The wonderful supermom Mary over at Contrary Mom posted today about feeling like a bad mom for yelling at her kids. I think we have all been there (see photo above, a selfie during one particular day home with baby Sam and then-3yo Gus feeling like a total failure and nearly in tears myself: I like to think of those bad old days as the "time of troubles").
I think it's really sad and harmful the way people, especially women, often put so much pressure on themselves to be perfect parents. And to love it too! God forbid one should talk about how hard, frustrating, discouraging, tedious, and even depressing it can be, at times, attending to little ones' needs. That's why I love Contrary Mom and the other "keeping it real" mom blogs I have found through this wordpress blogging adventure, like Miss Fanny P., Kerry and her winding road, Danielle at momseyeview, and others I'm forgetting.
At the same time, like Mary I really regret when I yell at my kids. I am thankful that with mine (like with Mary's) the yelling is unusual enough and the general atmosphere loving enough that they will even tell me when I'm yelling. But, still. I'd just like to do it less. I guess I first really started thinking about it after hearing about and reading about the Orange Rhino's challenge way back when she started it.
One way I found to talk about the situation with my boys--the situation being, my bad habit of yelling, their bad habit of ignoring me, and how to improve the situation--was in watching Supernanny. It was actually my older son who started watching it randomly one day. We have Netflix and he's pretty much a sucker for any reality show. (Not kidding: right now he likes the Turtleman, and if you don't know who that is, thank God). So he was watching it. And I noticed that some of the problems were, well, things that went on in our family too.
Eventually, as a family we became big fans of Miss Debra on America's Super Nanny, and we've watched all the episodes on Netflix multiple times. I recommend it for viewing on a day when you're feeling like a lousy parent. It always gives me a boost of confidence; "well, they're not eating food straight from the floor!" Or, "Well, I've never let them play Tarzan from the staircase." That sort of thing.
We also love the show The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan. The man is spooky good with dogs. Or else they edit it to look like that. In any case, great show. And this week we saw for the first few times a somewhat similar series, with cats, called My Cat from Hell with Galaxy Jackson. At first I thought the whole idea of trying to change cat behavior would look ridiculous on TV but Galaxy is Cesar's equal, but with cats. Though mostly, for both of them, it's a matter of training the humans, isn't it?
So. Last night near bedtime, Sam for some reason was thinking about Miss Debra while we were watching Galaxy manage somebody's cat (or manage some cat's owners, really). And he said, "Mom, you know what? Miss Debra is like the Human Whisperer." So true! She really is.
I've taken it as my new mantra. More than stopping yelling, I want to develop some confidence and better sense about managing the boys' negative behaviors, keeping things smoother and happier at home. I want to be the kid whisperer in my own home.
But I am keeping my expectations realistic. Humans are much more difficult to manage than cats or dogs. Last time we actually watched MIss Debra, I was sort of thinking to myself, "hey, we would hardly even need her around anymore! She'd use us as an example!" But then last night, older son was bored and acting like a four year old, and younger son loved it and played right along, and though I didn't yell TOOOO much, I still used my angry mom voice to try to dictate better behavior. With typically unsatisfying results. (I felt like Sam looks in that picture up top.)
I just realized what I should have done! The Butt Walk! This is one of my innovations, something I came up with while doing this "21 days to stop yelling at my kids" thing via Gretchen Rubin. One of her tips was to be more playful, happier, and sillier with them. To respond very differently when frustrated. So one day when I was repressing a yell so badly it literally hurt my stomach, I decided to make up a silly walk I call the "butt walk" and start doing it, right in the middle of them fighting. They were stunned. At first I don't think they really thought I'd do it. Then they saw me doing it across the parking lot, and they quieted down and started giggling. Now I have done it enough that a smile and a "don't make me do the butt walk..." is usually enough to stop fights in public right in their tracks.
Of course, this means I have to do the butt walk sometimes, in public. But, to paraphrase Linda Ronstadt, "Mom has no pride."