I didn’t yell, but I might as well have.

194 days without yelling, 171 days of loving more to go!

Dear #2,

I love you so. Oh how I love you.I love your snuggles, your kisses, your laughter. I love the stories you tell with such gusto, I love the excuses you give with such conviction. I love the zest you have for life, the carefree attitude you embrace. It’s great that you can be so relaxed, but sometimes, oh sometimes how I wish you cared a little more about consequences. Like last week for example. Remember dear child of mine when you threw sand on someone three times despite timeouts and chats with me? Remember how that led to your friend not wanting to play with you and mommy subsequently becoming embarrassed by your behavior, frustrated by your behavior and therefore primed for losing it? Remember how it ended?  Yeah, those consequences weren’t so pretty were they? I can’t say it enough. I’m sorry. I do love you, you know that right?
BIG hugs and kisses,
Mommy Orange Rhino


I did something not nice.

Like, really not nice.

Like, not nice in a way that has me thinking I need to change the rules to The Orange Rhino Challenge (at least for me).

After my 4 year old son threw sand on friends for the third time, I said:

“This is why you don’t have any friends.”

Ah, cringe. This happened a week ago and I still cringe ALL OVER.

I didn’t yell it. I didn’t even use a firm, loud voice. I used a matter of fact voice. And perhaps, that made it even worse. Because it came out not sounding frustrated or angry. It didn’t come out sounding like I just lost it for a moment, like it was an accident.

It came out sounding calculated. Intentional.

It was supposed to come out intentional and helpful, as in teaching a lesson, pointing out the facts.

But instead it came out HURTFUL.

One look at my son’s beautiful eyes that now looked lost and glazed over and I knew that I had hurt his feelings. I knew that what I had said had gone deep, that it had hit home in a way a 4 year old shouldn’t ever feel. As my words really sunk in, my son stopped dead in his tracks, his sad eyes locked on my face with a look of scared anticipation of what is she going to say next? What is she going to do next?, and then he burst into tears and ran away telling me I wasn’t nice. That he didn’t love me anymore. That I was a mean mommy.

And he was right.

I wasn’t an Orange Rhino mommy at that point, not by my standards. I know my rules are set up to be about how loud one’s voice is, about what tone it takes. That nice tones and quiet tones are the goal. But in this situation, I met both of the goals and yet the words I spoke were still MEAN and LOUD, perhaps even more so than if I had yelled at him to just STOP. When setting up the Orange Rhino Challenge rules I missed a big point:

It isn’t just the tone and the volume I use when I speak that matters, it is also THE WORDS that matter.

At the end of the day, my words, even if quiet and calm, hurt my son. I could have sung them, whispered them, said them in another language, or said them while standing upside down on my head and they still would have hurt my son’s feelings.  At the end of the day, even if my words followed “my rules” because I remained quiet, they still had the same impact as yelling: they took a hit at my son’s self confidence, they took a hit at his trust in me.

I could sit here and write that yes, what I said was warranted; that it was okay, that he deserved it. I could sit here and write that yes, he needed to learn a lesson, that he needed to learn the connection between his behavior and why people don’t want to play with him. But an even more important truth is that YES I could have made my point in a more gentle way. A more constructive way. A more loving way.

His behavior might be the source of my frustration, the source of my action, but at this moment, his behavior isn’t in question, mine is. Because I AM THE PARENT. I am the one responsible for helping and teaching my son in a loving manner!

Instead, at this moment, I criticized him. I pointed out his lack of friends to him, something I know he is struggling with and sad about, and threw it in his face.

I mean really, how old am I … 4?

Sure, I didn’t yell, but does that make it right?

NO it doesn’t. Because in this case, I loved my son LESS not more and this Challenge is about loving more. And in this case, I didn’t even come close.

So while I could be proud that I didn’t yell, I feel anything but proud.

I feel disappointed in myself.

I feel frustrated with myself.

I feel ashamed of myself.

And I feel sad for my son. Not just because I know he isn’t a malicious child, because I know he just wants to be included and is struggling to figure out how to make friends, but because I can’t take back the words I said. I can’t take back that moment.

So I am going to take back the day. 4 days actually.

That’s right, I am knocking 4 days off my “no yelling” counter as a reminder of the age I acted and the 4 years I have loved my son.  I am taking 4 days off to remind myself why I started the Orange Rhino Challenge in the first place: to become a more warm and composed mother who doesn’t scare or hurt her children’s feelings. Period.

I am taking days off to remind myself to work a little harder at this challenge, to remind myself that just because I have stopped yelling doesn’t mean I can start saying mean things in a quiet voice. Because really, that is just as bad.

P.S. I know some of you will say I am being too hard on myself by knocking days off since I didn’t technically break the rules. Perhaps I am. I just felt in my heart I needed a small “consequence” to teach me a lesson, to remind me that words can hurt even if not yelled. 

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3 thoughts on “I didn’t yell, but I might as well have.

  1. Try not to beat yourself up about it too much. We’ve all said things we totally regretted right after the words came out. He will forgive you. You just make sure you forgive yourself.

  2. I relate to what you are saying. Today my 4 yo and 2yo and I were walking and he started crying for a multitude of reasons, too hot, thirsty, tired you name it. My response, not yelling but telling him I was going to send him to his room when we got back, for crying. Not my proudest mommy moment. I recognize I was frustrated because we had only walked a block when all this started. When we got back and I had cooled off (temper wise 🙂 we talked. I felt better and he did to. Because I don’t want him to think it is wrong to cry when he is upset. Don’t beat yourself up too much. USe these opportunities to teach him and yourself that grace is needed sometimes. You are doing a great job, because you want to change. That is the best we can do for our kids is always strive to be a better parent than we were yesterday, admit our wrongs and move on.

  3. A small consequence is fine… As the challenge progresses and we yell less of our children, it gives us more time to work with the other not so nice things, as you so eloquently describe in your post.
    I would do the same as you. I know that I will do the same as you, the day I stand in the situation.

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