Through Clenched Teeth.

Day 3 of my “Staycation”, day 419 of my “Yellcation”

Dear Orange Rhinos,

In my absence this week, I am fortunate to have several guest posts from fellow Orange Rhinos. Each post is beautifully honest and beautifully inspiring and very relatable. Very. I have yelled through clenched teeth in the past. I have wondered if my kids were as miserable as I. And I have most certainly felt that I have failed at a parent. Read this wonderful guest post tonight by Dana S. and know that you are not alone.

Best and Thank You Dana for having the courage to share,
The Orange Rhino


It was my husband’s birthday weekend and his wish was to spend Saturday at the track so I was home with the kiddos. The last several weeks had seen bad weather and more bad weather, creating an atmosphere of cabin fever that would drive Daniel Boone to the Fontainebleau.  Tempers had therefore been short and fuses had been growing shorter by the minute so we decided to surprise Daddy and take him lunch at the track.

I had been yelling at the kids since 7am and already had a headache, just from being angry.

Our good-deed-outing unfortunately deteriorated and only served to create more havoc. Once we arrived at the track, I was in such a bad mood that despite the fact that the kids behaved fairly well there was just no snapping me out of it. I strapped the kids into the stroller and rolled out the front door toward the parking lot.  As soon as I got out the door, I heard yelling, cussing and crying.  I looked up to find a young dad beating his little boy’s butt while his young son cried for him to stop and his dad continued to hit him while chastising him because the little boy apparently laughed out of turn.  He then stopped and almost threw him into his car seat while mom sat in the front seat silently and another sibling also sat silently in the back seat.  Dad looked up at me coming out the front door pushing my two young kids and I don’t believe he could have cared less that I witnessed his downright brutal punishment of that 5ish year old boy.

I pushed my stroller across the parking lot to my SUV in silent shock. As I fished out my keys, both my kids began to jump out of the stroller in a busy parking lot—an obvious no-no.  All the emotions and chaos of the day boiled over in me and before they completely cleared the stroller, I bent down and got in both their faces.

I began yelling through clenched teeth for them to get back into the stroller immediately—yes, safety first, I know—but it didn’t stop there.  All my frustrations rolled out as I yelled, my teeth remaining clenched, red in the face, standing between the cars out in that busy parking lot. 

And you know I was waving my finger in the air.  Finally I had said my piece and stood up, just in time to make eye contact with a couple in their mid-fifties who had emerged from their car and had watched me deliver the conclusion of my yell-fest.  There was no way they could hear what I said, but we all know that body language often speaks louder than words.  The realization of an audience made my heart stop and I swear I felt the blood drain out of my face.  They kept moving and probably had never even noticed me there, but the damage was done.  The kids fell asleep on the car ride home and I used the drive to reconsider myself as a parent: comparing myself to the dad who appeared so angry at his son for laughing, realizing I hadn’t enjoyed my kids for 5 full minutes that day nor laughed with them, and realized how miserable it made me feel—and I had tears rolling down my face when the realization dawned on me that my kids could potentially be as miserable with me.

Something had to change.

I came home and put my sleeping beauties to bed and fired up the laptop.  I started on Pinterest and low and behold, someone had pinned a rather innocuous description: “Don’t yell at your kids for 365 days”. I spent the rest of naptime combing the entire Orange Rhino site from front to back and top to bottom.  Hubby got home from the track and I went right back to T.O.R. site.  Not only was the premise exactly what I needed after my failed parenting day but the author was Real. Normal. Relatable. And there were other real, normal, relatable parents on the site and on Facebook who were doing this.  If they could do this, so could I.

I started the very next day.  The first day, I found it remarkably easy to “behave” myself and keep an even keel by having a goal, a purpose if you will: not to yell.  The second day wasn’t as easy, although I remained a success.  I had to make an effort to think before I spoke so that I wouldn’t lose control of my emotions nor my volume.  The next couple days, admittedly I stayed around Level 4 but I counted it a success because I kept The Orange Rhino Challenge in the forefront of my mind and continued to think before I spoke and didn’t yell. And I saw a change in my household.

My kids were calmer; they listened better; they were somewhat…slightly…a little bit quieter.  My husband had seen me on T.O.R. site every night and finally researched it himself, and even though he had never been a yeller, he also began to make a conscious effort to control his tone and began reminding me of The Orange Rhino Challenge if either of us began to get frustrated with a kid.

That’s not to say it’s been smooth sailing the entire way.  We’ve had to restart the challenge quite a few times.  I yelled and when I did, I gasped and realized what I had done, saw the look of shock on my kid’s face because she knew Mama had been making an effort, and immediately felt like crap about myself.  I’m always transported back to the parking lot that day when that dad was beating his little boy’s butt and cussing him out for laughing.

I have struggled—struggled—with this challenge, and I realize our family has unique circumstances that classify us as uber stressed, but that’s all the more reason to work even harder to make this challenge a success.  I am writing this at 10pm on March 27 and I yelled at my kids approximately 3 hours ago.  I am going to take the next 3 days to regroup, reread The Orange Rhino website and print some resources and reminders, and begin a new challenge on April 1. My husband and I are going to begin this new challenge together and take it one week at a time.  I’ve signed up to be a part of the next 30 Day Challenge so I hope that by then I’ll have my methods figured out and at least several consecutive, successful weeks under my belt. As The Orange Rhino herself has said, just the fact that you’re making an effort to do something is to be celebrated!

Note: These thoughts are all Dana’s. I didn’t not ask her to say anything specific about me or The Challenge! And today is your day Dana. April 1st: it’s no joke…I believe you can do this!

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22 thoughts on “Through Clenched Teeth.

  1. Your post hits home, I think we all have those days and the difference you make is you are going to do better. The worst parenting mistake I can think of is to never change and your kids are going to benefit from your willingness to change. Good luck with the challenge and know we are all here to support you!

  2. Oh, Dana! Those parking lot moments are the worst! I’m sure it was painful for you to tell this story, but I am so glad you did. Many of us have felt this anger and the shame that follows. Thank you for letting us know we are not alone. Best of luck to you on the new challenge. You can do it!

    • Thank you Dianne! This began as an email to TOR to sign up for the 30 Day Challenge and explain what brought me to her site. And despite my original thought of, “What the …?” when she asked me to share, I immediately took to developing my post by calling on the fact that if SHE hadn’t had the courage to share (and continue to share) her honest thoughts and feelings, then none of us would be here!

  3. I hope your first day went well but even if it didn’t, know that just wanting to make a change makes you better than that man in the parking lot. I know too well that terrible feeling of guilt after yelling at my kids. Today was supposed to be a fun morning; My Kindergartner didn’t have school and I didn’t work until noon so we should have had a fun morning before work/daycare between me, him and my 2 year old. Nothing major happened but there was a lot of mean tone being thrown around and tears because of it. On the scale of yelling I’d say it was a 5. Not shouting but a mean snap none the less. (No ‘ooopsie’ snap here- I didn’t stop with just one). The little one cried and wiggled when we were supposed to get in the car to leave; he obviously just wanted to stay at home with mama and I got mad and forcibly held him in while I buckled the seat. No physical hurt to him but I’m sure he hated me for doing it. Got home just at bedtime tonight and of course he wanted Daddy to put him to bed. Daddy wanted a break after running after them all night and I just wanted to snuggle with him but he screamed until Daddy took him to bed. More and more lately he wants Daddy. Might be just a coincidence but I’m not so sure. I’ve always been a ‘snapper’ at my kids but usually at the older one. The 2 year old is just now starting to be very independent/assertive and stubborn so I am more and more impatient with him than I ever was before. Was hoping I’d have this problem ‘fixed’ by now to spare him any of my madness but at least I’m trying.


    • Goodness me I have a stubborn, assertive/independant almost 2 year old that gets to me also. It is so hard at this age and I am proud of you for trying. I also have my kids telling me they want daddy or daddy is more fun and it is frustrating. Hang in there.

    • Oh A I am SO in your same boat. I, too, am a working mom and have wanted nothing more than to enjoy my time off with my girls only to have it blow up in my face. And then drum my fingers on the steering wheel all the way home in anticipation of snuggling up with my lovies only to be shut down by incessant screams of “No! Daddy! I want Daddy!” *sigh* And as much as it kills me, I just hike up those bootstraps, give the kids a big ole bear hug and a sloppy wet kiss while they struggle, and vow to do us all justice the next day after we’ve all rested off the day and recharged our batteries. You could be describing my girls as if you knew them personally, but you hit the nail on the head: “I’m trying”. We’re trying. We can do this!! Good luck to YOU!

  4. Oh chemfree mom! You sound like you love your son very much and you also sound very overwhelmed. Sweet mama, your son wasn’t “sexually molested,” he was SEXUALLY MOLESTED! Yes, even if it was by another child, it counts. You need to contact his pediatrician ASAP and get the names of some therapists in your area and take him ASAP! You can also ask about what you should do about the little boy who molested your son. I am so sorry this happened, and this is very, very serious. Now, more than ever, your son needs a deep connection with you. Aha is an excellent place to look for ways to grow that connection and get support. But please, PLEASE call your pediatrician first thing tomorrow and get guidance in helping your son. You can do this! Sending love and hugs to you!!!

    • I know he was sexually molested, having been a victim myself as a child. However, I put it in quotation marks because I don’t want to label the other child as a sexual predator, since he’s about my son’s age and is probably acting out something done to him. I already did some research and found out the boy’s stepfather’s name (who was there with him at BK that day), and I plan on contacting Child Protective Services, because I feel that what the boy did to my son was more than just the natural curiosity of a child. This boy learned this behavior from some adult. I haven’t contacted them yet, because I want to talk to a therapist first about what I should say to my son about it. I want to make sure my son will not be further harmed by CPS questioning him, assuming they might. When he told me last week exactly what happened with the boy, he seemed pretty unphased by it, except maybe a little hesitant, thinking I might get mad at HIM for it. I just told him it wasn’t his fault, and thanked him for telling me. I told him he has to always tell me things so that I can protect him. I haven’t mentioned it much since then because I’m trying to repair our connection and get him to trust me again, and then I was going to tell him that I need to report what happened so that that little boy doesn’t get hurt any more. I’m just taking the whole thing slowly, because I don’t want to do more damage. Believe me, it’s heart-wrenching for me to know that something that effected me and my life so much and still does, has now happened to him. I have been SO careful to not let it happen to him. I never ever left him alone with a man, no matter how well I know him, and only rarely left him with female friends. I know women abuse too, but the majority of sexual predators are men, so I just would never take that chance. It’s what kept me from getting him a Big Brother. And, I did nothing but sob (not in front of him) when I found out it happened to him anyway. Thanks for your support….Kelly

  5. Wow, Dana. This site is always making me cry. Maybe that’s what I need. I had another rough afternoon. My poor 6-year-old son had to sit around most of today while I helped moved on of my elderly clients/friends into her new retirement home. She’s 86. She was very stressed and sad about leaving her home. I felt sad about it too, since I’ve been visiting her and hanging out at her home for 5 years. I was also trying to have conversation with her and help her pack and unpack and my son was terribly bored. I brought his backpack full of worksheets for school (I homeschool), and even his Leapster Explorer as a last resort. But, it seemed all he really wanted was my attention and I couldn’t really give it to him. So, when we came home, he wanted to play Go Fish and we started to, but he was over tired and maybe had too much pent up energy, but he was throwing the cards and being a wise ass in general. I threatened several times to stop playing, and finally I did. It got worse from there. He decided he wanted to play outside and I let him, but he was playing with a long rebar pipe that I told him yesterday not to play with, and waving it around my window. So, I told him to put it away or he’d have to come in. He wouldn’t, so I told him he had to come in. Then he threw a small rock at me, something he’s never done before. I was angry and told him to come in and put him in his room for a time out. Then during the time out, he was kicking the door. I told him if he didn’t stop, I’d spank him and he didn’t stop and I spanked him one time. Then he started again with the “you hate me”‘s. When he came out, I tried to be nice and tell him I did not hate him and ask him why he’s saying that, and what does he need from me, and it seems in hindsight that the more I tried to talk to him, the angrier he got. He had a total meltdown, screaming and kicking me and hitting me and saying he wants me to kill him and when I’d ask why, he’s say “because you hate me.” When I told him I didn’t hate him, and asked what is it you want right now, he’d say I want you to love me, but you hate me. This meltdown went on for like an hour. The only way I got it to stop was to put the t.v. on. Then, when I put him to bed, he was calmer, but still saying I hated him. It’s been a nightmare night. I rubbed his back for longer than usual, maybe 10 minutes, and as I was leaving, he said “I guess I could feel your love a little.” I don’t know what is going on with him, but I’m worried about him. About a month ago, I took him to Burger King to play in the play area after his last basketball game. Another kid from the other team was there, and that boy sexually “molested” him up in the play structure. I had an idea that something went on later that day when I questioned him, but since then, he peed the bed 3 times, while wide awake. Having a mental health background, I know that’s something kids revert to when they’ve been sexually abused, so I questioned him again the other night about the BK incident, and found out the molestation went much further than I originally thought. I don’t know if this is effecting his behavior or what. I also took him out of kindergarten just after that, because I didn’t like the school (they were a VERY strict religious school, and actually told me “we tear down their self-esteem and build it back up again,” which was a big red flag for me.) I know he misses his friends, and maybe that’s part of what he’s going through too. I’m going to contact some old colleagues from back in NY, where I’m from, to see if they can talk to him via Skype for a few sessions to see if they can get something out of him that I can’t. This is exhausting and upsetting. I’m 49, and a single mother. I keep thinking this should be easier and I must be the worst parent in the world to have these problems, but reading this blog helps me realize that other people have a hard time too.

    • I think his behavior is most certainly a result of being sexually molested. I suggest reading Wonderful articles on this type of behavior and how punishing/time outs actually push them away and make them feel worse/behave worse when what they need is your total connection. Also do please tell h is doctor aobut the molestation. Reach out for professional help here. He deserves it! Good luck to you!

      • Thanks Alene. You know I’m reading a book (when time permits) called Hold Onto Your Children, and it says the same thing about timeouts pushing your child away. But, he was totally unglued yesterday, and I didn’t know what to do. He was kicking me and throwing things at me and saying he wants me to kill him. I tried to hug him and talk to him, and even to let him be but sit by him, but I was afraid he’d hurt me or himself. I called my old colleague from NY this morning about him possibly seeing my son as a patient via Skypes, but haven’t heard back from him yet. Do you have to pay for everything on this Hand in Hand Parenting site? Kelly

    • Hi there. I am sorry that you and your son are going through such a struggle right now. I am especially sorry to hear about the Burger King incident, that is beyond dreadful, there are no words that I can say to make the pain from that go away for either of you. What I can share is this and I do hope it helps a little. One my boys has had a tough year. He has thrown things at me, told me he hated me, told me I didn’t love him, told me he wanted to hurt himself. It is incredibly hard to watch and experience. What I learned is this – for my son (and each situation is different) he is doing this out of anger at me (resentment that my time is split between 4 kids), out of anger that he is now at school more than he was, out of frustration that he has so many emotions and doesn’t know how to manage them and because one kid was picking on him at school for his speech. When my son acts like this it is his call to help to me to love him no matter what. IT IS HARD especially when he tries to hurt me. I give him space as needed when it is safe for him to be alone and other times I grab him, hold him like a baby, and rock him. I let him feel my love and that I am a safe place. Sometimes we even cry together and we talk. Ironically this is all started around the time of TOR blog and that was a good thing. Because I learned very quickly that yelling at him and punishing him only made matters worst. My son needed me to be re-assuring. Again, IT IS HARD and I imagine under your circumstances hard is an understatement. I will be thinking of you and hoping that your love for your son will help him come to a better place soon. I know it has helped us – my being calmer. But as you will see in a post later this week, we still have our moments. I hope he gets the help he might need to move forward. Hang in there, many people are thinking of you both.

      • Thank you so much. It helps to know that there are people out there who know what we’re going through. I feel we’ve been alone for so long. Today was a little better. I decided that even though elderly client/friend needs me right now as she’s having to give up her home and move into a retirement apartment, my son needs me more. So, I stayed home and did some math worksheets with him on the couch, and played a math game with him. Now he’s napping. I know intuitively that he needs me even when he pushes me away, but I don’t know how to be there for him when he’s hitting and throwing things at me. When I try to hold him, he freaks out and fights me and screams. I’m trying, and hoping I find someone (a therapist) to talk to him soon. Thanks for your support. Kelly

    • I’m so sorry that you and your son are experiencing such a difficult, confusing time. I truly pray that you’ve gotten the support you both need and things are on an upswing in the 4 weeks since you posted. I commend you on your grace and patience and I could only hope I’d be able to handle myself in the same manner. However, I am certainly grateful you’ve found your way to The Orange Rhino, as I know without a shadow of a doubt that this website has given me countless tools to deal with emotions and situations that would otherwise leave me adrift. You’re in my thoughts Chemfreemom!

      • Thanks for your support Dana. I wrote that post like 2 weeks ago, am I posting correctly? I thought no one was replying to my posts because I was so “over the top” or something. lol

  6. Way to go Dana! You CAN do it!!!! It takes a lot of courage to share your story and to admit you need help to make changes in your life. That’s where it starts. One of the reasons I love this blog so much is the realness and honesty shared here, all with the intent of making the lives of children better. Regardless of whether it is yelling less or paying more attention to our children or working on any other area we as parents need to improve on, finding support and encouragement here and with other parents is key to realizing you are not alone. I celebrate the road you’ve set out on Dana! I’m cheering for you and all the other parents here!

  7. This post proves it for me. I’m not the only person in the world that yells at my kids or my spouse and tears herself up for it….Thank you Dana. Great work, great post, great goals.

  8. I think you are a great mom for just trying! I am proud of you and can totally relate! Good Luck! I am going to join the challenge too!

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