I want to apologize up front for all of the science words in the blog today. Please do not be intimidated. You do not have to remember the terms. There will be no test, I promise!
So when I tell people that I am a yeller they are often shocked. It is probably because I am pretty calm, cool and collected out in public but if you knew my mother you would not be shocked by my statement. “De tal palo tal estilla” right? While I am at it, may I also confess that I am also not naturally loving or affectionate. Those are all things that my kids are helping me to work on but let me get back to yelling. First, let me give you the short answer: I have not stopped yelling. At least not 100%. But do I yell a whole lot less? Yes!!!
In our “About Us” page I shared the story of the moment when I knew that the way I was parenting was not working. At that point in time I knew that spanking my kids did not feel good to me so I was using a whole lot of yelling instead. Clearly, when I saw my son banging his head against the wall I knew that wasn’t working either. So one of the first things that I did was to look for a parenting class.
I found the parenting class that I wanted us to attend pretty quickly but we did not immediately go. It took about 6 months for Paulo to agree to go to the parenting class. So in the meantime, I began to read the books listed on the parenting class website. I just started devouring them one by one.
One of the most impactful authors was Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. who does a whole lot of research on the brain. His books have been really helpful to me in understanding how the brain works, how our children’s brains develop and how to parent with this knowledge in mind.
The two concepts that I want to highlight because of how helpful they were to me are these: “The neurons that fire together wire together” and Neuroplasticity also known as brain plasticity. In the book “No Drama Discipline” Dr. Siegel explains “when neurons fire simultaneously in response to an experience, those neurons become connected to each other, forming a network. And when an experience is repeated over and over, it deepens and strengthens the connections among those neurons. So when they fire together, they wire together.”
In other words when we do something new there is a connection that is formed in our brain and when we do that thing over and over the connection in our brain is getting stronger every time. This is why when we practice something we get better at it or faster at it. The connections in our brain are getting stronger.
The other concept, neuroplasticity, is the word given to our brains ability to change, even in adulthood. We CAN continue to develop new neural pathways and learn new ways of being, no matter how old we are. Is it much harder? Yes. But more importantly, can it be done? YES!!!
What does this information have to do with my yelling?
Well, I am a firm believer that information is key! I feel like the more information I take in on an issue the more I understand something and the more I understand something the more likely I am to be able to put together a good game plan. Knowing what was happening in my brain allowed me to be patient and forgiving with myself. I knew that stopping myself from yelling was not going to be easy; it would take lots of time, but ultimately I knew that I could change. I also knew that if I continued to yell I was now wiring my children’s brains to be future yellers. So bottom line, I had to do it.
So now I understood how to change, I knew I could do it and I made my game plan. It all started with awareness. Please know that I have been working on this for years. It has been a slow process for me. Here is the quick version of how it went.
In the beginning I would still yell but then afterwards I would have the thought, “oh man I yelled again.” I would forgive myself, apologize to my child, and wish myself luck for the next time. Then I would have the awareness (that I was yelling) hit me earlier in a moment and I would yell with less intensity. That progressed to being aware even earlier so I was able to snap out of it and get calm quickly until I had the awareness before I even yelled which meant that I said what I needed to say in a calm voice. Let me take a moment to explain what I mean by awareness.
When I am saying awareness, I am talking about being aware of your thinking in a moment. Are you aware of the voice talking to you right now in your head? Some may call it consciousness or being present. If we want to change something, first we have to be aware of what we are doing. We have to be conscious of our thoughts and what we are feeling. I don’t know if you can control any action or reaction unless you are aware enough in a moment. Being aware is a practice and just so you know it also takes a lot of energy so for me it includes getting enough sleep and food (self care everybody). It is much easier for me to be aware if I am well rested and well fed!
So that was basically my process. No magic wand here, just sheer intention and patience with myself. If you want to try this process out to help you stop or minimize your yelling, please be very gentle on yourself. You are probably not going to stop yelling right away, but if you can start to catch yourself yelling and have the thought “oh man, I just yelled” believe me, it means you are making progress and keep going!!! Don’t give up, remember neuroplasticity, you CAN fire and wire new neuron pathways. In other words you CAN yell less or even altogether. I haven’t stopped all the way but don’t let that limit what you think you can do! I am sending you love and light as you take this on! Si se puede!
I hope that sharing my experience will be helpful to you but if it isn’t helpful that is okay too! I want you to know that there is no “one size fits all” on any of this stuff! Reach out to me, let me know and maybe I can help you find something that is more useful to you on your journey. As always, if you think this blog may help someone please share it and if you have not already done so feel free to subscribe to our newsletter so that you do not miss any of our upcoming blogs! Thanks for stopping by!
P.S. Below we have included links to the book referenced in our blog today, No Drama Discipline (which I completely recommend) and also a really great (and super short) YouTube video on neuroplasticity that describes the process in super easy terms, just in case you are curious!