13 November 2007

The Yelling

Here's the thing about the yelling and the nos. I can live with myself when I yell because of a safety issue ("No! Riley! That's hot!"). I can even live with myself when I yell because one or both kids is/are doing something that they know very well they shouldn't be doing, but do anyway (usually with a sly grin and clearly with full conscience of the action). I'm not saying yelling is the best strategy in either situation, but I can live with myself for doing it.

The problem for me lately has been that I find myself yelling about all kinds of things, most of which have nothing to do with the kids. I am tired. I am lonely. I am cranky, hungry, or scared. My fuse is short, and the twins bear the brunt.

My house is very babyproofed, and my philosophy is that if they can reach it, they can touch it. I believe that they are too young for some things to be OK and some things not to be OK. We have a couple of exceptions to that, like the Diaper Champ, but overall, I think at this age it's my responsibility as the parent to keep things away from them that they should not touch.

Lately, though, I can't take it. They can reach the Tupperware in the kitchen, for example. For months, it's been OK with me for them to play with the Tupperware, spread it all over the floor, etc. They are good about helping me clean it up and they have a lot of fun with it. It shouldn't be that big a deal. But suddenly, it bugs the holy living shit out of me when they strew lids all over the place. Sure, I could move the lids out of their reach, but I don't have enough places to put everything out of reach. Nor should I put everything out of reach. They are toddlers. They are doing what they are supposed to do: playing. It's not like they are playing with my knives. It's Tupperware. That in the past, I've encouraged them to play with.

I need to regain my Zen. Consistency is the cornerstone of good discipline. I learned this when I was a teacher. I'm violating my own rule by having let them do something for ages, only to suddenly be telling them no. And I'm inconsistent about the no. Some days, I'm still OK. Many days, though, I have no patience. It's gone. Poof! Gone. I used to be all Between Parent and Child; now I'm all "children will be seen and not heard." I don't like it. At all.

I'm going to a moms of twins meeting tonight and plan to discuss this with other twin toddler moms to see what I can do to break the cycle. It's not a matter of me getting a break. I need a paradigm shift here. A philosophical change. A new worldview.

I don't mean to be melodramatic, but yesterday, the intern from the twins' daycare came over for a visit. She is a really sweet girl, a junior in college. She was telling me that she volunteers at a family homeless shelter populated mostly by stressed-out single moms. She was saying that it's so hard for her to work there because the kids just get yelled at all the time and it makes her sad to see. I know I'm a long way from all-the-time yelling, and I'm doing the best I can. But I want to nip this in the bud. There has to be a better way.


Rachel said...

I think it's perceptive of you to know that your yelling at the twins is not about them, but the fact that your own needs are not getting met. It's sort of like what they tell you on the airplane: put on your own mask before assisting others.

When I was yelling too much, I took a look at what the triggers were. For me, the lethal combination was not enough sleep and too much caffeine. Cutting out one of my morning cups of coffee, coupled with taking a nap in the afternoon, really helped. I still yell sometimes, but less often.

But toddlers will try anyone's patience, so don't be too hard on yourself.

Anonymous said...

Be kind to yourself. Toddlers are challenging, and you've got a double dose. One bit of advice I picked up from the Nanny Diaries is "Good Witch, Bad Witch". When your kid does something wrong, you use a "bad witch" lower tone of voice to scold them. The second they correct the behavoir, you turn into the "good witch", praising, and using higher pitched voice. Works like a charm with my 21 month old.

Binkytown said...

I don't have any answers, I yell way more than I would like to also. We are only human and working moms have a ton to deal with. Single working moms- I don't have to tell you. Go easy on yourself, remind yourself that tomorow you get to start over..

glove said...

Way to go. Veering off course, and then correcting. I hope you feel empowered to make a change. I'll leave the others to say all the things you know, about toddler twins being a strain, about how in your writing you reveal yourself to be a great mother with wonderful instincts, about how any mortal would succumb to the temptation to yell too much. I'll just say - it's always wonderful to strive to be better. You stop striving, you stop living, right? I hope your friends in your group help "counsel" you tonight, and you get lots of good ideas.

Jen said...

Kids that get yelled at all the time eventually stop paying attention to the yelling. Just knowing that helped me to not yell at the kids in my daycare class.

And don't underestimate your kids, they might be ready for rules like some cabinets are off limits. I know my dogs know that there are some rooms they can go in and some couches they can jump on. And I am sure your kids are smarter than my dogs!

But don't stress too much, all parents have times when they feel like they aren't doing a good job. Just worrying about things like this means you are doing a good job!

lala said...

there is so much anger in being a single mom. I wish I could figure out a way to get over it but I can't. The anger comes out for me the same way it seems to for you. If you find any answers that don't start with " take time for yourself" feel free to share.

Lucky said...

I have decided to blame the time change.
We are going through the same issues...all I feel like doing is yelling at my toddler or hiding under a blanket so she won't find me.
She always finds me and laughs, and I am all like, ha ha, great.
I am thinking of you.
There is NO WAY that your kids are not going to grow up thinking you are a superhero.

Jolene said...

oh gosh. No advice here since I'm not a parent yet but just here to tell you to give yourself a break. Yes, the little ones don't deserve to take the brunt of your short fuse but you are raising 2 toddler TWINS on your own and as much as it sucks, you're allowed to lose your temper once in a while. I probably never give the best advise but just letting you know that I'm still hear, reading. :)

Jan said...

Oh, man, do I feel this pain.

When my daughter was about 3, she went through a really obnoxious (rude, deliberately naughty, mouthy) stage just as my 1 1/2 year old boy was entering his "if I scream for it, it will happen" stage. I felt just like you're describing -- I could remember how I used to be, patient and tolerant and letting the litle things go, but suddenly I was all about the time outs and the yelling and the "because I said so"-ing.

What helped me was to realize a couple of things. First, that some stages are just harder than others (and for everyone those are different stages, both because the kids are different and because the adults are different). And second, that what used to work might not be working anymore, either because I was trying to use it on a different kid, or because I was trying to use it in a different stage of the same kid's development (for example, my daughter responded best to verbal cues, descriptions of what she should be doing and why; my son needs physical redirection or you might as well not even bother).

I needed to sit down and plan ahead what I was going to do. I needed a new set of rules for myself. I needed to remind myself of the effectiveness of positive statements (like "please use your big girl voice") instead of negative ones (like "stop whining" or even worse, "knock it off"). I needed to look at when my kids were making me crazy and see what I could do to address the problem spots before they occurred. At our house it was total chaos when I first arrived home from work, because my husband wanted to chat with me about my day, and the kids needed some Mommy-time and came unglued if they didn't get it. It'll (obviously) be different stuff at your house, but I'll bet there are patterns. I have discovered that if I can't get ten minutes of quiet time after work, I can't be a patient mom, so I recorded a few books on CD and we listen to one or two after I pick the kids up before anybody's allowed to play 20(000) questions from the back seat.

I agree with everyone about not being too hard on yourself. You've got a lot going on, and you're doing the best you can. That's really all anybody can ask -- that you do the best you can.

Mandy said...

When I'm able to stop myself as the fuse is burning down or gone and really think about what's going on - that my daughter is whining and pushing buttons because she's tired or hungry or sick or just because she's a toddler, or the fact that I'm pregnant and tired and sore, etc - in those moments I'm able to stop, take a deep breath and give myself a mini break. Then I can be calm for the length of time it takes to get to the next nap, bedtime, break, whatever.

I'm getting better at doing that but sometimes it's really REALLY hard. And sometimes knowing that I'm losing my cool because of me adds enough guilt to really make me cranky. :(

Toddler twins, on your own, while grieving your husband - I think anyone would be doing some yelling. Is there an opportunity for respite somehow - a friend or relative who can give you a bit of time an evening a week or something so that you can recharge your own batteries?

I loved Rachel's comparison to the oxygen mask on an airplane. Makes total sense.

The good news is that you're probably not yelling as much as it feels like you are (because I'm sure there are times you feel like yelling and don't) and the better news is that you're aware, you're trying to be better and you will be.

terri c said...

I hear you say it's not a matter of you getting a break, and you know yourself and the kids. All I can say is that, if I were you, I really WOULD need a break! Especially when feeling tired, and lonely, and scared, and etc.

Amy said...

Nip the yelling in the bud I say.. Redundant on the kids ears and not worth the effort.

A firm and forceful "NO" is stronger than Mama yelling it at you constantly.

Praise the hell out of the good and make giving positive strokes (reinforcements) your weapon. See one of them eating appropriately? Praise. Laying still when diaper changing? Praise... Positive reinforcement so powerful.

While my husband is alive, he is gone and has been gone 4 out of 7 days of the week since the kids were born. Oldest is now 14 and daughters 10. I am the primary caregiver/parent for our kids.

Really. Kid proof your house to the best of your ability, rely on baby gates to keep them out of tricky areas, enforce early bed times for them and you will be ok.

At this point it is all about making it through the day with a tidbit extra time for yourself. You can do this!

kathy said...

Cut yourself some slack a little bit. You are a single parent of two toddlers. Of course you want to not yell at them and be a perfect parent, but the mere fact that you are even aware of it makes you a fantastic mom. You are doing just fine. Its just hard. You are allowed to have bad days too!!!

Lisa said...

Oh, I hear ya. When I was a teacher and respite worker with kids I never yelled, and of course I thought I would go on to be the perfect parent. Ha!

I completely underestimated the demands of having to work from the moment you get up to the moment you go to bed (and still be behind) as a single mother. The not having breaks are killer. But I do understand that when people say, "take a break" it isn't always possible. Like I can just snap my fingers and make that happen.

I do think that they are probably old enough for some basic rules. I started with not touching the stove, major danger areas like that. Once they got that, we could move on to other things. Also, I try to just say, "No" or whatever word needs saying and then shut up. I'm still infuriated. I'm still cursing wildly under my breath. But I just give myself one sentence with them and cut myself off. (I say this as if I have the answer, its not like it always works.) I've also just got up and left the room, which really has way more effect than yelling anyway. I think in those times, when there is no dad or babysitter to come to bat for you in frustrating times, you just have to pace yourself minute by minute. Take a 30 second break, slap the kids in front of the TV for a few minutes. Breathe. Whatever you need to do to just get yourself under control.

And then, sometimes, you yell. I do think that since you are seeing it in yourself and are intentional about decreasing it, you will naturally. We all do it, sometimes a lot more than we'd like. I always try to apologize to the kids and explain that I didn't handle my anger well when I think I've gone too bananas on them. I don't know how much they understand right now, but I think it is a good practice to just admit that sometimes moms make mistakes and have trouble with their emotions, too. And then moms have to apologize.

Good luck and take it easy on yourself. Your introspection about it shows what a good job you are doing as a mom!

Anonymous said...

I think you need to get more sleep. It may be that simple.

Anonymous said...

I think you are doing so well. I hope you were looking for advice and if not disregard.

I agree about the breaks, etc. etc. My technique to manage MYSELF is just to say what's really going on. Like this:

"Oh no all the lids are out! Most days that is okay but today mummy is tired and these lids are making me tireder!"

Okay that sounds stupid written out but honestly, for me anyway, just being able to express it goes a long way. I find I have to do this when my husband is away, and I'm sort of guessing that part of the burnout is you don't have another adult on the scene with whom to commiserate RIGHT THEN. And that is hard.

I figure my son is learning reality too, so it can't be too bad. Interestingly now when he's going to bed if it's getting late and I say "mummy is upset because it is getting late and I don't want you to be tired tomorrow," SOMETIMES he says ok mummy and lies down and sleeps right then. (!!!). He's a bit ahead of your two, so maybe something to look forward to?

Christine said...

Snick, I know you are probably tired of hearing this, but I don't know how you do it. As you know, I have a bun in the oven, and I'm not sure how I would do it all without my husband. Try to be easy on yourself and find things to praise in the kids to temper the (sometimes necessary) yelling. I'm a yeller, too, so come talk to me in a year, and I'll prob be in the same boat. :)

Julia said...

I think it is also a little bit about needing a break. I know I am far less patient on little sleep, for example, and cut parenting corners I would never cut when well-rested. Any way you can get yourself a couple-three days away all by yourself?

OTRgirl said...

My only thought is that my Mom yelled alot. It was totally ineffective (as people mentioned, we ended up tuning her out, which infuriated her), but in the end, it didn't negatively impact me. I knew she loved me and was doing the best she could. She would voice her emotions and admit when she was tired or frustrated so the yelling didn't feel like a mystery, just a release valve. She also voiced many positives to us, so it wasn't just the negative.

Don't know if I'm making sense, just wanted to say that the yelling is probably not a deal breaker for your kids. ;-)

Kathryn said...

You do amazingly...One toddler can be draining, two doubly so, two as a single mum...goodness! If you were yelling non stop, it wouldn't be so very surprising...but you're not and you're aware of the limitations of this as a strategy too. You'll be fine, - but I'm hoping and praying that there will be ways of getting yourself some support so that you get a chance to regroup and enjoy the twins more often.

Jill said...

I don't think you need more "me time" in the sense of going away for a weekend or even a night. What I'm wondering is maybe you just need to cut yourself many more little breaks throughout the day.

I totally don't know you at all, but just from reading your blog I've gathered that you

1) work full time
2) have toddler twins
3) are grieving your husband
4) are trying to participate in NaBloPoMo
5) serve your kids incredibly healthy, home-cooked, vegetarian meals almost all of the time
6) try to run/work out several times a week
7) are thinking about cloth diapering or actively pursuing this
8) have no housecleaner or other domestic help
9) are trying to be the ultimate patient parent who never yells

Snick, all this stuff together, it's just not real life. I don't want to say you can't do it...but I think trying to do it all will lead to burnout for anyone.

How about cutting yourself some minibreaks? How about pre-prepared "kid food" a couple of nights a week? How about just saying "my sanity is more important than the small amount of waste we'll save by cloth diapering on nights/weekends"? Could you possibly afford at all to have a housecleaner come even once a month? (around here, that's about 100 bucks for a 2200 sq ft house or so) As much as we love hearing from you, it might be that you don't need to go for a post a day this month in THIS year. How about using a little more TV in the evening that you might wish?

I'm not saying you should turn into a sloppy, neglectful parent, but it just seems from reading here that you're trying to be the perfect mom AND dad to TWO toddlers all the time...and you're burning out.

Toddlers are so hard. It gets better....it does.

Becky said...

Try not to beat yourself up too much over the yelling. You ARE under an amazing amount of stress and don't discount that, because you're doing a great job. Toddlers are very trying, and that is not your fault.

Try and see if you can get a sitter and get away for a bit and relax.

I wish you good luck and Godspeed.

Yankee T said...

Your kids will survive the occasional yell-fest, even though it is not ideal. Your plate is ridiculously full. I remember so clearly having 2 little kids by myself, and although they were NOT toddlers at the same time, and it WAS my choice to be a single parent, it was freakin' EXHAUSTING. And my heart wasn't broken in the bargain. Go easy on yourself. I love the "Good witch, bad witch" idea

Anonymous said...

Finding consistency will help your moods, believe me. As a general rule, yes, babies have a limited capacity of understanding the dos and don'ts of the world, but they are capable of learning some - you just need to find your consistency. As you well know, that can be difficult when you're on your own. I've never met you, and yet I wish with everything inside of me that I could have a way to bring your husband back; I know so many of your frustrations would be gone.

However, I have learned from your writing that you are unbelievably strong, and you will make it. Just remember to set consistent boundaries with the twins and begin teaching them dos and don'ts. If I can teach a 12 m.o. not to touch the items on the coffee table, I'm sure you can do something similar. And I don't mean that out of any sort of disrespect to you - I happen to struggle with patience GREATLY, so for me to get that across to a baby was pretty much a highlight of my year. lol

Bottom line, don't be so hard on yourself. Snick, you're a good mom.

- A

buddha_girl said...

Like you, I sometimes find myself in YELL MODE. Like you, I hate it...minutes or seconds after the yelling's left my lips.

I've learned to take advantage of the time others offer me so that I can have some alone time. I may not nap when Buddha's under someone else's care...I usually clean the house, scrub the bathroom, and deal with the never-ending laundry.

However, I feel more organized and focused when I'm alone with him so I don't have that proverbial monkey on my back.

If you have people offering to help, take it. I think part of the short fuse is likely the proximity of the recent anniversary of John's death. He's not my husband, yet I'll admit that I miss him - someone I never met. I can't imagine the frustration that overwhelms you.

If you need something from far-away Virginia, let me know. Much love to you, Snick.

henna's hearsay said...

Can you stand another comment on this?

Possibly track your menstrual cycle and plan your life around it if you discover you can't keep it together during THOSE days/weeks.

I've heard something along the lines of "there is no way to be a perfect mother, but a million ways to be a good one."

Anonymous said...

I don't have twins, but I have a very active 2.5 year old. And, don't feel bad about saying yes to something then saying no to the same thing weeks later. I have learned this from experience. My daughter is doing things now that she did at 1.5 years old that we thought would help stimulate her creativity. Now, I regret not making rules about it back then. For example, taking things out of the kitchen cabinets, using the blankets as capes etc. Don't feel badly about making clear rules about respecting your house. Perhaps, just give them one thing they are allowed to play with. Trust me, make the rules now, or pay later. If you think the yelling is bad now, wait until they get a little older and want to do those things that you never made clear rules for.

Don't just make a specific rules about the cabinets for example, but make broader rules, like - "respect your home, respect your sibling etc." Start now, and you will have less yelling later - trust me. We regret not doing this earlier.

Also, if you tell them no, then direct them to something they can do, or play with. I have just learned this, but it works. It takes a heck of alot of patience, but I see it as my duty as a mother to actually "teach" them, rather than just say no. Again, I am just learning this now, but can see results. And, like others have said, don't be hard on yourself. Toddlers can be dreadful (and lovable!)