373 days of loving more!
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Oh, there are so many different ways I love my boys, how can I even count them all?! I love how kind they are to someone who is sick. I love how determined and creative they are when making Lego structures or drawing a picture. I love how enthusiastic and proud they are when they tell their crazy stories. I love how they give me endless hugs and sloppy kisses. I love how my boys are mine and I am theirs.
And oh, there are so many different ways I like to show them my love. I make pancakes shaped like hearts because they ask. I pick up extra Spiderman Band-Aids , just in case, even though we have boxes at home. I laugh at their knock-knock jokes that aren’t even jokes, especially the seventh time around. I hang their schoolwork up in the kitchen covering every bit of free wall space possible.
Yes, it is very easy to love my boys and it can be very easy to show them my love. But I’ll be honest. Despite all the love in my heart, of which there really is so much, and despite how easy it is to say “I love you!” there are moments when my first desire is to start yelling instead of start loving.
Like when a bedroom is completely torn apart because there is a missing lovey. Like when the kids feel the need to run around the house shrieking and “accidentally” hitting everything in their path. Like when they refuse to listen to me or be even the slightest bit cooperative just because. Like when they seem to tantrum and whine on and on and on for no real good reason (at least in my eyes.)
Like when… the truth is they are struggling and “acting out” for a really good reason and they need me to love them, not yell at them.
But oh, in those infuriating moments it can be so hard to find loving thoughts or loving words! But this Challenge forced me too. Early on I found myself listening more, observing more, verifying more and empathizing more. Yes, I started yelling less and giving more
Wow. I have been readily putting these four words to work for months but only just realized last week what you get when you put them together. LOVE. Cool, right? Here is how I L.O.V.E. my boys when I really want to yell….
Listen (to their story before assuming)
How often do I hear trouble, see trouble, or smell trouble and assume my kids are doing something naughty intentionally before even asking what’s going on? Just yesterday my 4-year-old son opened the front door, left it open and ran out to the car. Of course his younger two brothers followed; totally unsafe. I was so nervous, I went to scream at him, but I stopped. LISTEN. “Why did you do that?” “Because you said to go get in the car mommy.” Right. I did. He was doing what I asked. I didn’t say “Hey we are going to get in the car; wait by the front door.” So glad I stopped and listened before yelling! I’ve realized this year that a lot of the time, when I listen, my kids have really logical and understandable explanations for behavior that doesn’t deserve yelling, but rather slight refining!
Observe (external factors that could be at play)
For months everyday I picked up my son from school it was like Groundhog day. He got in the car, would proceed to yell at me because he was “cranky” and then enter the house and start running around wild. One day I stopped, looked at the clock, thought about what time it was (lunch time) and what time he had been up from and put the two pieces together. He wasn’t acting out to annoy me; he was wiped and hungry, two triggers for him! Problem solved. I give him a snack in the car the next day. Night and day difference. Observing time, day (Thursdays are tough because Daddy has be gone for four days), temperature (my kids overheat easy), smells (they can’t stand mint), brothers behavior (is a younger brother in the way) and noise (they all hate the baby crying) are great ways for me to understand all my boys and their behaviors, before I yell unnecessarily.
Verify (that something is upsetting or overexciting them)
It drives me bonkers when my kids don’t listen, time and time again. ARGH!!! One day early in the challenge, when the not listening was really awful, behavior was at its worst, nothing worked, and I couldn’t yell, I pulled my son towards me and hugged him tight. I had a hunch something big was bothering him. I asked: “You seem really upset, is something going on?” His reply “Yes. I really miss daddy. I am just so angry I want to roar at everyone.” We both felt better understanding the real problem; a weight was lifted.
Another take on verify…I take what I’ve learned from listening and observing and share it with my son. “Wow, look at the time. You seem hungry and tired is that why you are having such a hard time.” His response: “YES!!! When is lunch time? I barely had time to finish my snack at school.” Or “Wow, you are so excited it’s Valentine’s Day and you are having a party at school, aren’t you?” “YES! I just can’t sit still I am so excited!”
Empathize (put it all together and put myself in their shoes)
Gosh, there are so many times when I don’t want to be told to take a deep breath, where I don’t want to be told “you’re hungry that’s why you’re cranky” but instead I want to hear “Wow. Sounds like you had a hard day. I’ve been there. It stinks.” Or “You’re hungry? When I’m hungry I’m a bear. Let’s find something to eat!” Empathy goes a long way for me…and my kids. I’ve spent a lot of time learning to be empathetic this year. Learning to think like a kid. It’s amazing what happens when I do; so much is clearer and so much of my anger and frustration disappear. I get them. I get the problem. And I no longer want to yell. I just want to focus on loving my boys to help them feel better.
My boys have been pushing my buttons lately – I’ve been stressed so they’ve been stressed. It is hard in the heat of the moment to remember to stop and listen, observe, verify and empathize. Honestly, though, the little L.O.V.E. mnemonic trick has helped me this past week. I hope it helps you too!
xoxo, Happy Valentine’s Day!
The Orange Rhino
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Learn more about my L.O.V.E. technique and other tips I use to keep myself from yelling in my new parenting memoir, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling and How You Can Too!” My book is a 30-day guide with simple steps, 100 alternatives to yelling, and honest stories to inspire and lead you on your own journey to yell less. It hits shelves this fall but Pre-order it today to guarantee the best price! Order here