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Discovering a way to raise my kids without raising my voice
The moment that changed the way I parent, captured by my 2-year-old, Briggs. - photo by Carmen Rasmusen Herbert
When my boys look back on their childhood days, I hope they dont remember me raising my voice. Of every mistake Ive made during my mothering years, yelling has been my biggest regret.

A few months ago, I watched a clip of an author talking about ways to become a peaceful parent. I was immediately pulled into her sweet, calm explanations about how to raise responsible, capable and loving independent children without screaming your teachings.

I have always known that yelling is the wrong way to get my little boys attention, even if it does work. And so I loved the idea of learning how to parent in a controlled and calm way, always with love. I knew I wouldnt become a perfect parent overnight, but for some reason this particular concept spoke truth to me.

I called every library I could think of and uncomfortably repeated, Yes, hello, I was wondering um do you have the book Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting? It turns out many more mothers have been searching for the same advice, and it was either checked out or on hold. I didnt want to wait, so one wintry morning I buckled my boys into the van and drove to the bookstore. I picked up Dr. Laura Markhams book Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids and drove home excited and ready to be the mother I had always hoped I could be.

Research shows that when we consciously verbally commit ourselves to a course of action, were likely to achieve it, especially if we work at it daily," she writes. "By contrast, simply wishing something would be different, or even regretting things weve done, doesnt usually change a thing. Picture how lovely it will be in your home when you dont yell. Imagine yourself responding calmly maybe even empathetically or with a sense of humor! to the things you yell about today. Keep revisiting that image. Youre programming your subconscious.

I dog-eared almost every page I read in Peaceful Parent, soaking up sentence after sentence of wisdom.

I feel like I should add that I didnt make a daily habit of yelling at my children. But it would happen too frequently over silly things like spilled juice, broken toys, straggling kids, potty accidents and, well, too many other annoyances that would have been better dealt with, with an eye roll, deep breath and calm voice. But after 100 eye rolls and so many deep breaths I thought Id make myself faint, my calm voice would turn shrill and grating.

After a few weeks of applying the principles Ive learned in this book, I began to wonder if I was making progress. I felt like I was on the right path, but would get frustrated every time Id mess up.

Then one day I saw a picture on my phone that surprised me. My 2-year-old, Briggs, has been taking my phone and snapping pictures of me without me knowing it. The picture was of me, kneeling in front of my 5-year-old who is sitting on The Bench (our time-out place) for smacking his brother on the kisser after knocking down his Jenga creation. I am in my pajamas. No make-up, messy hair. There are toys all over the floor. My baby has pulled himself up to standing and is drooling on my knees. Everything is on hold as I am looking up into my sons eyes, calmly teaching him.

I started at this picture for a long time, because it seemed so out of character for me. Usually its Time Out! and me plopping 1, 2 or 3 down on the stairs and walking away to hide and eat something in the pantry.

But the look on my face eyebrows raised, mouth open, soft features made me want to cry. I am not always a perfect mother, but in that one moment, I looked like I was doing something right. I was trying so hard to take the time and to have the patience and wisdom and love to know how to react.

And I could see how I looked from my sons perspective. It hit me then and there that I dont want to see how I look when I lose it. I want to keep that same calm, controlled and especially loving face on even during the most difficult times. And this little picture gave me a glimmer of hope that I was getting it. It was working.

Whenever I read or try or hear of something that can benefit me as a mother, I want to pass it on. So this is me shouting from the rooftops that Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids has been a game-changer for our family. The approach and message is simple, yet powerful: connect. Connect with your child. Let him know you really, truly care and are there to help lead him, guide him, and walk beside him, teaching him the way.

Instead of piercing their eardrums, you will pierce their hearts.
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