Yelling Does NOT Define Me as a Parent

Hi, my name is The Orange Rhino and I used to yell at my kids.

In fact, I yelled so much that I started The Orange Rhino Challenge, a promise to not yell at my four boys, then ages 5 and under, for 365 days straight! As I started publicly writing on my blog about my journey to yell less, I received a boat load of wonderfully loving and supportive comments such as, “Thank you so much for sharing your story and letting me know that I am so not alone!” I also received a couple of well, how should I put it, um how ‘bout, outright nasty and hurtful comments. The following is a sample of one of the nasty comments. Mind you, it isn’t verbatim because the email was so incredibly hurtful that I erased it immediately so that I wouldn’t dwell on it. (I knew at that point that dwelling leads to yelling and that it needed to be avoided at all costs when possible.) Anywho, after reading about my challenge, one woman wrote to me,

“You know, maybe yelling isn’t your problem. Maybe your challenge shouldn’t be about not yelling. Maybe it should be about not being a parent. I think your problem is that you shouldn’t have had kids in the first place, that you are an awful mom if you yell so much that you needed to create a Challenge to stop.”

Um, can I get an, “Ouch!?”

I felt incredibly attacked at the moment and her comment immediately started pushing me into self-criticism mode. Was she right? Was I an awful parent? Did I have no redeeming qualities? Was I not meant to be a mom? Fortunately for me, my oldest son had ever so quietly snuck up behind me and read the entire email and then started a heartwarming conversation that quickly pulled me right out of self-criticism mode.

“Mommy, why is she saying you shouldn’t be a mom? Are you not going to be my mom anymore?” he asked tears forming in the corner of his eyes.

“Oh sweetie. You weren’t supposed to see that. Of course I am always going to be your mom. I am not going anywhere.” I said as I pulled him into my lap.

“But mom, why did she say those mean things about you?” he implored.

“Well, because she thinks that because I used to yell at you ‘so much’ that I had to become an Orange Rhino that I am an awful parent.” I stated, fighting back tears.

“But mommy, you aren’t an awful parent. You are a great mom.” He said ever so sweetly as he wiped a tear off his cheek.

Um, can I get an “Awwww?!”

blog_v4To be honest, I haven’t thought of this story until just today. I had simply pushed the memory as far back into my mind as possible because not only did her accusations hurt, but more so, they really, really struck a nerve. But then I received numerous emails today in response to an old blog post titled, “A Mom’s Regret About Yelling,” and this painful memory came flooding back. Fortunately, a powerful insight came right after!

In the post, my son was headed off into Kindergarten and that to me symbolized the start of him officially being with teachers and friends more than with me. I wrote about how disappointed I was in myself that I spent so much of the last six years, my unshared years, with my son “complaining and yelling instead of loving.” I felt so incredibly sad and let down and wrote that I regretted that I hadn’t enjoyed all the time I did have with him because I was so often yelling and being, well, grumpy.

Sitting here tonight, processing the comments and my post and my painful memory, I just want to go back two years and give myself a hug. I just want to go back and say to myself,

“Girl, it’s okay. Yes, you used to yell. Yes you regret all the times you did yell. That’s normal and expected. No one likes to do not nice things. But you know what, you’re missing something. You were looking at the situation from your eyes and not your son’s. You saw yourself as having yelled sooooo very much that you missed soooo very much. You saw yourself as just a yeller and nothing else. I am not sure that is the truth. Is that what your son experienced? Did he sometimes see you as a yelling parent? Yes. Do you wish that weren’t the case, does he wish that weren’t the case? Yes.

But do you know what else?
He didn’t just see you as a yelling parent.

Because even though you did yell more than you felt comfortable with and probably more than acceptable, you didn’t yell 24/7. You did a lot of other things too, a lot of great things that you shouldn’t regret for a moment. It is because of those great things that your son saw you as a parent who sure, used to yell, but who also used to and still does…

DSC_0810Give him kisses on his boo-boo’s.
Tuck him in at night.
Comfort him when he has a nightmare.
Play Candyland with him all night long.
Encourage him when he’s lacking confidence.
Take him apple picking.
Plan special birthday parties for him.
Teach him to do new things like riding a bike.
Help him with homework.
Laugh with him during water fights.
Advocate for him.
Teach him how to build a master Lego.
Throw footballs to him.
Love him fiercely in a way no other person could.

So dear self, please, please don’t beat yourself up about the past, about the moments you yelled. Yes, by all means remember the past just enough so that it continues to inspire you to daily work at being an Orange Rhino, but don’t hold onto the past so much that it is the only thing you see when you look at yourself as a mom. Those yelling moments aren’t the only moments that make up your journey as a mother. Those yelling moments don’t define you as a mom. The whole package defines you and the journey has just begun.”

community_v4Obviously I can’t go back two years and tell myself this to help me feel better and perhaps stop a few tears. But I can write it now so I can and share it here with all of you, so that is what I will do!

Dearest Orange Rhinos,
You aren’t an awful parent because you are struggling with yelling. You aren’t just a yelling parent, you are a heck of a lot more too! Don’t let yelling define you as a parent. Instead let how you find the strength, courage and determination to change, along with your fierce love and commitment to your kids define you.

The Orange Rhino

challenge_theP.S. I write this now and in a few days, maybe weeks if I am lucky, I know I will begin to once again doubt myself as a parent and will focus on all I am doing “wrong” instead of seeing all that I am doing “right.” I know I will forget that all my inadequacies and mistakes as a parent don’t define me. I know I will forget that there is more to me as a parent than the negative stuff I love to highlight. And I know that I will forget that every day I tip the scale away from “yelling/cranky/not-doing-this-or-that-right” towards “Loving More” and that THAT is what really matters.



book_v4To learn more about how to tip your personal scale towards the “Love More,” side and to realize that yelling doesn’t define you, check out my new book due out this Saturday, November 1st! “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” is a 30-Day guide with 100 alternatives to yelling, simple steps to follow and honest stories to inspire you on your own journey to “Yell Less, Love More.” You can pre-order it here! 

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10 thoughts on “Yelling Does NOT Define Me as a Parent

  1. I think the fallacy of your negative emailer is a deep one in our self-centered and self-reliant culture: there is a perfect way to do things and a wrong way, there are perfect people and bad people, perfect soulmate spouses and not meant to be destined-for-divorce spouses, perfect parents and bad parents, perfect time to have kids and not good time to have kids, perfectly behaved well-rounded kids and bad what-is-wrong-with-them kids.

    No such thing. Humans are flawed, every last one of us, and we are constantly in need of forgiveness and grace and do-overs. It is our commitment to each other that keeps us together, not the perfect yin-yang match. It is our commitment to our kids that makes us worthy parents, NOT the perfection with which we raise them because we followed the script at the appointed time with the appointed finances with the appointed genetics and appointed familial psychological profiles and and and….. Therein lies the (superiority-complex) fallacy, that we control life’s screenplay if we line things up “just so.”

    Thank God for His endless Mercy!! Thank God for the calls to humility! Thank God for giving me these children to walk through life together, that we may all stumble and understand and help each other back up. Extend God’s loving mercy to those around you, I know I’d be lost without it!

  2. I was so thankful when I came across this site. I had googled “yelling at my toddler too much” after yelling at him (again) to finish his meal, which tends to be a daily battle… I come from parents who yelled ALOT and I have horrible memories of that. I don’t want my kids to have the feelings toward me that I felt towards my parents when I was young. I was scared to DEATH to so anything that might anger them.
    I know I raise my voice at my son too often, so much so that he will yell/scream back at me… Or he will freeze in place and break down bawling, crying out “don’t scare me”. That hurts my heart 🙁 i’ve got tears just hearing those words in my own head. I realize I need to adjust my expectations of him… he is neary 3 and a lot of his behaviours (things I yell about) are totally normal for him at his age. He does a lot more good than bad, but I tend to focus on the bad when I’m having a rough day.
    I’ve also found myself yelling at my infant daughter (when I was alone with her) as I was tired and frustrated… she wouldn’t sleep and all I wanted was a “mommy break”.after yelling at her that she needed a nap (really, like she know wtf I’m saying) I had closed her door hard and once in the hall, yelled some explicit “bleep bleep bleep” out of pure frustration.. But when I realized the window was open and my neighbour was in their yard, I wanted to die… All I could think about for hours afterward was that they had heard me and probably thought I was a lunatic.
    I have made a commitment, for my kids sake and my own sanity, that I will try to be a more patient mom and I will find other ways to express myself to him and deal with my own triggers. I sat down and told my son that mommy was going to try to stop yelling and be a happy mommy. He will unknowingly hold me to it… If I start to raise my voice, he already asks “you mad mommy?” Which makes me realize he recognizes the anger in my voice, and that makes me take a minute and chill … A good yell into a towel can go a long way. Lol
    Hoping these steps will help make me become a better mom who doesn’t need to yell at her kids.
    🙂 won’t happen over night but that’s ok. Every little bit of improvement helps !

    • food for thought… how do you treat yourself? Do you have perfectionistic tendencies? How is your self-talk? What is behind that? Are there still fears or insecurities from growing up, and never feeling good enough? There tend to be deep parallels between how we treat ourselves and how we treat others.
      This is a great resource for us all.

      • Thank you Thank you Thank you for this post!
        I have tears in my eyes! Unfortunately I have tried so many times to stop yelling to my kids, but haven’t succeed yet….it is a bit better, but in the car or when they are getting ready to go to bed I sound so much as a drill sergeant, then I feel so bad…..I feel completely useless….my husband says as well that I should stop shouting……but I don’t manage! Today I am starting again the challenge…..let’s see how long I can go. I really admire you for not yelling anymore! Ciao!

  3. thank you for sharing that because I am that mother to myself that bad voice saying what a bad mother I am and as I sit here bawling my eyes out I know that I am more than just the yelling mom and I see that as long as I am acknowledging those issues that I am being a good mom because I want to change so again thank you

  4. oh my gosh I thought I was the only one when my children were younger I begin screaming at my oldest daughter at 1 year and her to pick up her toys.I had no idea I was pregnant with number 2 by the time she was 6 months I felt like I was a single parent my husband was still in the spouts of wanting to grow up but not growing up yet he wasn’t acting mature he was being immature I was doing it all on my own and also was doing was screaming the screaming continued and really wasn’t until I was able to stay at home at the beginning of this year and actually just take a few months to review myself. I know everyone doesn’t have that luxury but now I’m back to work again and I realized what a horrible awful yelling mom. I think my wake up call was when I was taking my daughter out of the church sanctuary for being a little loud and I was going to explain to her in a calm voice that she needed to be quiet in the sanctuary at church and right as we were walking passing the Deacon she said in her small little loud voice are you going to spank my little ass.? at this point I was mortified thinking oh dear god what have I done to my children this is how I’ve taught themI knew then I needed to revamp all this… I was and now I’m trying to look at it is it different perspective and convince myself that I haven’t scared my children for life I absolutely love your article and I found it very comforting thank you for creating your challenge I started a challenge with myself to try to be more gentle with my children and not yell at them instantly for every little mistake and just for being a kid and being over critical.

    • how do/did you treat yourself? And why? There tends to be some deep similarities between how we treat ourselves, and how we treat kids and others.

  5. I love you! Ha, is that okay to say? It’s like you live inside my head but the good part of me not the one full of self doubt! You are so spot on all the time and I love how important being a mom is to you. Sometimes I feel alone, my mom friends are always busy and your posts are like sharing a chat and a coffee with an old friend so thank you!

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