114 days down, 251 to go!
You asked such a simple question and I want to give you a simple answer. But there isn’t one. I mean there is, but at the same time there isn’t. So I have done my best to say what I want to say but as it is complicated and I am sleep deprived, I am not sure I have done a good job. I’ll let you decide.
The Orange Rhino
So, now that I have gone 114 days without yelling at my kids, can I say that their behavior is better? Drumroll Please.
The answer? Yes and No.
They still kick each other, throw food, refuse to clean their rooms, yell at each other, spit and hit. Awesome. And they still don’t always listen to simple requests to do something or to stop doing something for that matter. Double awesome. Oh the list goes on and on of all the behavior that I wish would magically disappear. But it ain’t going anywhere soon. My boys are kids. No matter how great I parent, they are still going to have their moments, their days. Heck, I have my moments and my days no matter how great they behave. Let’s face it, none of us, kids or adults, are perfect (darnit)!
Was this not the answer you were hoping for? How about this then.
YES! Both in Perception and in Reality.
The REALITY is that while the not-so-desirable behavior still exists, when it does appear it lasts for a shorter amount of time. Why? Because I am no longer encouraging the behavior. Yes, I was unintentionally encouraging the behavior.
When I used to yell at my boys, it did anything but stop the behavior. It just added fuel to the fire. My yelling often made them so angry and hurt that they wouldn’t (couldn’t?) listen to me. The “annoying” behavior either continued or was just traded in for another, normally much more annoying behavior. You yelled at me for jumping on your bed? Okay, I’ll stop that and start running around your bedroom screaming instead. You yelled at me for dumping my legos on the floor? Okay, I’ll leave them there and just dump out another bucket of toys. Why did they just change one bad behavior for another? Because when I yelled, I wasn’t actively trying to stop the behavior. I was just HOPING that yelling would stop it.
And it didn’t. Sure after a while my yelling would get nasty enough stop the “bad” behavior chain reaction but only to then be replaced with a screaming fit about how mean I am and how much I hurt their feelings. So while technically the yelling stopped bad behavior, it just created a new situation to solve. A much WORSE situation.
Simply put, yelling was totally unproductive but oh so easy. It was so easy to sit back and yell; much easier than actually stopping and thinking to myself why are they acting this way? Are they mad at something? Are they hungry? Sad? Moody? What can I do to help them calm down, to engage in better behavior?
Instead of being proactive and trying to understand the behavior so that I could HELP my boys, I just thought to myself, ugh, this behavior sucks and then I yelled at them. No wonder the behavior got worse when I yelled. Not only did I make them feel crappy but I wasn’t always (never?) addressing the real problem! Remove the yelling and I am forced to be proactive (or keep letting them misbehave and make my life miserable). Hmmmm, tough call.
YES, it is MUCH much harder to stop and figure out the root of their behavior and YES it takes more time up front but the desired result of ending the bad behavior comes much faster because we actually address (and fix if possible) the REAL problem.
Why are you jumping on my bed? Oh, because you are bored? Great, let’s do a puzzle. Why did you dump your legos out? Oh, you couldn’t find the right red one? Great, let me help you find it. Why are you throwing toys? Oh, because you wish daddy was home? Great, let me give you a big hug and snuggle.
And YES sometimes I realize that the answer to why the bad behavior is oh, you are acting that way just because? Just because you too, like me, are human and sometimes have an off day? GREAT, I get it! I have those days too! And yes sometimes there is no answer and I just have to remember that my boys are JUST KIDS. Both these realizations, and understanding the root of the behavior, shorten the tantrum because it makes me more empathetic, more loving, less annoyed. And the minute I show love and compassion and not frustration, the tantrum starts to slow down.
So YES all in all their behavior is better because the less desirable behavior is shorter lived. And that is a welcomed improvement.
And by the way, even if the behavior in Reality wasn’t better I would still tell you that it is. Not just to make you not give up on the challenge (hahaha) but because I do truly PERCEIVE it to be better.
Why? Because after 114 days of working to understand my boys behavior, I am now more accepting of it. I am simply more tolerant of it, it doesn’t make my blood boil (as much) and I don’t want to scream (as much). To be clear, I don’t like the bad behavior, and I certainly DON’T condone it, but I am no longer as frustrated by it. I attribute this to the fact that not only do I understand them better, that I am more empathetic, but also because I truly am calmer. Because I am not getting myself all extra worked up when they are in a moment of sheer utterly annoying behavior and are acting out, it doesn’t feel as bad because I don’t feel as bad. Because I know that I am capable of working with them to settle down. Because I know that yelling doesn’t work. Because I know that loving them more does.