I have a confession. In the last 18 months or so, I’ve become quite the yeller. I knew I was turning into a yeller, and I would chill in little spurts here and there, but the yelling always seemed to resurface. I justified the yelling, because my kids (specifically the boys) weren’t listening when I was asking nicely. Surely the answer was just to raise my voice, right? Besides, it’s not like I was yelling mean or hurtful things – I was just talking loudly. No biggie.
Towards the end of the winter break that wouldn’t end, I started to feel convicted about the yelling. Oh boy. Feeling convicted can be brutal. When you start to really see what’s going on, it’s humbling, upsetting, and all around not fun.
The first conviction came when Chase started yelling back.
What’s this?! Chase is my sweet, cuddly, always quiet little boy! Where’s this yelling and anger coming from?
Ah. It’s coming from me. He’s learning this terrible behavior from me. I was entrusted to train this little person up to be a kind, compassionate, loving person and I’ve taught him to yell and be angry at the drop of a hat. Oh boy.
The next conviction came a few days after that, when I was trolling Pinterest looking for a quote about “listening”. We had our next Building Better Moms meeting coming up that week (which I co-lead) and the speaker was going to talk about how to get our kids to listen the first time. We figured a quote about listening might be appropriate for our “Thought of the Day” section of the newsletter. The quote I found resonated with me in an enormous way.
“If you want to be listened to, you should put in time listening.” – Marge Piercy
Apparently listening is a two way street. For this mom who multi-tasks non-stop throughout the day, this was a tough one to hear. As I thought about it, I realized I probably don’t even look at the kids when they’re talking to me, which makes it less of a conversation and more of them just talking at me. How can I expect them to have good listening skills when I don’t take the time to show them?
More conviction came at that Building Better Moms meeting. Our speaker talked about the importance of actually closing the distance between yourself and your child (or spouse – ha!) when asking them to do something. She said research has shown there is a direct correlation between how well someone listens and how closely you were standing to them when you were talking.
So it turns out I was only setting us up for disaster when I would make requests from the kitchen to the children who were in the living room. And the simple act of just raising my voice from the kitchen wasn’t going to work either. Heck, half the time, the boys probably couldn’t even SEE me when I was asking them to do something (or stop doing something)!
This was a big blow to my multi-tasking ways, and I immediately resolved to make more of an effort to stop whatever I was working on (dishes, meal prep, e-mail, helping another kid with homework, etc) and go to the child I needed to speak to.
For the next couple of days that week, I was quite successful at not yelling at all (woohoo!) and instead found my children were much more compliant the first time around, just by simply walking up to them, stooping down to their level (although the boys are now taller than me when I kneel – man!) and putting my hand on their shoulder or the side of their face when I was talking to them.
The final conviction came at church last week. Our pastor recently started a sermon series about Jesus, and while the bulk of this last sermon was about the virgin birth, what Jesus was like as a child, whether he was married or not, etc, there was one part at the very end that hit me right in the heart.
Jesus was constantly getting interrupted, but always stopped to help.
Whoa. That was just what my multi-tasking self needed to hear (and write down). I am constantly feeling like I’m being “interrupted”, and I’m sure I’m visibly annoyed by it sometimes. I shouldn’t be annoyed, and I really need to stop that. Think about all of the important life lessons I can convey if I let myself get interrupted and instead of being annoyed, I joyfully stop to help!
(If you’d like to hear how my pastor put it exactly, you can click this link and either watch the whole sermon, or just skip ahead to minute 37:40.)
So there we have it: I’ve been convicted when it comes to my yelling ways. I know I’m not going to see immediate change in myself, or in Chase, but I will press on. I will not be so busy multitasking that I can’t go to my children or husband to make my request, and I will not be so busy that I will be annoyed with the interruptions. Instead, I will joyfully stop to help.
Training these children in the right way to deal with disappointment, anger, obedience and listening skills is far more important than dinner being ready on time, that e-mail being answered right away, the pile of dishes being done this minute, or that the living room is picked up to my liking.