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Mortified. Disappointed. Sad. Frustrated. Those are just some of the feelings I felt the morning our handyman caught me yelling at my four sons, then ages 5 and under.
Determined is what I felt the next morning when I promised my boys I would go 365 days straight without yelling at them.
I just could no longer accept all the excuses why I hadn’t stopped yelling yet: I’m too tired to be consistent with other methods, nothing else works, it really isn’t that bad, and, of course, “I’ll just grow out of it as my kids grow out of this stage.” This last excuse is perhaps the weakest because, let’s be honest, we parents know that every age and stage brings new triggers. My friends and I are all in one of those stages: the tweens.
You know, the years when one moment your child will confidently state, “Go away, I just want to be left alone,” and then not thirty minutes later will return to see you playing with a younger sibling and burst out crying and say, “You never hang out with me anymore!” The years when talking back and mumbling under ones breath seem to be an acceptable form of communication and, as such, replace many polite and relatively agreeable conversations that used to take place. The years when hormones have moved in and all sorts of changes have created all sorts of anxiety and attitude and mood swings. The years when the statement “I’m not a kid anymore, you know” seems to come out just as much as “Mom, I know what I am doing” and “Gosh, you just don’t get it!”
So you find yourself either yelling much more than you like or struggling to not yell way more than you like. If you’re like me and struggling to not yell at your tween, these tips can help you yell less and love your tween more.
- Talk to yourself. Seriously. Remind yourself that you don’t want to yell, that your tween’s behavior isn’t personal, and that you can handle this situation calmly. Repeat any personal mantra you have, such as “I will choose love.”
- Look at a newborn picture of your tween, conveniently now located in common yelling areas, to get to a softer spot. Recall how fragile your child was as a baby (and still is) and proceed with gentle words.
- Be empathetic. Put yourself in your tween’s shoes and try to feel what your tween is experiencing physically, socially and emotionally. It helps to think back to when you were a tween and how tough it was, as well as to think of the present and how you are feeling about all the changes. Everyone is overwhelmed and adjusting. When I truly feel empathy for my boys, my desire to yell drops immensely because I get the pain/anger/confusion/need to have a tantrum.
- Find perspective. Acknowledge that this is just a phase and that “this too shall pass.” Doing this will de-escalate feelings of stress and anxiety that the relationship with your tween will forever be this strained. (Stress and anxiety are two silent personal triggers that lead everyone to yell!)
- Turn and walk away. Taking a break for a deep breath, a moment of silence to think, or a really good scream into a pillow is good for everyone. It keeps the yell from busting out and helps model self-control to your tween who so desperately needs to relearn right now as hormones wreak havoc.
- Schedule a scream. If you feel a yell growing because of a daily or weekly battle, plan a good old scream and rant to let it all out so you don’t let it all out on your tween when a button is suddenly pushed. I like yelling into closets; clothes don’t have feelings, but my kids do.
- Reach out to a friend or “tag out” if you can. Send a frustrated message to a friend so you can send a loving message to your tween. Mothers and tween daughters can be especially at odds. If a non-mother figure is home, “tag out” and have him/her handle the situation with your tween as he/she will most likely be able to be more objective.
- Take care of yourself. It takes a lot of energy to stay constantly cool with a tween who is constantly finding new ways to push boundaries. Keep your patience tank full by prioritizing a good night’s sleep and doing things you love, alone! This isn’t selfish but necessary!
- Surround yourself with orange to have a constant symbolic visual reminder that you want to show warmth, that you have the energy to maintain cool and that your determination will lead you to yell less. My favorite? Put up encouraging notes on orange Post-its in yelling zones.
- Find the positive in your tween and share it openly with positive comments and actions. Your positive behavior will attract positive behavior from your tween, and your tween really needs to hear the positive right now. Likewise, negative attracts negative. So try as hard as you can to not dwell on the negative aspects of having a tween, as those negative thoughts may unintentionally lead to negative actions (read: yelling).
- Enjoy special time together. As much as tweens wants independence and to hang with friends, they still wants to know we’re there for them. Find time to share one of your tween’s personal interests and you’ll both benefit.
Sheila McCraithis the author of Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids—and How You Can Too!Based on Sheila’s successful completion of The Orange Rhino Challenge, her promise to not yell at her four young boys for 365 days straight, Yell Less, Love Moreis a manageable 30-day guide with 100 alternatives to yelling, simple steps to follow and honest stories to inspire others on their own journeys to yell less. Sheila has chronicled her entire journey on her blog, TheOrangeRhino.com.