I have read so many books, studied methods, gone to counseling, and learned about my personality. I have owned my own stuff and prayed for change in the lives of loved ones. I have rationalized, ignored, and most of all grown very very tired.
Everything I have been exposed to has focused on understanding how to communicate differently, avoid triggers etc… But when emotions are high it’s hard to remember the steps to keeping a quiet heart and it’s harder still to even want to.
That’s why last week I decided that instead of continuing to try to learn how to not yell, I was just going to stop yelling and find out what I would learn from that.
Before making the commitment to not yell for a year, I was sinking in confusion over why my heart explodes so easily in anger, how to change and if I even wanted to or could respect a gentler, quieter way. As soon as yelling was not an option, a stillness in my soul began to grow and I began to hear answers I never dreamed of. Here are just a few things I have learned already.
1. I am not alone.
Five minutes after posting that I was committing to a year of not yelling, no matter how long it would take me to succeed, I wanted to take the post down. It was terrifying to bare my soul like that and invite the world to hold me accountable. But I was amazed how many people had already said, “Me too.” The comments came pouring in on my Instagram, Facebook and blog, Mamas and Papas shared their struggles to control their temper and tongue and wanted to join me in this commitment to not yell. Some of them said they were also going to start a year long project that very minute, and some said they would start with a week or a month long challenge first. Within hours I had created a private Facebook group so that we can support and encourage each other and the words and love that has been pouring through this new, little community has given me strength daily. If you’re reading this and want to join me, or would just like to listen and glean encouragement from others, please feel welcome to join us in the Gently + Quietly FB group!
2. Multi-tasking is not a real thing.
Yes I had read that you can’t actually give your attention to more than one thing at a time… But I figured that meant I could still quickly change my attention back and forth between multiple tasks. I mean, I’m a women, that’s part of my God-given skillset right? I would never have thought that doing too many things at once was causing me to yell at my children. However, once yelling wasn’t an option anymore I realized I couldn’t do such and such task that I thought I could or should be able to do because I was fully immersed in – not yelling at my children. Many times in the past week I have found myself just standing still and breathing. For someone who loves being productive, I have asked myself in those moments – what am I doing? Well, I am not yelling at my child. That is the one thing I am doing in that moment when they are lagging to get into the car, yelling at their brother or rolling their eyes at me. And there have been other times when I have been making dinner, answering an email or even reading a book, and I have had to tell a child that is asking me a question or needing something, “I can’t talk to you right now, because I’m doing something else and I can feel that if I try to do both at the same time I’m going to end up raising my voice. I will need you to wait a few minutes, and then I can give you my full attention.”
3. I will not always like my kids or my husband, and I don’t have to.
Yep, maybe I should just leave it right there. I’m realizing that often when I yell at my children or my hubby it is because they are behaving or communicating in a way that causes me to not like them. Those times feel like they threaten our relationship. I don’t want to have feelings of resentment or distaste for those closest to me so I try to force them into being lovable by commanding them (loudly) to be/do/say the things that will make them lovely in my eyes. Yes, I am aware that this sounds ridiculous as I type it out, but I couldn’t see this until I couldn’t yell anymore, and maybe I’m not the only one? This week I have found that I don’t have to like them, but I do have to choose to love them, and for me that love begins with not raising my voice to condemn their bad behavior or command good behavior. I can still communicate with them in an appropriate way, and sometimes I just need to give them and myself some space until we can regroup and connect in a way that helps us both feel loving, loved and likable.
4. Not yelling burns more calories
True fact. Five minutes after telling my children I was not going to raise my voice for a year, I yelled my oldest son’s name. Their Dad had texted me a video that I was really excited to show them and Aaron was on the other side of the house. With excitement and joy in my voice I called for him to come here and watch what his dad had just sent us. My middle son caught me off guard saying, “Mom you just yelled, you have to start over.” I said, “Oh David, I meant yelling in anger or with a frustrated tone, not in celebration or because I’m happy and excited about something.” David said, “Ok that makes sense, I don’t think you need to start over, but you should probably walk to the other room to get Aaron because even happy yelling makes the house really loud.” Good call David. I have since been doing a lot of walking. I never realized how many times a day I take the easy road and call for my children to come to me instead of going to them. I also underestimated how quickly a seven year old moves and how many more calories I would burn each day just going from room to room to find where he is currently at. It has felt inconvenient at times, limiting, but the house has been quieter and I think I may have even lost a few pounds.
5. I don’t have to be afraid of losing it.
I was standing in the driveway a couple days ago, wondering why the typical anxiety wasn’t building over the fact that my children were not in the car so that we could get to swim team on time, and they were instead inside of the house arguing with each other and banging something into a wall. All the same things were still going to happen… We were going to be late, that would make me look like a bad mom and we would waste money we had paid for swim team. I would need to correct my boys for speaking unkindly to each other and not obeying my directions to be ready on time. There might be a hole in the wall from whatever had been slammed into and whatever had been slammed might be broken, both of which would take time, effort and money to fix. But I felt calm, I could handle all that. As I stood next to my van I realized that the panic that rises in my heart in these situations normally, causing me to bark orders and sharply reprimand my kids is that I am afraid of the response that their behavior can elicit in me. I am afraid of losing it and yelling in a way that makes my heart feel dark and sickened for days or weeks. So in order to keep this from happening I snap a quick rebuke hoping this will curtail their behavior and save me from the pain of an emotional outburst of my own. Now that yelling is no longer an option, they can do their worst, and situations can conspire to run the day ragged, but I’m not afraid because I know my heart can weather each small storm if it does so gently and quietly.
Friends my speech is far from perfect. I know it has only been a week, and I still have a long way to go, but I am rejoicing in awe that the Creator of the universe has tenderly guided me through this first week of not yelling. It has been His power that has allowed me to stand with strength and gentleness in the midst of my own fear, frustration, impatience and hurt. He comes quietly into our hearts, not forcing or shaming us, but rescuing us with power and understanding that are beyond our comprehension. I am excited to walk this journey with Christ and all of you, and will continue to share what I learn…
- photos of my family by the incredible Sidney Morgan