How do I stop YELLING?

The following is a problem I had that took me totally by surprise.  I was 40 years old when my wife and I adopted our two sons.  We had no experience with children.  I considered myself to be calm, patient and controlled… and others had affirmed these qualities in me.  But when faced with two children deliberately defying me and saying to me things that no child should say to their parent, and were pushing other buttons I didn’t know I had… I “involuntarily” yelled at them.  Perhaps you’ve been there too?  Perhaps you still are there?

(Please see the post script with additional information on how to help your own self-control).

How do I stop YELLING?

By Jim McNaughton B.S. (Barely Sane)

   Those precious little darlings, all the way up to those “terrible” teens; it seems like their only goal is to make you lose it.  It seems like they are deliberately looking for your weaknesses and when they find them they push your newly found buttons and make you yell at them.  I’ve been there, too.  And if you would like, I would like to show you how you can learn from my mistakes.


   When I experienced my child doing exactly what I just told him not to do for the millionth time, I felt an involuntary rush of “righteous” anger spilling out of my mouth and I yelled at the child I love.  I felt bad afterwards, (I have apologized to my son more than anyone else on the planet), and I decided to get counseling.  We didn’t talk about my son much but after counseling I decided I wanted to stop yelling at my son. 

  
        The first step was to decide I wanted to stop yelling.  I thought about how embarrassed I was after I had yelled, especially if someone heard me.  I thought about how helpless I felt when I was yelling.  And I realized that the yelling was not producing any of the results I wanted it to produce.
    
     Then I realized that while yelling promises power and control to right the wrong, it actually delivers just the opposite.  I realized my son was deliberately doing things he had learned would make me mad so that he could control me (and make me look foolish).  I realized that when I yell at my child, my child is actually the one controlling me, and he has the power. 
     
        Sometimes my son would stop yelling back at me and get quieter when I yelled at him.  My response was to rage louder and louder. I learned from observing my son that getting quieter is getting control.  While getting quiet promises to make you look like you’re not in control, that the child is winning, and you are losing, in fact, just the opposite is true.  Quietness is the first step in controlling yourself and leading your child.
    
        Now, I really wanted to stop yelling.  I learned from Viktor E. Frankl (referenced in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey) that there is a space between stimulus and response for all of us.  I had been yelling so frequently and for so long that my brain rapidly went from the stimulus of my child deliberately defying me to the response of yelling at him.
      
     So, I added to my desire not to yell, a redefinition of success.  I called it success if, when I was yelling at my child, I realized that I was yelling and that I didn’t want to yell.
     
        When I did that enough times, I called it success if I could stop yelling and count to three and then go ahead and finish yelling.
        
        When I had counted to three enough times, I called it success if I could interrupt my yelling to count to 5 and then go ahead and finish yelling.
         
        I then counted to 10 or 50 or 100, and eventually I realized that I am in control of my yelling, it’s not automatic, and that I have the choice to stop if I want to stop.
      
        I then chose to stop yelling and be quiet when my child was defying me.  When I did I experienced a sense of self-control I had never known before.  I was free, not only from my child’s control, but free in the face of others who would try to control me by their behavior.
    
        Beware!  This is simple to understand and very, very hard to do.  It took me 5 years to discover and put this into practice.  Hopefully, it won’t take you nearly as long as it took me.  Sometimes everything in me still wants to get the last word and “set him straight”.  I still sometimes yell, but it is much less frequent and I can catch myself halfway into my yelling and stop.
     
        If you are successful and stop yelling your child most likely will initially escalate their misbehavior.  They don’t want to give up their control of you.  My son still frequently defies me, still yells at me and still calls me names.  But I am in control of myself now and I just speak quietly back to him and watch him do his thing.  It doesn’t have the power over me like it did before.
     

        So that’s my story.  You can learn much faster than I did, but it still may be very difficult to do.  Your kids are worth it, and you are worth it.  And the freedom you experience is definitely worth it.


P.S.  

I would like to add an additional tip that can greatly aid in achieving self-control.  When anger is triggered, chemicals are dumped into your blood stream that cause “temporary insanity.”  Have you ever over-reacted and later, when you have calmed down, wondered what you were thinking to cause you do something you now regret?  Counting to 100 (or whatever number works for you) allows these chemicals time to dissipate and the counting activity safely replaces the “temporary insanity” activities.   But there is something else you can do.  


Oxytocin is a natural calming agent released into the blood when you take some deep breaths (about three deep breathes).  When faced with stress, first take three deep breathes, then start counting.  Count until you sense the Oxytocin calming you.  And until you feel the adrenaline, etc. draining away.  And you feel calm (or at least in control).


Differences Are Not Defects, They Can Be Strengths that Complement each other .

As part of Kentwood Community Church’s Leadership Class I was asked to reflect on an essay about diversity.  This is my response to Troy’s essay which deals with the prison walls he finds himself in because of his African-American skin color. 
Reflection on Troy’s “Unity” excerpt

By Jim McNaughton
Sometimes I feel the prison walls too.  I was in my young twenties, and went swimming at a public pool.  The lifeguard was cute.  But I knew I had no chance with her.  You see, I was part of a group for which the pool had been exclusively reserved. We were a group of mental patients.

When you’re a mental patient you can get locked up.  But after you get out you can get locked out; locked out of people’s hearts.  Sometimes once you reveal your mental illness, everything you do and say is interpreted by others through their lens of mental illness (they don’t see you anymore, they see every movie and newscast distortion of mental illness).  For example, you can’t get too upset about injustice, or they get worried about their safety around you.  You can’t get too excited and animated, or they say you are agitated and worry about their safety around you.  But the worst response is more frequent: they simply dismiss your credibility; you become a non-person; and they don’t stay around you.

Unlike skin color, I can choose whether to reveal my difference and risk “the prison walls”.  I hid this part of my life from most people for about 25 years.  Since being bought out of my 23-year career as an Advertising Designer, and finishing my Bachelor’s degree in 2010, I’ve been on a personal anti-stigma campaign. 

One in five people will experience some mental illness in their lifetime.  That’s about 600 people in our church or about a dozen people in this Leadership Essentials class.  And many will suffer without help because they fear the stigma of being labeled.


Racism and mental illness stigma are both based in ignorance and fear of the unknown.  Have the courage to face your fear and risk a relationship with someone who is different than you…  You may find that they are not all that different… from you.

I was a perfect parent… until I had children

The great thing about being young and inexperienced is that you know everything.  At least I did.  Before I had children I knew what every misbehaving kid needed.  Before children I had all the answers.  After children I don’t even remember the questions.  But it is not just the young and inexperienced who suffer from omniscience.  Experienced parents who believe that what worked for their kids will work for all kids cause greater pain.  And the parents of special needs kids, in my case kids with mental health challenges,  feel that pain.  Sometimes from the disapproving looks of strangers, but many times from the comments of their own parents, family and friends.

I was a perfect parent… until I had children

By Jim McNaughton B.S. (Barely Sane)
(Style inspired by Dr. Seuss, only for parents)
Some children are brought home and sleep through the night
They are corrected according to the books
They don’t fight and they don’t bite
And fall in line with one stern look
The parents of these
Children that please
Sometimes take the credit
They write books and give others looks
When the others just don’t quite get it
But we are not the parents of these that please
Our children not only don’t get it
They study us intently to learn our faults and
Our buttons in hopes to upset it
They can weave a lie without batting an eye
They love the crowds all around
To yell “you’re hurting me” and “I can’t breathe”
Though you’re NOT and they CAN
(And YOU just want to LEAVE)
Try Love and Logic they say
It works the best
(Unless you’re kid has no
Cause and effect)
Put up a chart… Charge him for you to do his chores…
You just need to be firm… You just need to love more…
We know the answer… (Though we hardly know your kid…)
We think we know him much more than you ever did
So the next time you see my child and me
Struggling while we go through the store
Please lend us some of your compassion

Advice… We don’t need any more.