It’s Not Too Late to Stop Yelling at Your Kids. Here’s How I Know.

This post first appeared on The Huffington Post as part of their Father’s Day Series. 

This is quite possibly the email I get most often from people who have just heard about The Orange Rhino Challenge, my promise to go 365 days straight without yelling at my boys.

Dear Orange Rhino,

I am inspired by your story and how you stopped yelling. It gives me hope that maybe I too can change and stop yelling at my kids, but I really am afraid it’s too late. I have yelled for so long that I doubt I will really be able to change. And I fear that because I yelled for so long, the damage is so great that not yelling now won’t even make a difference in our relationship. Help!

Without fail, every time I receive an email like this, I get all choked up because not only do I know all too well the “it’s too late” fears — but also, the email reminds me of a painful time in my relationship with my dad when lots of “damage” threatened our future. As a gift for my dad this Father’s Day (an odd gift, I know, but trust me, it’s a good one), and as a way to offer hope that it isn’t too late to stop yelling, I share this story with you.

* * * * *
I never yelled at him.
I just stopped talking to him.
For three years.

For three whole years I didn’t talk to my father because I felt so angry and hurt from the huge, gigantic argument we had the day before I started my sophomore year of college. He tried to fix things by sending funny cards “just because,” by calling me to check in, by bribing me with a free meal at my favorite restaurant which he promised (and I knew) would taste infinitely better than cafeteria food. But I refused. I refused to talk to him and I refused to forgive him for our moral disagreement. I felt the damage had been done — that it was too late to reconcile, too late to make a better future. So I just didn’t talk to him.

About three years after college, I became engaged. At that point in my life, my dad and I had just started to share short exchanges. But our relationship still felt volatile enough, and my anger and hurt still felt large enough, that I worried — no, feared — that I wouldn’t even let my dad come to my wedding. In fact, I spent my entire engagement fearing that our past would prevent my childhood dream of my daddy walking me down the aisle from happening. Thanks to the support and urging of my now husband (and a lot of telling myself, “it’s not too late”), my dad and I reconciled and reconnected enough that come my wedding, my fear that my dad wouldn’t be there subsided.

And then January 2nd happened.

The night before my wedding, despite the fact that everything seemed good — like really, really, miraculously good — my dad abruptly left a family gathering and went back to the hotel. I of course immediately feared and assumed that he wasn’t just going to the hotel, but rather packing up and heading out. My dad’s best friend, who knew all the history, saw the tears form in my eyes and the color quickly leave my face, and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll go check on him. It will be OK.”

I didn’t believe my dad’s friend for one second. As I stood in the corner of the restaurant, trying to smile and feel happy, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “I knew it was too good to be true; I knew the past was too bad to overcome.” Fortunately, my dad’s friend returned smiling and practically laughing and said to me: “Sweetie, your dad is fine. He’s in bed and he isn’t going anywhere. Especially because he has the runs! And he feels like he is going to throw up because he is so excited, nervous and sad that his baby girl is all grown up, that you are getting married tomorrow, that you forgave him enough for him to be here and to walk you down the aisle. It’s just a lot for him. But he’s OK. It will be OK.”

And it was OK.

The next morning I walked down the stairs of my childhood home to see my future husband crying. My dad stood behind him, crying as well. I stood in front of both of them, bawling my eyes out, and then wiping my eyes madly, totally forgetting that I had just spent an hour getting make-up on! Oh well. Smeared mascara didn’t matter at that moment. I was getting married to an awesome man and the other awesome man in my life, my dad, had made it.

And not only did he make it, but he also got me to the church in time to walk me down the aisle! We weren’t a minute late — and it turned out that, despite my fears, it wasn’t too late for my dad and me to share good moments and good memories again, either. That day, as we stood together at the back of the church, waiting patiently for my ring bearer to help my flower girl diligently place the rose petals one by one by one, we laughed together at the anal-retentive behavior so well known to both of us. We stood together and admired the beautiful details of the historical church, sharing our appreciation for architecture, a passion he passed on to me that I am now passing on to my boys.

We stood together and finally had a moment of peace.

It wasn’t too late for us, for our relationship.

2014-06-13-OrangeRhinoWedding.jpg
It wasn’t too late for us to repair our father/daughter bond and find joy again. For so long I assumed that because of the “damage” that had been done a few years prior, my dad and I would never share another laugh, another story, another peaceful moment. I assumed that it was simply too late and that it wasn’t even worth trying to make amends because no matter how many new, good moments we might share, they would never outweigh the past bad moments enough for our relationship to feel OK instead of negative and volatile. I assumed that our future held nothing but more anger, more hurt and more bad interactions.

But I was wrong.

I was woefully, woefully wrong in my assumption that it was too late.

I am so grateful that despite the past my dad and I shared, and despite our fears that a better future might not happen, we still tried to change our future. Because that moment in the back of the church with my dad, well, it was nothing short of unforgettable — exactly what I had always imagined and hoped it to be. Did that moment of peace make me forget the past or feel better about it? No, of course not! But, it did make me feel a tiny bit better and give me the courage to move on from the past and continue to work to change our future. My goal isn’t to forget the past (can’t do that!), but rather to fill my heart with enough new, loving memories that they, and not the angry ones from the past, take precedence in my heart and mind.

It has been 10 years since I stood at the back of that church with my dad. Since then, we have shared many a beautiful moment. My anger has softened and my mind now truly focuses on the positive moments in our relationship, like when my dad held my first son, when I called him laughing because I had just vacuumed up an unpeeled banana from my minivan, when… well, I could go on and on and on as our life is now full of good moments. Did it a take a while for us to get beyond the past, beyond just one peaceful moment — to reach a truly peaceful place? Yes. But we got there. It was not too late.

* * * * *
Kicking my “it’s too late” mentality to the side and going after what I wanted — my dad in my life — didn’t just make my wedding day and my future with my dad better; it also made my future with my four sons better. Often during the early days of The Orange Rhino Challenge, when I found myself struggling and wanting to quit because I felt it was too late to stop yelling and that my kids would always remember the awful times I had yelled in the past, I would find myself thinking of my wedding day and that moment at the back of the church. The moment I thought might never happen because it was “too late” and the past was “too negative.” The moment that didhappen because it wasn’t too late. The moment that has become a powerful reminder to me not to quit or give up because, as I learned with my dad (and later re-learned on my successful Orange Rhino journey to stop yelling), it is never too late to change the future.

“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” -Carl Bard

* * * * *
The Orange Rhino’s (a.k.a. Sheila McCraith’s) parenting guide and memoir, Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids — and How You Can Too!, shares more touching personal stories from her journey to stop yelling as well as manageable actions, practical tips, and genuine, loving support so that you too can succeed on your own journey to yell less. Her book is available for pre-order now and goes on sale October 1, 2014. To learn more about The Orange Rhino Challenge, go to www.TheOrangeRhino.com

Check out my interview on Huffington Post Live talking about this post:

 

 

Use of The Orange Rhino Trademarks

June 11, 2014

First there was one The Orange Rhino®. Then there were 100 Orange Rhinos. Then there were 10,000 Orange Rhinos. And now, well now there are almost 50,000 Orange Rhinos: people who are determined to respond with warmth instead of yelling when triggered and who are doing so by taking The Orange Rhino Challenge®.

How cool is that?! Wicked cool if you ask me! It is crazy how much The Orange Rhino Challenge has grown and it makes me so happy! Since I started The Orange Rhino Challenge in January 2012, my mission has always been not just to get support for myself, but also to get support for others so that less people go to bed feeling as awful as I used to! I know how cruddy it felt to go to sleep at night after having yelled too much that day; how cruddy it felt to feel all alone, like I was the only one who yelled at her (or his!) kids; and how cruddy it felt to feel so ashamed that I couldn’t share my secret with anyone. I didn’t then–and I still don’t now–want anyone else to feel as cruddy as I did, especially now that I know that change can happen and that it feels great!

When I see private other Orange Rhino Facebook pages pop up, I get so excited, truly! (And I get it, the privacy piece! I am working on that, in the meanwhile, check out our online community, www.TheOrangeRhino.com/Community) These pages are growing awareness of OUR community and are giving so many people the support they need to succeed. It is stinkin’ awesome! Think how many parents – and therefore kids!!! – we are all helping?! I love it, especially since so many of these pages have genuinely good intentions and share the core principles of The Orange Rhino Challenge.

If you do have or want to create one of these pages (or blogs or products) and want to use in any way, shape, or form, any of the Orange Rhino Trademarks items  (“the marks” are: THE ORANGE RHINO / ORANGE RHINO, THE ORANGE RHINO CHALLENGE, and the orange rhinoceros with pink birds design) I have to insist though that you get my permission. Using “the marks” without permission is not allowed and using “the marks” without permission poses a risk of potential negative press to my family and loss of our community. (***There’s a long explanation as to why, but I won’t bore you, just trust me that the risk is real, especially to my kids, and read the short version in italics below!)

Again, while I KNOW in my heart that so many of these private pages, new blogs, and new products for sale that use my trademarked names and images are well-intentioned and serving a phenomenal service, I must now publicly state the following:

THE ORANGE RHINO / ORANGE RHINO, THE ORANGE RHINO CHALLENGE, and the orange rhinoceros with pink birds design (collectively known as “the marks”) can not be used without permission of The Orange Rhino LLC.

If you do have a Facebook Page or Blog that does use these marks (or even comes close to using these marks) in the title (or in the case of a product, on the product or where the shape is my trademarked rhino) you need to do one of the following by JUNE 18, 2014.   

(1)  Become an officially approved Orange Rhino page. (Which by the way, would be so cool and opens the doors to lots of great new ideas and opportunities!!!) In this case, I ask that you agree to “use of trademark” terms, which are very simple (i.e., State on page/blog/product that “the marks” are used with permission, inclusion of me on page/blog/product so I can see content/usage, link back to official Facebook page and blog, agreement to basic values and beliefs.) TO DO this option, please email theorangerhinochallenge@gmail.com by June 18, 2014 with the email title: Trademark Permission. Once we have emailed and terms have been accepted (which really is a friendly email exchange and a chance to chat and figure out how to work together in other ways!), I will email you official approval. Then, and only then, can you use “the marks.”

(2)  Stop using the page/blog/product effective immediately (due to the name trademark infringement). This is not my hope! I don’t want to lose the pages/blogs/products at this point because I know the intentions are good and good for our greater community! I really want these pages/blogs/products to exist so we can all stick together and give greater support.

Whichever option you chose, and you need to chose one or the other, I need to know by June 18, 2014. If you have any doubt, please email theorangerhinochallenge@gmail.com   ALSO, please know that using (i.e. copying and pasting) any of the content from my website, or from the emails I sent in the 30-Day Challenges is subject to copyright and also needs me permission.

Please note:
It IS okay to use the words “The Orange Rhino” and “The Orange Rhino Challenge” within blog posts, i.e. “I am taking The Orange Rhino Challenge(R)” or “I am working on being an Orange Rhino”. Please link back to my blog, www.TheOrangeRhino.com when you do so though.  One way to think about it is, think of your favorite brand, say Coca-Cola. You can say/write, I drink Coca-Cola, but you can’t print their logo without permission and you wouldn’t be able to have a page, “Coca-Cola.com”

Also, The Orange Rhino button found on my website in the right hand column is also okay, and encouraged to use so long as again, you link back to my blog, www.TheOrangeRhino.com.

If you doubt your usage, please just check in by email theorangerhinochallenge@gmail.com

Again, I REALLY want to emphasize that I am thrilled that these private pages/blogs/products are spreading The Orange Rhino message. I am not trying to intentionally diminish that in any way! Believe me! I just want us to spread our message and support together as a united front and properly from a legal perspective, so that we can make the most impact.

I don’t love having to write this post since I know it doesn’t apply to many of you. I hope that you can appreciate and understand why it is necessary though and I truly hope that it brings us together in a new way that yields wonderful, new plans and ideas to grow The Orange Rhino Community! All my best and thank you for your continued support for my journey and all the other Orange Rhinos learning to yell less and love more,

Sheila, a.k.a. The Orange Rhino or
The Orange Rhino, a.k.a. Sheila
(still can’t decide which to do first!)

*** With my name, Sheila McCraith, officially out there and attached to The Orange Rhino “brand,” anytime someone uses one of my trademarked items (“the marks” reference above) there is the risk that that people will be wrongfully led to believe that whatever statement, opinion, picture, etc… is shared in connection with my logos, is mine. This is already happening and it is a risk to both me, and my kids, for the potential of negative press exists and it will impact my entire family and potentially our community. As part of my mission to help more parents, I am trying to grow The Orange Rhino Community so that we can reach more people on a different level, in a different way. I was strongly advised that to do so (and again, to protect my family), I needed to Trademark everything, which is why I did.

Furthermore, every time I do something related to The Orange Rhino Challenge, whether it be for the Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/TheOrangeRhino), my blog (www.TheOrangeRhino.com), our PRIVATE online community/forum (www.TheOrangeRhino.com/Community) the store, and now for my book, I do so not just because it makes me happy (which keeps me from yelling!) but also, and more so, I do it because I genuinely want to help people. I know it sounds corny, but I feel like this is exactly what I am meant to be doing in my life right now. For years I tried to find my way. I tried baking (I love decorating cakes!) and I tried photography, but they just didn’t stick. This, leading The Orange Rhino Community, hasn’t just stuck, but it has become a wonderful part of my life. I do not want to risk losing it.

How I Stop Myself From Yelling Unnecessarily at My Kids

I am in a funk.
And I am fairly certain that I have no clue whatsoever as to why I am in said funk.
And I am more than fairly certain that said funk is making it woefully difficult to not yell.

Like, really, really difficult.

Because I am in a mood. I am present, but not. I am happy, but not. I am sad, but not. I am around and here and “doing” what I need to be “doing” but I feel this little I don’t know what “it” is, nagging at me, leaving me feeling just off. And again, really wanting to yell

…at all the noise (I swear my almost three year old, who just “found” his voice is louder than his older three brothers…combined!)

…at all the clutter (hello, end of the year school papers!)

…at all the whining that comes from water fights (yes, dear son, if you squirt your brother he will get you back, twofold.)

…at all the not listening that comes with spring fever/end of the year fever. (Okay, it is mostly coming from the fact that I am in a funk and not communicating as effectively as I can.) Tip 19

…at all the lost shoes that are needed to get out of the door on time but have disappeared into the great outdoors during water fights

…and well, at my kids, totally unnecessarily.

When I figured this funk had started settling in, my first thought was (and advance warning to the men for this statement), “well of course it is! It’s that time of month!” But then that time of month didn’t happen and I realized my count was off and well, that I couldn’t blame my crankiness on the calendar. Blech. Bummer. That is such an easy thing to blame and a readily acceptable one. It comes. It goes. Funk be gone; yelling less and loving more becomes easier again just like that!

No lie, I was totally bummed to not have the “calendar” as my scapegoat especially since my funk was growing and growing and with it my desire to yell. My husband ever so innocently and lovingly said to me this past weekend, “Babe, what’s up? You are crankier and snappier and more distant with all of us. What’s going on?” I roared back, okay, not roared but really snapped back in a rather annoyed way,

“Get off my back! If I knew, I would fix it and wouldn’t be as cranky! Besides, I am well aware I am cranky and I am working on it. I don’t exactly like being this way you know. It’s not fun!”

And that was the truth. All of it–not just the not liking being cranky (who does, right?!) but also that I was working on it. Because I am. Every. Single. Day. Here is how my new “Orange Rhino” mind is operating right now at any given tense moment to help me figure life out so that I get on a less cranky path.

* * * * *

Me: I just “oopsie-snapped” at kids.
Orange Rhino Mind (ORM): Why did you do that? Did they deserve it?

Me: No. I’m just cranky.
ORM: Why are you cranky?

Me: I don’t know. Leave me alone!
ORM: No, I won’t stop pushing you because you know that if you don’t figure out what is silently eating at you, your crankiness will grow, it will be come a trigger and you’ll yell and you don’t want that.

Me: Okay fine. I’ll think about it but really, I’ve been thinking about it for days now and I just can’t figure out what is eating at me.
ORM: Okay, let’s go through the list of things you know you need to do for you to be in a good place. You know, the basics you learned on your Orange Rhino Challenge that need to be taken care of so you are best apt to not yell. Ready? Are you tired?

Me: No. I am actually sleeping better lately. (Side bar: We’ve been sleeping on my husband’s bed from high school. It’s what, 20 years old? Got a new mattress. Oh. My. Gosh. Get a new mattress today people! Life changer! I wake up rested and don’t have to stretch my “getting old joints” to move!)

ORM: Is it lack of exercise?
Me: Nope. Not that either. I have a new exercise regime going and I feel great.

ORM: Are you hanging out with friends, you know, socializing and laughing and connecting with adults?
Me: Yeah, more than usual.

ORM: Are you stressed?
Me: Yes. No doubt. But I know that, it isn’t nagging at me. And it’s good stress.

ORM: So what the heck is your problem then girl?! What’s driving the funk? (Okay, it doesn’t say that. I say that.)
Me: I don’t know but I have to – and really want to – figure it out because I know it is driving me closer and closer to yelling.

* * * * *

As I sit here writing this, I fina-friggin-ly feel like I have clarity. Yee-haw!

I learned on The Orange Rhino Challenge that when I find myself wanting to yell unnecessarily at the kids way more than usual, that I need to stop “blaming” them as the reason I want to yell, but instead point the blaming finger at myself. When I get to that point, I do what I wrote above. I drill and drill and drill myself with “Why?” questions until I figure out what is really bothering me. I always know I have hit the real issue at hand when my stomach (or is it body or mind, I don’t know) goes, “Aha! This feels right.” I no longer feel the need to question myself.

Well, that feeling just happened.

Do you know what I am not doing, or rather haven’t done lately from my “Taking Care of Me List,” the list that keeps me from being in a place where I want to yell, yell, yell?

I haven’t relaxed. I haven’t stopped. I haven’t breathed. I haven’t slowed down. I haven’t done anything for me. I haven’t taken care of me and that is ESSENTIAL to my being in a calm place so that yelling isn’t a desire (okay, or at least the natural desire!)

And do you know what else I haven’t done?

I haven’t connected with my boys, like really, really connected, laughed, and just hung out with my boys.

There are real good reasons I haven’t done the above two things. Life has been tough these last few weeks, for my boys and me. Nothing major, just a little more tough than usual. Tough on our schedules, tough on our mental states, tough on our ability to enjoy downtime – both together and apart.

And do you know what else is tough?

Breaking this pattern and getting to bed earlier than early so I am extra rested so that I have the mental clarity and strength tomorrow to push myself to take me time and extra kid time; to push myself to slow down so that I can keep up. We both need it. Rather, all five, no six (husband included, mustn’t forget him). But I am going to break this pattern because not only do I want to kiss this current funk goodbye so that I can enjoy the water fights in the perfect spring days even more, but also because I know where these funks lead me. And let me tell you, it’s not to Orange Rhino Land where I yell less and love more, but it’s more like to grey(ish) rhino land where I get way to close to charging with my words and then go to bed feeling guilty that I wasn’t the parent I wanted to be that day.

The good news? I am already on the way to breaking the pattern because I finally identified the issues and can create a plan to work on them. Knowing is half the battle, right?! Oh, and more good news?

Tip 5Taking care of me doesn’t have to be a thirty-minute break – it can be as simple as 5 minutes sitting in the sun with my eyes closed pretending that I am at the beach just listening to the ocean.  Yep, totally doing that tomorrow and totally asking my husband if I can slip out to get some orange toe nails vis-à-vis a pedicure this weekend. Doesn’t hurt to ask, right?!

Nope, never hurts to ask. Shoot, all the asking of myself, got me to a better place already!

* * * *

Want to learn about other strategies and tips I now use to keep me from yelling? Check out my book, “Yell Less, Love MoreHow The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can Too!” due out October 1st! Find it at your favorite book store and pre-order it today so you are one of the first to have it in the fall!

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!) 

Go Fly a Kite.

A few months after my fourth son was born, my in-laws came to visit so that I could get “some” sleep and my other sons could get some much-needed one-on-one attention. As always, Grandma Catherine and Grandpa Richard brought a car full of activities for the boys. There were supplies for a teddy bear picnic, books from their travels out West, toys that used to be Daddy’s and last but certainly not the least, there were three brightly colored kites shaped liked parrots.

“Oooh! Oooh! Take out the kites Grandma, take out the kites!” they squealed.

Even though my oldest was five at the time, for whatever reason, my boys had yet to fly a kite.  As Grandma and Grandpa started unwrapping the kites, my boys’ eyes widened and widened until I swore they were going to pop right out of their sweet, little heads.

“You know boys, Grandpa used to fly lots of kites with your daddy when he was just your size. He’s an expert kite flyer. He knows all the tricks,” said my mother-in-law lovingly. She put her hands on Grandpa’s shoulders and gently turned him towards the front lawn. Placing the kite strings in his hands, and showing a mix of both hope and worry, she said, “Here Richard take the strings and show the boys how to fly a kite.”

Her worry stemmed from the fact that my father-in-law had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few months prior to that visit and everyday talked less and got more easily confused. Some days he remembered how to do basic things, other days not so much. We always hoped his memory would work though because we all desperately wanted to create as many “interactive” memories as we could before well, before we couldn’t. My father-in-law took the strings and started to walk forward, my boys following in a perfect little (miraculous) straight line.

There was just the perfect amount of wind that day; not so much the kite got swept away and not so little that it just kept nose-diving to the ground. With few words spoken, Grandpa successfully (phew) taught the boys to fly their kites. As they ran around the yard laughing and squealing, their parrots watching from above, Grandpa stood next to me watching with the biggest, grin ever. He spoke not a word to me, but he need not have. His proud and joyful smile said it all.

That moment was everything that kite-flying should be: beautiful, joyful, peaceful.

Not one or two days later, as I brought the recycling out to the garage, my feet got all tangled in the tails of the kites and I became so frustrated that I picked the kites up and threw them into the recycling bin, along with everything else. “ARGH! I knew we didn’t have room for these things; they are just more hassle than they are worth,” I said grumpily and rather “Grinch” like. The next day, my boys asked for their kites because they wanted to fly them one last time with Grandpa before he and Grandma drove home.

“Where are the kites?” they excitedly asked me.

“Oh, I don’t know. They must have gotten lost?” I said, feeling really crappy inside as I saw the sadness take over their eyes. “I’m sorry, guys. Why don’t you have another teddy bear picnic with Grandma and Grandpa?” My answer and I were total disappointments. Sigh. Luckily for me, this story hadn’t crossed my mind once until a few weeks ago.

While shopping at the toy store one day, my boys had spotted some huge parrot kites and insisted I buy them. Being the more relaxed, “yes, let’s go fly a kite today and forget the to-do list” person that The Orange Rhino Challenge helped me to become, I joyfully bought them and we immediately hit the park because the wind really was quite perfect. I am so grateful that I said, “yes” that moment for the afternoon of kite flying was one of the most incredible afternoons I had had with my boys in a while.

We all ran around together for at least an hour, laughing and smiling as we successfully got the kites up and learned how to make them do all sorts of tricks. Seeing their faces light up when they did it on their own, hearing them scream,  “Mommy, LOOK! LOOK! Look how high my kite is,” and “Mommy, I do it! I do it!” and “Mommy, this is soooo much fun!” just melted my heart.Fly a kite I was so incredibly present and focused at that moment that I readily absorbed every single belly laugh and squeal. In fact, I had such fun that afternoon that according to my husband, I told him not once, not twice, but three times in the same night how much fun I had that day flying the kites with the boys. I guess I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm and joy; it was just that awesome of an afternoon.

So kites, and the awesome memories they bring, were still on my mind when two days later I learned that my father-in-law’s Alzheimer’s had gotten so bad that it was time for him to go into a nursing home. That night, when the kids were in bed and I finally had enough peace and quiet to really process the news, to no surprise the memory of my boys learning how to fly a kite from their Grandpa hit me hard, really, really hard. Did I remember the joy they had shared with Grandpa during that visit? Oh, yes.

But do you know what I remembered even more?

The fact that during that visit my uptight, irrational, and impulsive tendencies triggered me to throw out my boys’ kites, depriving them of one more precious kite flying memory with their Grandpa. This memory stung and then crushed my heart to pieces as I suddenly realized that the kite flying memory was literally the last major “interactive” moment my kids shared with their Grandpa Richard. After Grandpa and Grandma drove away that day, things went down fast, really, really fast, and all that Grandpa could do on future visits was sit next to my boys as they cuddled with him and talked to him, desperately seeking a smile, laugh or conversation; a smile, laugh and conversation that never came.

Yes, the last smile, laugh and conversation my boys shared with Grandpa was the day he taught them to fly kites. And while that interaction was absolutely wonderful, because of me, I kept it from being even greater. And while I am so very, very thankful that they do have that memory to hold onto, that we all have that memory to hold onto, that night I felt such immense guilt about “depriving” my kids of one more memory with Grandpa that I crumbled down to the bathroom floor in a big pile of tears.

Thankfully, somewhere between my sobbing and my self-ridiculing that I am too uptight and too easily frustrated, I had a moment of much needed clarity.

“You can’t get every moment ‘right’; it is impossible and it’s okay.” I thought to myself. “It’s okay that you ‘missed’ creating one moment, because the boys had a great moment before and had many snuggly, albeit different, moments after with Grandpa. The good memories with their Grandpa far outweigh the missed moments and that’s what matters. You are going to miss opportunities to create good moments in the future, for all sorts of different reasons. Don’t worry about those moments; instead put your energy into grabbing the moments that you can and be as present as you can to make those moments so kick-ass that the ‘missed’ ones get pushed so far down in your mind that they don’t even register.”

And then, in this deep, heavy moment, I actually smiled. I smiled because I realized that the “new” revelations I had just had weren’t new at all, but instead were just a version of what I had been writing to fellow Orange Rhinos for a while. I frequently write to discouraged Orange Rhinos, “Yells will happen. But one yell doesn’t discredit all the other moments you didn’t yell.  The goal is more loving moments; to have the number of moments where you don’t yell to be greater than when you do so that the good moments take over the bad ones.” And I write, “The goal isn’t to be perfect at every moment. It is to do the best that you can at any given moment and to then forgive yourself for moments you aren’t so proud of.”

I smiled because once again, something I learned on The Challenge didn’t just apply to yelling situations, but also to greater life situations.

I smiled because thankfully, these old/new revelations helped me forgive myself for throwing out the kites years prior and filled me with an inspiring new life mantra:

We had so much fun flying kites that on Mother's Day we got our parrot kites out and flew them again. And again. And again.

We had so much fun flying kites that on Mother’s Day we got our parrot kites out and flew them again. And again. And again.

“Just go fly a kite and get carried away in that moment instead of held down by a moment missed.”

 

 

 

 

 

Learn more about the many ways The Orange Rhino Challenge enhanced my life – and how much it changed me – in my book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids.” Part memoir, part parenting guide, my book takes you on my journey to stop yelling while leading you on your own. Each day shares a personal story from my experience, top revelations (i.e. the cliff notes for those busy days when there is little time to read!), suggested actions for the day and 3 tips to yell less. Pre-order “Yell Less, Love More” today by clicking here.

 

15 Ways to Not Yell When Noise Triggers You

{sometimes} Noise Makes Me Yell at My Kids.
This post I wrote last week, well, it struck a really big chord with a lot of you. It seems that I am so not the only who struggles to stay calm and quiet when overwhelmed by both loud noises (kids arguing, argh!) and annoying noises (lip smacking while slurping cereal, double argh!) So, I thought I would share with you all how I handle this trigger that constantly screams in my ear, “Neener neener neener, you’re gonna explode!”

Here are my top 15 Ways to Not Yell When Noise is a Trigger, grouped into three levels, depending on severity of the noise!

Cool faceWhen I am feeling Cool and not close to yelling…I aim to keep it that way by doing these preventative measures.

  • Use a quieter voice throughout the day.
    I quickly learned on my journey that the quieter and calmer I am, the quieter and calmer the kids are! The challenge? I don’t naturally have a quiet voice! It is actually loud and intimidating (or so I’ve been told.) So I have actively had to teach myself to change my tone, which has been hard, but worth it! My new tone has definitely lowered the loud, gonna-put-me-close-to-the-edge, if not over it, outbursts!
  • Walk to closer to my kids so they can hear me without my loud voice.
    One day I “yelled” down to my boys to come up for dinner. They all starting “yelling back;” in other words, they matched my voice level. 5 people at that level made me batty!!! At that point I started trying not to “yell” (use a loud voice to get attention) to my kids when they are outside to come in or to “yell” come up from the basement because doing so just creates an immediate upswing in the noise level in the house, which means an immediate upswing in my chances of losing it! (Let’s face it though; this one is hard to execute! I can be lazy and not want to walk the extra 10 steps to use a quieter voice!)
  • Practice with my boys how to take turns talking.
    For real. Sometimes I feel like a schoolteacher, as I ask my boys to raise their hands, but it is a necessity with so many munchkins who are still learning patience! I also remind them that don’t yell at school or talk out of turn which means they are capable of doing the same at home!
  • Prioritize Sleep and Minimize Caffeine.
    Ugh. I can’t stand this preventative measure but without it, noise, all kinds, just gets to me faster and more furiously. Less sleep, more caffeine = more edge, less calm. More sleep, less caffeine = more loving, less yelling. It’s that simple and yet so stinkin’ hard!!

Warm FaceWhen things are Warming up and my desire to yell is growing…I pull out some of my creative alternatives to yelling to block out the noise or help me to relax (or both.)

  • Wear earmuffs or put my fingers in ears.
    Yes, I am for real. And yes, my brown furry ones make me look like Princess Leia (which my boys think is so cool) but they block out the noise and help me stay calm. I also put my fingers in my ears if I feel I am agitated and pre-disposed to be extra on edge. This not only helps with the noise level, but it is also a superb signal to my boys that they need to quiet down or mom’s going to go apeshit.
  • Turn on my favorite music.
    Okay, this is a tricky one. I like to put music on to calm me down when noise starts getting to me. Sometimes, I put it on loud to drown them out my boys if they are the source of the noise (awesome in the car) or sometimes I just put on a favorite song to sing along to so I find noise I like (Journey, “Don’t Stop Believin’). The challenge though, is that this can backfire! If my boys are loud because they are in an over stimulated state, the noise can agitate them even more and push them to really start yelling. I tread carefully with this one. Sometimes I read the situation right, sometimes not so much.
  • State the problem.
    My boys are at the stage right now where they still think I am cool and want to hang out with me (and on me.) So, when their noise is just too much, I simply state that I need it to quiet down or I’ll being take a mommy break. This works like a charm. And if it doesn’t, leaving the kitchen to sit on the stairs does!
  • Light a candle and pretend I’m at a quiet spa.
    Ahh, the silence of a spa. I’ve only been a few times, but it was bliss. I now have a few candles strategically situated in areas where I find I get stressed by noise (oh kitchen, why doth you create such noise?) and I light them (especially my orange one!) when I need serenity, like now!
  • Run the faucet to drown out the noise.
    You know why I love the shower? Because it’s quiet. All I hear is running water. Nothing else. I can’t stay in the shower all day; that thing called wicked cold water that comes when all the hot is gone gets to me. So instead I turn the kitchen sink or bathroom sink on for a quick bit to drown out the noise. This sometimes leads to the boys wanting a water fight, which is a mess BUT it does get them to take the noise outside! Speaking of which…
  • Ask them to take the show on the road.
    A lot of the parenting tidbits I got from hours waiting in OB/GYN offices went in one ear and out the other (pregnancy brain + sleep deprivation + overwhelmed with info!) But this tip: “Tell kids to take the show on the road when too loud” stuck and I use it often. It encourages them to keep having fun making noise, just in a different room.
  • Join the circus.
    Okay, I guess I kind of already have and I am kind of already the ringmaster, but I try to stay out of the chaos as much as I can. That said; sometimes when I can’t escape it I just join it. This way I get to let off some steam and connect with my kiddos, which generally leads them to more readily quiet down when I’ve run out of steam and ask for more quiet.

Hot FaceWhen I am too Hot to handle (and not in a good way) and yells are at the tip of my tongue…I have three go-to strategies.

  • Take deep breaths.
    I can’t stand taking deep breaths. I just can’t. In fact, when my mom tells me too, I practically explode! But, I learned on my Orange Rhino Challenge that they actually work. Three big deep belly breaths help me chill out so I can try some of the cool/warm approaches.
  • Walk away.
    This is totally a traditional alternative, but it also totally works. Does the noise sometime follow me? Eh hem, do the kids sometimes follow me and open the door to the bathroom? Yes. But I just keep trying until I find my peace. The good news is that if the noise bothering me isn’t from the kids, I can literally walk away from it (like the constant buzzing of a Hex bug stuck in some small place that we can’t figure out! Oh. My. Gosh. Totally Annoying. Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!)And lastly, my favorite,
  • Let the yell out into a freezer, or any inanimate object. I can keep myself from yelling all I want when noise triggers me, but sometimes I just have to let my annoyance out with a yell. So I do it somewhere safe, like the freezer, a cabinet, the car, the garage, the closet or the bathroom. Once calm, I try the “warm ways” and then hopefully, the “cool ways.”

Block out NoiseThese are just 15 of the things I try to do to manage my noise trigger. I hope at least a few of them help you if you struggle with this same trigger. If not, just admitting to yourself that noise is a trigger, and a real one, is a huge step towards kicking its ass and managing it. All you need to do next is practice different alternatives until you find what works best to “block out the noise so you can block out the desire to yell.”

* * * * *
Find a list of my Top 10 Triggers and How I Manage them, as well as simple steps to help you learn to yell less, in my new book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids, and How You Can Too!” You can pre-order it here. 

 

 

The Mother’s Day Gift I Really Want…

My husband asked me this past week what I wanted and what I wanted to do for Mother’s Day.

“I don’t know,” I mumbled.
“Well, I need some guidance or you’ll be massively disappointed,” he replied.
“I know. I just don’t know what I want, you know?!” I answered exasperated.

And I didn’t really. Because every year when he asks me this exact question, I have the same exact internal fight.

Part of me really, really, REALLY, wants to ask for the entire day off to be by myself, to sit in peace and quiet, to pee without interruption, to catch up on the to-do’s on my “I wish I could get to list,” to call my girlfriends and talk for a whole five minutes, and to reflect on life and realize just how grateful I feel and how much I love my kiddos.

The day I became a Mommy...the best. moment. ever.

The day I became a Mommy…the best. moment. ever.

And well, the other part of me thinks the exact opposite! And not just because I feel guilty being away from my kids (the reason I am a mom in the first place!) but also because I love my kids and genuinely want to be with them on this special day! Yep, this part of me wants to spend all day with my kiddos, laughing, smiling, sharing stories, creating all sorts of wonderful new memories to add to the list­ all while relishing that I can do so much more easily because I have a small “free pass” to be a little less responsible that day. This part of me also wants to just sit and watch my sons play and well, just be, because that makes me feel so grateful that they are mine and fills my heart with such immense love.

Oh, the internal fight! Do I ask for the day off that my body and mind crave or do I ask that we do an exciting family adventure together, which I also crave?  Ah, such decisions and year after year, no clear answer. The only certainty that I do have every year is that I wish for some really awesome store bought gift (that my husband would “flawlessly” pick out after mind-reading my un-made-up mind) and some really awesome homemade gift from my boys. As I flipped through magazines the other night looking for ideas to telepathically send to my husband, for the first time I had another piece of clarity regarding Mother’s Day. Three actually.

First, I could please both parts of my mind. Duh! I could have time to myself AND time with my family and not feel any guilt, but just peace and joy, both by myself and with my boys.

Second, I realized what I already knew–I really didn’t need anything! Sure a pretty blue tray for the kitchen would be nice, but so not necessary. And yes, another pretty picture frame would be nice, but also so not necessary.  This all led me to the third clear piece of information, the way more important piece if you ask me.

I realized that, “The best gift for me for Mother’s Day isn’t a gift that my husband and kids can give me. They already give me what I want weekly–precious time alone, precious time together and precious gifts here and there. There isn’t anything more they can give me, tangible or intangible. Nope, the best gift for me for Mother’s Day can’t come from anyone else; it needs to come from me. And I really, really want it because I have been craving it for a while now.”

So what is it I want you ask? What do I want to give to myself?

I want to give myself the gift of taking care of me without feeling guilty.
I want to give myself the gift of enjoying a relaxing moment without feeling unproductive.

1658471_643460759036533_1866160704_oI want to give myself the gift of forgiveness, much, much more often.
I want to give myself the gift of less criticism, every, single, day (hour?!)
I want to give myself the gift of believing in myself, in my strengths, when doubt arises.

I want to give myself the gift of acceptance; I want to look in the mirror and see more beauty and less ugly, both in and out. And, I want to look in the mirror and not think of what I still need to change, but what I have already changed, no matter how small.

I want to give myself the gift of security; I want to walk down the streets and feel more comfortable in who I am, in my decisions, in my parenting and less concerned about what others think I am (or am not.)

I want to give myself the gift of confidence that with every day that passes, I am doing a little better at doing all of the above and even more so, that it is okay to be struggling with all of the above! Yes, I want to give myself the gift of confidence that even though I feel that there is room for personal improvement, that the base is still pretty awesome and acceptable!

So in other words, I want to give myself the gifts of self-love, self-appreciation, and self-confidence.

Yes, those are the gifts I want for Mother’s Day because well, because I know that I deserve them and that I have been depriving myself of them for way, waaaay too long. I have definitely improved giving myself all of the above gifts since I started The Orange Rhino Challenge, like big time. Tracking my triggers made it obnoxiously clear that when I am down on myself, I got lost in la-la land (also known as “I totally stink-stink land”) and was much more apt to snap or yell unnecessarily. So, I started talking to myself and being nicer to me and it totally helped.

But this Mother’s Day, I know that I am still depriving myself of some of the self-love, self-appreciation and self-confidence that I deserve; that we all deserve! Just to be clear, I am not out to become massively egotistical and obnoxious. I just want to become more even. You know, if you have a scale and the left is “I’m not good enough” land and the right is way-to-confident land, I want to be in the middle-ish. Having the scale weigh too much towards the “not good enough land” is not only punitive, but it also a clear contributor to the stress and occasional unhappiness in my life! And honestly I am tired of all the crap I give myself! Who needs or wants that? “Not I,” said The Orange Rhino! I want to indulge myself instead.

Ooh, I even feel guilty and obnoxious saying that! But it is true and it is OKAY to want to spoil myself with kinder words and thoughts!

Keep up the hugs kids; mommy always needs them!

Keep up the hugs kids; mommy always needs them!

So my dear husband, if you and the kids want to give me anything – please just help me find these gifts for myself by continuing to love me and believe in me, not just today, but everyday. These gifts are really the only things I need and want right now. Okay, not the only things, but some of the really important ones. I feel like (or naively believe) that even just a little of these gifts will make me a little happier which will make me a little better mom which will make me feel happier which will make me an even better mom…and so on and so forth. So don’t give me a doughnut, or a cookie, or a muffin. Give me the support and assurance that’s it is not just okay to give back to myself, but absolutely deserved.

I’m not the only one who deserves these gifts. You all deserve them. Yes, you also deserve a trip to the spa…a long one! Yes, you also deserve to sleep in and have breakfast served to you in bed. And yes, you also deserve to be slobbered in kisses and smothered in hugs. But for real, you also deserve to give yourself kindness. And not just today, Mother’s Day, but everyday. You both deserve it AND have earned it. You are a great mom. You are showing up and trying everyday to do your best…and that is what matters.

(Hey Orange Rhino, think you should print that last line up and post it everywhere in your house so you say it to yourself a thousand times a day? Yeah, I thought the answer would be, “Yes.” And if you don’t do so hot at “improving” forgive yourself and move on, okay?!)

* * * * *

Read more about how I mostly figured out how to give back to myself in order to keep yelling at bay in my book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can Too.” It’s a 30-day guide complete with 100 alternatives to yelling, simple actions to follow, and honest stories from my journey to inspire you on your own. Pre-order it here for arrival early September…just in time for back to school when the change in routine is getting to everyone and the “yells” are really wanting to be part of that routine! 

{sometimes} Noise Makes Me Want to Yell at My Kids

I often find myself laughing at the fact that I have not one, not two, not three, but four kids! It’s really quite ironic actually because I can’t stand noise, like really, really, really can’t stand it.  Now, when I talk about noise, I’m not just talking about the level of volume or the amount of it. I’m also talking about noises that are just outright annoying, whether at a low or a high volume, like the sound of a hand rummaging through a chip bag desperately searching over and over for the perfect chip or the sound of someone chewing while smacking their lips.

Yes, my tolerance for noise and noises is so incredibly (and frustratingly and embarrassingly) low. Loud noise, too much noise and just “annoying to hear” noises make my skin scrawl, make me hot and bothered, and after a decent, steady exposure make me cranky and SNAPPY.  It is a daily battle for me to not go apeshit when the noise and noises around me have finally gotten to me. And guess what? I also have super ridiculous hearing, like super, super ridiculous hearing, which means in addition to hearing the normal annoying or normal loud noises, I also hear all the quiet annoying noises that I am not supposed to hear! Ehhh! And guess what else?

Kids, well kids, they bring all sorts of noise and noises with them on a constant daily basis! And I have four of them! Can you see the irony now?! Oy!

My four boys at my favorite place with gorgeous weather and delicious ice cream so completely helped to fill me up!

My favorite noises: the sea, wind around me, and the first moment when my boys quietly eat ice cream!

The good news is that so much of kid’s noise and noises, however, are phenomenal and wonderful for the soul: a non-stop giggle from being tickled, a full on belly laugh while enjoying life, a “weeee” while on the swing, a really loud, “This is soooo awesome” exclamation, a quiet rendition of a favorite lullaby sung when thought no one else was around. And perhaps the best noise ever from my children, fully welcomed at any volume: “I love you mommy to the moon and back” or “I love you soooo much” or “You’re the bestest mommy ever!” I actively welcome, listen for and elicit this kind of “noise” and all the other sweet ones; they just make my heart absolutely melt and have the power to bring me up on a really tough day.

But these sweet noises also do more­­. The joy they bring me silently fills my “I feel calm and happy and don’t want to yell” tank. The more this tank fills, the more I build the necessary resilience for when those other noises from my kids, the ones that drive me absolutely, positively batty, start bothering me. You know, like the constant rummaging through a toy box and crashing and banging every single toy against each other in the process all in the search for one, itsy, bitsy toy that is at the absolute bottom of the box (and which by the way, when pressed makes a wonderfully obnoxious sound.)

And like the talking at a volume one would use to be heard at a rock concert.
The bickering, oh the non-stop loud bickering, especially when in the car.
The slurping of cereal at every single bite…or of popsicles.
The whining, the what seems like never ending, whining that “nothing is fair.”
The tapping of a fork on a table.
The tapping of a foot against the cabinet while at the counter.
The grinding of teeth (in my ear) during story time.
The yelling aggressively at a brother because he broke a Lego creation.
The constant humming to oneself, especially after you have been asked to stop.
The clucking of one’s tongue like a chicken, all, day, long, just because.
The sucking snot up one’s nose incessantly instead of getting a tissue.
The screaming at the “puberty so hasn’t hit” level while running around.
The screaming of all four boys at once, louder and louder, as they try to be heard. Oh, the screaming!

Yes, screaming by my boys, whether for fun or in anger, is a sound I just can’t stand­–(yells of pain, different story. I love hearing a sobbing voice yell, “Mommy! Quick, I NEED you!”) And I know I will deeply miss those yells, all of them, and all the other noises when my boys leave home and it is eerily quiet. Shoot, I might pinch my husband then or take his favorite toy just to piss him off and make him yell! But right now, when all my boys are living in my house and it is insanely and constantly loud and noisy and the annoying (but totally normal) kids noises are at an all time high, well, it is making me daily bust my arse to not yell at them!

But I used to, oh did I ever used to yell at boys when the noises I deemed “annoying” and the noise from all the yelling with each other, over each other, and at each other, eventually got under my skin.  I would yell, and sometimes really, really yell, “BE QUIET! TAKE A BREAK! ENOUGH ALREADY!!”

And for what?
Making noise? Being human?
Having fun? Enjoying life?
Doing what I role modeled for them–yell when angry? Yell to be heard?

Telling over noise and noises in my eyes, was just so wrong on so many reasons. I mean sure, it’s okay to set personal boundaries and ask people to bring it down to a normal notch. And I do that and I believe in that and there is a polite tone and volume to use. But yelling over noise? For real?

Push aside forget the fact that it’s mean and often stopped my kids from finding simple joy in life; blowing bubbles with milk is fun when first discovered! (Should it stop when requested, yes. But that’s a different story!) Push aside the fact that it’s unnecessary because when I yell over noise it’s often because of my personal struggle with noise or because I am in a grumpy, tired, impatient mood, not because of my kids’ behavior. And push aside the fact that it’s silly because let’s face it, it’s just noise, not a broken light or worse.

But look at the one reason why yelling over noise is just wrong: it’s completely counterproductive!!!  Let’s see. I hate noise, yet yelling (a) is loud and noisy,  (b) makes my boys louder so they can be heard and because I have raised the accepted volume, (c) makes my kids even noisier by eliciting even longer sobbing or new screams of “YOU’RE SO MEAN!” and (d) just increases my frustration and decreases my tolerance for noise even more. I mean really. How asinine is that I have known about my low tolerance for noise and annoying noises since I was a munchkin, and yet I used to create more of it on my own…knowingly?!

But I did. And I continued to yell and create more noise in my life (and misery) until I started tracking my triggers around what made me yell and my results literally screamed at me to start finding more tolerance for noise or kiss my one year straight without yelling goal bu-bye! So I started finding ways for ME to handle all the noise in my life because obviously I can’t make my kids be quieter all the time! Sure, I can teach them to respect people and their personal struggles, I can teach them that yelling at each other isn’t how we communicate, and I can teach them proper manners (slurping and making spitting noises are not so hot!).

But they are kids – it will take a while before they really get those lessons and can control their impulses to make them and well, I want them to keep exploring with sounds and having fun. And besides, it isn’t their responsibility to control their noises so that I don’t explode; it’s my responsibility. Like I learned early on, I can’t control my kid’s actions, but I can control mine.

Block out NoiseI’m trying really hard to control my actions lately. I don’t know why noises are super getting to me lately but they are – they are the #1 trigger I am having to manage. I guess my “I feel calm and happy and don’t want to yell” tank is on empty. I guess I need to start filling it up by tickling my kids more…and by making “quiet me time” a priority…again. And I guess I should just keep my hands on my ears all day or wear my earmuffs! (You think I am kidding…I am SO not!)

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You can read more about this particular trigger and why it is even harder to manage than I express here, as well as about other triggers (eh hem, food fights!) and how I manage them in my new Book. To pre-order, click here: 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 that includes 100 Alternatives to Yelling, Simple daily steps to follow, and Honest stories from my journey to inspire you along your own journey to yell less and love more! Also included are some of the tools I created and used, as well as space to journal and take notes. What is not included are statistics about yelling and statements that make you feel ashamed and guilty! You will both laugh (with and at me!) and cry as you read the book, but mostly you will discover that you aren’t alone in the struggle to curtail yelling and that it IS possible to change.

How to “Save” the Yells

So supposedly May 1st of every year is “National Save the Rhino Day.” I did a little Googling to see if this was indeed true, and wouldn’t you know, it is! (Which is great because it is an important cause!) The exact origin of the day is under question (lots of different opinions) but they all seem to agree on one core goal: to use the day to spread awareness about how Rhinos are greatly endangered. Which got me thinking…

What would a “National Save The ORANGE Rhino Day” be about? What would the goal be? Let’s see. First off, I have deemed Orange Rhinos to be: determined and energetic people who choose not to charge with words, but instead choose to remain calm, loving, and warm when provoked or triggered. (Gray rhinos are naturally calm animals that charge when provoked. Add the color orange which symbolizes warmth and positive energy and voila, The Orange Rhino.)

So saving Orange Rhinos would be about spreading awareness that one can become an Orange Rhino; it would be about protecting the hope so that people don’t stop (or don’t even start) to try and change their yelling behavior, but instead keep on trying to yell less and love more. It would be about keeping The Orange Rhino Community not just alive, but also growing by spreading a few key messages to help people be Orange Rhinos. The messages might read (and would obviously be surrounded by some wicked cool graphics by someone besides myself)…

Save the yells for… your closet, or any other inanimate object; they don’t have feelings, kids do!
My first few weeks of learning to not yell were tough and not just because yelling was my go to, but also because I had no real game plan on how to physically make myself not yell! One day I felt a yell coming and without thinking I turned and yelled into my closet. It was liberating! I let the yell out – just not at my kids! After a few days of yelling into my closet –  and many other inanimate objects like the kitchen cupboards, the freezer, the toilet, the car – I realized that (a) I felt ridiculous and didn’t want to keep that up and (b) that if I could control myself enough to turn and yell, I could then control myself enough to turn away, yell and let out just an “AHHH” instead of mean words. And if I could do that, I could turn and not let out anything at all! And if I could do that, well, then I would eventually not have to turn away at all, but I could control myself while still keeping eye contact with my kiddos. This was a big “aha!” and a very useful tool to help me officially start kicking yelling to the curb.
YellIntoYourCloset (2)

 

 

 

 

 

Save the yells for… when you really need them…in emergencies!
When I used to yell often, instead of actually getting my kids attention, it became harder to get my kids attention! They were just so used to the raised voice in certain situations that it was like in Charlie Brown cartoons – all my kids heard was, “wah, wah, wah!” So when I was at my most frequent yelling phase, when emergencies really hit – needing my boys to stop and not run into the street, needing the phone to call daddy urgently, needing my boys to not talk so that I could hear Grandma on the phone – well, when those moments hit and I really wanted my kids attention and so I yelled, they ignored me. Now, however, oh one the biggest and bestest benefits of not yelling is that when it is a true legitimate emergency – #2 cracking head open and needing an ambulance, #4 having a seizure and needing emergency medicines and an ambulance, a stranger at the door who started walking around the house – if I raise my voice, my kids get it. I get through. They don’t hear “wah, wah, wah,” they hear, “Mommy needs help now. I need to listen.” Just knowing that the less I yell unnecessarily means the more powerful my voice is when I really, really, really need it to helps me save those yucky yells from coming out.

Save the yells for… when you really want them…in good times!
It feels awesome to let out a big “YAHOOO!” when I get good news, when a son achieves a milestone, when we achieve something together like making the absolutely perfect paper airplane. And it feels even more awesome when I have my voice and the energy to do so because I haven’t been yelling so much that I feel so physically and emotionally beat down that I can’t let out a good ‘ole fashioned scream for joy. When I used to yell, ugh, it just made me feel so crappy at times that it was hard to see the joy right in front of me at the moment. I much prefer to keep all my loud, obnoxious yells for fun times (like when the Red Sox beat the New York Yankees, eh hem, or when my son poops in the potty instead of on the carpet…again.)

Save the yells for… when you schedule them!
All of the above said, but, let’s face it, sometimes, a primal scream is just what is needed to release the stress, the hurt, the anger, the sadness, the whatever yuck one feels. I learned that if I hold it together too long and don’t release the yuck, I will just explode vis-à-vis yelling…at my kids or my husband. So now sometimes I schedule that explosion (a tip from a fellow Orange Rhino, and I love it!) I say to my kids, “hey, lets run around the park screaming and having fun!” Needless to say they LOVE it and I do to. It’s great to not yell, and it’s great to bond and have fun with my boys…and to do something I used to love doing as a kid. It is so freeing! Added bonus – it gets my boys’ yells out of their systems before they explode and trigger me to want to yell even more!

Save the yells for a friend…someone who will really listen and respond positively.
Okay, kind of joking here, mostly not. I learned that when I yelled at my kids, they didn’t really respond in a supportive manner. They didn’t really respond how I wanted. They didn’t really get that I was yelling because I was (fill in the blank)…frustrated, overwhelmed, sad, stressed, pms’ing. Friends, friends, however do. If I call a friend and just start venting, she gets it. And she listens. And she responds. And it is a positive exchange that moves me forward, not backwards. Yelling at my boys always moved be WAY backwards and often made the situation worse.
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Save the yells for your sanity… so you feel calmer and the calmness spreads.
I readily admit that before The Orange Rhino Challenge I wouldn’t have described myself as calm, per say. But now, now I would. Okay, at least more than I would before. When I am calm, when calm oozes out of my actions and my voice, it spreads. Calmness is contagious. My kids respond infinitely better when I am calm; they listen better, they respond better, they act kinder, they are well, just calmer! Which makes me calmer, which makes their brothers calmer, which makes me calmer. Calmness spreads and keeps yells away. When I am agitated, however, well, that spreads too – but it invites yells to come and hang out for hours, if not days!  I remind myself of this nugget, of the power of calm, when I want to yell and wouldn’t you know, it helps me find calm!

Save the yells for yourself…put the anger where it belongs!
This is another kidding, mostly not poster idea. I am not talking about literally looking in the mirror and screaming at yourself. Nah. That is just cruel and would make matters worse! But I am talking about pointing the finger at yourself – and not your kids – when you know the source of your anger is something in your life and not because of the kids’ behavior. When I know “it’s not you, it’s me” is driving my desire to yell, I stop and say to myself, “Hey lady, you don’t want to yell at the kids because they won’t clean up, you want to yell because you have too much to do and are frustrated that you overfilled your plate again!” Re-directing the anger to the right spot works wonders in saving yells from happening!

And when you can’t save the yells – borrow forgiveness, borrow patience, and borrow love for yourself and save yourself from unnecessary guilt and self-ridicule. Parenting is not about perfection; it’s about progress. It’s about yelling less; it’s about saving the yells one moment, one yell at a time. And the only way to do that, the only way to keep The Orange Rhino community alive and growing, is if we all forgive ourselves, find patience with ourselves, and love ourselves when we a yell slips out. Not all yells will be saved – celebrate when they are and celebrate when you don’t quit on a hard day, but try again.

So now this post has me thinking…maybe a “National Save The Orange Rhino Day” should happen?!  (And please, please, please know that this post is by no means knocking the importance of the real day, because that too is very important!)

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I talk more in-depth about these “messages” I rely on to save myself from yelling my book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can too!” which is due out this September! You can pre-order it now though by clicking here!

Anger Happens…Yells Happen.

I can count on one hand the number of major, blow out, yelling fights my husband and I have had in our entire twelve-year relationship. That number? Two.

Our first fight was about six months in when he told me he didn’t want to go out that night but ended up going out in New York City with our friends, while I was stranded in New Jersey with no friends. That fight became even more awesome when I threw the cell phone into the empty car seat next to me and forgot to press, “end.” He heard every single nasty word that I yelled at him.  Obviously that inspired him to come hang out with me immediately and not stay out later…not!

Our second blow out fight was on the three-hour drive to my hometown to meet the Minister for our wedding. I felt like I was doing all the work for the wedding and that he just didn’t care. The discussion became quite heated and I threatened to take my ring off and throw it out the window and into the woods. He encouraged me and actually opened the window. This story makes us both laugh now, but then, not so much!

Why so few blow up fights you ask?  Well, my husband and I talk “so much” when something bothers us and we communicate our feelings “so well” when we were unhappy that we don’t need to fight because we always work on things before they got out of control. Yes, yes that is most certainly we don’t fight – we are such great communicators! Right. As if! Oh how I wish this was the truth; but it is not.

Do the dishes

Thanks for doing the dishes babe. I totally appreciate it but see that machine right next to your foot? That’s a dishwasher. Can you put the dishes in there too? Will only take a second and will make me super happy!

Sure we talk “so much” and “so well” about small things bothering us like dirty bowls in the sink (really, sweet husband, the dishwasher is right there) and socks and shoes left out (really, dear wife, the closet is a few steps away.) But the big stuff? The big stuff like “Dear husband, I wish you would acknowledge how hard I work to raise the kids because I feel unappreciated” and “Dear wife, I wish you didn’t put all your energy into the kids because I wish you would put more energy into us.” Yeah that stuff – that really hard stuff to admit and talk about because it has the high potential to hurt feelings and lead to a fight? Well, we don’t talk about these tough feelings “so much” or “so well.” In fact, we both actively avoid communicating them as much as possible because neither one of us wants to engage in a massive, uncomfortable yelling battle.

While it is “great” that we don’t fight and have only really yelled at each other twice, the fact that we don’t talk about the uncomfortable stuff and avoid it is not so great. In fact, it really is a disservice to our marriage and our family. We know this – we know that not talking about the hard stuff makes us both grow resentment and unhappiness. We know that not talking about the hard stuff makes us nastier to each other and shorter with the kids. And we know that we don’t want this dynamic any more so we have been actively trying to change it. And I think, fingers crossed, that Sunday night we might have had a breakthrough!

This what went down.

I shared something that really bothered me.
He replied in a way that he felt was really awesome.
I replied using my louder tone of voice that it was less than awesome and that it in fact really angered me.
He replied using his louder tone of voice,

“See, there you go. You get angry and change your tone anytime we talk about hard stuff which is why I don’t want to talk about these things with you.”

My response (after taking a HUGE deep breath thanks to my Orange Rhino training):
“Anger happens.”

I continued on with a more calm tone,

 “Babe, I will get angry at you. You will say things that hurt me. You will say things that anger me. And I will do the same right back at you. I might even yell. But not talking because we are afraid of anger and yelling at each other isn’t working. We can try our hardest to say things in the right way to avoid a huge, angry fight but we won’t always succeed. So yeah, anger will happen. Yells will happen. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is what we do after. What matters is that we apologize if we hurt each other’s feelings. What matters is that we don’t walk away but try to understand what ticked the other person off so much so we can try to work on it. What matters is that we forgive and move forward so that we can keep having the conversation and learn from it so that we do better next time.”

The craziest thing happened next; his anger subsided, my anger subsided and we talked “so much” and “so well” about the tough stuff. It felt fantastic and productive! It really is amazing what you can accomplish when you have a calm and civil conversation and keep anger and yelling out of it!

And it really is amazing that it took me this long to say this speech in this situation because I have been telling myself it in regards to The Orange Rhino Challenge for two years! The whole “apologize, forgive, learn about the anger to do better” is EXACTLY the lesson I learned within my first few weeks of The Orange Rhino Challenge.

Right out of the gate, I went 8ish days not yelling.
Then I yelled.
Then I apologized and accepted an apology.
Then I stopped and tried to figure out why I yelled in the first place, what drove me to get so angry so quickly, how did I keep anger at bay in the first eight days?

Luckily for me, I yelled every day for the next few days so I gathered lots of answers as to why I yelled (my hunger, my p.m.s, my lack of sleep, kids lack of listening, kids level of noise, kids lack of sleep and so on and on and on!) and how I didn’t yell. And luckily for my boys, this also meant that I figured out how to move forward more calmly and without yelling for 520 days.

Yes, I went 520 days without yelling.
And then I yelled because I was…get this…angry at my husband!
Again, anger happens. Yells happen.
But it is what happens after that matters more.

Look, even though I am The Orange Rhino, I am still human! And so is my husband for that matter! We will both have good days that make it easy to keep our anger and “yells” in check; we will both have bad days that make it near impossible to keep our anger and “yells” in check and one or the other will inevitably slip out. And when those bad days happen between us, we have to do what we did Sunday night: apologize, forgive, and learn about what drove the anger and yelling so we can move forward and continue to keep anger and yelling out of it and to well, let more love in.

And when the bad day is all on me and I slip up and let a yell out at my boys (it will happen; it has happened!) I will also do the same. I will apologize, push myself to figure out what pushed me to yell and then take that new knowledge to keep progressing forward while leaving anger behind more often and letting love in much more often.

Logo with R copy

 

 

Curious to learn more about how I discovered what pushed me to yell and how I taught myself to calm down and go from wanting to scream to talking calmly? Check out my book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can Too!” due out this September. You can pre-order it here.