So I earned a song. Pretty exciting right? It's this one. Makes me cry. Every time. And my oh-so-sweet husband even agreed with me when I told him that it's pretty much how he feels about me. (He's a smart, smart man who knows better than to disagree with his wife when she's nine months pregnant and really reasonable about everything.)
Why did I earn a song, you ask?
Because I am an Obliger. And as an Obliger, I can meet outside expectations of me, but not my own personal expectations of myself. Unless-- unless I have accountability. So for this new peaceful parenting/not swearing resolution stuff, I am keeping track on my calendar, and for every seven days I go without losing my temper with the kids or swearing, I get to buy a song on iTunes. The accountability and reward are supposed to help me keep on track even though these goals are self-imposed.
What's an Obliger, you ask? (So many questions you have tonight!) Well, an Obliger, according to Gretchen Rubin, is one of four personality types that deal with expectations differently. Upholders meet outer AND inner expectations. Questioners resist outer expectations, but meet inner expectations. Rebels resist both inner and outer expectations. And as I explained, Obligers meet outer expectations, but resist inner expectations. Reading her book Better Than Before helped me identify which group I fell in, and as I've continued reading (I'm half way through) it's shown me ways to better understand my type and work within its confines.
As I've been reading Better Than Before, I've been mentally keeping notes as to how I can keep my 3 resolutions. (1. Become a better parent 2. Give up swearing 3. Limit time on Facebook) The most important thing, Rubin says, is to know yourself. What works for one person may not necessarily work for another, so I have to watch how a change impacts me to be sure it's the right one for me.
In her book, Rubin also reminds us, "Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good", which reminded me of "Progress, not perfection", and both of those keep me going with my resolutions on the days when my old habits get the better of me.
She also cites that it takes roughly 66 days to establish a new habit. And while that number does feel a bit daunting, it also gives me hope. I'm only 12 days into the new year, so of course I'm still having slip-ups. With time & persistence, by March or April I should be easily steering clear of rabbit holes on Facebook and remembering to say "stuff" instead of "crap" when referring to my children's belongings.
In an attempt to really make a change with my parenting this time (because how many times have I promised myself this is the last time I'm losing it with the kids?) I've been reading some really good online articles about how to become a non-yelling parent.
This article by Sumitha Bhandarkar is the first one I read.
Below I will summarize it for you:
1. Kids misbehave
Yes, they are going to do this.
This is maybe the hardest part for me. My belief is that since the twins are seven and should KNOW better, they should always DO better. As in, never mess up. But that's unrealistic. Changing my expectations to be more realistic has helped my rage level stay lower during the chaos.
2. You get angry
This is where you have the most control. Try to grow your patience.
When I find myself getting angry, I've been trying to think to myself, "This time is already lost (as in, I can't change what's happening now) so I ask what I want them to learn for next time. Is there an expectation that was unclear? Is there a way I can help them be more successful? Having a goal as opposed to just being angry helps keep my behavior in check.
3. You yell/scream
Tell yourself, it's okay to get angry!!! Feel angry. That's fine. But CONTROL THE REACTION.
The last two weeks I've been trying out different behaviors to see what I can replace yelling with. It's been hard. Giving the kids a timeout doesn't calm them down, and taking a break myself doesn't help me calm down. I have discovered two things that work for me-- doling out chores for whatever behavior was making me angry, or asking the twins to write sentences so they can learn their lesson about their misbehavior. I feel that chores & sentences are annoying enough to make them think twice before repeat-offending, but not over the top in terms of consequences that may leave mental scars.
4. Kid reacts to your reaction
We can control this to some extent by not losing it ourselves!
I was telling my mom and sister tonight that I vacillate wildly between empathizing with my kids (remembering how it felt to be their age and make mistakes or get in trouble) and feeling totally validated in my anger (because they are, after all, seven and four and THEY SHOULD KNOW BETTER!). It's exhausting emotionally.
But the bottom line is this: Even if I am entitled to being angry with my children, (ie their behavior could be better), being mean to them (ie overreacting, yelling or hitting) makes me feel awful and is not the kind of parent I want to be, nor the kind of parent they deserve.
My hope is that as I continue using my words, setting an example & establishing clear expectations, the boys' behavior will keep improving.
In addition to rewarding myself with music for seven days of good parenting, I am also committed to journaling every time I lose my temper. My goal is to get to the bottom of what is causing my outbursts in the hopes that I can anticipate (and perhaps cut off) contributing factors. Was I tired? Distracted? Upset about something else? I think this is key, and is different from all the other times I've tried to quit yelling.
I also found three other articles that were incredibly helpful in setting myself up for success:
This one gives examples of using Peaceful Parenting with school-age children. The main ideas?
1. Regulate Your Emotions (set the example!)
For me, this means keeping my emotions and needs in check. Namely, getting enough sleep and getting enough "me time."
2. Connect with Your Child (this fosters cooperation)
For me this means making special one on one time for each of our boys. Not an easy fete, but an important one.
3. Coach instead of Punishing (set clear expectations for the future)
As I said earlier, I look at the situation, see what I'd like to have happen next time, and explain that to the children.
This second article contains the secret to keeping our peaceful parent resolutions:
1. Pick One Thing:
Mine is to "increase good parenting behavior".
2. Support Yourself:
I set a bedtime so I am well rested & have lots of supports in place.
3. Make a Public Declaration:
This blog post did just that.
4. Ask Yourself Why You Want This Goal? And Picuture How Life Will Be When You Achieve It:
I want to change because I loathe laying in bed at night crying about my parenting mistakes. Remembering how awful that made me feel inspires me to do better each day.
5. Make a Plan:
Getting enough sleep; reading books that support these changes; journaling when I screw up & monitoring my progress.
6. Take One Small Step Daily:
Each day I have been really focused on validating feelings. With Josh gone, the boys emotions are a bit all over the place, and I have been really working on letting them feel those feelings freely. Coming from a place of empathy makes it much easier to be patient and not lose my temper.
7. Take It A Day At A Time:
This is why my "music-earning" is over seven days, but not necessarily a week. If I screw up, that's alright, I get to try again the next day without tossing all my progress out the window. It's good for my perfectionist soul to move forward each day and not focus on my failures.
8. Make It A Habit:
My earlier bedtime (which leads naturally to a more kind, patient mama) has been hard to make into a habit, but it's something I'm working on by getting ready for bed when the kids do, and talking to Josh earlier in the evenings as opposed to later.
9. Blow It:
Let's face it, I'm gonna blow it. (And I have. Three times already, and the month isn't even half over...) But for those days, I've decided that the goal is "Progress, not perfection." So I apologize to the boys and move on with the day, working to not lose it again.
10. Review & Revise:
I am re-reading my goals, using Pinterest & other websites for motivation, and am constantly changing my game plan as needed. It's important to check in with myself frequently so I can stay motivated to change.
This third and last article has five resolutions that will make you a better parent:
Best Resolutions for Better Parenting:
1. Regulate My Own Emotions While Parenting
2. Love Your Child (and show it!)
3. Stay Connected With Your Child
4. Model Respect by Being Respectful To Them
5. Address Needs and Feelings Behind Child's Behavior
This last article was good for me to read because it reminded me that none of my resolutions should be about changing my children. My resolutions should be about changing myself --regulating my emotions, addressing my needs and paying attention to how I'm spending my time & interacting with my kids. Naturally as I change my own behavior, my kids will follow suit, modeling respect, self control and kindness because that's the example I'm giving them.