?!!

Ha!!! Oh how sometimes I wish it were true. But it’s not. What is true though is that years ago, pre-The Orange Rhino Challenge, bedtime didn’t just use to make me yell at my kids, it used to make me scream. It was so stressful and anything but chill. And, it was the worst feeling to send my kids to bed almost every night with their hearts full of my anger, not my love. The absolute worst feeling in the world. Oh the guilt and shame. Blech! Thank goodness The Orange Rhino Challenge helped me identify bedtime as a trigger and pushed me to figure out how to manage it so that it wouldn’t be full of my yells. (My kids’ yells, well, that is almost always expected at bedtime!)

That night I shared with my girlfriend my secrets to not yelling at bedtime. Tonight, I share them with you, albeit in a way more formal manner and with way more detail, but hey, the main message is still there!

* * * * *

My biggest “secret” to not yelling at bedtime is that I finally, and fully, embraced and reminded myself of three Orange Rhino Revelations about sleeping that I learned on my journey to yell less:

  1. If I rush my boys at bedtime, it goes slower. Rushing is counterproductive.
  2. If I yell at my boys during bedtime, they cry, bedtime takes longer. Yelling is counterproductive.
  3. If I approach bedtime with a positive attitude, as opposed to dreading it, it not only goes faster and smoother, but it also becomes a very calm and special time.

These revelations keep me from yelling every night, as do these additional revelations and tips which are specific to my 5 top bedtime triggers.

Kids Dawdling and Not Doing Task At Hand
Orange Rhino Revelations: If I rush my boys, they will go slower. If I nag them, they will go slower. If I yell at them to hurry up, they will cry and definitely take longer. However, if I gently encourage them to complete their tasks so we can have more time to read books and snuggle, they proceed “faster.”

Orange Rhino Tips to Prevent Yelling:

  • Tell myself over and over again that if I rush bedtime, it goes slower.
  • Tell myself that yelling will only make dawdling more intense.
  • Take deep breaths to help me slow down so that I don’t put off a “go, go, go” vibe.
  • Use humor to diffuse the stress and connect with kids so they want to do what I ask. Talk like toothpaste is stuck to my teeth. Brush teeth with finger.
  • Walk away and just start reading a book; invite them to join you when they have finished their tasks.
  • Give in! “Okay, so no one wants to brush teeth. Lets sing instead for a few minutes and then we’ll do it.” Sometimes the power struggle isn’t worth it!

Parental Stress, Exhaustion, and Therefore Huge Desire for Personal Time
Orange Rhino Revelations: My quiet, relaxing downtime doesn’t need to start as soon as all the kids are asleep; I can start it at bedtime.

Orange Rhino Tips to Prevent Yelling:

  • Change into comfortable clothes to feel more chill.
  • Create a relaxing, quiet environment. Think spa! Turn the lights down. Light a spa candle. Listen to soothing music. Upside? It relaxes boys too, which helps bedtime go smoother!
  • (again) Tell myself that letting my stress and exhaustion push me to yell will just upset the kids which will make them move slower and will upset me more and make me yell more and will greatly delay getting to my personal time.

Bathwater (and Toothpaste!) Going Everywhere
Orange Rhino Revelations: Perspective is a powerful tool. When I can put things into perspective, I realize that yelling isn’t necessary and that again, it will make matters worse.

Orange Rhino Tips to Prevent Yelling:

  • Use my “at least” technique to find perspective and calm, i.e., “At least it is just water and not sticky orange juice spraying everywhere,” “At least the water is on the tile bathroom floor and not the carpeted bedroom floor.” And the big one I use, “At least I have this special time at the end of the day to connect with my kids before they go off to sleep.” This last one really helps me to re-focus on what matters.
  • Put preventative measures in place: put towels down, wear an apron to keep clothes dry, do push-ups (or any exercise) while kids bathe as exercise creates positive energy and prepares me to handle the annoyance with more calm.

Asking for One More Thing, One Hundred Times!
Orange Rhino Revelation: When my kids ask for one more thing, it isn’t because they need one more cracker, one more book, or one more sip of water, it is because they want one more minute with me. If I give them that minute in a totally focused, calm, loving way, there will not only be less requests after, but also, I will then feel more comfortable being firm with the bedtime rules as I was just extra loving.

Orange Rhino Tips to Prevent Yelling:

  • Find empathy. I put myself in their “shoes” (mind) and remember that when I was a kid, I did the same thing. This softens my heart and lets me give the connection to my kids they crave.
  • Offer a hug as a substitution; it will make everyone feel better.
  • Take a break. Walk away and yell into a closet. Clothes don’t have feelings, kids do.
  • If possible, tag out and have someone else help with bed.

The Unspoken Trigger: Approaching bedtime with dread and a negative attitude
Orange Rhino Revelations: Negative attitudes attract negative actions; when I approach the bedtime hour with grumpiness, the kids sense it and act grumpy right back which makes me yell. When I embrace bedtime with a positive approach, I am less distracted, more present, and we all enjoy bedtime more – it actually becomes a special time.

Orange Rhino Tips to Prevent Yelling:

  • Change attitude from, “I just want this hour over,” to “YES! Let’s get this hour started. It’s a great last chance of the day to enjoy my kids and show them my love before I don’t see them for 12 hours.”
  • Embrace the challenge of bedtime. “Yep! Bedtime is going to be hard. I know it. I accept it. I will not be surprised or annoyed when it is. I will just go with it.”
  • Talk positively to self, “I can do this. It is just 45 minutes. I have had successful bedtimes, I can do this one.”
  • Fake it until you make it! Smile lots. Laugh lots. Say “Bedtime rocks,” and “I love bedtime” lots.

So much for sharing one “secret” to a peaceful bedtime, eh? Well since I already shared a zillion, here’s one more. Bedtime in The Orange Rhino house still isn’t perfect as a result of all of the above, but it is a heck of a lot, and I mean heck of lot easier to not yell at bedtime than it was before and it is way more, way, way more quiet and peaceful!

The book!Bedtime isn’t my only yelling trigger 😉 That would be too easy! If you would like to learn about my other major triggers, as well as my solutions to them, 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 is a 30-day guide with honest stories to inspire, 100 alternatives to yelling and simple steps to follow. It hits shelves this October but you can pre-order it now to ensure that you get one of the lowest prices and that you have it when I start a guided 30-day Challenge this fall! Click here to pre-order!  

4 Lessons From Not Yelling That Helped Me With Life in General

Today is my second son’s sixth birthday.  And like every one of my past sons’ birthdays, I woke up so excited to run into his room and give him a big hug and sing happy birthday. I also woke up hoping, with every single finger and toe crossed, that the day would run more smoothly than usual so that my son and I could share an extra special, peaceful day together free of fighting amongst brothers. And I woke up knowing that I needed to adjust my expectations for a great day down a notch or two because I was just setting myself up for disappointment and frustration and therefore yelling!

You see birthdays in our house are tough, tough, tough! The three non-birthday boys get all sorts of jealous and “it’s just not fair” tantrums happen hourly, if not more often. On top of that, when there aren’t tantrums, all four boys are super hyper because that is just what happens to my boys on any special occasions. It is our experience, after years of research that “Holiday Hyper” + Tantrums = One heck of a disastrous day.

By 8:11 am this morning, we were already on our way to disastrous land. The birthday boy even seemed more sullen than usual; I am certain all the fighting to get the first piece of breakfast cake (yep!) and the begging to share his new LEGO got to him. How couldn’t it? So when daddy called this morning to say, “Happy Birthday” to the birthday boy, I broke down in tears before handing the phone over.

“How’s the morning go?” my husband innocently asked.

Darth Vader“ARGH! #1 can’t keep his hands to himself and keeps punching Darth Vader. #3 has been screaming that he hates birthdays since he got out of bed. The best line being, ‘See I hate birthday parties because my cake falls over.’ Quality. And #4 didn’t nap yesterday and his brothers woke him up way too early so his crankiness is out of control. And to be honest, I have just had enough of parenting! It is so hard and I feel like I am sucking at it and that’s why the mornings have been so rough. I love our boys but they are a handful. A handful. And I just, well, wanted #2’s birthday to start off on a great note, you know?!” I sobbed to him all in one fellow swoop, not even stopping to take one breath.

Then #3 hit #4, #1 told me we had 2 minutes to get to school or he’d miss his field trip, and I had to get #2 on the phone real quick, and well, I just felt like I was going to explode! Miraculously (actually, I think the good cry helped me chill), I got everyone where they needed to be and I headed to work out to get some much-needed “me-time.”

A minute before I entered my class, I received this email from husband,

Tip 8“Babe, don’t let life get you down. Our kids are a handful, but usually a handful of joy and fun. You have a lot of reasons to be proud of how you parent the boys so focus on that. Take a moment, smell the roses and enjoy what you accomplished six years ago: not sneezing, laughing, or talking before the doctor told you that you could so #2 didn’t come flying out onto the floor! You created our son and he is awesome. Be proud of that.”

He was right. Our kids are a handful – full of whining, not listening, arguing, and being royal pains in the butts at precisely the wrong moment. But they are also, and more so, a handful of joy – full of love, tenderness, empathy, joy, hope, laughter, and total awesomeness.

I loved my husband’s take on my statement, “our boys are a handful.” It brought me some much-needed perspective and helped me re-frame how I approached the rest of the day, which as a result was much, much more enjoyable.

This “insight” and realizing the “Power of Perspective” was the first of four insights that both surprised and inspired me today. I shouldn’t have been surprised by any of them though; they are old ones that I learned on The Orange Rhino Challenge. One of the best unexpected benefits I discovered in taking The Orange Rhino Challenge is that many of the tricks and revelations I learned to keep me from yelling, also help to enhancing my life in other non-yelling situations. Sweet!

Here are three other key insights I learned on my journey to yell less that popped up in my life today in non-yelling situations.

1. Keep practicing and staying on course; results will come.
I have been working my butt off (ha, literally, oh wait, I am not working my butt off, that’s the problem) to try and lose some extra weight gained during my foot injury. Well, I have been working at it since January. January folks. Nothing has changed and doctors confirmed there is no medical issue. The conclusion? I just have to get my metabolism alive again. So, I am trying my hardest and greatly discouraged and just wanting to quit my efforts. Why bother, right? I asked my always motivational exercise instructor today, “What should I do? Do you have any advice? I just want to quit. I am doing all this extra work and nothing!” Her response: “Just stay the course. Keep going no matter what. All the work is working you just don’t see the results yet. But you will. It will all just click. Whatever you do, don’t quit.”

Such solid advice and exactly what I learned on The Orange Rhino Challenge. In the beginning I felt like I was getting nowhere…fast. But all the good and bad moments were teaching me and preparing me to succeed. So to you: keep practicing not yelling, it will click. Repeat, it WILL click. And to me: keep working out, it will click. Got that? No quitting young lady!!!

2. Go one moment at a time; keep expectations in check.
I totally cried my eyes out to my therapist today (yes, I have one and no, I am not ashamed) that I just wanted a full good day with my kids because lately all the days have been ROUGH. Her response, “May I suggest you adjust your expectations a bit? Perhaps instead of wanting a full good day, you just aim for a good moment, then a few more, then maybe a day will come.” Well, I practically spit out my coffee at that point. I paid her to hear what I write EVERYDAY to all of you and what I tell myself daily in regards to yelling?! LOL. She was so right.

So I say to you: aim for one good moment of not yelling. When you have that, then aim for more, and then more. Good moments attract more good moments and eventually they all add up to a full day. And to me: aim for one good moment with your sons. Enjoy that like mad. More will grow from that joy.

3. Be nice to yourself; positive thoughts attract more positive.
After my oldest son’s bedtime “it’s not my birthday and life is so unfair and my brother has better LEGO’s than me” tantrum to end all tantrums (which by the way he did totally naked making it hard to take him seriously), I decided to sit in his room with him for thirty minutes past bedtime and help him with his LEGOs. It was the best moment (see, moment not day) with him all day. Until he said, “I am such a loser. I can’t keep my LEGO creations together like my brother.” My heart sank. So young to be talking to himself like that. My reply? “Honey, you are not a loser. Don’t be mean to yourself. Love yourself. You deserve it.”

And then the irony kicked me in the butt, you know, the one that won’t shrink come hell or high water. “Don’t be mean to yourself?” Hello, I am mean to myself HOURLY and it does me no good, in fact, it makes me feel crappier which makes me get closer and closer to yelling for no reason. I guess I should take my own advice. Especially since on The Orange Rhino Challenge I learned that positive thoughts attract positive thoughts and positive results. So I say to you: Tell yourself you can change. Forgive yourself if you yelled. Be proud of your non-yelling moment. Catch your children being good so they show more good behavior and you want to yell less. And I say to me, “Just be nice to yourself already! Love yourself more!”

All these thoughts in one day. Well, and that I have yet to figure out how to make a Yoda birthday cake! And on that note, I’ll leave you with some Master Yoda wisdom that applies to The Orange Rhino Challenge.

Luke: “I can’t believe it.”
Yoda: “That is why you fail.”

Believe that you can learn to yell less, and yell less and love more you will!
(Sorry, totally couldn’t resist!)

* * * * *
Final Cover copyCurious to know what other Orange Rhino Revelations I learned when I stopped yelling that have enhanced my life in general?! Check out my new book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling and How You Can Too!” It is a 30-day guide, each day containing a personal story, top revelations, suggested actions to try on your own journey and then three tips to try instead of yelling. I personally love the revelations piece as they are kind of like the cliff notes version! This way, on days when you want to read but only have a spare minute, you can just read the revelations. Pre-order my book by clicking here (turns out pre-ordering saves you money!) 

…on Falling Down & Failure

On August 6, 2013 I wrote about my struggle with my body, with finding the focus to lose weight, with finding the strength to not yell at my kids because the scale was too high that morning, because my jeans were too tight, because I felt like such a failure because of both these points.

On August 8th, I wrote that I finally did it, that I found the inner strength to get eating healthy again, to get exercising again, to take care of me again. I find the strength by going one moment, one bite at a time. I felt like such a success because I got over my personal hurdle that had been nagging me for a while.

On October 5th, I wrote about how on August 18, 2013 I headed out of my parent’s house to take #4 for a drive to help him fall asleep and that I left the house with such determination and gusto that I forgot to look where I was going and fell down a stair. You know how kids sit with their feet underneath their bums? You know how they gently get into that position? And how they weigh what, 40 pounds? That was effectively my final position…but I took all my weight, plus my son’s, and didn’t gracefully get into that position, but dropped into it.

What I didn’t write, however, was that my fall was a lot worse than I thought. In fact, it has made the last three months excruciatingly difficult.

Even though my foot seemed okay the day after my fall, and the days after, it wasn’t. The following weekend I almost ended up in the Emergency Room I was in so much pain. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t sit. All I wanted to do was cry and scream. Finally, I went to the doctor and got an X-ray. Diagnosis? No break, just a really bad sprain and a damaged but not torn nerve. Action plan? Wear a walking air cast for 2-4 weeks and do absolutely no exercise.

Yes, two weeks after I finally got back into the eat healthy and exercise groove that I had so desperately worked to achieve, two weeks after I had finally found the determination to try again, to not keep feeling like a failure about all my weight gain and lack of desire to exercise, I was told I couldn’t exercise. It turned out that it wasn’t just 2-4 weeks I couldn’t exercise though, because my pain worsened. My toes got blue some days, were frigid to touch others and I’d wake up at nightcrying because of the pain. So we added 2-4 more weeks of the air cast and no exercise and in response, I added even more weight because in not exercising, in not doing what I love to do, in not doing what I so desperately wanted to do, and in not being able to easily care for more kids, I became sad and angry. So I ate to feel better.

I totally adopted the mentality of, “Well, if I can’t get better, if I can’t get back into my groove, I might as well just eat, right? And if I can’t get out and talk walks in the fall, kick up the leaves, and smell in the fresh air for hours on end like I love to do and look forward to do then, well screw it, I’ll just eat some more and let my self-pity party grow!”

And grow it did.

Yes, my morale and weight got worse by the day, as did my foot. I had been allowed to start walking a little without the air cast and immediately started feeling bone rubbing against bone. After 2 months in an air cast, and no exercise at all, an MRI confirmed that I had a small fracture as well and that I needed a firm cast for 4-6 weeks. 4-6 weeks of my mom moving in and having to help care for me and my 4 boys around the clock. 4-6 weeks of being completely dependent on someone else to drive me everywhere for did I forget to mention this was my RIGHT foot?! And 4 – 6 weeks more weeks of no exercising, of carrying around all sorts of pent up and growing stress that has no way to get out, of carrying around all sorts of ugly self feelings.

For the last two and half months, I start every day hobbling to the bathroom and then looking in the mirror only to see new rolls of fat, new lines of ugly, new feelings of failure…failure that even though I couldn’t exercise, that didn’t mean I couldn’t eat healthy. Feelings of failure that even though I couldn’t walk, I could still choose to sit outside and enjoy fall, my favorite season. Feelings of failure that even though I actively felt gratitude that my situation could be worse, that even though I had started to accept my injury and the fact that weight gain was slightly inevitable because I wasn’t moving at all, that I still looked in the mirror and thought, “Darnit. Just get it together and embrace the situation and stop feeling angry at the situation and yourself!”

But last week after my first cast came off and I got a fresh new one, I decided that I didn’t have to spend the next two weeks miserable. That I could stop it NOW. That I would stop it NOW. That I would change my attitude NOW. I decided last week that I would try to find a solution to my predicament, that I would try to find the inner strength to start lifting weights, doing push ups on my knees, to doing sit-ups, to eating healthy.

What motivated me? My kids.

My mood has deteriorated over the last two and a half months. I snap more. A lot more. And I don’t like it at all. I have a broken foot already from falling; I refuse to have a broken heart because I fell down the slippery slope of getting into my old yelling habits.

I no longer wanted my cast to push me to snap from frustration. So I wrote myself a BIG reminder to keep it together. After this, my boys colored all around it. My beautiful cast ever!

I no longer wanted my cast to push me to snap from frustration. So I wrote myself a BIG reminder to keep it together. After this, my boys colored all around it. My beautiful cast ever!

Snapping a lot is my first signal that I need to re-group and re-group I have. I learned on my Orange Rhino Challenge journey that I need exercise to relieve stress, to be in a good place to yell less and love more. And that I need to eat healthy because when I eat junk, I feel like junk and act like an absolute B…. and that is definitely not a loving more type of place to be.

I currently physically push myself around on a scooter and crutches as I emotionally push myself to exercise daily and eat better so that yelling won’t become a daily thing in our house again. And I push myself daily to keep on being as positive as I can, as grateful as I can, and to hold on to as much perspective as I can that things really could be worse because I know that these three mentalities keep me calm and less likely to get all worked up and want to yell.

And so I have done all the above, and the snapping hasn’t reduced, and I haven’t felt like a failure anymore. Scratch that. I didn’t feel like a failure anymore until this morning.

Until this morning when I got on the stupid scale (that might just finally be thrown out) and it told me all my hard work wasn’t paying off. I wanted to quit my efforts, go eat a bagel with cream cheese AND butter and eat another one for lunch and then scream at my son for doing um, um, nothing. But I didn’t. Because of all the craziness in my life right now that is uncertain: when will the cast come off, when will I walk again, when will I drive again, when will I not need my mom living with me to take care of my kids with me, when, when, when?, there are three certain truths that I miraculously remembered this morning:

  1. I might not lose the weight as fast as I want since I am injured, but I certainly won’t lose any if I quit; quitting would achieve nothing but more feelings of failure.
  2. Exercising and eating healthy isn’t just about weight management, it’s about yelling-less management and that is the more important result than what the scale says!
  3. “For this thing we call “failure”, it’s not the falling down, it’s the staying down.” ~ Mark Pickford

Ah, yes. If I quit I don’t know what could have been. Ah yes, I need to focus on the really important goal, what matters most to me. And ah yes, I am not a failure because I keep on getting back up and trying again. These three truths kept me on my healthy, positive groove today; they kept me from giving up. And you know what, every day on my Orange Rhino journey when I don’t think I can keep it together for another second, when I feel I am failing or not doing “good enough,” these truths help me yell less and love more. They are powerful truths to say the least and I am so happy that my journey to not yell helped me to fall upon them.

Learning to “Hold” a Yell

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!)

I Didn’t Plan to Yell at my Kids

After having run on empty for the last couple of weeks, I couldn’t wait to pull into my parent’s driveway and let my ten day “vacation” of doing things with my kiddos that I did when I was a little girl begin. It was just what I needed to fill up; a trip down memory lane of my summers as a child. My summers were filled with family, friends, and fun times; you know, all the good and important stuff and none of the other stuff. I expected my memories and moments of self-reflection to start flooding in when we actually arrived in New Hampshire two days later; I never expected them to start within minutes of coming into my parent’s house, a house I didn’t grow up in and which holds no real emotional attachment. And I certainly never expected the first moment to be so powerful.

Within seconds of pulling into the driveway, before I could even get the baby out of his car seat, my three older sons had run into the house, hugged Grandma, and then thrown open the door to the basement where as always, all my brother’s and my childhood toys awaited them. I unbuckled #4 who ran in after his brothers screeching, “I go! I go! I go!” I of course ran in after him because he is too young to be downstairs by himself at Grandma’s house.

We made it to the bottom of the stairs where the three older boys had already set up the firehouse, Legos and Lincoln Logs. But littlest man had no interest. He walked right over to a section of the basement that normally is all blocked off and starting pointing.

“What that? What that? Why? Why? Mine? My toy? I play?”

He pointed directly to my dollhouse; my beautiful dollhouse that my parents and brother labored over for two months to surprise me at Christmas one year.  A smile crept onto my face as I found myself going back in time (and feeling a little bit like Rose in the movie “Titanic” where she re-tells the story of the time on the ship as she gently runs her hand over her keepsakes!. I ran my hand over the wooden shingles, the one exterior touch I did to finish the dollhouse.  Immediately the smell of the glue, the feeling of the glue on my fingers as I scrubbed it off, the satisfaction I felt after I neatly placed every new shingle and wiped off an excess glue, oh it all came back to me.  I pushed the front door open to see the “wood floor” that I had so carefully chosen and the dining room furniture that so eerily resembled that which I have now.  And then I peaked through the windows into the second and third floors where the kids bedrooms where and I smiled again, this time thinking about how I had it all planned out, my life that was, and how it obviously didn’t turn out as planned. Yes, my dollhouse was what my life would be and as a child I naturally assumed that nothing could change what I planned. Obviously, that isn’t how life goes.

The plan was that I would have twin girls first so the large third floor was the girls. At one point, pink ribbon wallpaper adorned the walls, twin white swindle beds looked lined up under the dormer windows and pictures of horses hung on either end wall. Well, instead of having twin girls first, I had one boy, and then another. And another.

The plan also had my last child being a son. Well that part was accurate. And the nursery in my dollhouse, my dream house, well it is close to what I have. The walls were white with a delicate light blue trim and I swear the chosen crib is a miniature version of the crib all my sons have slept in. And on top of the white dresser was a little sailboat to reflect my love for the ocean. In no surprise, the theme in my son’s nursery is sailboats.

Also no surprise was that the mom I envisioned for my little dream family never yelled at her kids. Never. Ever. She always talked in a sweet loving voice. She always said kind things like, “Good Job” and “I’m proud of you.” and never hollered “Hurry up” or “Enough already!”  I mean, why would I envision a mom to be a mean mom? An impatient mom? A yelling mom? Who would want a mom like that or to be a mom like that? I certainly didn’t want my pretend three children to have a mom like that nor did I want to be a mom like that when I grew up.

And yet, SURPRISE, nineteen years later I was that mom. And SURPRISE, here I am standing in the basement staring at this house, thinking, “Wow, how did it happen? I had such dreams of the mom I would be. Where did I go wrong?”

It was a beautifully harsh moment, beautiful that I had such a fond memory of building and playing with my dream family and dream house, yet harsh that I had such an uncomfortable recollection that there was a time, are times, when I wasn’t the mom I dreamed of.  By now, littlest man had wondered back to play with his brothers so I had a peaceful moment to just think. [pullquote]It was a beautifully harsh moment, beautiful that I had such a fond memory of building and playing with my dream family and dream house, yet harsh that I had such an uncomfortable recollection that there was a time, are times, when I wasn’t the mom I dreamed of.[/pullquote]

Where did I go wrong? Did I go wrong or did life just happen? Is it life, that as kids we have innocent dreams and when adult life happens, reality of stress and being an adult, happens, changing those dreams? Or, where did my parents go right that I was able to create in my mind such a loving household free of yelling? How do I create that in my own house now so that my boys envision themselves to be the kind of parent that I so very much envisioned myself to be when I was a little girl?

How do I inspire my sons to dream and aspire to be a loving parent?
By being a loving parent.

How do I create a home where my kids will walk in the door and stop and look at a certain toy and feel the same joy and gratitude that I felt at that moment?
By creating a loving home.

I continued to feel nostalgic and a total emotional sap as I picked up pieces of furniture from each room. I stopped when I came to the candy dish filled with little Valentine’s cookies and candies. I remember exactly why I picked out that piece with my allowance from the month – because giving a Valentine treat is exactly something my mom would do. She would go out of her way to make the holidays special. She and my dad went out of their way to make my life special and full of meaningful memories. She and my dad went of their way (or so I imagine, maybe they were naturally patient and I just got the wrong genes) to not yell at me.

I have been struggling lately to remain yell free; I have been struggling to yell less and love more because of personal stress of living the “dream” life and owning the “dream house” I envisioned as a child. Being an adult is hard sometimes and not as perfect as I imagined; some things just aren’t going as planned making it challenging. But today, reminiscing over the dollhouse and my childhood full of positive memories (okay, mostly, lets be honest) reminded me just how important having a loving, yell-free home is to me. It reminded me that I want nothing more than to fill my sons’ lives with loving, inspiring memories. I want nothing more than to create a childhood that my children will fondly look back on. I want nothing more than to create a home and a relationship with them that they want to run back to and hug tightly once they have graduated college.

I want nothing more than to continue to yell less and love more no matter how hard it is.

There are a lot of things in life that don’t go as planned, but this, having a yell less and love more type home? This I can plan for. No one or thing can change my plan to have a home with less yelling and more loving except for me. And I have no plans on changing that anytime soon.


YLLM1For a 30-day Guide to make your home more yell free, check out my newly released book: “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” Part parenting guide, part parenting memoir, part journal, “Yell Less, Love More” walks you through the steps I took to stop yelling and includes 100 alternatives to yelling as well as honest stories to inspire you on your own journey. Click here for a partial list of retailers that have the book! 

 

Parenting on Empty

The other day as my boys and I drove up north to visit my family, we saw a car on the side of the road getting serviced by a tow-truck.

“Why is that car stopped mommy?” Asked my increasingly inquisitive four-year-old.

“He probably has no gas. That’s what happens when you have no gas you know. You stop working.” Said my increasingly know-it-all five-year-old.

“Oh.” Replied my increasingly trusting of anything his big brother says.

And that was that. The conversation ended and they resumed complaining to each other that we weren’t there yet.

And I resumed complaining to myself that we weren’t there yet because I too was tired, because I too am tired.

I am tired of feeling like that car on the side of the road: broken down and out of gas, stranded on the side of the road with a destination in mind and no power to get there. I am tired of running on empty; which is exactly what I have been doing for the last four or five weeks, maybe even longer.

I am go-go-going in all aspects of my life: physically, emotionally, socially, maternally, and personally and it is nothing short of absolutely exhausting and absolutely alarming. Alarming because I see what running on empty looks like. I am missing doctors’ appointments. I am walking like a zombie. I am planning birthday parties way later than usual.  I am not doing things that I enjoy doing because I am “too tired,” I am not writing as much because I am “too tired.”

I am giving half-hearted “uh, yes, I see, that is great” replies to my sons as they proudly show me things and this breaks my heart. I am struggling to keep promises made to my sons that really matter to me, like focusing on yelling less and loving more. 

And while generally speaking I love to go-go-go, and in fact I thrive on it and have never had a problem running my life as such, for the first time in my life, my body is saying to me STOP. SLOW DOWN. Actually, it is begging. I have never physically craved a vacation as much as I have in the last two weeks. And while I have “a lot” that I want to do but don’t need to, “a lot” that I should do but don’t want to do, and “a lot” that I need to do and well, just need to do, my body is telling me I can’t.

My body has physically slowed down. At night it screams, don’t “do” just sit on the couch. In the morning it screams, “don’t do” just cuddle in the bed with the boys and be lazy. In the day it screams, “don’t do” just go outside and soak in the sun and the fresh summer air.

Don’t do, just be.
Don’t do, just breathe.
Don’t do, just don’t do.
Take a break.
Please.

Yes, my mouth has stopped yelling at my kids, and now my body is yelling at me. Yelling at me to stop and slow down. And I need to listen, because running on empty, parenting on empty, well, it doesn’t work! It not only does me no good, but it also certainly does my children, my family, and my friends no good.  Running on empty means I am shorter, snappier, moodier, grumpier, everything “-er” except calmer, friendlier, and happier. Running on empty means I am that much closer to yelling than I have been in months and that is a part of me that I do not want to welcome back.

Running on empty means, well it just means I am not feeling entirely fulfilled in anything I do because I do not have enough energy to fully embrace each moment as much as I wish.

Running on empty means that I need to pull over and fill ‘er up. I realized this about two weeks ago. The problem? When I asked myself, “okay, self, you need to fill up the tank,” (and yes, I literally used those words with myself and referred to myself as if I were a car) I found myself replying, “but how? How do I fill up the tank?”

You see I have run on almost empty before and I knew then how to get more into the tank when I felt my energy siphoning out. I would find a way to get a night out laughing with close friends or family and how to squeeze in a few workouts. And you see, when I have run on half a tank and felt I needed a boost, I would just have an extra coffee or two and go to bed early and voila, tank much more full.

But empty? I have never run as empty as I am now (maybe I have never cared so much about the impact of running on empty as I do now?). When I pushed myself to figure out how to “fill ‘er up” a few weeks ago, and struggled to find an answer, I actually felt emptier. Was there nothing that would get me back on the road? Had I gone-gone-gone too long and finally truly broken down from exhaustion (eh hem, just as everyone warned me I would?!) How would I possibly stop and “fill ‘er up” because that would mean not doing something that I should be doing and that doesn’t feel right, I need to be productive. And then it hit me.

I literally needed to get on the road and drive.

I needed to get on the road and breathe in fresh air. I needed to go to my Sanctuary, my place that fills my soul with calm and beauty, peace and joy. I needed to go to the rocky coast and sit on the rocks and hear the waves crash and crash and crash. I needed to go to the woods and smell the pine trees and stare at the pitch-black sky with only stars and no city lights. I needed to get away and “be productive” by just connecting with my boys, enjoying my boys, loving my time with my boys uninterrupted because that is always what gives me the most energy.

So that is what I am doing. And I already feel rejuvenated just being home and just being with my boys and with no blaring to-do lists (okay, just ignoring the blaring to-do list.)

Figuring out how to “fill ‘er” up wasn’t hard, but it wasn’t the only thing that was hard. It is hard to step away and actually make it happen. But I know that I need the break, that I need to take care of me. I know that it is essential, you know, just like an oil change, so that I can keep running smoothly and take my children places. Oh I want to take my kids places, and I don’t just literally mean to school and therapy appointments, but also I mean to happy places, like happy memories and happy feelings. I can only do this if I take care of me. Repeat: I can only do this if I can take care of me.

I cannot do this if I parent on empty. I will not parent on empty. I will not live on empty. I will fill up as frequently as I need to.

If you enjoyed this piece, check out my new new book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” It is a 30 day guide to yelling less but also a parenting memoir with each day sharing an honest, heartfelt  story from my Orange Rhino Challenge Journey. Also included are simple steps to follow for your own journey to yell less and daily alternatives to yelling to try. It hits shelves this October but you can be one of the first to receive it by pre-ordering it here