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February 9, 2015

How I Became a ScreamFree Mom and (More Importantly) Why

ScreamFree_Nov_2014_0048Recently I was asked why and how I became a ScreamFree mom. It’s a story I love to tell because it’s a hopeful message, and I love inspiring others to change their lives.

I had been a screaming mom for about 9 years when I read ScreamFree Parenting. Not that I wanted to be a screamer. No! In fact, I was mortified that I had those tendencies. I had been praying for approximately…9 years…to stop. I hated it. I was embarrassed. And I was appalled at the effects it was having on my kids.

My kids. I have three — two sons and a daughter. I remember poignantly one night when I was bathing my small babes, and I lost it. The screaming was intense and the looks on their faces nearly crushed me. They were terrified of me. Sadly, they eventually grew accustomed to my outbursts, and I noticed a different response: disgust and disrespect.

I knew this was not how I wanted to raise my kids. For my own sake, I wanted to live in a way that was admirable, respectable, and loving. I wanted to be proud of my own behavior. I also wanted to have a relationship with my kids that would last a lifetime. I didn’t want them to grow up with a strong desire to leave ASAP!

My initial response to ScreamFree Parenting was not good. The first chapter was entitled “Parenting is not about kids; it’s about parents” and it was asking me to look at my own behavior and focus on myself. What? No, I thought. I need to focus on my kids’ behavior and make them behave! Frankly, the idea of focusing on myself sounded a little selfish.

About 9 months passed as I picked up the book and put it down, disappointed that it wasn’t telling me how to fix my kids so I didn’t HAVE to scream at them. Eventually, I decided to actually read the book.

And it was then that I had a light bulb moment. Aha!

I was being asked to focus on myself and take responsibility for my own behavior…Hmmm…just like in my marriage, if I want to change my marriage, I must focus on MY behavior, not my husband’s. I had already realized this after 13 years of marriage, so I figured it could be the same in my parenting. If I wanted my relationship with my kids to change, I had to focus on the one person I CAN change:  ME!

As I read, I realized that I had been asking my kids to take care of me emotionally. It went something like this:

I NEED you to obey me. When you obey me, I can calm down; then I can stop screaming. But until YOU do __________, I’m going to be out of control.

Crazy-talk, right? Yet somehow I rationalized it.

When I began to take responsibility for my own behavior and my own reactions, I started to scream less. It’s not my kids’ responsibility to take care of my emotions, but that’s exactly what I’d been doing—throwing all of the responsibility of my emotional health onto my kids. Now I began to realize that no one can MAKE ME MAD. I choose my responses.

Here I am more than five years later, and I can say that I am more proud of my own behavior, my kids (and husband) see the difference, and our relationships are significantly strengthened.

3 thoughts on “How I Became a ScreamFree Mom and (More Importantly) Why

  1. Ms. Holley: I read through your post and thought I would just send a short note to tell you how comforting it is to know that there are others out there (moi!) who have a very similar experience with screaming and not able to change. I am the parent of four teens and I have quite a collection of parenting books that go back to before my first child was born. Some of them I have actually read, but even those I have forgotten most of what I was supposed to embrace and put into practice. I purchased the Screamfree book in 2006, skimmed through a few pages, and it sat on my bookshelf for nine years. I was just too busy with career stuff and trying to be a good father and reading and growing personally sadly fell to the bottom of my to do list.

    In cleaning out the garage a few days ago I came across the Screamfree book and actually read the first chapter while sipping a grande flat white at the local Starbucks. What an eye-opener! It’s about me, not the kids, I am accountable TO my kids for how I behave with them. I must learn to control my reactions to their behavior so I can be the teacher and coach I want to be for them. Sounds simple, but what a powerful concept.

    Thank you for sharing your story and your journey with parenting. It inspired me to take my parenting job seriously and take the steps I need to take to be the best dad I can be.
    Richard Hodgson
    Huntsville, AL

    • Richard, thanks for your kind words. Yes, these are powerful concepts–simple, not easy, but worth it! Thanks for sharing your story…and I wish you the best in your relationship with your teens!

  2. “I wanted to be proud of my own behavior”

    that is a great statement. That is in fact the idea that led me to read Screamfree Parenting and then wanting to know how I could apply the same techniques with my wife, just to do a quick search about the author and realize he wrote already a Screamfree Marriage book!

    being proud of ones behavior is a good indicator about how we are doing things in our lives… and this not only applies to our kids and wives.
    thank you for your post Sarah.

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