My name is Francesca Castagnoli and I’m a screamer.
Admitting I’m a mom that screams, shouts and loses it in front of her kids feels like I’m revealing a dark family secret (like in the 1970s an uncle thought it was funny to use porno music as a soundtrack to our family videos). And even though I didn’t yell on the playdate where Conrad’s friend thought I was mean mom (see post below) , I have yelled. And yelling isn’t really done anymore. It’s a retro idea like leaving your kids alone in the car while you buy groceries. There was a time when it was okay for parents to do that, but not anymore. And now screaming is as taboo as spanking.
Social stigma aside, yelling makes me feel bad. I’d yell at my kids and remember a clip from SuperNanny where they would show a child who had just been balled out by his mom alone in his room. He would be looking away from the camera, crying, feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Every time they’d show the sad kid shot, I was always on that child’s side. “God that mom is such a bitch,” I’d think. But by 7pm the next day, somehow I would have cast myself as the bitchy mom yelling my head off while and my own kids were the ones crying in their room.
I had to stop. It simply wasn’t the tone I wanted to have in my house anymore. Luckily, my son’s preschool hosted parent’s workshop on how to stop the screaming cycle that has completely changed my approach to parenting. The tips were so helpful and family-life changing I just had to share them with you here:
Checking in with myself technique:
Before when I would come home from a crazy day and the kids would instantly start bickering to get my attention, I’d have to raise my voice to be heard above them. Now instead of yelling to simply be heard, I ask myself, what am I really feeling and how do I want my kids to see me? What is the vibe I want them to have tonight? Reflecting on how I feel helps me understand why I react the way I do. After a week of checking in with myself I realized that when I come home I’m usually hungry or still stressed about work and I need to take a quick shower to transition to the chaos of home calmly. Once I tend to my needs for five to ten minutes, I’m more centered and I can be more thoughtful about how to deal with their cries for attention.
The silent scream:
During their bath, which can get fairly rambunctious, I would resort to yelling to get them to stop splashing me or to get out of the tub. Now I lean in and whisper and it works like a charm.
Act you age not shoe size:
Caught off guard by shocking behavior, say when my three-year-old breaks his brother’s Lego creation to get him to pay attention to him, or kick the dog, or climb on a chair where he’d be perched to crack his skull I’d shout at him not to do that. Now I say out loud, “What are you three!?” to remind myself that after all, my son is only three. My husband and I also use this technique when we see that the other person is about to lose it to remind each other how young children behave and no, they don’t “get it.” The beauty of this trick is that it can work for every age: your kid is lighting his soldiers on fire: What are you 9? Your kid is pregnant. What are you 16?
Give yourself a starchart:
Before I would yell and hope they wouldn’t remember, but I know that if they don’t actually remember the yelling they remember how it made them feel. Now I relish my new solution: I’ve decided to give myself a star chart and I reward myself at the end of the week with something really awesome for the house, or a long yoga class, or I make my husband get up in the morning, because I’m not the guilty party anymore.