What I Learned This Summer

I was dreading the summer. I love my children, but the thought of being home with them 24/7 did not sound appealing. In fact, if I’m being completely honest, it sounded like straight-up torture. Weeks leading up to school getting out, I took some time to ponder “A Plan”. I thought, The only way I’m going to get through the summer is if I get these kids to behave better.

Just a few months ago, I felt out of control as a parent. I was yelling at my kids way more than I wanted to and I felt completely and utterly depleted by the end of every day. I was losing my ever-loving mind and I could barely hold a conversation with my husband when he got home from work because I was D O N E. I knew I showered my kids with an exorbitant (and sometimes embarrassing) amount of love, and I knew I was saying at least some of the “right” things, but I was constantly nagging and yelling at them to get their act together. I felt like a failure of a mom because I couldn’t get them to do what I wanted them to do without yelling. While I was consistent about following through with consequences, I was left feeling exhausted by all the back-and-forth banter and arguing:

Me: “That’s it! Time out. Go to your room.”

Kid: “But, I’ll be good now. I promise.”

Me: “It’s too late. If you would have made a better choice the first time, you wouldn’t have a Time Out.”

Kid: But! *whines, throws something against the wall, cries, whines, screams, cries*

Me: Stop whining and go to your room. Go!”

Kid: *more whining*

Me: I SAID NOW!! NOW GO!!!” *carries Kid upstairs*

Kid: *slams door, screams*

Me: *cries tears of exhaustion and disappointment*

Repeat everyday, multiple times a day. Does this sound familiar to anyone else?

One day I had enough! I vowed to use the summer to change my Big Kids’ behavior. I thought that if they learned to behave better then I wouldn’t have to yell so much.

I confided in (and cried to) a friend about my struggles. She shared with me she just finished reading a book and was implementing a new discipline technique. It was supposed to lead to calmer parenting. Through a lot of prayer and realizing what I was doing wasn’t working for our family, I figured I’d give the book a try. Reading the reviews made me excited and hopeful for the future: “I highly recommend this book to any parent who is spending more time yelling at or nagging… It’s such a relief to not feel like I’m constantly yelling at someone!” Yes! Ugh! The nagging!

After devouring the book in two days, I sat the kids down and explained things were going to be different and here’s what’s going to happen. They seemed receptive and accepting. The first few days went off without a hitch. A couple tantrums and Time Outs from The Mid Kid, but zero yelling or nagging on my part. Then a week passed and I thought, Wow–I haven’t yelled OR nagged at my kids in a week! Then two weeks passed, then a month. I can’t believe it, I told my husband.

When people would ask me how my summer was going, I surprised myself by saying, “Actually, it’s been quite pleasant! The girls have only had one week of camp each–so I thought we’d be going crazy by now–but they’ve been so well-behaved!”

I was shocked. I actually have enough energy at the end of the day to read an entire chapter of Harry Potter with them, enough energy to have a substantial conversation with my husband, and enough “space” in my heart to just breathe and be.

For six out of the eight weeks of summer thus far, I have not yelled at my kids ONE TIME. Yes, you read that correctly.

Flash forward to Week 7 and…. Yes, in all honesty, there’s been some yelling (but no nagging). I chalk it up to the fact that my husband has been working 15-hour days, six days a week and we are melting away because we have NO air conditioning in our Southern California home. Then the baby got Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease so that was absolute madness. Oh, and he ate dog shit. Literally. That was fun… There has been more TV-watching these last two weeks than there was the entire summer put together. But that’s The End of Summer, right? It’s eating me up alive. (Who hasn’t It eaten up?!) I don’t think there’s any book that could save a parent from The End of Summer…

My point is, I was dreading summer because I thought I wasn’t going to be able to handle the chaos. I didn’t want to spend the entire summer yelling at my kids; I wanted to actually enjoy them and have fun being their mom. But I was looking at it all the wrong way. I was focused on changing their behavior. I set out trying to transform my kids, but instead it was me who was transformed.

I learned to regulate my behavior and reactions; because yelling and nagging my children doesn’t work. It doesn’t leave anyone feeling good. Being controlled, quiet and calm is way more effective. I learned that I set the tone in our household; if I yell, my kids are going to yell, too. Our summer wasn’t a happy one because we went on extravagant excursions and getaways (we didn’t); it was happy because I was a calmer and more patient parent.