Changing our Family Tree

255 days without yelling, 110 days of loving more to go!

Dear Leaves,

I love you because I love watching you change to brilliant colors, I love racing to catch you falling from the sky, I love kicking you up in the air and giggling as you fall on me. Yes leaves, I love you and I love the fall. You make me feel like a kid all over. But more so, you make me STOP and enjoy the moment. Well this guest post by Jessica, also about a tree (albeit a different one) had a similar impact. It made me STOP and think about what I am teaching my kids. It made me stop and enjoy the moment – because it really was a quite thoughtful post. So thanks to both of you!

The Orange Rhino

To all readers, enjoy. And remember, share some love with our guest blogger. It takes courage to share!


Changing our Family Tree by Jessica Smith

Oftentimes as parents we overhear our kids in their conversations and play and think to ourselves, “Ah, how cute.  They sound just like me.”  The other day that happened, but my response was not, “How cute”, but “Crap!  Rebecca sounds just like me.”

It started because she was irritated with her brother and sister.  She is 8 to their 4 and 2.  Most of the time they all get along, but as she gets older and they get into her things more and more her tolerance level for them has decreased.

Her books are HER books.  Her toys are HER toys.  Her hair accessories are HER hair accessories.  There is no room for sharing because she doesn’t want the younger two to break her older girl things.  Which I get, she is older and owns things that the smaller two just aren’t ready for.  What I don’t like is how she talks to them about it.

So the other day, I heard her with her teeth grinding together mutter, “Don’t touch my stuff.”  She said it as calm as possible but with as much malice as her 8 year old self could muster.  She was angry but trying not to sound angry.  Just. Like. Me.

I don’t mind when the kids emulate my good habits.  But when I hear them doing something that I don’t like about myself I cringe.  I feel terrible and guilty that I have been teaching them the wrong way to act.  That is when I realize how important it is for me to continue changing how I interact with the kids.

I have been in the process of becoming a less angry and therefore a less yelling parent over the past 3 ½ years.  I went into therapy because I didn’t like how I was handling my young kids.  I found myself really angry and short with them constantly and scaring them sometimes with my anger.  So I have worked through the things that trigger that anger and I have learned how to handle myself when I do find anger bubbling to the surface.

I know it is unrealistic for me to never yell ( agreed!), and I applaud the Orange Rhino for her efforts in NEVER yelling.  But I don’t need to make myself feel any guiltier than I already do for my parenting failures (agreed!), so when I find myself yelling I apologize.  Always.   Everytime.  Without fail.  Even if the kids deserved to be yelled at, I still apologize.  I am trying to separate my anger from their behavior.  I want them to see that while it is not OK to yell, if you do, there is always the grace to do better.

That is how I get through these challenging parenting years.  I know I am going to yell.  I know I am going to feel guilty for yelling, and I know how my yelling affects the kids.  Through my changes to my personal life, the kids are in turn learning how to handle that anger instead of bottling it up inside and then having it explode when they can’t keep it in any longer.  This is something I couldn’t do when I became a parent.

So, after the incident with Rebecca, my first response was to yell at her.  I stopped myself, called her over and asked what she was feeling and how she thought she could have handled it differently.  I got the typical responses like, “They shouldn’t touch my stuff.”  But it was a good opportunity to discuss what we CAN do when we are frustrated and what to do when we yell instead of working through the problem.

Things are changing in our house.  For every bad trait I hear replayed by my kids I will hear awesome ones like, “I am sorry for yelling (or hitting, scratching, etc.)  These will often come unprovoked by me and that makes me feel like the work I have been doing for myself is trickling down and changing our family tree.

I encourage all of you parents out there who feel guilty about the yelling to just start showing your kids how grace works.  That we mess up as parents, but we can always ask for forgiveness and understanding.  Then just take a step back and see how that seed grows in your kids’ lives.

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3 thoughts on “Changing our Family Tree

  1. Great post, Jessica. We are working on that same thing in our house. With 2 boys 5 1/2 yrs and 3 yrs, some days are easier than others. But we notice the same thing…if we yell, they yell. They don’t know any better. What we have started doing is apologizing for the yelling, showing them that we were wrong to yell and are working REALLY hard to teach better anger/frustration coping mechanisms to our oldest.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Yes, teaching better anger/frustration coping mechanisms is huge and so hard but oh so important! Thanks for reading Anne and for writing Jessica!

  2. Having just found this amazing blog called The Orange Rhino, I have started from your first post and I’m reading each one (it’s only taken me 2 days!) and find myself nodding my head furiously in agreement with so much of what you are sharing …. the excuses, the triggers…. everything. This post really speaks to me as I begin this challenge of not yelling at my four boys …. I came from a family of yelling, and hitting … so I am working hard to break this cycle with my own children. The biggest difference for me is being able to apologize when I mess up, which my father never, ever did …. I always thought it was my fault that he yelled and hit us …. and I want my children to know that it’s not okay to yell, but we are all human and make mistakes and need to “fix it” when we mess up.
    Thank you for having the courage to start this blog, helping so many of us deal with our own “stuff” — we are not alone in this!

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