I know a mom who yells at her kids. She reminds me of me not all that long ago. She, like I did, must know deep down that it’s not good parenting. She never does it right in front of anyone; she does it in another room or outside. Maybe she thinks we can’t hear her, but we definitely can. I’m not talking about simply raising her voice. I’m talking about mean, ugly screaming.
For me, I simply felt out of control. I had three young boys and I just couldn’t seem to get them to cooperate. Actually, I just couldn’t even get their attention. They were too busy being too busy with whatever it was that they were doing. So I would yell. It got to the point that couldn’t get anything accomplished without yelling.
I hated yelling. I knew intellectually that yelling is emotional abuse, (You can google it if you don’t believe me.) but I had gotten pretty good at rationalizing it. On top of that (as if that weren’t bad enough!) I recognized that the underlying issue was a complete lack of respect. If my children had respect for me, I wouldn’t need to yell to get their attention. Unfortunately, I had created a dynamic where they wouldn’t pay attention to me, let alone obey me, until I was screaming at them. I had no idea how to break this cycle.
One day I was crying and praying, asking how I was ever supposed to get their attention so that I could begin to break this destructive cycle. Then it hit me – I needed a loud noise to get their attention so that I could begin to train them in respect.
That night, we ventured over to Academy and picked up a coach’s whistle. Seriously. And it changed our lives.
For the first several weeks I wore that whistle around my neck 24:7. Well…at least while the kids were awake. When things were getting chaotic or when I needed to give them instructions, I blew the whistle. Because it was new and it was loud, they would stop whatever craziness they were engaged in. I explained to them that whenever they heard the whistle, they needed to stop what they were doing and come to mommy. I told them that when they heard the whistle, mommy had something important to say and they needed to come listen. It took a little training at first. I would blow the whistle. They would stop. I would remind them that they needed to come hear what mommy had to say. Eventually, I would blow the whistle and they would come. Progress!
Now, I had a way to get their attention.
At first, I was using the whistle a lot. I used it when things got too loud and crazy, but I also used it anytime I had something “important” to say. This is because I wanted to teach them that anytime I was speaking to them, they needed to stop and listen.
Next, I began clarifying the reason I blew the whistle. I would say something along the lines of, “Thank you for coming to mommy when I blew the whistle. Things are getting much too loud. I need you to settle down or go play outside.” or “Thank you for coming to mommy. I need to tell you something so you need to pay attention. Is everyone ready to use their listening ears?”
Over time, I was able to use the whistle less and less. The boys progressed to a point that when I called, they would come. Now, I rarely use the whistle. I don’t wear it anymore, but it is accessible. The fact is, boys are loud. Sometimes they get so loud that they really can’t hear you. This is the only time I use the whistle now.
I’m really grateful for the difference the whistle has made in our family. I’m happy and proud that I implemented a solution before they got much older and before things got way out of control. I can’t imagine going through life having to scream at my kids in order to get them to obey. That’s definitely where we were – and it worked because they were little and intimidated. It certainly wouldn’t have had the same outcome if we carried that pattern into their teenage years. Sometimes I find myself falling back into old patterns. When I stop demanding respect, the kids stop giving it. It’s not long after that that I begin yelling again. Luckily, I catch myself pretty quickly. If needed, I’ll break out the whistle for a day or two of retraining, then we’re off and running again.
Back to the mom I know – I feel so sorry for her. Her frustration and inability to control her kids is evident. Everyone who looks are her can see it. She just seems so defeated. I know what that feels like – it’s an awful feeling. I want to give her a hug and tell her I know just how she feels. Maybe next time I will.