I am Angry, But I Will Not Yell

4 days of Year 2, yelling less and loving more 

Today was a beautiful afternoon.

For the first time in what feels like ages, I was at peace. I was completely present with my sons, smiling and laughing as they ran up and down the driveway jumping high to pop the bubbles I blew between my own laughs. I was completely present as I listened to #4 say “Bub” “Bub” over and over as each iridescent bubble floated into the sky. I was completely present as all four ran together, TOGETHER, not fighting or arguing, and completely happy as a brotherhood.

And then I wasn’t present.
Just like that.

We came in for dinner and I picked up my phone to see texts stating: “we’re okay.” “I’m okay.” “Are your parents okay?” I opened Facebook to see my feed streaming with statements of safety and I was no longer present. My mind drifted to memories of 9/11 and the same sense of panic that ensued as I made sure all my friends that worked downtown were safe. I was again lost in a state of panic as I called my parents and asked: “what the heck happened? Is everyone we know safe?” I so desperately wanted to turn the news on but more desperately wanted to protect my children from images I knew they would never forget and not even come close to understanding.

So I stood frozen. Paralyzed with sadness and devastation. And yet knowing that the meatloaf was burning, the kids were screaming to eat, and that at that moment, life had to go on. That at that moment, my kids needed me. That at that moment even though I wanted to scream, “SHUT…UP mommy wants some peace to read her newsfeed and to call friends,” that wasn’t an option.

Because that response would have been something they would never forget and would not come close to understanding. Why is mommy acting so mean? So vengeful? So rageful? Why is mommy scaring us so?

The answer is obvious to me – because mommy was (is) scared and angry. Yet, I didn’t want to unleash that on my children because they did not deserve it. So I did what I have taught myself to do when I have ugly feelings and want to yell: I told them how I felt.

Did I yell? No.
Did I bottle up my emotions? No.
Did I share my emotions? YES.

I clapped my hands hard. CLAP! CLAP!

“Boys. BOYS. Mommy is very sad right now. Mommy is feeling angry, not at you but at something she heard. Mommy is very frustrated. I need your help. Please, can we be a little quieter and eat our dinner peacefully? Please. I need you to help me so that I don’t yell at you unnecessarily.”

I am not sure what happened next to be honest. I was still in a bit of a haze, trying to get meatloaf on plates and milk in sippy cups. They may or may not have been quieter; I couldn’t tell, as my mind was loud and louder by the minute. My thoughts were screaming at me “How is this possible?” and “Stay calm for the boys. Shelter them for this event. Shelter them from your anger.”

It was a fight and I am not talking about the disagreement over what was being served. No the fight was an internal fight to keep myself from losing my cool on my kiddos just because I was in a mood. Were they being bad? No. They were acting pretty gosh darn normal. I just had no patience. I had nothing in the tank accept ugly feelings and those ugly feelings well, they wanted to get out. They were racing to get out and they had nowhere to go but at my precious children. But I would not let that happen. They did nothing wrong.

So I just kept sharing my feelings, showing them in a loving way, that it’s okay to have ugly feelings way. And I just kept teaching them how I have learned to handle my mean emotions in a way other than yelling: by talking and sharing about them. When I say my feelings out loud, when I hear myself say the strong, ugly emotions, it is like a waving a orange flag in front of my eyes that reads: You are upset, remember to stay calmish. It sounds silly, but it works.

A few weeks back my “10 Things I Learned When I Stopped Yelling Post” was shared on a site where someone decided it necessary to blast it. The commenter wrote something along the lines of “Yeah, great advice. Close your mouth, show no emotion, don’t show your kids anger or disappointment, just stay calm and pretend everything is okay.”

At first I was pissed. Really, really pissed. How dare he insult me when I am trying to do something full of love? How dare he throw hate at me? And then, today I was finally grateful. Because he made me realize that I am doing the exact opposite of what he wrote. I am not pretending everything is okay all the time. Nope. Not at all. I am still sharing my emotions – all of them, good and bad and let me assure, I have had my fair share of bad ones this past year – I am just sharing them in a constructive way. I am no longer using them to hurt my kids. I am sharing them in a loving way – even when I feel crappy.

Even though I no longer yell, I am most certainly not pretending everything is okay (in life or with unacceptable behavior.) I am most definitely showing my emotions, but again, in a loving manner, not a condemning, beyond hurtful manner.

After #4’s 1st, and 2nd, and 3rd and 4th (the worst) seizure, I cried in front of my boys and told them how scared I was, yet positive it would all be okay…and that I loved them.

After we received my father-in-law’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, I cried in front of my boys when #1 said ever so calmly to #2, “Grandpa is still here, he just doesn’t remember things like he used to. But he still loves us you know.” I told them how sad I was…but that I loved them.

After Newtown, Connecticut happened, my husband’s hometown, I cried in front of my boys and said I was angry that someone would hurt someone else…and that I loved them.

And when #1, #2, and #3 pulled #4 out of his crib to the floor, I said that I was angry and scared because that wasn’t safe…and that I loved them.

And when the boulder in my marriage tried to pin me down, I cried in front of my boys and said that I was frustrated and discouraged…and that I loved them.

And today, at dinner, at bath time, at bedtime, I cried in front of my boys and said: “I am scared, and sad, and angry, and frustrated…but I love you and I will not yell at you even though I am feeling all those ugly feelings.”

My boys definitely understood that my feelings weren’t pretty ones tonight. They could see in my eyes, my smile (or lack thereof) and they could hear it in my short answers. But they also knew that I loved them. Pre Orange Rhino Challenge, I would have let all my ugly emotions, whether a result of their behavior or my own life situations, free onto them. They wouldn’t have felt love, but anger, pure anger and it would have stung and brought tears. I can say now, without a doubt, that I can show emotions without yelling. I can model to my children how to feel angry without letting it hurt people unnecessarily. I am okay with feeling angry, I am okay with telling my kids I am angry at them or at something else, or sad. I am just not okay with letting it be hurtful.

While I am distraught from today’s events, I am grateful to finally be able to let go of this one man’s negative comment. And I am grateful to have been able to show my emotions constructively to my boys instead of yelling because really, even though I thought I “wanted” to yell, what I really wanted to do more than anything in the world tonight was to love my boys and hold them tight, not push them away.

* I feel the need for disclaimers tonight. (I guess I haven’t completely let go of his comment.) I do think yelling out ARGHHHHHHH when angry is okay, just so long as I don’t do it at my kiddos. I also think that if the stress of today got to you, to give yourself a hug instead of hardtime. It’s a lot to take in. 

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21 thoughts on “I am Angry, But I Will Not Yell

  1. Today was my first day, again. I didn’t make it through the day. I did yell once. But it was better than it would have been without Orange Rhino. Tomorrow can be day one again.

    Kudos to you for staying in control of your voice under emotional duress.

  2. Yes. Just YES.

    This is what we can all come to. For many of us, it isn’t our natural inclination. But we CAN LEARN.

    My heart breaks for all of us in this hurting world. But it is warmed by your words and your success on this painful day. It’s a good, good thing you’re doing here. And not just for your own family, but for all of ours, too.

    Thank you.

  3. Tomorrow will be my first time again. This time I’m bringing my 9 yr old into the challenge. He’s heard me yell pretty much his whole life and sees some good effects (which makes me feel awful). He has my same personality which also scare me. So we are in this challenge together starting tomorrow. He/She who yells first has to buy dinner 😉 I’m going to go through with him some of our own special rules and such. We shall see what happens from there. I do feel for the Americans who have either lost loved ones and those who are injured. I pray they will be given peace and comfort in these hard times. And for those who are in this challenge to own our feelings and not yell at our loved ones

  4. Loved reading your post. I’m in Boston and felt that same fear, anger, confusion and outrage at today’s horrific events. Unfortunately I also communicated some if those emotions to my kids without stopping to think first. Your words remind me to be strong and calm for them. Thank you.

  5. I’m slowly learning to explain to my children my emotions. It is hard and sometimes comes after I yell accidentally and I have to apologize as in ” Mommy’s sorry I yelled at you. I am (emotion) about (whatever) and it is not your fault.” It does help and I find it gets easier.

  6. Damnit!, I just yelled. Starting over tomorrow. I feel horrible physically and my youngest just pushed me over the edge. Had to tell you all I messed up!

  7. Four days ago your 10 Things I Learned When I Stopped Yelling Post popped up on my Facebook newsfeed in NZ. I just couldn’t believe it as I have been desperately looking for a way to stop the yelling in our house (generally from me but now really from all of us!). I’m certain the neighbours avert their gaze when they see me and it doesn’t help that my son’s yelling voice now sounds exactly like mine. I have googled strategies and read books and finally arranged to see a counsellor over it where I was just told that we needed to make the decision to stop and I should get my son to bed earlier and stop most of his activities and cut back on work so I’d be less tired. Oooookay. But then this list popped up on my screen, and I read it and found your blog (that I’m sure never popped up on any Google search in the past year). I realised at that stage I hadn’t yelled that day so that was that. I’ve stopped (hopefully). My kids are 7 and 4 and I’m only on Day 4 so very early days – but I’ve survived 2 mornings getting ready for school, shoe shopping with my 4 year old (!), watching my daughter draw on the carpet with crayon, numerous scraps between the kids, my son (accidentally) break a bowl because he was venting his frustration on the dishwasher as he pulled out the dishes, amongst many other situations where I would normally have just exploded and screamed and yelled and felt my temples throb with the rage of it all. I have shown plenty of emotions over those 4 days (!) but I haven’t yelled and I have you to thank for that. I will continue to follow your blog for inspiration and hope this is the same as the day 4 I had 12.5 years ago when I stopped smoking. It led to Day 5 and Day 6 and on and on…. THANK YOU.

  8. I am so grateful for your article about the 10 reasons you do not yell at your kids. I read it almost daily. That guy has no idea what he is talking about. I have a copy to my sister’s in law, my sister, and some friends. They loved it! So grateful you would share these things with us.

    Love, Ash

  9. The hardest part is identifying my own emotions. Some are easy – angry, sad, happy – some are more complex, but still recognisable – afraid, tired – and anything beyond that I cannot name at this point, simply because I cannot identify it within myself. Naming emotions seems like such an easy thing to do until you try to do just that. How am I supposed to help my child identify and cope with his emotions when I as an adult cannot do that? I snapped today, I just had a low day. I wasn’t sad, or angry, but I was grumpy the whole day. And I shouted. So now what would have been day 4 is now day 1 again. Hopefully tomorrow starts better. I did cuddle make time to cuddle with my kids today, out of the usual cuddle-times.

  10. I’m from Europe, have as good as grown up kids, one with Asperger’s syndrome as well as sensory problems, and we’ve had some pretty rough stages behind us.
    I have been screaming and yelling and reacting crazy to my kids here and there,
    and looking back, I am so sorry didn’t have the power to do otherwise.

    But this is not about me.
    I recently saw a video on youtube on dealing with anger, and it reminds me so much of what you tell here on your blog.
    I hope you will look at and listen to the video, I hope you, and everyone with growing up kids, realizes the impostance of what you do. Just stick with what you’re doing, because you’re doing a very important thing!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqX5IFKYFWk

  11. what a beautiful post. it’s raw and honest and made me well up. I am proud of how you handled it, inspired by how you wrote about it and so grateful that you are sharing your adventures with the world. This is what we need more than ever. We need more children to be raised knowing they are loved. Hopefully we can raise a generation that will change the trend of acting out in such traumatic devastating ways. ~namaste

  12. I started reading your blog a few weeks ago. I’ve been wanting to start this challenge but haven’t found a good place to start. Actually, I don’t know how to start. The kicker in my position is, I don’t have kids. I am always, always angry with my spouse. I try biting my tongue, I try walking away, I’ve tried a lot of different ways but none have stuck. Each post I have read on The Orange Rhino has made me realize one thing (well lots but one stands out) that I’m not mad at him, I am in a stressed position right now and I am taking it out on him. Since I’ve noticed this I have learned to remind myself when I am upset it is not because he did anything, I’m just stressed. I hope this is my starting point but I wanted to thank you for writing these posts, it’s honest and open!

  13. Often I feel like that there are only two options: to yell or to bottle everything and run or hide. This post is what I needed to hear and see. I tell my boys that it is OK to be sad and angry. I need to go one step further and show them how to communicate and express those emotions in a controlled way. Thanks.

  14. Thank you for sharing. Catastrophes like the one that occurred Monday can DEFINITELY cause upsets in our lives (even if we weren’t physically harmed). I appreciate your candidness.

  15. Hey, what do you know, that little disclaimer is something I really needed! My daughter woke up screaming last night, and I was oh-so-tired and not ready to be helpful to her. But I dragged myself out of bed and tried to rock her and comfort her. She just got angry and screamed more, so I put her in her crib with one of those frustrated “ARRGGHHHH!” yells and went to get some medicine (she hurt her leg on a slide recently, and it was bothering her last night I think). Once she had the medicine, she calmed down enough that I could effectively soothe her. I felt pretty cranky, though…
    I’ve been under a lot of stress, so I am SO grateful for the Orange Rhino challenge. A couple days ago, I had a massive meltdown and couldn’t stop myself from sobbing. So, to make sure that I didn’t blow up at my son, I knelt down in front of him and explained to him as best I could through all my tears that I was very stressed and was having a super hard time calming down. I explained that I needed to go to my room and be alone so that I could calm down, and I needed him to not bother me. I asked him to please be nice to his sister while I was in my room.
    I could hear the kids bothering each other while I was in my room, but not once did they come and pound on my door or beg me to intervene. And I was in my room for about half an hour! I had a lot of tears to dish out…
    I’ve been a better mother ever since making the effort not to yell. I had an incident that convinced me to count one day less in my Days of Not Yelling, but I still had enough control in that moment to not really yell AT my kids. (I knocked a day off because I had felt angry when I yelled, even though I yelled for good reason– I realized I could have done better controlling myself).
    Thank you so much for everything. Thank you for your example of being strong under so much pressure and stress. I hope your family is safe and well. *much love, Q*

  16. This is really inspiring! I just found your site today!I stopped yelling since the beginning of this month because I did not like what I saw.Furthermore my kids were yelling at eachother too!I would love for you to write a post for my Meditation Monday on my blog!

  17. I just ran across your blog, and while my children are 28 and 25, I made a similar commitment when they were quite young. You won’t regret it. By doing so I was able to establish an environment within our home that was peaceful and emotionally safe.I love your creativity in trying new solutions. One of the things I found helpful was to keep a journal of the times I felt impatient with my children. Patterns began to emerge that were easy to identify and remedy. For instance, we put in place a new rule in our house that no one could interrupt mommy on the phone unless it was an emergency. My part was to keep my phone conversations during the daytime hours brief, and their part was to wait until I was done talking to get my attention. Other patterns led to other solutions and with a little practice, healthier habits became entrenched.

    I’m sorry to hear about the criticism but not surprised. I believe what the blaster missed was that you are showing emotion, you are just doing it in healthier ways. Yelling closes off the spriit; I have found gentle honesty to be much more effective in getting my point across and finding solutions. You are an example of the positive change we can achieve when we remain committed.

  18. Bless you, dear mama. About three or four years ago, I gave my daughters the gift of my not yelling at them. I found a lovely Mary Cassat painting with a mama and two daughters about the same age as my girls, and I put the verse from Proverbs 31:26 (She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.) on the bottom. I printed out three copies, rolled two and tied them with pretty ribbons for their stockings at Christmas. It was a tangible reminder of my commitment to them not to yell at them. They loved it, and with the exception of just a couple of times, I have kept that promise. Of course, when I did break that promise, I asked their forgiveness, which they so quickly and lovingly gave.

    It is so hard to not yell when our own emotions are so raw. You handled it well. I think our children are well served when we show them how to handle the ugly emotions, the painful emotions, the scared, hurt, don’t-know-what-to-do-about-it emotions. Bless you. You’re doing well. Don’t give up.

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