The 30 Day No Yelling Challenge: What I Learned.

So. My No Yelling Challenge.

I HAD intended on updating you weekly about how it was going; the writer in me imagined that I’d see real progress over the course of the month and I could close out the challenge with a neat and tidy ending: I learned so much about myself, and I’m kinder, gentler, and a better mom and wife to boot!

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

I still yell sometimes, even AFTER working at it.

Part of it is years of ingrained behavior and reactions. My default to pretty much everything is annoyance. Little annoyances over the course of a few days turn into frustration. Lots of little frustrations build up over time, and like a pressure cooker, I inevitably POP.

And then I’m yelling.

It was clear to me that first day (where I yelled at every one of the Important Beings In My Life at least once) that this was going to be a REAL challenge for me.

Because it’s a simple fact: I am not zen, as much as I’d like to be.

So last month was not a success if you define success as becoming a zen mother/wife/dog owner who never yells.

But it was a success in other ways. Because I figured some stuff out.

The first thing I figured out? Generally, I yell before I even realize I’m yelling. It’s a weird thing to say, I know. But there was a moment soon into the month where, as I was talking, I realized that my voice was raised and I was punctuating my statements with emotion. I wasn’t angry at that point.

But I could see how someone outside my head would think that I was mad.

I had never noticed that about myself.

And, of course, it makes sense that I don’t just go from calm to screaming in 60 seconds, that things build up before I lose it.

I spent time trying to figure out how to prevent getting into a situation where I yell. What were my hot buttons? What did it FEEL like when I was getting into the red zone where I snapped and let my frustration out?

I noted a couple of things:

1. I need space. I need, on average, an hour or two a day where I don’t have to interact with anyone, where I can be alone with my thoughts and feelings and breathe. (And yes, this confirms that I’d be an abysmal stay at home mother.) I struggle with this, because time alone seems like such a luxury. But I am a better person for it.

2. I need to simplify. My worst days are the ones where I am trying to do too much: squeezing in a run before daycare drop off then 3 hours of commuting time and a busy workday, only to have to go out for dinner with a friend or do dog training classes or whatever. Then, Jeff’s focus on work only while I’m gone – the coffee cup on the dining room table, the dirty dishes in the sink – are enough to blow my top.

3. I need sleep. I can subsist on 6 hours of sleep for a bit, but it’s not enough, and when I’m tired I get snappish and grumpy and have very little patience. Ideally I need 7-9 hours each night. Which means I need to commit to a regular bedtime, no matter what. And I also need to be on alert when I haven’t gotten enough sleep that I will have a harder time with patience.

4. I need to let go of expectations. I discovered that I was far more stressed out and therefore yelled when I was trying to do something special for Owen or Jeff or the dog. Seriously, go ahead and laugh, but I was that mom/wife/owner who was hissing through my gritted teeth I am doing this for YOU, so you better [expletive] ENJOY IT. And it was because I had set myself up with EXPECTATIONS. In my head, I had created a fantasy image of how things would go, and when it didn’t meet those expectations, I would get angry at them. Which, if you think about it, is a twisted sort of hurt. Acknowledge, please, I’m doing something NICE for you? I’d love it if you thanked me for it.

The biggest thing I got from this month was the ability to take a step back and observe my actions and reactions. Because until the Challenge I had never really acknowledged that my yelling was because *I* was missing something – either sleep or space or my expectations were out of line or I was doing too much.

I always explained it simply as the fact that no one listens to me, and they only way they listen is when I yell.

I still find myself raising my voice more than I prefer to, and I will be the first to admit that there are days where my patience is worn thin within minutes of waking up in the morning.

(Or when I say something to Owen for the THIRD. FREAKING. TIME and he looks up and says, “What, Mommy?” like he’s never heard my voice before. ARGH.)

So, yeah, it is inevitable that there will be days where I’ll snap at him or Jeff or the dog. This is real life, not some fairy tale where I make some sweeping changes which results in Happily Ever After.

But when I do lose my cool, it’s a warning: I need something. And if that means I need a few minutes with my pandora Trip Hop station or I need to text my best friend and bitch or I need to go for a walk around the block, then that’s what I have to do.

And so I’m calling last month a Win.

10 comments on “The 30 Day No Yelling Challenge: What I Learned.

  1. Delenn says:

    “I am not zen, as much as Iā€™d like to be.” That pretty much sums it up for me too! šŸ™‚

    I did not take the challenge per say, but the last few years I have tried (and often failed) at being more patient. Unfortunately, I think needing my space and my sleep are not only paramount to me being more “zen”, but also very hard to come by sometimes. (So hence the not so zen)

    My biggest problem though, is trying to let things go. Trying to not take on everything. Because oftentimes–if I let it go too much–I end up just making MORE work for myself in the end. It is a vicious cycle that I try to work on where I try to get the family to be a “team” with all the chores/duties–and that does not always work out.

    Glad you are able to decipher what makes you tick though–it is always helpful when one is starting to get annoyed to remember how and why you are that way! šŸ™‚

    Good Luck!

  2. Turia says:

    Honestly, it sounds like it was a resounding success. I’ve always admired your willingness to take a good, hard look at yourself, and it sounds like you were able to do that with this challenge. So what if you still yell sometimes- it seems to me like you have a much better understanding now of WHY you start yelling, and of what you need to make sure you don’t start.

    A lot of your triggers add up, in my eyes, to the Bilbo Baggins modern lifestyle (to paraphrase: “I feel like butter spread across too much bread”). You could probably handle not enough sleep, or too much in one day, or no time to yourself, if it was just the one trigger occasionally, but if they are all piling up day after day, that’s too much.

    Has it made you rethink anything concerning the work/life balance issue? Do you think you can get all the things you need to keep you from yelling on a daily (or most days) basis?

    I’ll be really interested to see what you think.

    • Turia says:

      Also, the getting cranky because you’ve built up expectations and your loved ones are meeting them? I SO do that too. It is a bad bad fault of mine.

  3. Kate says:

    I think this is a great, honest post. I grew up in a house of yellers (and hitters) and have really struggled to stop those ingrained habits from growing up. Not hitting is pretty easy because I remember how awful that was to be kicked and punched and hit and slapped around as a kid. But, not yelling is way way harder. I grew up with people that never had their emotions in control, so it has been a struggle for me to try and just reign in those feelings. When I get really angry, I see red and all I want to do is smash, throw, yell, and scream. I try and separate myself from my husband and kids. Put N in time out in his room if he is acting up. Tell my husband to go for a walk if he is driving me f’ing batty. (I know, if I am the one that’s mad, why should he be the one to leave? I don’t know. Makes me feel in control.) But, I have found that I’ve had less fits since I’ve been home and not trying to fit in everything into a teeny tiny amount of time. But, that is a luxury we have right now and not everyone can have that luxury. Working and parenting is hard. Really hard. I know woman are emporwered and it is better for us to have more options for working, but I really think that our high-charged busy busy busy society hasn’t really adjusted or changed for the two working parent environment. If we want to have a happy, fulfilling life, something has got to change. And, “leaning in,” only really works when you have a husband with dishpan hands or can afford lots and lots of help.

  4. Ana says:

    Just clicked over from Mel’s blog. Every point you make is true for me…very eye-opening. And yes, they add up and eventually…POP. There are also certain “triggers” that I try to avoid—like when my 3 year old swallows the toothpaste instead of spitting—a stupid thing but makes me so freaking annoyed. So I have my husband do the teeth brushing whenever possible because I don’t want to be angry and shouty by 7:30 AM.

  5. I’m curious to know the affect on O? And, did you *feel* like your house was more zen for the relative lack of yelling?

  6. Justine says:

    I definitely think that you get a Win for this! Even if you didn’t stop yelling, you are more mindful, and that’s worth a lot.

    Like you, I find myself yelling quickly, and it’s often because I need sleep and space, or because I expect TOO MUCH. My children are smart and mature, which is great, but it also means that I tend to treat them as if they’re older than they really are … and of course what they need is to be accepted for who they are at that moment in time.

    You are brave for having tried this!

  7. Deborah says:

    Sounds pretty true for all of us – the needing sleep, and time to ourselves, and letting go of expectations. I remember as a kid I hated it when my dad would say “I did something nice for you, so now you should…” I always felt like i didn’t ask him to do it, so why should he expect me to be grateful? But i know I get aggravated most easily when I’m in the middle of doing something for J (like vacuuming, for his dust allergy, or folding his laundry or making him dinner) and he gets upset that I’m not playing with him. I know it’s illogical to expect him to be grateful for these things, but somehow it frustrates me anyway.

    Did you come up with any ways to ensure you get those things you need to stay calm? Because I have no answers.: )

  8. Ellen K. says:

    I need to try this. Totally lost my sh*t with I. this morning. Not a fan of summer vacation… thank God we are in the Midwest and they’ll be back in school in 6 weeks.

    By the way, the book “Momma Zen” was helpful, because when a Buddhist priest acknowledges lashing out at her kid, you KNOW you’re not alone!

  9. catwoman73 says:

    Oh my… we are so similar. I could easily have written this. I am not particularly Zen either. I need alone time. I need balance. I need minimalism. I need sleep (ha! As a shift worker, this is always being sacrificed!). And I definitely need to let go of expectations (it’s so HARD!). There just aren’t enough hours in the day to have all that I need, AND make time for the needs of my hubby and child. I commend you for having tried the no yelling thing, because I wouldn’t have even attempted it at this point. I wish I didn’t lose my cool with my family, but as long as I am stretched as thin as I am, it probably will keep happening. I’m hoping (praying!!!!) that once the wee woman is in school, things become just a little bit easier. Maybe that will ease your burden a little bit, too?

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