He was right; I hadn’t earned my sticker for the day.
See, the behavior chart was for me, not for the kids. Let me explain.
My kids were adopted. They are five and three years old. While waiting nearly three years for them to come home, I dreamed of how our life would go. I read all of the books and articles about promoting attachment, dealing with trauma, rotating toys, feeding them healthy, etc. I was ready, and then some.
When they finally came home, I went from zero to two kids overnight. Two things truly shocked me. The first: they were really messy. I was stunned and disgusted at how filthy my kitchen floor was all the time. The second shocker: I was a yeller. This surprised me because I couldn’t remember the last time I yelled at another human (except other drivers, of course). And here I was, a new mom, yelling at these beautiful little people I had waited so long to bring into my home.
The yelling went against all of the connected/respectful/positive parenting guides I had read. Even though it wasn’t happening all the time, it was not the kind of parent I want to be. So I started reading and researching tips to stop yelling. I quickly learned that being tired or in a hurry contributed to my outbursts. I sought the trigger for my yelling, and figured out that I really lost my patience when the kids didn’t listen (which seems like a real no-brainer now!).
I also learned to think about our environment. If I didn’t want them touching or playing with things, it was my job to get them out of the way. Since I don’t enjoy fishing full rolls of toilet paper out of the toilet, I learned to put out only one roll at a time. I learned that if the kids couldn’t stop putting their legs in front of the sliding doors on the van, I would turn off the electric doors and just muscle them open and closed myself. In short, I learned to adapt our lives to our reality, working hard to avoid triggers and traps for anger and yelling. That helped a lot. Someday, I have great hope that the kids will be able to squeeze their own toothpaste without getting it all over the sink.
But still, mornings and bedtimes were tough. The kids and I have different goals at these times — they want to play and be rowdy, I want them to listen and do what I say. A book that gave me some great tips is called “Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids” by Dr. Laura Markham. Right off the bat, Dr. Markham recommends committing to not yelling, which meant telling my kids I wanted to stop yelling and empowering them to hold me accountable. My kids loved the idea, and we got started.
Dr. Markham suggested a behavior chart where the kids decide whether mom gets a sticker. I made one, and we hung it up in the hallway right outside of the kids’ rooms. I didn’t get a sticker the day we hung it up because I had yelled in the morning. And to be honest, it took a few days to earn the first sticker. Finally, I started thinking more about the chart and getting a sticker actually became a motivator to me. My three-year-old didn’t really care, but the five-year old embraced his role as arbiter of the sticker. He loved giving me his verdict each evening. And loved telling me how I was doing throughout the day. One morning when we woke up, he said, “so far so good mom, sticker for you.” Thanks, kid.
The chart hasn’t eliminated all the yelling, and I’m still searching for tips and tools to help me keep my cool. But the chart has made me more thoughtful and aware. I’m glad to say I earned my sticker yesterday!
What tips do you have for keeping your cool with the kids?