Conscious Parenting Skill-Building, Week 1
Let’s face it, we are a loud family.
I come from a family of yellers and despite my best intentions, I am about midway through raising a family of loud children.
This is not the way I want us to be.
I grew up as one of ten children. Making yourself heard in our house was sometimes a challenge. We all learned to yell (as well as to talk at the same time, like the ladies on “The View”), at an early age.
While I became quite proficient at the skill, I have realized for decades now that yelling as a communication style is only slightly less unsatisfying than being the person who is yelled at.
Most days, it sucks.
Note to self: Stop using the word “sucks”, especially in front of the kids.
After a recent, typically pointless family yelling match, I was feeling kind of low. Was anything really changing in our family?
Was this whole conscious parenting thing making any measurable improvement in our lives??
I guess I need just a little more structure in my new, “go with the flow” parenting style. I am definitely feeling the need to reduce the noise factor in our family’s communications.
So, as I was pulling out my dog-eared copy of Connection Parenting in search of an antidote to our current malaise, I decided it was time to get serious.
We need to build some new family habits.
Pam Leo, as always, has come to my rescue. She recommends doing one chapter of her book per week, but I’m not really ready for that level of commitment. Instead, I am going to focus on one new skill per week. Should be doable, right?
No surprise, I have chosen to learn how to Stop the Yelling this week, which just happens to be covered on page 104 of Connection Parenting.
We held a family meeting to get everything started.
Mom: “We are a family. I love the two of you more than anyone or anything in this world. But sometimes, we aren’t very nice to each other.”
So much for the warm-up. I asked my sons how it feels when someone yells at you. They had several good answers, but I think this pretty much sums it up:
“You want to run away and curl up into a ball.”
Yuck. No matter how frustrating – nay, maddening – they can be, this is not how I ever want my children to feel.
Next, I asked them why people yell at each other. Here is our short list:
1. Because they are angry, or have “too much emotion” that they can’t keep inside.
2. Because they are trying to get someone’s attention, and that person is ignoring them.
3. Because they really, really want someone to do something.
4. Because they have developed a habit of yelling. (That would be me.)
Personally, I believe that reason #1 is the root cause of most yelling – and that we yell at our family members because it is safe to use them as an outlet for our mangled, pent-up emotions.
(We all agreed that yelling at friends, teachers, bosses or grandparents would be WRONG.)
So, perhaps we have a two-part problem:
- How do we break our yelling habit? And,
- How can we learn to release our pent-up emotions in a healthy way?
Which leads me to a new question: How do we develop daily habits that allow us to process emotions “in the moment”, rather than letting them get all bottled up and stuffed down, for – oh, let’s say, forty-seven years? More on this in a future lesson...
As for the yelling, Pam recommends that we give our children permission to interrupt us when we yell at them, using a specific signal. Since we have (presumably) agreed as a family to work on this, we will all respect the signal and rewind, repair and replay.
We actually made little reference cards to carry in our pockets.
Side 1: If someone is yelling at you, raise your hand in front of you (is this the international signal for “stop”?) and say:
§ Please stop.
§ You are yelling at me.
§ Please speak to me like I am someone you love.
§ You need to take a timeout now.
Side 2: If you are yelling and someone says, “Please stop”:
§ Stop talking immediately.
§ Take three deep breaths.
§ Say, “I’m sorry. What I really wanted to say was...”
§ OR, Say “Excuse me. I need to take a timeout. I’ll be back when I’m ready to talk.”
Early results? We’ve used the cards several times already. Each time so far, the person yelling has responded positively.
We have not had a really intensely emotional (or hormonal) episode yet, though. That will be the real test. I promise to report back honestly in future posts, even if it’s me having the episodeJ
Time to join in?
How do you feel about the noise level in your family?
Would you like to join us in our Stop the Yelling campaign? Try it for a week and write me a comment, reporting on your progress. We all work better with a little moral support.
For the best results, I would recommend getting a copy of Connection Parenting. Pam Leo provides a lot more context and helpful examples. Plus, you get to skip ahead and choose your own favorite lessons, just like in school!