As I was sitting in church last Sunday, a thought occurred to me. I’ve learned to trust thoughts that occur to me in church. I ignored a persistent thought that kept coming to me each Sunday at church for an entire year once because the thing I kept feeling to do was a hard thing to do. But once I followed the thought and did what I felt to do, my life improved immeasurably.
Since then, I trust my thoughts in church.
I don’t remember what the speaker was saying when this thought occurred to me last Sunday, but suddenly I felt like I need to stop yelling in my home — and I need to stop now.
Since I work best when I can measure improvement, I next thought about marking off my yell-free days on a calendar so I could look back and see progress. But then the thought went further (Farther? One day, I’ll figure out the correct meanings of those two words.).
I felt very strongly that this is not a solo expedition. Our entire family needs to become yell-free, and if one of us fails, we all fail. If we’re going to succeed, we are all going to succeed. We need to be in this together.
So I mentioned my thoughts to my husband that night and told him my calendar idea. He liked it, and some easy ground rules were quickly established.
- Angry yelling is out. Yelling up the stairs to see if the kids are doing OK is fine. Shouting in excitement is allowed.
- If we have a yell-free day, we mark it off on the calendar. If even one person yells in anger, we can’t mark the day off.
- The baby is allowed to yell. She’s crazy.
(And cute. I mean, come on.)
And then there are rewards.
Since yelling is my go-to in moments of frustration, and since my 5-year-old goes from 0 to 60 in a matter of miliseconds, I thought it would be incredibly difficult for us to have a yell-free day, so we decided that our first milestone would be one whole day without yelling.
Once we reached that milestone, we would be rewarded with an episode of My Little Pony at the end of the day. (The rewards are a little skewed to entice the younger half of our house’s population. A little unfair to me, but whatever. I’m not bitter.)
Yesterday was our first trial day. There were several close calls as my 5-year-old became frustrated with me for various denials of permission throughout the day, but I was able to quickly calm her down with a reminder that we wanted to watch My Little Pony that night.
The happy result of the reward system was that it gave me opportunity to teach her how to calm herself down. I was able to first remind her of the TV show, and then direct her to pause, calm down and try again.
After dinner last night, we jumped and exclaimed (with happy yelling!) that we had made it! A whole day with no angry yelling from anybody! Lydia (5) set up blankets in front of the TV, each girl picked her favorite pony figurine to sit beside her during the show and we all settled in for a 22-minute episode.
At one point, we thought we heard a knock at the door, so my husband ran upstairs to see who it was. When he returned seconds later, he settled in next to me and asked, “So what did I miss? Twilight Sparkle didn’t have wings when I left.”
“She’s turning into a princess,” I explained and then we laughed as we realized we were as absorbed in the pony show as our two snuggling daughters.
We could get used to this yell-free zone. Our next milestone is seven straight days of no yelling. The reward will be staying up late to watch a movie together.
We’ve had some close calls again today, but we’ll make it. One day at a time.