Tracking my Triggers

260 days without yelling, 105 days of loving more to go!

Dear Hurricane Sandy,

Please blow over, no pun intended. I’ve been tracking you for days so that I can know what kind of problems you’ll bring, when to expect your wrath and what I need in order to handle the situation properly, or at least the best that I am able. All this tracking got me thinking back to the first days of this challenge when all I did was track. So while I know you are going to be a pain in my a*s the next few days I do thank you for inspiring tonight’s post and getting me to finally write it as it has been an idea lurking in my mind for months.

The Orange Rhino


The similarities to tracking a hurricane and tracking my triggers for yelling are pretty remarkable. I would track, track, track my triggers so that I could be prepared for my own storm path; so that I could know what problems would cause me to yell, when precisely I would yell, and what I needed to have in the future to be ready, mentally, in order to prevent major “storm” damage. Guess what? All the tracking? It really helped me prepare.

Yes, storms brewed in the early days. OH DID THEY EVER. I think I texted my friends five to seven times a day saying “I’m gonna lose it” and they would write back “No!! Don’t do it! You can hold it together!” But after a few days writing down all the times I yelled or wanted to yell, I saw patterns. I saw that I yelled at the same times of day. I saw that I yelled whenever I felt rushed. I saw that I yelled whenever I had my blackberry in hand, if I had just had a disagreement with my husband.

Were the findings discouraging? YES. Because there were a lot of areas of improvement and because there were a lot of findings that I never would have guessed, like how much a simple conversation about “weekend plans” with my hubby could put me in such a mood that I would yell at any child for no reason.

But just knowing the triggers, knowing that there were easy things I could now fix and yell less, like putting out snacks the night before, and knowing that there were things that I could personally CHANGE about me, well, you know what they say. Knowledge is power. This knowledge brought me clarity. It brought me a path. I don’t the technical, PhD. Study, formal rationale for why knowing a problem and labeling it makes it easier, but in this case, it did.

As I tracked more I found myself yelling less and texting my friends for support less.

Maybe it was as simple as seeing all the times I yelled on paper? Maybe that just was so ugly it really scared me and motivated me? (I know that works for me with weight loss – if I track what I eat for a week. WHOA NELLY. Suddenly I realize how bad I was and I get back on track.)

I don’t entirely know the answer for why tracking is such a powerful tool. Again, I am not a professional. I am just a mom trying to figure it all out. I don’t why tracking worked, but it did. It worked wonders – just like tracking and preparing for a Hurricane. I now know the storm is hitting tonight and I am prepared, as well as I can be. I have alcohol for after the long days (haha), I have caffeine for the long days (haha), I have canned goods, flashlights, water and more. I tracked, I got informed, and I am prepared. This storm will not take me by surprise and I am ready.

So tonight, in honor of Hurricane Sandy, I share with you my best attempt at a “professional” Trigger Tracking sheet. It is pretty close to what I wrote down and how I handle the information. I am a dork. These attachments will make that clear. But they helped me. They were integral to my figuring out how to stop yelling. Because once I looked at the “data” and could figure out a plan, I attacked each trigger one by one. And as I yelled less, I felt better. So I attacked 2 new triggers. And mastered those. And it just grew and grew and grew.

DOWNLOAD these two sheets below to see how I tracked my triggers and got on the path of not yelling!

Trigger Tracking Sheet Example (this is my best replica of what I wrote down in the beginning)

Trigger Tracking Sheet (a blank version if you want to print and try tracking yourself!)

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25 thoughts on “Tracking my Triggers

  1. I have a question, the answer might already be in your blog somewhere but I just found you tonight. I am so committed to changing. I’m going to really work on this. I noticed my 7 year old sounding so nasty just like me to my 3 year old. Do you think that will change if I change? Is it too late? Please tell me your experience, I’m so sad that I influenced him like this. I need this to stop, I don’t want this in my home anymore, it’s toxic. Thank you so much for your honesty in this area. I don’t feel so alone anymore. Like I can actually do this.

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am a full-time teacher, part-time photographer, wife (of a truck driver who is gone A LOT), and mother of 3 (ages 9, 7, & 3). To say my life is stressful is like saying Mt. Everest is a hill. I feel like I am ready to explode ALL. THE. TIME! Unfortunately, my kids bear the brunt of the recoil from all this stress. I have spent a lot of time trying to “fix” everything that doesn’t “go right” when I should be letting go of a lot more. My kids are little and I know they don’t stay that way long. I want, no, I NEED to spend more time loving and less time yelling. I can’t wait to share this with EVERYONE I know…starting with my kids. Please pray for me, this isn’t going to be easy.

  3. THANK YOU!!! i prayed this morning and cried out to God about how much I did not want to yell at my children and did not want to be a mother who yelled. When I got to work this morning, I saw the Orange Rhino shared on facebook. Trigger Tracker has been printed and I have a 30 day goal (which will become 2, then 6 and finally 12 months conquered) I cannot wait to start, so far so good!!

  4. Thanks so much. I thought I was the only mom that yelled at her kids for every little thing. I realize when I don’t get enough sleep I yell more. Today was a very bad day for me. I love my boys so much and I don’t want to yell at them anymore. I am going to start this.

  5. Right , that’s it I’m giving it ago, no more yelling and no more sleepless nights worrying about being the worst parent in the world. This is it. My goal is set 1 month to start. Thanks for giving methe tools to try :0)

  6. Thank you, thank you for your website/blog! I am starting tomorrow too! I love my boys but have been yelling when they playfight which seems to be all the time and feel so guilty. I no longer feel alone but encouraged to do better for them and myself. Thank you

  7. Thank you so much for writing this blog and being so honest about what was happening. The more I parent, the more I realize I am learning more from the Mom’s experiences who actually parent every day all day long, than any advice from therapists . . . I am going to take the challenge of not yelling. . . I don’t usually yell, and have noticed that within the past six months I’ve begun to yell a lot, I resort to it quickly. I’m not even sure why, I’m a very calm, mellow person, and just reading your trigger list – is so helpful. I just realized that I have many of the same triggers as you. I yell , when I feel rushed, or I feel like “they” won’t get their clothes on and that is making us late. I yell when they agreed to something and then just won’t do it… I think I expect adult behavior out of these tiny creatures. I’m afraid that if I keep getting angry enough to yell – (which takes a lot for me – I didn’t even yell, when My son threw flour all over his bedroom and said he “made it snow nine inches in his room”) it is going to affect my heart health. And my kids don’t understand what I’m saying when I yell….. It seems simple, but its actually a complex problem. So thank you for posting this – I’m going to attempt it… So – I’m saying today… No more yelling – wish me luck!

  8. I can’t believe this site actually exist, I am so going to start it as of tomorrow and with the grace of God it’s going to work… prayers have been answered… I was at my wits end… I feel like the worst mum every night before going to bed…

    Thank you! You arena God sent!

  9. Not enough sleep makes me irritable. Messy house and interference while cleaning. When my intended quite time is not quiet 🙁

  10. Thank you for creating this site it’s wonderful idea. I have a 3 year old who I love dearly but sometimes she’s just… well you know, 3…. Haha. I know there’s different levels of difficulty. I only have 1 I can’t imagine 4. God bless you! Lol! So I admit I yell. I’m not proud. Realizing I’m not alone feels comforting. This gives me hope and I really need to do this not just for my daughter but also for me. I want her to see a happy mommy and I want to learn how to deal with the negative feelings and in turn she’ll also learn how to deal with her negative feelings. It’s funny we think we’re the ones teaching them but what we sometimes fail to realize is they’re teaching us how to become better as well. They make us want to be better.

  11. I cannot thank you enough. This is where I fail as a parent. I have struggled with this for ever and now… am going to grow out of this harsh, painful, unreasonable punishment I serve to my son. I have printed out the paper and will get to work! This is awesome and you are too! Best wishes to you and your ever helpful insights-
    Jill Smith

  12. One of my triggers is the morning and feeling rushed. We have the same routine every day and no matter hkw early I get up we are always rushing and it drives me crazy. I have 2 boys 6 & 11. Most days they fight the second they wake up while I’m trying to get ready for work. My older son Lways decides to spring papers that need to b signed or money thatz due right before we are ready to leave even though every night I ask him if he has anything for me. And he insists on trying to have long converzations with me also while we r getting ready. I feel bad because I want him to share with me. But its the worse time pozsible. I always end ul yelling at one of them and I hate starting the day that way any ideas or zuggeztions would be greatly apprdciatsd!

  13. This is great. Downloaded the Trigger Tracking sheets and i’m ready to go! Thanks for the idea and the inspiration and the accountability to make a serious change. My kids want a Tigger trigger tracker. we’ll work on that next.

  14. Thank you- my kids are 11 and 13. I hope I am not too late to be a more positive influence and teach them a better way to handle themselves when they are amried with children. God willing.

  15. just found this after posting my last depressing post…… thank you! think this will help. God bless!

  16. Thank u 4 your articles re. yelling. I just printed the Trigger Tracking Sheet. Say a prayer for me – God bless!

  17. I’m so excited about this. I have prayed and prayed for help and have foubd nothing that would really help until now. This is such a blessing. Thank you…

  18. Thanks Orange Rhino! Not only you gave me the inspiration not to yell at my child (and gave me soo many alternatives to yelling), but also the trigger tracking sheet made me want to trigger all of my problems.
    I hope it will work.

  19. Tracking works for about everything, weight loss, exercise and triggers 🙂 I do the same thing too. I write down what sets me off and it gives me something concrete to ponder over and see how I can change my reaction.

  20. Thanks for sharing these tools! I HATE HATE HATE reinventing the wheel – any wheel – so this is going to be great. I’ve been meaning to do this for a couple of weeks- it looks so “simple”. Then on to the hard part, ha ha.

    • Oh good! I hope it helps you, it really helped me! Let me know if there is any other type of tool you think would be helpful and I’ll create it!

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