I was blown away by your response to my post earlier this week about How I Stopped Yelling. Thank you for your encouraging comments, for sharing the post with others, and for your kind emails.
Many of you asked for specific ideas for how to respond in love during those moments when you just really want to lash out in anger. I took the past few days to put together a post with some practical ideas that I hope will encourage you as you seek to join me in this journey to yell less and love more:
1. Invite your child to cuddle with you.
I’ve noticed that when my children are frustrated and acting out, it’s often because they are craving attention and affection. Inviting a child to come sit next to me when they are getting on my every last nerve can be so hard for me to do. In fact, I usually want them to be as far away from me as possible. But distance is only going to make matters worse.
Lovingly and gently asking my child to come sit next to me and be with me helps to calm both of us. It helps me to communicate love for the child (even if I don’t feel all that loving at the time) and it causes the child to feel special and cared for.
2. Stop, look, and listen.
Moms, we can get so busy with life. We have places to go, things to do, messes to clean up, meals to fix… the list is never ending.
Our kids don’t need our productivity. They need our presence.
If a child is misbehaving, don’t shush them just so you can get back to what you were doing. Stop, look into their eyes, and gently ask them, “Is everything okay?” Or, “What’s wrong?” Really mean it. And then really listen to their answer.
Taking time to do this — even in the middle of a very busy day — has made a world of difference in our home.
Just the other day, one of my girls was moping around and having a bad attitude. I wanted to snap at her, but I caught myself before doing so and instead invited her to come sit by me. I then looked into her eyes and said, “What’s wrong?”
At first, she didn’t want to tell me. But I asked again in a really caring voice, “What’s going on?”
She finally blurted out, “I just need a friend.” This took me by surprise! We talked some more and I realized that all morning long, she’d been struggling with our move and struggling with feeling lonely.
We talked some more and I encouraged her by sharing about how I’d struggled with those feelings in my own life, too. Then, we made a game plan for reaching out to some girls on her swim team and seeing if maybe they’d become closer friends for her.
Guess what? Two of those girls she reached out to as a result of that conversation have since become good friends for her! I’m so grateful I took the time to stop, look, and listen!
3. Pray With Your Child
When Silas is struggling, I’ll often ask him if I can pray for him. He always says yes and then calms down while I pray with him asking God to help him be calm, obey, love his sisters, or whatever it is that he’s struggling with.
Usually, by the end of my prayer, he’s calmed down and in a much better mood. I think, for him, my willingness to take time to pray with him helps him to feel loved. It also communicates to him that we need God’s help in our everyday life — especially when we’re struggling.
I was chatting about this with Diana from My Humble Kitchen when we met at Allume. She shared with me that when she’s struggling to respond with kindness and gentleness to her children, she’ll ask them to gather around and pray for her. She said that it’s basically impossible to respond in anger after your children have gathered around you and prayed for you! I definitely plan to try this soon!
4. Go Outside & Take a Walk Together
If you feel like things are about to explode inside the walls of your house, call everyone together and tell them you’re taking a walk in 5 minutes. (Or, make it a family bike ride if you have older children.)
Exercise and fresh air can do wonders when things are uptight! Plus, a fresh change of scenery can provide a better setting for talking through issues in a calmer manner.
Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses along the way, breathe in the fresh air, soak up the sunshine, and notice the beauty around you. This will boost your spirits for the tasks that lay ahead of you the rest of the day!
5. Share Three Things You’re Thankful For
As I often say, “There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.” But sometimes we can get bogged down by all the problems, stresses, and struggles that we forget to count our blessings.
In those moments when you want to yell and be frustrated with your kids, challenge yourself to stop, breathe, and call your children together and each share three things you’re thankful for. This might seem really difficult at first if everyone is at odds with everyone else, but force yourself to do this and it will most likely change the tone in your home.
Plus, it might help you step back and gain some perspective: in light of all you have to be grateful for, the small things that someone is doing to irritate you won’t seem so upsetting.
6) Have a Tea Party
If you have young children, this can be especially helpful to do on a hard day. When things feel like they are falling apart, set aside your to-do list and plans for the day and declare it a Tea Party Afternoon. Brew some tea or hot cocoa, cut up some fruit or some other special treats, set out your best china, light a candle, and turn on some soothing music.
Sit down, smile, and just enjoy your children. Take time to laugh together, read a story (or tell stories!), and maybe also talk to them about how they are feeling about life, things they are struggling with, or even some encouragement for them in some areas they need to improve in.
7) Put Yourself In Your Child’s Shoes
Recently, one of my children was having a difficult morning and I could tell this child needed some extra attention. I had a lot to do that day and some appointments and events we couldn’t miss, but I knew that spending time with this child was more important than anything on my to-do list. So I invited this child to come up to my office and have a breakfast date with me.
We had bowls of oatmeal and we talked. Ss I was talking with this child about their attitude and really listening to them, I realized that something they had really been looking forward to this week had gotten cancelled and they were very disappointed about that. This was at the root of their bad attitude that morning.
I tried to put myself in their shoes and think how I’d feel if something I was really, really looking forward had gotten cancelled at the last minute. I’d probably want to be in a funk, too!
Putting myself in my child’s shoes allowed me to really express empathy and understanding. Our Breakfast Date lasted less than 15 minutes but those short minutes together totally pulled this child of their funk. And it gave me a glimpse into their heart and struggles.
8) Play With Your Children
When was the last time you played with your kid? I mean, really got down on the floor and engaged in their world? While I don’t think we need to entertain our kids 24/7, I think it’s important to regularly take time to spend time with our kids by doing things with them that they love to do.
If you’re having a bad day, here’s an antidote: Think of what your children love to do (playing outside, playing Legos, playing games, playing dress-up, etc.) and tell them you’re going to set the timer for 30 minutes and have a Lego Party or a Dress-Up Party or a Game Party together. Then just have fun together and give it your all for those 30 minutes. I bet you end up having as much fun as they will… and you’ll probably forget all about the bad day you were having!
9) Take Mommy Time Out
Moms: Taking time to replenish your supply is not selfish; it’s actually enabling you to be a better wife and mom. If you’re just pouring and pouring and pouring into your family and never taking time to replenish your supply, you’re going to feel burned out, exhausted… and this will often cause you to feel more irritable and frustrated.
What energizes you? What refills your tank? Carve out time in your schedule to make this a priority each week. Get a babysitter, trade baby-sitting with a friend, have dad watch the kids on the weekend or one evening a week… whatever it takes to make Mommy Time happen.
Making time for YOU — to breathe, to refuel, to feel energized again — will make you a calmer, happier mom. And a calmer, happier mom is one who is going yell less and love more.
What practical ideas would you add to my list to help you to yell less and love more? I’d love to hear!