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Saturday
Aug172013

Yelling Begets Yelling

Yelling Begets Yelling    by April Rowen

Sometimes kids make me feel like a terrible person. They bring out the worst in me. I'll go from Miss Sunshine to Scrooge McDuck in 2.0 seconds flat. 

I like kids. I really do. But some kids are miscreants. They're wild. Mean. And loud.

When I stop and think about it, I know it's not the kids; It's us parents. And I guess that gets me down a bit. There's nothing worse than a misbehaving little tyrant, with mom and dad fueling the tyranny. And usually yelling parents are sweet people. People-pleasers. Contributers to society and all-around well-behaved citizens of the United States of America. 

But we're raising little monsters. It's scary. 

I'm not sure how we got into our thick American heads that we need to please our children. And I'm extra sure yelling has not -- nor will ever be -- a useful tool in our parenting kits. 

But yelling happens, far too often. And it's much more detrimental than we think.

The Evils of Yelling

  • Yelling shows anger. It weakens respect and erodes trust.
  • Yelling breeds fear.
  • Yelling teaches yelling (and tantruming.) 
  • Yelling exemplifies bullying and dominance; not servant-leadership. It creates cowards and bullies.
  • Yelling becomes the standard way of communicating.
  • Yelling leaves guilt in it's place. (Parents feel yucky; not in control and angrier than ever.)
  • Yelling says, 'My intentions aren't clear. I don't like you after all."

I grew up in a family of (loving) yellers. Marrying a quiet, non-yelling guy was a shock, to say the least. Our first year saw a lot of yelling. And it was all one-sided.

I yelled, and yelled some more while Peter lovingly, patiently waited. When I ran out of yell, I felt worse than I did before the yelling; all spent up and guilty. And amazed he wouldn't yell back. I mean...how wase I supposed to communicate with this guy?! 

Deep down, I was thrilled he never yelled. I felt safe. And so, my husband taught by example to 'fight fairly': To communicate calmly, using fact over emotion. I'm astonished how much is said and solved in a few moments over hours of heated yelling. I'm heard and it makes all the difference. How valuable is the skill of listening over yelling! And I wear an invisible star on my chest every time I can intellectually and calmly explain myself in the midst of raging emotions -- sans yelling.

Yelling Begets Yelling

Close neighbors of ours choose to yell at their children on a daily basis. And I mean yell! It's very difficult to bear and we'll leave the house or use any white-noise available (music, fans, starting an early load of laundry, etc.)

Both children, under four, have resorted to screaming fits and tantrums that shake the very foundation of earth (or at least this duplex). We observed over time as the father increased his yelling, his children's tantrums and yell-fests would equally increase. Not surprisingly, when younger, most of the yelling happened as the kids cried/tantrumed. The yelling was a terribly failed effort to get them to quiet and backfired. 

All the yelling hasn't done One.Bit.Of.Good. And yet, the habit is set and solidified. And it grows stronger every day. The parents aren't in control, and their kids know it. Accompanying the yelling is door-slamming and wall-hitting.

It's a parenting mess. 

From Yelling to Communicating

1. Realize yelling womps. It's hurting you and your family (and your family's family...) in a huge way.

2. Hang out with non-yellers. (Or marry one.) Ask how they do it. Try to start an argument with them. Take notes. 

3. Resolve not to be a yeller. Put this into the only Hands capable of change from the inside out -- surrender the yelling habit (the past hurts, anger, guilt) to God. He remembers when you grew up being yelled at, too. He'll understand.

4. Recruit accountability. Pinky-swear with friends and family. Hang up a 'Yelling-Free-Zone' vow on the fridge. 

5. No going back. Start fresh each day. Maybe a pre-planned reward is in order after a yell-free day. Perfection isn't the goal; rather accomplishing the overall marathon ahead in taking one day at a time -- that's the goal!

But I Only Yell at the Bird...

I learned to deal with conflict by yelling. I still battle the urge to yell. I'm grateful for my journey because now I know how vital it is to break the yelling-chain. Yelling breeds conflict rather than solving it. It's not ok to yell; not at our spouse, the IRS, our siblings, fellow drivers, our pets.

Because our kids watch our every move.

I've made a huge effort to never yell at my family. But I never thought yelling at our parakeet would affect her. 

Yes, there it is; I yell at our bird. The single, tiny little parakeet who outlived three others (or plotted their demise?) and lives happily ever after in a penthouse cage the size of our dining room table...that bird. Ever since outside birds moved in under our eaves and started chirping their very grating "CHIRP!", Batty doesn't sweetly chirp anymore; he mimics them. It's shrill and It.Hurts. I've tried everything to get him to stop, including extra 'free' time from his cage (which results in him merely standing on his cage, instead of in his cage, continuing to cry out to them. 

Enter my yelling. (And occasionally whacking the cage to get him to shush.)

And then yesterday; Batty started in and before I had a chance to holler at him, my sweet daughter toddled over to the cage, banged it and yelled, "No-no!"

Oh dear.

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1

Example is the best teacher. When upset, I can take a moment to process or explain my frustration without yelling. I have then earned the right to require the same from my daughter: "Instead of yelling, show Mama what you want." Or "That's not how we deal with our anger. Ask Mama for help like this..."

Lord knows (and He does!) we aren't perfect. But at the very least, toddler knows not to yell unless it's a squeal of delight or calling out in need. This means less headaches, less stress, less drama, less wine-drinking and second-guessing, and more focus on effective communication. She is learning both by our quiet example and calm instruction.

And wow, dads, you set the stage! Thank you, Peter, for teaching effective communication by your loving example. 

Monday
Aug122013

I Have an Owie

I Have an Owie       by April Rowen

After Toddler gets hurt, we hear about her owie for weeks. She points to the wound, says, "Owie!" then tries to kiss it (or sends a mock 'muah' kiss if out-of-reach.) It's adorable.

She's learning to say, "Scab!" instead of "Owie!" and then, when all healed, "Scar!" That way she knows she can stop kissing it. 

I wish it was that simple for grown-ups.

Because I have an owie.

Last week was full of bad news. Today, Peter and I sat down and had a budget-meeting. Things have been tighter than ever. Our goals and hopes remain just out-of-reach. The word "plan" is starting to make me resentful. It's like plans are there just to watch them fall by the wayside. When you work for something only to have it kicked to the side, over and over again...well, that's a special kind of owie: An owie of the heart. It digs deep and festers pretty fast.

I don't know how Jacob worked another seven years for the same boss after being jipped by him. I would have stolen Rachel in the night and ran. (Genesis 29:1-30) Hardship sure turns our hearts inside out. It spotlights every little yucky. I discovered hurt and disappointment (anger, resentment, rebellion) in this 'ol heart of mine; It needs to be cleaned-up and bandaged!

I've been asking God this week, "Don't You know we only live so long? I'm not sure if Your promises will matter in a few more years when alzheimers forgets them in the first place..."

Symptoms of a Heart-Owie:

  • Fist-pumping at God
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Loss of Sleep
  • Irritability (I promise I'm not describing pregnancy.)
  • Extreme Anxiety
  • Depression...Anger...Rebellion... (Rinse and repeat.)
  • Cycle of Hopeless Thoughts (Especially when trying to find a solution.)
  • Out-of-character Actions and Behavior (Like financing that red Lamborghini...)

How can my toddler kiss her owies? I hate owies. THEY HURT! I don't want to kiss them and take care of them -- I want to hide them. Give them a good stomping before a burial and forgetting they exist. 

The really tough part about Heart-Owies? Any extra hardship -- oh wait, there it is, knocking on the door. And it smells real bad. It can be as simple as neighbors turning up their bass or an unexpected medical bill. Or as tough as a death in the family. It steals your last precious crumb of stuffing faster than you can say, "Keep thinking positive!" (Complete with cheesy smile.)

What to do?

I don't know. I've had all these great ideas for posts, but my Heart-Owie has me sitting on five (five!) half-written, mostly angry posts that will probably never be published. I guess sometimes I need to sit and bleed at my laptop with no meaningful lesson or purpose other than to hurt...and blink...and bleed.

And maybe that's the best thing to do with Heart-Owies...to bleed and cry a bit. To not reason it away. Or hide it. Or think positive in this moment. And to stop looking for solutions and planning for one darned second. Then maybe I'll be able to clean it, slap on an Elmo band-aid and proudly point to it saying, "Owie!" And kiss it, tenderly caring for it.

Then, "Scab!" (Another kiss.)

And finally...oh finally..."Scar!" When I know it's healed and the kissing can stop.

Saturday
Aug032013

Kicking Training Pants to the Curb 

Kicking Training Pants to the Curb    by April Rowen

We gave it our best shot. We really did. Turning up our noses to pull-ups, we took the next step in the evolution of potty-training and bought training pants. We had a little meet-up with them, shook hands and said 'howda-do'.

Then we promptly had our butts kicked.

Training Pants = 1

Rowen family = 0. 

They won. We lost. So I kicked them out. 

It didn't matter that they were cute. Or expected. They were shown the door without a grievance check or letter of recommendation. "No soup for you; next!" 

Why We Kicked Training Pants to the Curb

Baby kept going in them. She stopped telling us she needed to go.

They leaked just as badly as normal underwear leaks.

They were uncomfortable. Baby was constantly tugging at them.

Baby didn't like them. She would fuss during wear.

Baby seemed ready to graduate. While bare-bottomed, she was making potties in her pourty potty nearly every time. But not so when wearing evil training pants...

When Baby Met Undies

Sally and Harry hit it right off (well...sorta) and so did baby and undies. They were instantly BFF's.

My 2ma (wonderful mother-in-law) was visiting when this went down. We made a special trip to the store. We picked out the cutest (and most affordable pair because they are more expensive than adult-sized undies!) and chose a comfortable looking set. Then we spent entirely way too long pouring over the size chart and finally opening the package (yes, we are those people.) We handed the put-back-together package to baby for confirmation. She took one look and chucked them in the back of the cart (I don't think she's going to be much of a shopaholic.) 

I settled on these. (Size 2T-3T)

When arriving home, there was something in the air... was the extermination of the evil training pants lifting the atmosphere? We immediately dropped purses, kicked off shoes and ripped open our main purchase. (Hey, it's the little things in life.) Baby was getting excited, too. We showed her the new undies. Then we showed her our undies: "You get to wear big girl undies just like Mama and Gramma!"

We made a special point to tell her what was expected: "Do not potty in your Big Girl Undies or on the floor. Pull them down before using your potty." We showed her how to take them off and put them back on. She was thrilled! She walked around and did a little dance, pointing to the undies and pointing to the floor, saying 'no-no'. 

But what would happen...? 

SUCCESS! Baby said, "Poo-poo!" and toddle-ran over to her potty. We ran with her and helped her. That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship between baby and undies. Here in week two, we experienced the last three days with zero mistakes. But there were (and will be) underwear hiccups.  Here's what we've encountered so far:

Underwear Hiccups

Pulling undies down. She has a hard time pulling undies down by herself, and sometimes goes while standing right in front of her potty, still trying to get them down. She's getting the hang of it. Just a little longer and she'll be going by herself... aaahhh!

Distractions. If TV is on or company is over, she sometimes doesn't give herself enough time. Or forgets -- until the moment she says, 'uh-oh...poo-poo!' And promptly runs for the potty, drippy undies and all. 

Attention. Toddler knows we drop everything and rush to help/praise her when she but breathes the word, "Poo-poo". Unfortunately, we're seeing a few Cry-Wolf moments when she just wants our undivided attention, sans poo-poo. We've been encouraging her to potty herself... but then we run into the pulling-underwear-down problem. So, for now, if I know I'm going to be distracted for a little while --washing dishes, preparing raw meat, etc., I let her go bare-buns. 

Not getting attention. When she doesn't get the attention she expects (and she gets a pretty good amount!), she sometimes goes right where she's standing with a big pouty face. And then she gets spanked. This is the only time I spank her regarding potty, as it's done out of rebellion. 

 

Now that she's using undies, I will from this point on call her Toddler or Little Girl and no longer Baby. Even though my little girl is only 1.7 years old! (Whaa! What happened there, you pesky thing called 'time'?!)

Aha! Moment

If I could go back in time, I would have bought her undies a few months ago -- the moment she was capable of getting around on her own and cuing us with her potty (read my post here). I wish I'd immediately pulled out the underwear, rather than continue with cloth diapering, evil training pants, and eventually naked time. I believe she was ready before now, and keeping her in diapers (even though she'd let us know when she had to go) wasn't allowing her the opportunity to potty more independently. It regressed things a bit.

Also, naked time seemed to train her to go only when naked. We started to see more accidents when diapered.

So, in hindsight, I'd have put her in undies sooner. In the meantime, we're crazy proud of our little girl. All the training is coming together. YAY!

Monday
Jul292013

Infant Potty Training in Public

Infant Potty Training in Public   by April Rowen

Please note: I wrote this post when baby was just over a year. Morning sickness found it lost in the many half-written, dusty drafts of my blog cellar. I'm feeling better these days and shocked that perfectly good posts simply await editing and publishing! Here's one of them. Now that baby's a year-and-a-half she is wearing 'Big Girl Underwear' (read: panties and NOT evil training pants) around the house and outside. I'll post on that soon. (To read how I feel about training pants, click here.) In the meantime, happy reading!

***

There's only one ingredient needed to potty-train in public, and it's a doozy: Patience. 

Ok, on second-thought, maybe courage would be good, too. And wipies. A diaper wouldn't hurt. And a portable toilet seat cover for those little baby buns. At the very least, dear business owners, a changing table!

But it boils down to patience.

There we'll be, eating out with little sweetums, enjoying one of those 'ta-da' family moments: Peter and I are basking in grown-up conversation and shoveling in yummy food (that I didn't cook or need to clean-up, whee!) and babykins is likewise preoccupied shoveling in yummy food (that I did in fact make because restaurants and kid menus are just...well, that's a soap-box in another post here.) Lights are glowing, glass is tinkling, and our cups overflow with the frenzied waitress at our beck-and-call.

It's heavenly.

Then baby ruins the spell in one fell swoop--

"Poo-poo!"

This is when we can either:

  • Let her mess in her diaper.
  • Plead with her to wait and 'hold-it'. (Hey, we can dream!)
  • Be super-hero parents and take her potty immediately. (Like, yesterday.)

Thus patience is bred, oh, that annoying word. This is because not only is it Way. Too. Easy. to let baby mess her diaper, it's also incredibly frustrating to break that magical restaurant (or shopping) spell. Haning out in the restroom for a bit--and sometimes with zero result--can taste of frustration, my friends.

And let's not forget when baby decides to say, "Poo-poo!" Again. Only five minutes after a previous attempt. Like, the very moment you sit back down to dinner. 

But it's worth it. Why? Because having an independent little poo-er is in sight! I hope. Oh goodness... I hope. (And putting all silliness aside, munchkin is doing remarkable at going most of the time she tells us or is given the chance, 70%ish of the time!)

How to Infant Potty Train in Public

  • Snag a family-friendly restroom, stall, or changing table. I hope for a changing table (we go to places that are family friendly in this way) and use it to unload baby, wipies, a new diaper if needed, and to undress and remove diaper. If no changing table is available, I grumble and either change her on the sink counter (if room), on a changing pad on the floor (yucky), or sitting upright on my lap whilst I sit on the throne for balance. (Which is really fun.)
  • Prep. I make sure to have wipies (or toilet paper if nothing else) at my fingertips.
  • Celebration. If her diaper is un-soiled, we do a little celebration. Yes, right there in the echoing bathroom with other fancy ladies, we hoot and holler and become kinda loud.
  • Squat baby over toilet/Seat baby on toilet. When baby was too young to sit up by herself, I either sat behind her or squatted her over the toilet. Now that she can sit up, I found a toilet seat cover (of wonder and awe) and use that bad-boy on any public toilet. (You can drool over one at Amazon here) I'll know more about infant potty training a boy soon, but I'm thinking it's the same, only...you know, with certain maneuvering involved...
  • Potty time. Pottying (hopefully) commences. "Make a potty. P-s-s-t..."
  • Yay, poo-poo! If she goes, we do a lot more celebrating.
  • Clean-up. We do an initial wipe, then flush the toilet. (I've always tried to make flushing a very big deal; baby thinks it's her reward for making a potty. Before ever flushing a toilet, I excitedly told her about flushing and the 'loud boom!' it would make, hoping to present it as the coolest thing ever. I introduced flushing at home before any loud and scary public toilets could dent her outlook on the whole flushing business. My intentional efforts hugely paid off! Now we can't get enough of flushing...)
  • Dress-up. Back to the changing table we go. After a double-cleaning, she's put back together again and off we go to report our progress to Papa (or myself, depending on who took her.)

 

 What do you think about pottying your little one (who might not yet be sitting up!) in public?

Tuesday
Jul232013

Dear Grandparents...

Dear Grandparents...     by April Rowen

Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do.  Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.     ~Alex Haley

Dear Grandpa and Grandma,

You are vital.

The role you play is huge. There is no stage grand enough to display the role you've been given. There is nobody more important and more vital in my child's life than you. Not a teacher, Elmo, or even Santa Clause comes close.

Not only are you vital in my life (perhaps now more than ever), but you are essential to my child's life. You are the one who raised me (or my spouse). You are the one who has been there, done that. You have gobs of experience and tons of knowledge. (And maybe even a little wisdom, eh?) You have realistic expectations, patience and hind-sight. And you know how to do this whole parenting thing.

At the very least, you have this second-chance.

As a new mommy, just your presence -- your showing up -- means more than anything. And when you take over a chore or just spend time with my little one so I can shower, clip my scary toenails, or collapse for a 4-hour nap...yay, that's gold. And I will NEVER take you for granted again.

You have double-strength influence.

It's amazing. We'll be working on a lesson for days, if not weeks, and within a single hour you have the lesson forever captured in my little one's heart. How did you do that? Certainly you have super-human powers. 

Sometimes I get stuck in a monotonous routine. Energy is low. Creativity is dusty. Chores take twice as long, and patience is frayed. But then you show up and -- Voila! My family thrives again. Our world is sprinkled with your grandparent-ness; newfound energy, creativity, patience and momentum drive our family forward.

As a new mommy, I don't mind when you show my child how to get into even more mischievousness or teach her something new -- especially that very thing I've been trying to help her learn.

Your discipline is ridiculously powerful.

I remember being disciplined (read: spanked) by Dad and Mom. I also remember being disciplined by Grandma. It's funny, while spankings were expected by Dad and Mom, there was still the hope of getting away with something. Not so with Grandma. When she said, 'No', it was as if fire and brimstone might leap from the heavens should that 'no' be tested. Somehow, there was a terror in disobeying her and it was unquestionable to do so.

Grandpa and Grandma, your discipline meanse more, goes further, and hits home right away. And I don't just mean spankings or correction; I'm talking about instruction and training in behavior and self-control. 

Dad and Mom's teaching and discipline forms the child in way's we can barely wrap our minds around. But your discipline is like Popeye's spinach or a can of Red Bull (ew!) The worst thing you can do is forget to unleash it. Or fear using it. 

As a new mommy, I wouldn't mind you breaking open that can of spinach often...it takes such courage to discipline and your help and example in disciplining baby is like octane to my empty tank.

Your instruction won't be forgotten.

When I instruct, the ground shakes a little and the wind is stirred. Somewhere, on flickers a small light.

When you instruct, the earth splits and mountains are moved. Tornadoes whip things into a frenzy. And it's dazzlingly bright.

As a new mommy, when you spend time teaching and instructing my child, it tells me how loved and important my child is. I feel confident there is no more qualified teacher out there than you.

Your attention is worth more than any diploma.

When you love on my child... when you take time out of your work and rest (and boy have you earned that rest!) and spend your energy on yet another little human who needs to be taught, taught, taught... when you carve out special time to become wearied to the bone with the simple goal of loving and teaching and disciplining my little one even in just the tiniest of things...it leaves me speechless.

***  

(That was speechlessness.)

As a new mommy, the time you spend on my child shows me how adored she is. And that tells me how adored I am, too.

And I'm sorry...will you forgive me?

Sometimes I forget about your super-parenting skills. Sometimes I'm driven to impress you. I feel competitive and try to one-up you.  I'm not sure why...and it's not ok.

Sometimes I forge ahead in my extreme independence and leave you out.

Sometimes I'm afraid I won't measure up. I feel invisible and unnecessary and selfish. 

And sometimes, just sometimes, I see things in you I don't like. I know I see things in myself that I hope you won't ever see, too. Sometimes I wonder if even between us parents and grandparents we'll be able to to a decent job with our imperfections. Sometimes I get stuck on those limitations.

I'm sorry and apologize. Will you forgive me? I want to be a better daughter so that you can help my daughter be better, too. I'm still learning how to be a mommy and I need your grace, patience and forgiveness as I go from one new challenge to the next. I know I'm tired and almost permanently cranky. Please think the best of me as I work on being an even better daughter to you so you can be the best possible grandparents to my daughter. 

And thank you. Thank you, with every fiber of my being, for being my dad and mom and for being my child's SuperDad and SuperMom.