This was another book that called to me from the parenting shelves of the library, which are conveniently located for browsing with one eye while with the other eye I try to make sure my six-year-old doesn’t boss around the toddlers at the train table too much.
When we got it home, my ten-year-old began reading it first, as she does with most parenting books. And also as she does with most parenting books, she gave me advice based one what she’d read.
“The first few chapters just give background, Mom,” she explained one morning after I’d yelled and then commented that I should really be reading that book I got from the library. “The suggestions for how not to yell are in the second half of the book.”
When I printed the supplementary temperament scales from the publisher’s website, she had me print extras for her so she could rate herself and her brother separately and then we could compare notes.
“What I find,” she said on another occasion, “is that often when I start yelling about one thing, I end up getting carried away and yelling about something totally unrelated. I think you might do the same thing sometimes, Mom.”
I have to remind myself that the kid can’t actually parent herself, even though I feel tempted to assume that she can when she says this kind of stuff.
It could have been annoying to have my pre-teen looking over my shoulder while I was trying not to yell so much, but so far I’ve actually found it helpful. She seems to have empathy for the work that I’m doing and the changes I’m trying to make, which seems to make her more patient with me. I feel a little weird about this, but so long as I just appreciate it and don’t depend on it, I think we’re okay. She’s also tried to apply some of the suggestions to her own behaviors. We don’t talk much about it, but it’s nice to have a silent companion on this path.
There’s not much new in this book, but that’s fine. I like the stories, and it reinforces those things that I already know to do but forget over time, like the need for self-care (yes, I do in fact tend to yell more after a night when I’ve had less than five hours of sleep), considering the temperaments of myself and my children, and modifying my expectations based on the circumstances.
Unlike some other books I’ve read along these lines, this one avoids scripted responses and instead encourages a shift in how parents see the situation that triggers their yelling. It also mentions but doesn’t harp on how awful it is to yell at our kids, as some other books I’ve read do. If I’m reading a book to help me stop yelling, it’s a pretty safe bet I’m already aware of at least some of the downsides of yelling and don’t need to be hit over the head with how horrible I am for losing my cool around my kids more often than I’d like. Rona Renner doesn’t try to make me feel like crap, which I appreciate.
In fact, the tone of the book is one of understanding and self-compassion, which I find really pleasant. The compassionate self-responsibility it promotes appeals to me, and the practical suggestions—like lowering one’s voice when one is tempted to yell—have been very effective at my house so far. My kids respond better, and I’m less likely to lapse into self-loathing after I’ve had to address behavior issues.
My spouse also noticed a difference. I was talking with him on the phone the other day while the kids were doing their post-lunch chores. I heard screaming from the kitchen and ran in to find that my son had taken a swipe at his sister with the broom he was supposed to be using to sweep the floor. “Hang on, Honey,” I said into the phone and then proceeded to assess the situation, to determine that both that my daughter was only slightly injured and that my son was just as shocked at his behavior as his sister had been, and then to participate in a hug-fest, all with the phone pinned between my ear and my shoulder.
“Wow,” said my spouse when the kids were once again engaged in the proper, non-combat use of kitchen cleaning implements. “I’m really glad I heard that. You handled that like a pro.”
Of course, that was during the week I was getting eight-plus hours of sleep every night, taking a walk after dinner every evening, and avoiding all sugar, alcohol, and caffeine, along with maintaining constant awareness of my moods and the moods of my children throughout the day. I cannot sustain this level of awesomeness all the time—indeed, I’ve already scrapped the “adequate sleep” plan again in favor of the “frantically cleaning house at midnight” plan—but it was pleasant to see that it’s possible.
Aside from the cover, which essentially shouts “I YELL AT MY KIDS” when I pull the book out of my purse to read in public, my biggest beef with the book is the yelling log. I hate log sheets. I suspect that I might be yelling less just to minimize how often I have to fill out my yelling log, but I suppose that counts as yet another way this book has been effective in helping me modify my yelling habit.