The Thanksgiving I Yelled at My Kids

Unfortunately, before I started my Orange Rhino Challenge to go 365 days straight without yelling at my four boys, then ages five and under, the “Not-so-Great” Thanksgiving of 2010 happened. Oh how I wish that I decided to teach myself to “Yell Less, Love More” before that turkey day for then this story wouldn’t still be stuck in my memory because it wouldn’t have happened in the first place! Nope, all the lessons I learned on my 520 days straight of not yelling would have come in to place and prevented me from ruining that Thanksgiving with my relentless yelling. Sigh. Oh well. Here’s how it went down, literally.

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I don’t like turkey.
Or cranberry sauce.
Or any of the foods that one typically serves on Thanksgiving for that matter.

Except well, for the white stuff: bread, butter, mashed potatoes, and more butter! But I love Thanksgiving Day. I love making a big, roaring fire and then cuddling up with my boys to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I love “oohing and ahhing” over all the floats together and sharing stories with my boys about when I was a kid and couldn’t wait to watch the Parade. I love sitting down to eat and first having cranberry juice with rainbow sherbet and telling my boys that this is a tradition passed down from my great-grandmother.

Oh, there is just so much to love on Thanksgiving Day.
And yet, I hated Thanksgiving 2010 because I ruined it.

I ruined it by yelling, big-time. Over a picture. A freakin’ picture. Seriously?! Yes, seriously. As soon as the parade wrapped up, I deemed that it was therefore the perfect time for the annual “Let’s watch Mom jump up and down and act like a clown to make us smile” holiday card photo shoot. Yes, of course, trying to get James, Edward, and Andrew, then ages, four, three, and one, to sit still and cooperate—after they had just been sitting peacefully and quietly for an hour and just wanted to run outside and play—was the perfect time to ask them to sit still, again. And smile. And keep their hands to themselves. And try to be patient with my constant requests for, “Just one more picture, please?” I knew at the time that I was pushing my luck, given the circumstances and their ages, but yet I still pushed.

As expected, given my picture-taking history, my boys whined when I told them it was picture time. As I geared up to corral them into the living room (and to start offering bribes galore), Andrew took off as usual and ran into—of all rooms—the living room. He jumped onto the couch, laughing hysterically as he crashed into the pillows. James and Edward of course followed suit and all three boys started laughing and tickling each other and having a grand old time. So much so that, when I shouted, “Hey, look at me!” they didn’t realize I had just taken a picture. It was, and still is, one of my favorite pictures in the entire world. The happiness. The love. The joy. The smiles. It melted my heart.

So you think I would have stopped right then, right?
No more pictures needed, right?!
Wrong.

Who needs the "perfect" picture when priceless pictures like this exist?!

Who needs the “perfect” picture when priceless pictures like this exist?!

I wanted to make sure that I had the best picture. The perfect picture. I wanted to see if I could do better, even though I felt I had just been delivered a miracle. I got greedy, really, really greedy, and I asked, “One more picture, please?” They acquiesced for a few minutes, but understandably soon grew tired of my never-ending demands to sit still and smile. They had behaved wonderfully and cooperatively for so long; now they were done. They had reached their limit and started squirming, whining, pinching each other, and refusing to cooperate. So I started yelling. And I didn’t stop. I didn’t stop because I so badly wanted the perfect picture and I thought that yelling would force them to behave.

“Sit still!” I barked.
“Just one more! Be good!” I whined.
“WHY CAN’T YOU JUST DO THIS FOR ME?!” I yelled.
And my famous, or rather infamous, Thanksgiving 2010 line:

“It’s Thanksgiving, for cripe’s sake! I would be so grateful for just one good picture. PLEASE! Just smile!” I screamed.

The more I yelled, the more they cried. The more they cried, the worse the pictures were, so the more I yelled. Finally, I gave up and said ever so shamefully and nastily, “That’s it! I have had it. All I wanted was a picture. Thanks for nothing.”

James, Edward, and Andrew then promptly ran out of the room, crying to Daddy and the grandmas. James screamed, “Mommy’s a meany.” Edward sobbed, “I don’t like her.” Andrew just cried and cried, clearly scared by how loud and nasty my voice had gotten. And I went to the bathroom and also cried and cried, feeling all the same thoughts as my kids. I pouted the rest of the day as I felt so mortified and ashamed that I had screamed at my young children for behaving well; ashamed that I had unnecessarily taken my own problem with perfection out on them.

I couldn’t look any of the other adults in the eye for the rest of the day. I felt so sad that my need for the perfect picture pushed me to lose it so horrifically. My guilt and shame then kept me from enjoying the holiday. Thanksgiving is one of the days where I often feel nothing but love, and yet, that year, that year I couldn’t feel it because I had yelled to the point where all I felt was hatred for myself.

The sad thing is, that Thanksgiving wasn’t the only time I felt such anger at myself for yelling at my kids over trying to get a picture. Nope, it had happened many times before. And while I sit here wanting to write that it’s all just because I am a perfectionist and seek perfection in everything I do, that’s a partial cop-out. It goes deeper than that.

Yes, yes, I seek the perfect picture of all my boys looking at the camera, smiling flawlessly and not picking their noses. But it’s not just because I am a perfectionist; it’s also because I am insecure. Oftentimes in life, I seek comfort, confidence, and reassurance that I am living a happy, good life, that I am doing good at this parenting thing, that I have happy children. And well, whenever I feel that way, I find that looking at pictures soothes my insecurities and proves to me that I am doing okay.

If I feel frustrated and down and overwhelmed by the challenges of parenting, I can look at that “perfect” picture and look straight into those gorgeous twinkling eyes and remember that it is all worth it, that my kids are happy and it’s worth the work. If I find myself feeling sad that life is passing by too fast, my kids are growing up too fast, and I feel I have missed out, I can look at that “perfect” picture and remember: no, I didn’t miss it, I was right there and it was wonderful. And if I feel stressed about life in general, then looking at pictures of my family having fun, enjoying a special vacation, enjoying a special holiday, enjoying each other helps soothe my negative mood and move me to a more positive, grateful, happy, and definitely less stressed place.

Pictures bring me comfort by helping me feel secure in this world, and rightfully or wrongfully, I rely on them for this. That is the real reason I push for perfect pictures. I don’t refrain from yelling at my kids during picture time because I want the most beautiful picture ever; it’s because I am afraid that if I don’t get that picture, then I won’t have something to look at when I need it most. I yell at them because of me, because of my insecurities, not because of them and their inability to sit still longer than children their age should.

The Orange Rhino Challenge and all the trigger digging I did helped me to see the real reason I yelled. And by default, it helped me let go and chill out during picture time. Now when I find myself struggling to not yell at my kids when I desperately want a picture, I say to myself,

Thanksgiving Quote“Hey, just relax. You’ll get what you get. Don’t push it or you won’t get a thing expect crying kids, an upset you, and therefore a bad picture and a more upset you. It’s not worth it! (Yelling doesn’t work, it just makes things worse!) Remember, it’s not them you are frustrated with; it’s you. They are doing fine, you are causing the stress. Chill out. Just chill out. Remember, the goal isn’t the perfect picture. It’s enjoying the moment. Don’t ruin it by yelling.”

I can happily say that I now enjoy those special moments in my life even more than before because my plight for perfection and my instinct to yell aren’t dampening them. Do I still struggle and have to push myself to let go of perfection at times? Yes. Do I still struggle and have to push myself to “Yell Less, Love More” during trying times? Yes. I am the Orange Rhino, but I am not perfect! But I struggle a lot less and for that I will jump up and down, act like a clown, and do all sorts of crazy things to make me smile and feel good about my progress. Because of all the things I have learned on my Orange Rhino Challenge to Yell Less + L.O.V.E. More, one most definitely is this: the goal is not about perfection; it’s about progress.

And I am making progress, I am yelling less and loving more, and that is what matters to me more than perfection.

YLLMcrop2This story is from my  book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids­–and How You Can Too!” Part parenting guide, part memoir, part journal, her book takes you on a 30-day journey full of honest stories, alternatives to yelling and steps to follow so that you too can Yell Less. Find more about my book here: www.TheOrangeRhino.com/the-book and join The Orange Rhino Revolution at www.Facebook.com/TheOrangeRhino

Where The Orange Rhino Went, Part 4: The Aftermath of 2016

Where The Orange Rhino went…
Part 1: The Internet Wins
Part 2: A Second Chance
Part 3: 2016

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I will not be sharing much more directly about my divorce out of respect for my children and their father. And well, because that is a past chapter and it is time to focus on the new chapter!

I will say this though, divorce is a loss on so many levels. Lost partner. Lost family. Lost friend and friends. Lost dreams, a lot of dreams. It is a loss that is not truly or widely spoken about. It is often dismissed, the grief that comes with divorce. But let me tell you, it is real and deep and it doesn’t just go away overnight. Or after six years. Grief shows up when you least expect it to and when you don’t want it to.

It shows up in aisle four at Home Goods – when you are shopping to pass the time without your children and you see a serving platter for entertaining and think how perfect it would be, only to remember, “Wait, I no longer have a husband to entertain with or really people to invite over.”

At a soccer game – when it is still early and awkward and uncomfortable and want to share joy over a son’s goal like when you were married.

In the grocery store – when you go to pick up something you used to get for your partner only to remember that ingredient is no longer needed in the house.

When scrolling Facebook – and you see all the 15-year anniversaries, all the odes to wives and memories built and memories to come, and you look at your finger and no longer see your wedding band.

When cleaning up old boxes – and you find the love letters you wrote to each other back in the day and wonder, how did we lose this?

I could go on and on. In the minivan. At the doctor. On the couch watching a movie. You name a place and time, and grief over my divorce has probably come unexpectedly and unwanted. Still.

Yes, the loss of a marriage and the dreams that came with it cuts deep.

And it is more than loss. With the loss of my marriage, came a shitload of shame, and again, more feelings of failure. I felt embarrassed by my divorce, by being divorced. People avoid the subject like it’s the plague. Very few people acknowledged it. And when I tried to talk about it, the conversation was often short. So, I didn’t really talk about it a lot, still don’t fully share the depths of pain and sadness and shame. It was, it still is lonely at times.

I felt like a true failure and honestly, still do. How could I do this to my kids? How could I have not kept my marriage going? How come I am the only one I know who doesn’t know how to have a successful marriage? How come I couldn’t keep the one thing going I dreamed of in my life for so long? How come I couldn’t make it work?

My divorce gutted me and somedays I feel like the knife is still in there, twisting away, even though it was the right thing for us and our family. Truly.

But that doesn’t take away the pain.

And it certainly didn’t give me strength back in 2016 when I was trying to return to being The Orange Rhino. Or in 2017. Or in 2018.

While I started to feel better in 2018 and really pondered getting back to writing, I had come to the point where I worried it was the point of no return. You know what I mean? The point when someone calls you and you forget to call them back and then too much time has passed and you feel bad/weird/awkward calling? (Or is that just a me thing?)

I didn’t know how to come back AND I was scared to come back. Scared of looking silly for disappearing, scared of more negative comments, scared of well, let’s be honest, writing.

This past summer. I was enjoying the beautiful day, walking along, looking at the flowers and the blue sky, feeling the warm sun against my face when all of a sudden, bamn! I was crying. Something was said in the podcast that triggered a totally unrelated thought. I was crying because it hit me –  not only did I not show up as The Orange Rhino because I didn’t know how to after so many years, but also, to be brutally honest, I was more than empty inside back then, part of me had felt dead inside.

The part that was alive was mustering up all energy it could to be the best parent that I could be in the moment, under the circumstances. The part that was alive was just trying to survive, just trying to stay afloat. The part of me that was alive was friggin’ exhausted. To say the very least. And the part of me that was alive, damn well knew that if I started journaling, if I started writing about my pain and sadness and grief, that I would sink.

I couldn’t afford to sink. I had to be present for my lovely, loving boys. I simply had to keep so much bottled up so that I get out of bed every day, so that I could show up. I simply could not admit to my full range of feelings or I wouldn’t be able to show up in the way I wanted or in the way my kids needed.

Now mind you, the way I was showing up wasn’t even that beautiful. But I showed up. And I learned what the word “grace” really meant and what the saying “I am doing the best I can in this moment, right now, that I can” really meant.

I used that word and that saying, consistently. And I showed up, consistently. (And maybe that is why that parenting advice about being consistent with boundaries and rules and consequences and all bothers me – because sometimes just being consistent in showing up is a feat in itself, a feat worthy of being honored.)

But, with all of this sh*t bottled up, and despite giving myself grace and knowing I was doing my best? the part that was alive and showing up? Well, I was yelling. There were days that I didn’t honestly even have the energy to change or care because I was yelling as little as I could and that was my best – in the moment. After the negative comments about my ability to not yell,

So yeah, writing scared me. Writing meant truths would come out and I didn’t want to face them. I didn’t want to write about my yelling given the commentary about me being a fraud and a failure and I didn’t want to write about my aching heart, my broken spirit, my grief. So, I avoided writing like the plague, just as talking about my divorce was ignored, perhaps even more. But I avoided more than writing. I avoided The Orange Rhino altogether.

Writing is only part of The Orange Rhino world. I could have very easily have showed up and posted old tips, old stories. I could have very easily have still supported all of you and enjoyed that immensely. Except for one thing, one major road block.

The Orange Rhino didn’t just remind me of someone who is determined and choosing not to charge with words, but to remain calm, loving and warm when provoked and triggered. No, at that point in time, The Orange Rhino reminded me of all the harsh words that had been thrown at me and it readily reminded me of my marriage and well, now my divorce.

My EH was woven into so many memories of The Orange Rhino. The note he wrote after I completed day 1 of not yelling. The orange flowers I received on day 365 of not yelling. The frequent texts reminding me I could do it, that I just had to get the kids to school and then the day would be easier (oh did mornings suck when they were little!!) The book launch party when “Yell Less, Love More” came out. The time in our lives when we were a family of six. My marriage ended as The Orange Rhino community had already slowly started fading. The two endings were infused together in my mind. How could I return to one, when the other I couldn’t return to? So, again, fear won and I stayed away.

I even stayed away from the color orange for a long while. Truly hated seeing it. I hated seeing my book, The Orange Rhino image, my blog. As I sit here now, writing, figuring it all out as I type, I think it was easier to hate the color orange than it was to focus on what I hated about my divorce. I could close the door on The Orange Rhino and be done. I couldn’t close all doors to my EH because we still co-parent together. So, I closed The Orange Rhino door, kind of.

The Orange Rhino wouldn’t let that door fully slam shut. Instead, The Orange Rhino stayed in my mind and quietly listened and just wouldn’t leave me be, even when I wanted it to! I wanted to shut down the blog, but couldn’t bring myself to. I wanted to throw out the orange clothes, but something made me hold on. I wanted to let go of the trademark on The Orange Rhino, but part of me refused. No, The Orange Rhino firmly and confidently remained on my mind all these years, even after all the negativity I threw around. Yes, The Orange Rhino confidently remained calm, patient and loving despite being triggered and provoked by me.

Whoa! Hhmm, I just freakin’ realized that. Goosebumps, seriously. Full circle moment and I am at a loss for words. The Orange Rhino, Orange Rhino’d me!

So, I guess, The Orange Rhino never really left after all. The Orange Rhino stayed so that when I was ready, I could stop yelling at myself and my life so much.

So that I could return energized and determined to remain calm, loving and warm when provoked by my children and now also, when provoked by my life and…myself.

AND so that I could return to this amazing community. Thank you for still being here and for reading my story, for giving me a place to put it. I feel better already just getting it out. I feel lighter and freer. Again, thank you. 

Where The Orange Rhino Went, Part 2: A Second Chance

(Here is Part 1 from November 10 if you missed it!)

Part of ensuring that I am more likely to respond with a warm voice instead of a harsh yell is to ensure that I do not carry a lot of sh*t around with me. Like my dog Hope, I am freer and happier when I let that sh*t go. So it is important to me, as I fully re-engage here in The Orange Rhino community that I fully share why I started disappearing in 2015. Today is the day because I have had enough of carrying it around for seven years.

But first, I am an organized person and feel the need to just put a quick timeline in place for perspective.

2012: The Orange Rhino Challenge to not yell for 365 days starts and this community is born!
2013: I celebrate one year not yelling in February; five months later in July, I yell.

2014: “Yell Less, Love More” comes out – along with lovely support from you all and negative not-so-support from those who don’t know my style or my blog or my background.

2015: I start disappearing.
2016: I really disappear.
2017 – 2018: I really want to come back…but just can’t find the ability to do so.

2019 – 2021: I really, REALLY, want to come back, I tell myself, but still can’t find my way. Something was holding me back, keeping me from the key board. I know that part of the reason was that if I dared to write, I would write about 2016 and I wasn’t ready to fully acknowledge that year of my life. I couldn’t. Just couldn’t.

2022: I finally start to realize through years of therapy and self-reflection, that The Orange Rhino, while a positive place that I want to be, also started carrying some real negative memories and has some real negative ties to it. It almost became a slightly traumatic place for me as it triggered some of my little traumas in life and has ties to something that happened in 2016.

September 2022:  The Orange Rhino returns.

November 2022:  I announce the upcoming release of my audio version of my book. Which is exciting and scary as hell based on what happened in 2014/2015. But I also see it as a gift from the universe. I learned in April 2022 that it might happen. I was shocked. My book hasn’t been selling as much because well duh, I haven’t kept the community going for seven years!  Why now? The answer basically was, why not? My publishing company has a new approach for creating audio books and somehow, lucky me, Yell Less and Love More was chosen.

For seven years at this point, I have been wanting to get back to The Orange Rhino. Seven years of wanting to do something, but not. Seven years of fear and regret. Seven years of not being able to find the strength to show up, not being able to find the courage to overcome the negative memories. Oh, so many negative memories embedded in The Orange Rhino.

And then, voila! A true, honest to goodness gift from the Universe.

A second chance. Repeat. A. Second. Chance.

A chance to come back as The Orange Rhino.
A chance to come back and face my history and no longer let it suck my energy out.
A chance to come back and take control over how The Orange Rhino story goes.

A chance to come back and no longer regret how my book release went in 2014, no longer regret dropping the ball and the community after the book released, because, I now have…

A better chance to keep the energy going after this audiobook release because I am now better equipped to do so emotionally.

Oh, and lest I forget, I also have…

A chance to come back and keep growing as a person, keep learning how to not let negative comments get to me, keep learning how to remember the positive, keep learning how to love myself more so I can yell less at my kids.

A chance to come back to an amazing, supportive community.

AND a chance to really get back to not yelling so much.

I have always believed in second chances. And I am grateful for this one. This second chance has given me the strength – it has forced me to acknowledge the last seven years and move forward from them.

Halleluiah because these last seven years – while many, many wonderful things have happened  –  they have also held me back. Or did they? Perhaps they didn’t hold me back, but allowed me to stand still, get some roots down and grow?

Which leaves me with another tip to yell less: change the narrative! Note I didn’t say ignore the negative. See the negative. Feel it. Allow it to be real. And then as soon as you are ready (which might not be immediately and that is okay!), change it so that it doesn’t change your mood and your ability to respond warmly when triggered.

These last seven years have been cruddy…AND incredible.

These last seven years I didn’t move forward as I hoped in some areas…but I learned a lot staying still that will propel me forward now.

These last seven years I yelled more than I liked…but I also taught my kids a lot about forgiveness to others and ourselves. I taught them about how being imperfect is okay. I taught them about how my yelling isn’t because of them, but me. I taught them that while yelling isn’t okay, it does happen and what happens afterwards is super important.

And, I taught them, am teaching them, that it is never too late to do something. It is never too late to change. To go after a goal. To try again. To keep trying. I am teaching them to be determined. I am teaching them to be warm and calm to THEMSELVES when provoked by others.

In other words, I am teaching them to be Orange Rhinos, and isn’t that ultimately the goal?!

Thanks for reading and being here, Part 2 is coming. It turns out I have too much too say hahahaha.

Here’s to telling yourself a positive narrative today, about yourself, your life, your children, and your childrens’ behaviors! (A narrative switch for today. Switch “my child isn’t listening or behaving” to “My child is having a hard time listening and ‘behaving,’ there must be a reason, something is making it hard.” Then work together to figure it out and if you can’t, work together to lighten the mood – laugh, play, sing, dance, watch the dog go to the bathroom and trot away, whatever works!

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Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids – and How You Can Too!” available where you buy books! Audiobook coming in January 2023.

You are a Good Parent!

If you are feeling like a bad parent, please read!

Recently while scrolling, I saw some “quote” made all visually pretty with the sentiment of: “A child’s behavior doesn’t indicate a good/bad parent, it’s the parent’s behavior that does.” The first half of the statement I agree with it’s the second half that really got under my skin. It hit a nerve. It pissed me off. Perhaps I felt personally attacked because sometimes my behavior is not ideal. But here’s the thing…

ORANGE RHINOS:

We will all make mistakes.

We will all have moments where our behavior is less than, even lower than less than.

We will all have moments when we are triggered and overreact in a poor way because maybe, just maybe, that moment brought up something from our past that we didn’t know was an issue so how could we prepare for it or even work through it prior to that moment?

We will all have moments when we behave in exactly the way we don’t want our children to because we are STILL learning and growing…and because we are freakin’ human.

We will all have moments where we shock ourselves with our behavior, perhaps embarrass ourselves with our behavior (again, we are all human.)

We will all have moments where we simply had a bad day, a bad phone call, a bad interaction, and didn’t have enough time to re-group before a parenting moment that required us to be at our calmest and most collected…and we will snap, or yell, or just be grouchy or rude.

These “bad behavior” moments DO NOT, and I repeat, do NOT mean we are bad parents. PERIOD. I screw up all the time. I have had moments that I am so not proud of. I have seen my kids reflect my behavior and it does make me cringe. But I am not sitting here intentionally screwing up. I am standing here, doing my freakin’ best, working on my areas of improvement as a parent.

Parenting doesn’t come with a manual for how to take care of a kid and likewise we weren’t given a manual that said: Here are your behaviors that you will struggle with, here is how to manage them and overcome them so that when you are a parent, your behavior will be perfect. If you got that manual, awesome! I, however, as I am sure many parents will agree, did not.

So yeah, I have some behaviors that aren’t ideal for parenting, that I wish I didn’t “show” my kids and that therefore didn’t “show up” in their behavior. But I am working on it…and oh, my working on my “bad behavior” is also showing my kids some good behaviors:

Determination
Self-Awareness
Self-Care
Commitment to personal growth
Relationship skills (how to apologize and own behavior)
Kindness (to myself, after the fact)
and
Strength to Charge through obstacles with Confidence

Orange Rhinos don’t just yell less at their kids…they have strength and courage to charge through obstacles with confidence and determination. It isn’t easy identifying parts of ourselves that we would like to change – and it isn’t easy doing it. So kudos to all you parents put there doing just that!! In my book, you are a pretty, gosh darn good parent.

(sidebar: yes, they are actually some parenting behaviors that are horrid, i.e. abuse. This post does not apply to those behaviors. But I don’t think the quote I read was referring to those behaviors.)

Okay, rant and soap box over. Charge Forward with Courage and Confidence Orange Rhinos!

On Not Giving-Up

Wanted to share my personal goal for the week as it is perfectly relevant here. My goal: Not to Give Up. Or with a more positive spin: Just keep going. Keep doing what I’m doing. I am not seeing/feeling progress in a few areas of my life where I am really working hard and I can’t help but think, why work so hard if it isn’t working? Why? Because of my why, that’s why! Okay, way too many why’s so how about some how’s…How am I going to keep myself going and not giving up?

I am going to remind myself of my big why I am after the goal in the first place (personal health to prevent illness, personal growth so I can show up better for myself and my kids, and more.)

I am going to remind myself that change takes time. That small steps add up to big gains. That sometimes progress isn’t seen even when it’s there.

I am going to remind myself that giving up gets me nowhere, but staying on the path gets me somewhere even if that somewhere is right where I am but STILL on the path.


I am going to remind myself to be patient (which I hate being.)

And I am going to challenge my thought that there is no progress – I am going to find something each day, actually any time I feel like giving up, that shows progress, even if it isn’t the standard result.

Starting now. Ugh, harder than I thought lol. Not giving up  I have been waking up at 5:30 consecutively for three weeks now which is a HUGE change for me and a mini-goal that is allowing me to goal after the other goals so I can achieve change.

If you feel like giving up today on yelling less – or any other personal goal because guess what, those goals and achieving them will help you feel less by default – remember what you have done so far. (Here’s a hint: having a goal and knowing what you want is a great step…admitting struggling and getting support is another…trying again is another…there are so many options here!)

Why am I Yelling So Much Lately?

I had been less than pleased with my yelling frequency lately so I had been pushing myself to figure out what was triggering me so much that I was unable to do what I know I needed to do (and could do) to stay calm in the tough moments.

I knew it wasn’t just because the kids weren’t listening (I mean sure, that is a trigger and is way annoying, but I knew it wasn’t just that.)

I knew it wasn’t because I was physically tired (I actually sleep now; game changer by the way.)

I knew it wasn’t because I wasn’t exercising or eating crappy foods. (I actually exercise now and eat crappy foods…less J)

I knew it wasn’t because of more obvious, “simple” and easy to manage triggers because I was struggling more than usual to keep it together.

I kept asking myself, “but why, why, why?” to dig deeper but all my digging led me to…nothing. No real, deeper answer. This gnawed and gnawed away at me, which for the record, didn’t help with the whole yelling less bit! My not knowing was a complete distraction (trigger); my not knowing made me personally cranky (trigger); and my not knowing made me mentally exhausted (trigger) because my brain was working over time looking for an answer.

Yeah, figuring out triggers can be a real pain the arse. But one beautiful fall day, it all became clear. (Cheezy, I know. But, the cheeziness is important. Stay with me.) I was out walking my puppy on a perfect fall day. The air was crisp. The leaves crunched beneath my feet. The sun shone brightly. There was not a car on the road; not a person walking near by jabbering. It was quiet. It was relaxing. It was peaceful.

I was just walking along, talking to no one, not listening to music, not doing a mental to-do list, when out of nowhere, clarity hit. (I read recently that boredom is important for the brain because it allows the mind to wander and be creative and problem solve – or something like that. I guess the article was right because my bored, at peace, brain problem solved the heck out of what my real big trigger was!)

I hadn’t set out on the walk intent to figure out this darn trigger. I just set out to get some steps in, some relaxation in (to prepare me to not yell when the kids barged in the door hours later), and some puppy potty-training in. So, it shocked the heck out of me when, bam, out of nowhere, my big trigger, that has been subconsciously bothering me for months, popped into my head, clear as the blue sky.

And that’s when my peaceful day turned dark.

When I realized what was really driving my yelling, the tears didn’t just fall. They poured. I got our puppy into the house (because god forbid any of my neighbors see me in my state!) and sat at the kitchen table with my head in my hands and bawled.

And bawled.

And bawled.

I pounded the table with my fists a few times too.

I asked why to the air, as if I would get an answer.

I shook.

I sobbed.

And then…and then…I finally breathed.

After all of my sobbing, I found myself exhaling.

My grey day turned peaceful again, and I felt like I had just taken a deep breath of that fresh, crisp, fall air that had only minutes ago made me feel so relaxed.

It wasn’t because I literally took a deep breath (you all know I hate taking actually deep breaths to relax!) it was because it physically felt so freakin’ good letting go and releasing so much built up pain, sadness and anger. Of course, my anger and pain didn’t go away, but the stress of holding it all in, did. I actually felt a sense of relief because I finally had crystal clear awareness of one of the big triggers that had been causing me to yell.

Yelling more than one likes, sucks.
Trying to figure out why one is yelling can also suck.
It isn’t always instant.
It isn’t always pretty.
It isn’t always the answer you want.
And, there isn’t always an easy way to manage the trigger.
But it always, always, is ultimately for the better.

Figuring out my big trigger took months. It took persistently, yet patiently, pushing myself really hard to look at my actions and challenge myself to figure out what the heck was going on with me, because I knew it was an instance of “it’s not you, it’s me.” The answer wasn’t pretty. My big trigger? I am a lot angrier about some things in my life than I thought. Like real, true, anger.  I didn’t expect the answer. I certainly didn’t want it; I don’t want to be an angry person! And the things I am angry about? I can’t change them, I can only change how I accept them and that means a lot of personal work, and ugh, who wants to add that to the to-do list?

But, knowing that I finally have a source of why I am struggling so much gives me hope that I can now more easily get back to a place of yelling less because I know what I am dealing with.

And that, that is way better for myself and for my boys.

 

(I know I continue to be vague about some stuff; but I need to be so thank you for understanding! )

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.

Loving myself more and yelling at myself less is arguably one of the biggest and most important triggers to manage.

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.

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.

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!