Moms all over the internet are crying out, "I want to stop yelling at my kids." They're up to their throats in shame, grabbing hold of the promise that change is possible. And it is. But where do we go to talk about this stuff? Where do we go to ask one another for prayer and the tools we need to change unhealthy, possibly generational, patterns. Well, as strange as it may seem, there's a community at your fingertips, heaven-bent on encouraging you in your transformation. There is a private Facebook group sponsored by The MOB Society (MOB - Mothers of Boys), called "No More Angry MOB". A couple of times a day author Amber Lia and I post scripture promises, quotes about patience, prayers of confession and prayers of hope, and we tell stories and share testimonies of how whole families can be radically changed when parents learn to control their anger. We talk together about how we got here, and how to get out of the ugly cycle of anger and hopelessness. We talk about the sulfuric lies we tend to believe, (I can never change,) and rally together to believe what is true, (With God all things are possible!) It's a hopeful yet hurting motley group, and I've grown to love them deeply.
Maybe you would find yourself at home in their ranks. Possibly you were raised by angry, yelling moms and dads. Others of you may be naturally calm men and women who were raised in a laid back home, but suddenly, under the new and unexpected stresses of parenthood, you've found yourself short on patience and long on anger. It can be an out of body experience, "How did I get here?" But no matter how you got to this point, it can be shameful and surprising. And you know, regardless of the path that lead you here, it must stop. You know it, and I know it, but what can we do?
We can start by reaching out and joining a conversation like this, reaching out and confessing the ugly. And bit by bit, voice by voice, baby steps at a time we start pointing out the promises and the hope and cheering one another on. And then, out of nowhere, testimonies of how God transforms a sinner's heart start pouring down. Here's how it goes:
Yesterday I asked a question on our No More Angry MOB Facebook page, and a conversation caught like wildfire. I thought I'd share some of the highlights here, so that we can fan the flames and keep the dialogue going.
A woman replied to my simple question with one of her own: "How do you get your kids to listen without screaming at them? Right now my children are four and five and they won't listen to me or pay attention to me unless I raise my voice and threaten them. I have to scream at them to get them to listen. I don't understand what I'm doing wrong or how can I change this. I don't want to be a bad mom." (Erin)
I nodded, over the internet, then wrote these words:
"First off, I think many of us have taught our children that it's all right to ignore us. Over the years we've called them to the table, asked them to get their shoes on, reminded them to clean their rooms... and when they didn't do what we asked, we raised our voices to get their attention. Other times we did nothing about it at all (telling ourselves that we were just "picking our battles.") The next day we thought we'd try giving more choices and speaking in a calm manner... only to get frustrated that it didn't work. So we yelled again.
But WHY don't our calm voices work?
I believe that when we are inconsistent we really only teach our children one thing... they don't have to honor us, UNLESS WE YELL!!!! They don't have to answer us, UNLESS WE YELL!!!! They don't need to turn off their lights and go to sleep, UNLESS WE YELL!!!!
But the thing is, what appears to give you control in the moment is really just you being out of control. And while it may get the result you were looking for short term, it doesn't reach their hearts of your little people... or refine long-term behavior.
But you asked "what should I do," not "how did I get here."
Here's what I suggest we do from here on out, every time. Let's commit to consistency. Like working out a muscle that is weak, you commit to speaking gently. Every. Time. Yes, it is difficult. Yes, they will ignore you. (Remember that they've gotten away with it before.) But from here on out you will stop, though you are inconvenienced, if you are tired, even when you are upset.... And you will go to them with a soft voice. "John, I just asked you to pick up your train set. Our friends are coming for dinner. Please stop what you're doing and pick it up now."
When he doesn't, (because he won't,) come in with a paper bag and put it all away for him - on the top shelf of your closet. Then take him in your arms and tell him. "I am not going to yell anymore, I love you too much to yell. So I will simply take this toy away for one week."
Or maybe your style is to clean it up with him, making it a game, that's fine too. It's not how you do this, it's that you do it calm. "John, I'll get the track and you get the trains. We're a team. Our family is a team. All aboard!" Then praise him when he does it, even if it took more effort than you thought you had to give.
[Tweet "Flex your calm muscle, consistently, and they will eventually grow the muscle of obedience."]
Another woman chimed into this online conversation:
"I completely agree, but haven't for the life of me been able to think of any appropriate consequences for the following scenarios: 1) The child who ignores me when I ask him to get dressed or wash his hands after going to the bathroom. And 2) The same child who constantly aggravates his little brother by getting in his face and growling at him (which scares him) and then he ignores me when I calmly ask him to leave his brother alone. Anybody had similar behaviors with some success in changing them? He's almost four. Thanks so much!" (Heather)
Again I nodded and again I typed:
"Sally Clarkson often reminds women that this is a marathon not a sprint, and that expecting immediate obedience is harmful to them and to us as the race stretches long and we need patience and endurance.
Heather, I have a child that does what yours does (and he is nine and should be through this challenging stage, right? Wrong! It's a marathon.) So I go to him, when he should already be dressed and should have remembered to wash his hands, and I simply say, "You are ignoring me, so I will help you put down those toys and walk back into the bathroom. Now please wash your hands and get dressed." And I go to him when he purposefully aggravates his little brother. I get down on his eye level, and say with calm resolve, "Our home is safe and our home is loving. That wasn't safe or loving and so we can't have you around us right now. Go ahead and grab a book or a puzzle and go to your room. I will come get you in 30 minutes. When you come out I know you'll do a great job being gentle and kind with us."
The key is calm... He needs you calm. And you need you calm. So get in close, because it's hard to yell when you're right up close. Go to him. You are going to do great! Some times we just need some tools."
[Tweet "It's hard to yell when you're right up close."]
In this thread of conversation testimonies started flooding in. I'd worked myself out of a counseling position because others had so much grace to add to the party:
"I have 3 boys...15, 13, 11. I was a yeller. I would cry in the shower because I was a yeller. I didn't want to yell. I wanted the circumstances to change so I didn't "have to" yell. What I found was that anxiety triggered my yelling. Pride triggered my yelling. Fear of my husband's yelling triggered my own. So...I faced my fears, anxieties, and pride. The flesh had to be crucified. I don't want my boys learning that yelling is the way to solve their problems or to use it to "motivate " anyone. It is crushing and painful. So now we do differently. My prayer...Lord, change ME. A beautiful thing is happening here. All glory to God. Push past the pain, moms. God is with you, He is for you." (Francea) "Walking this thru too. Love this quote: "Recognize yelling as a sign of weakness... Yelling tends to be a learned response to anger, stress and frustration... 'I have to yell just to be heard.' These parents are trying to direct my attention to the negative behavior of thier children but all I hear is that they are losing or have already lost control of their home. If you have to yell to be heard, something is wrong. Authority figures like policemen or judges don't have to yell to get their point across. Why? Because they hold the ultimate power. They are in control and don't have to prove a thing. Yelling sends a message to your child that his/her behavior has the power to unnerve you to the point of provoking an outburst.... Your lack of restraint reveals that your child holds the reins." fr "Toe to Toe with Your Teen by Dr Jim Myers. Great book, great encouragement for parenting defiant teens. In the chapter just before this, he reviews the amazing characteristics of God and gives specific ideas how to model these to our kids. I'm a work in progress - but it is possible! Push thru my friends! Victory awaits." (Jo-Ann)
...let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25
This is just a taste from the banqueting table that we feast around together. The nuggets are transformative and hopeful, and we leave our times together built up and courageous. You are welcome to join us as we spur one another on to abide, that we might bear the fruit of God's Spirit in each of our lives and there in our homes.
Come abide with us!