Sometimes advice stands on its own. You read it. You poke it. You lift its flaps and test its zippers. You give it an apprehensive sniff. You compare it to your experiences, and then move on. Maybe you add it to your mental bag of tricks, maybe you don't. Other times, you hear advice and your immediate reaction is to question the credibility of the adviser giver.
I read some advice recently on how to stop yelling at my children, and it was exactly because of the source, the advice giver, that I paused and soaked it in slowly. You see, this trick of not yelling is one I have not mastered. And I so desperately want to master it.
Her name is Christine and her blog is Welcome to My Brain. She is a pastor's wife. Her family has been fostering, and then adopting, a girl over the past year-ish. Her name is Mar and I think she's around 11 years old.
Mar cannot yet believe things are not going to change once the adoption is final. Her last adoptive mom was super sweet and sappy during the adoption process while they waited in Haiti. The abuse started as soon as she became theirs "officially" - literally on her first day home. I can understand her fear. She wants to do whatever it takes to stop the adoption, wondering if we're just "acting nice" to make her "all ours" ... and then we may change. She has witnessed a woman being completely two-faced: one thing at home and another thing in front of school employees, church friends, and caseworkers.
Understandably, due to her time as an orphan and also her prior adoption, Mar has developed a condition called Reactive Attachment Disorder. The wikipedia entry on RAD says, "children with RAD are presumed to have grossly disturbed internal working models of relationships which may lead to interpersonal and behavioral difficulties in later life."
Two months ago, as the adoption date was looming ever nearer, Mar's behavior (read: misbehavior) escalated. And who could blame her? Right around this time Christine wrote a post titled: I'll Just Out-crazy Your Crazy!
When your child has hit you, bit you, had to be restrained, was asked to stay outside then crawled back in a window, locked themselves in the bathroom, thrown something through one of the windows, ripped up some of your garden, etc., etc. ... what is a RAD Mom to do?
You come home to the child who hit you, bit you, had to be restrained, was asked to stay outside then crawled back in a window, locked themselves in the bathroom, thrown something through one of the windows, ripped up some of your garden, etc., etc.. You enter their room with a can of spray paint and a bag of candy. You step over the posters and notes you've made for them over the past year (now lying all over the floor torn to shreds), and you just spray paint your love notes directly on the walls.
You out-shine their darkness. You out-love their fear and anger. You out-crazy their crazy.
Right about now you're really jonesin' hard to read the original post and gawk at her pictures. Fine. Click here.
So you see, when a woman like this writes a post titled How I Stopped Yelling At My Kids, I stop and pay attention. Then I come here and blog about it, not only because I want to share her wisdom with you, but because the only way for me to own up to my responsibilities as a Dad is to saturate my life with good advice. My brain is dark, and advice like this is white. I have to force myself to think about this stuff over and over, so that it soaks into my thoughts like multiple coats of white paint on a dark wall.
Here is how Christine recommends that I stop yelling at my kids.
STEP 1: Believe yelling is not okay. When you are screaming at someone, you are not thinking clearly, you have abandoned love and kindness, and ... well ... it's wrong. It's just plain wrong. Yelling hurts. It never helps. Ya' know ... cause it's WRONG!
STEP 2: Acknowledge your children learn through what you do, more than what you say. "STOP YELLING AT YOUR BROTHER!!!" Um, yeah.
STEP 3: If it's good enough for your kids, it's good enough for you. Give your kids permission to say, "Mom, can you please change your voice?" Also, in our house we do something extra for the person we have hurt. So, if I yelled at my kids, I owed them an extra treat or some extra reading time or they could stay up a little later, etc. I received consequences for yelling.
STEP 4: Do not yell at your child the first time they rationally and calmly say, "Mom, can you please change your voice?" You'll want to, but it's better to put yourself in a time out ... in your room ... while you scream into a pillow.
STEP 5: Yell less and less and less until you are no longer a yeller.
I want you to take 2 things away from this and the first thing is perspective. Chances are, you don't have it nearly as bad with your kids as you pretend. If you're being honest, your yelling is probably a significant part of the problem.
The second thing is a challenge. In the comments below fill out your own report card based on each of these steps. Give yourself an A for excellent and an F for failing. I'll jump in down there too. And if you disagree with any... by all means say so!
P.S. Christine, your courage and patience dwarfs mine. Thank you for inviting us on the journey.