On breathing, counting, and alliteration

We’ve been working hard on some behavioral changes here at the Richmond house lately. The problem started small, but very quickly spiraled out of control. Our son was having trouble at school getting along with other kids and following directions during class. But it wasn’t just him. Our daughter was coming home with notes from the teacher for not following directions, and my husband and I were getting very frustrated, and having a hard time controlling our tempers.

Now, you can blame the root of the issue, which I believe is that Mike and I both have hot tempers. He has a short fuse, while I am more of a stewing crockpot. Both are just as ugly and destructive. So we have passed this dangerous temper combo onto our children, leaving us with a house full of hotheads. However, naming the root of the issue does nothing to solve the problem.

After much prayer and discussion, we are learning in a very real way that change starts with us. Just as one person’s anger spreads to the other family members and spirals out of control, one person’s calm and positive attitude can also spread to each other and diffuse a brewing conflict. I am learning to make the conscious decision to react in a certain way when I feel those feathers of fury getting ruffled (pardon the alliteration). I am learning how to breathe, count under my breath if needed, and smile. It’s nearly impossible to yell or scream when you are smiling. I would argue that it’s also nearly impossible to remember to breathe, but with trial and error and lots of opportunities to practice, I am getting there. I do feel like things are changing around here, for the better. Slowly, but surely.

This morning was a prime example. I woke up at 8:08 this morning. About 11 minutes after the bus would have arrived at the stop to pick up the kids for school. I’ll admit, I said “Shit!”, but then I quickly got up, put my ear on, and went to get the children. Luke was already dressed (apparently out of the habit of waking me up to get them to the bus stop), so I quickly woke up Natalie and urged her to dress quickly. While I made sure the kids were ready, Mike was scurrying to get ready for work, and by 8:25 everyone was headed out the door and on there way. As I watched them drive away, it occurred to me that through the entire process from start to finish, from bedrooms to backpacks (I know, I just did it again), no one yelled.

That, my friends, is a miracle. And I am convinced that yelling is an ineffective, horrible habit (sorry!). It only serves to make the yeller feel better for a split second and it teaches our kids nothing about controlling their own tempers. What it does teach them is that it is okay to lose control and disrespect others, not to mention gives them practice at tuning us out.

So this morning was a victory, but it’s just a start. We still have many years of parenting ahead of us, and who knows how many more potential conflicts. We are learning new strategies and honing healthy habits (I couldn’t resist) and habits take time and persistence. We must start each new day with the resolve to make the right choices and take responsibility for our behavior.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Mahatma Gandhi

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
Maya Angelou

Why Yelling Is a Waste of Time and Energy

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