I must shout to be heard

DS is now 11, and I find myself falling into bad habits as a mother. When I was a young mother, I prided myself on having obedient children. I read every reputable book on parenting I could choke down and applied what I thought was the best information. I remember the most helpful things I learned about were timeout, never ask a question to which the answer might be unacceptable, and discipline immediately. I was (and still am) proud of how well behaved my kids were. I rarely had to put them in timeout, rarely needed to spank, and never had to ask them twice to do something. Our lives were pretty peaceful (if lonely for me — the loneliness/usless-feelingness of the stay-at-home-mom of young children is a topic for another day).

But lately I’ve found myself resorting to shouting. A lot. I ask and ask and ask and ask in my nice voice. Finally, I shout and they obey. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve chatted with Feliza about having problems with the kids failing to obey unless I’m shouting. And let’s face it: shouting works. At least it does here. I can ask the kids 45 times in my nice voice, but they will ignore me until I start shouting.

I’ve been placing the blame on the kids: if only they would listen, why are they being bad on purpose, they are doing this to make me mad…. or even better, I blame Jared: they learned to ignore me until I’m flipping out from you.

Today I spent 6 hours ironing. Seriously. When I was RSP, I just ignored the ironing and bought new clothes that didn’t need to be ironed. I know that sounds horrible and spoiled. I have had this heap of ironing in my room for months, possibly years. There were several shirts that belonged to DS that were a size 6/7 or 8. He now wears a 12. Yeah, it was that bad. And I haven’t put the cover on the duvet at all this year because I didn’t want to iron it — 1 hour or more of the ironing was the duvet cover. Gosh, that thing is torture.

So anyway, after I did that, I came into the bedroom to send out some emails I had to for Biggest Loser and for Church. That took a couple of hours, because I was outlining plans for our March activity for the activities committe. So I came out to make dinner, and the house is a sty. They ignored the instructions I gave them, messed things up on purpose, left out the food and stuff from lunch and snack….. Hm. I didn’t feel particularly angry about it, so I asked them to get on the job. They did one thing, and ran off to do something else. What the? Asked again: Same thing. So I put myself in my tried and proven Drill Sergeant mode: “move faster”, “get moving”, “I am not happy,” “How many times did I ask you to do this today?”, “Why do you ignore me until I’m shouting?” Blah, blah, blah…. I’m shouting like I was angry, though I really wasn’t particularly. It allowed me to think about the problem a little better than maybe I usually do. So I came in here and googled something about shouting and kids not listening.

One of the blog entries made the point that we say “you’re not listening” when what we really mean is “obey me”. Most of the entries, however, were that psychobabbly nonsense about how you’re damaging your kids and self righteous judgments about how parents who yell are bad or weak. I am not weak. I am always clear in my instructions, and I never speak in that irritating passive-aggressive way I used to see so often in Utah: ‘If you could pick up your toys.” (spoken as if it’s a complete sentence.) “Do you want to clean up your toys now?” Words like that never come out of my mouth.

So it was mostly unhelpful until I found this entry. Here’s what the blogger wrote:

Do you shout in your home? I don’t mean the shouting that happens when someone is going to fall off the sofa or spill soup on freshly cleaned floor. I mean the shouting that happens when disobedient children come into the picture.In our house, we do. Or rather, I do. Why does it happen? This usually happens when I let things slide. Yes, shouting is not caused by the children. It is caused by the parents. Do I hear howls of protest? Lol! Why do I say that, since it totally incriminates me?

If we have trained our children to first-time obedience consistently, we will eliminate much reason for shouting. What is first-time obedience? Simple – when I give an instruction, it is to be obeyed immediately. I do not have to say it again and again and again. Ask yourself (and myself) why do we shout? We shout because our instructions are not being obeyed and we get irritated or frustrated.

Eg. Scenario A : “Pack up your toys when you are done playing with them.” Child packs them all up. There is no need to shout. Life is pleasant.

Scenario B : same instruction is given. Child ignores instruction. Mother repeats instruction with voice slightly raised. Child continues to ignore and may even walk away from the toy area. Mother now gets agitated. Tone changes. Voice gets louder. Finally she yells. Child then obeys and packs up the toys. Mother is upset and child is unhappy at being shouted. The home setting is not peaceful.

What is happening? Mother has allowed shouting to be a method of gettting the child to obey. This then becomes a habit in this household. The child learns Hmmm…I can just ignore mum till I hear her shout. Then I know she means business.

What should be happening? Once instruction is not obeyed, the child must be disciplined immediately. He will quickly learn that first-time obedience is required of him. There is now no need to shout

Can this really happen? YES!!! So why have I gone back to shouting? Simple. I have become lazy!!! Instead of disciplining immediately when the child does not exhibit first-time obedience, I had chosen to use my voice. I had chosen to repeat my instructions when it wasn’t necessary. When the child did not obey, I had chosen the easy way out by shouting at him. And then to top it off, I blamed him for making me shout at him!

What needs to be done now? I need to go and remind the children that I expect first-time obedience and they will be disciplined accordingly when they do not obey. And I need to be consistent!

Now to go and walk the talk, eh?

Ding, ding, ding! The winner!

This is the problem, and I was too dense to see it. I have, in my self-congratulatory laziness, allowed my kids to get back to that behavior I abhorred when they were toddlers.

So I walked right into the kitchen, told them from now on I would speak one time and they would obey or face the consequences. Well, DS jumped. DD, typically, pressed the issue. She didn’t meet her 10 minute deadline to finish the floor and lost the ability to watch the Olympics. I gave her 5 more minutes and told her if she wasn’t finished, she’d go to bed an hour early. Missed that deadline, too. So, she’s in bed.

But the floor is clean :)

It’s like a revelation. And so easy, really. Yay, bogosphere!