This is the second post in a series about why and how I gave up yelling at my kids — for good. Read Part 1: The Meltdown.  

I knew that if I was going to make good on my promise to my child — which I had clarified as “Never yell at you again because no one should ever talk to you that way” — I had to take it seriously, and I needed a plan. It had to be life and death. It occurred to me that, if my son had been diagnosed with cancer and the only cure was to never yell again, I would find a way to make that happen. So I decided this:

If I ever yell at my child again, he will be struck by lightning from above and die instantly.

Yeah, I know it may sound ridiculous. But it was life and death. It was about loving my child into a beautiful life or killing his spirit and making sure he would never have self-esteem or functional relationships thanks to my shitty mothering. This is not hyperbole. Children who are verbally abused by their parents — and make no mistake, what I did that day and what I had done on a lesser scale at other times was undoubtedly verbal abuse — experience serious and lasting impacts in their brain. It changes them.  continue reading >>>

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On July 9, 2017, I lost. my. shit. on one of my 5-year-olds. It wasn’t just a momentary lapse. It was a solid hour of us screaming at each other. A grown adult, having an hour-long screaming match with a 5-year-old. And I was going to win. As I watched him lose the will to fight back, I had a flash of the future. I saw him going through life angry and broken and feeling unloved, with no soft place to fall. I saw myself slowly killing his spirit one day at a time until there was nothing left. I felt sick, watching him huddled on the floor, sobbing, unable to look at me. I did that. I did that to my child, the person I wanted more than anything in the world, the person I prayed for and cried over and worried about and adored.

Part of this happened in public. There were witnesses. No one intervened. No one said, “Hey, mama, take a breath” or “What the hell is going on here” or “Ma’am, you’re under arrest.” No one even seemed to notice that I was screaming the spirit out of my child. Maybe if I’d hit him? I’m not sure that even would have done it. No one cared that I was destroying my son—including me. He had to learn. He had to respect me. He had to cut that shit out right now. I had to teach him.

But I wasn’t teaching him. I was gutting him. continue reading >>>

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My panicked text to a friend’s mom.

Over Thanksgiving break 2017 we had four playdates in three days. I’d like to be acknowledged for surviving this terrible idea. I’ll wait. … Okay, great. Thanks for that. And in the course of this three-day nightmare, I discovered that I know literally nothing about playdates. The only ones we have ever had before were when I wanted to drink wine or coffee with my friends and so they came over and we locked the kids in the back yard or kids’ bedroom to entertain each other. Now, after moving, I don’t know anyone and I don’t have a yard, so this is totally uncharted territory.

Hence, my  list of…

Playdate Mysteries

Mystery #1: How the hell are you supposed to schedule a playdate?

I don’t even know how many kids are in my kids’ classes, much less their actual names or their phone numbers. When I was a kid (oh my God I am old) we had a school directory that came home with everyone with their name and grade and phone number and a class list in the back. Now, it’s like a federal offense to even confirm who’s in which teacher’s class or that they even go to the school. So, I improvised. I grabbed some of those notecards I’ve been stockpiling from the Target Dollar Spot and wrote cards that said:

Dear So-and-So’s Parents,
[My kid] wants to have a playdate. Will you please call or text me to make a plan? [my cell]
Thanks,
Kristen

Yes, I am the jackass who sent handwritten invitations to a playdate. I also literally called it a playdate, both aloud and in writing. Ridicule away. I deserve it. Then, I addressed them as “So-and-So’s Parents” and sent them to school in my kids’ backpacks and told them to give it to their teacher. But my notecard hoarding problem sure did come in handy, so there’s that.

Confession: About halfway through the second round, I got tired of writing the notes, so I asked our babysitter to do it. Thanks, babysitter!

We had like a 50% response rate, which leads to Submystery 1A: Did the kids not give the cards to their parents? Do the parents not want to send them somewhere for a playdate? Are my kids assholes and their classmates don’t actually like them? Will update if I figure it out. continue reading >>>

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Create peace, connect, and teach emotional intelligence.When I decided to back the Generation Mindful Kickstarter campaign for PeaceMakers, I had no idea that this choice would change the course of my family in an instant. This might sound like hyperbole, but I’m being completely serious. This card game has been life-changing. Let me explain.

The essential premise of PeaceMakers is that connection is more effective than punishment — and for children to have success and joy in life, it takes more than academics. It takes emotional intelligence. Why is emotional intelligence so important?

Emotional intelligence helps kids manage big emotions, connect with others, form healthy relationships, and more.

As our children’s social-emotional skills improve, so do their abilities to express themselves, and practice empathy, compromise, listen, cooperate and more.

Kids aren’t the only ones who benefit, though. It’s easy to get caught up in the places we have to be and the stuff we have to do when schedules are packed and phones are chiming and emails are coming in in a constant deluge of demands and Stuff Other People Need From Us.

Originally I was attracted to PeaceMakers because I thought it might help me manage the constant power struggles with my stubborn boy, Emmett, who is terrifyingly exactly like me and oh-my-God-Mom-I-am-so-sorry-for-my-entire-childhood-thank-you-for-not-murdering-me-in-a-fit-of-sass-induced-rage. No wonder this kid is stubborn and immovable and fights everything that is good for him. Where could be possibly have learned that? (Fortunately for all of us, Miles generally takes after his father.)

I didn’t realize how much help I needed with emotional intelligence until started trying to teach it to my kids. And with this one, despite that I love this kid fiercely, I was running out of ideas. Everything felt like a fight, and I could see it taking a toll on our whole family. Anger breeds anger. Force breeds force. Yelling breeds yelling. We had fallen into this cycle of constant combat and it was exhausting and demoralizing for all of us. He was sullen and angry, I was sullen and angry, everyone was sullen and angry. ENOUGH.

Enter PeaceMakers. We cracked the box open on a particularly challenging day, which also happened to be a day I had taken off of work to recover from a major project that had had me working 60- to 80-hour weeks for the month prior. (See also: Things that contribute to family stress.) Emmett missed the first card because Jesse had sent him to his room for his own safety after a particularly frustrating meltdown. Talk about irony. That was when I realized that we had gotten so caught up in correction that we’d completely forgotten about connection.

That night, we started a new family tradition. We pull a random card out of the PeaceMakers deck at bedtime and at wake-up time, and we “do the card” as a family. (After a week or so, Miles announced that kids pull the cards in the morning and grown-ups pull the cards at night because it wasn’t fair for only the boys to get to pick cards.) Whoever chooses it peeks at the card, announces “Ooooo, this is a really good one!” and flips it around for everyone to see. After we’ve sufficiently oohed and ahhed, Jesse or I read the card aloud and everyone else repeats it. Then we talk about the content.

Ever since the first bedtime card, the kids have begged — begged — for the game at virtually every opportunity. They wake up asking for it and plead every morning to do an extra card. Here are some of our favorites, and some of the things the boys said in response.

"I'm thankful for you, Mommy, for working so hard for our family."

“I’m thankful for you, Mommy, for working so hard for our family.”

"If I'm mad I can think to be happy and then I can be happy?"

“If I’m mad I can think to be happy and then I can be happy?”

I ask for what I want and need.

“If I want a hug I can ask you for it!”

"Riding my bike makes me feel powerful and free."

“Riding my bike makes me feel powerful and free.”

I am a leader.

“I can be a leader by showing the other kids how to do stuff.”

PeaceMakers has become the highlight of our morning and evening every day. We haven’t missed a single day except when the boys had a sleepover at their grandma’s house. Our entire family has become more empathetic, more connected, more patient, and more engaged. The power struggles are gone. We’re just plain happier. Things are easier. And it’s thanks to 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes at night. We have had exactly one tantrum since we started making PeaceMakers a daily practice, and it lasted approximately 30 seconds. So basically it’s a miracle.

But it’s not a miracle. This is what happens when you put connection over correction, when you connect before you do anything else and reconnect at the end of the day. I knew connection mattered, but I didn’t know how to make it part of the fabric of our family. Thanks, PeaceMakers, for giving us the nudge we needed to be the family we’ve always wanted to be.

I love PeaceMakers so much I became an affiliate right away! So as you can probably guess, this post contains affiliate links. Gotta fund my coffee and planner habits somehow, amirite? ;) See Amateur Parenting’s PR & Advertising policies, which also discusses affiliate compensation.

Added May 26, 2016

A few quick clarifications since this post has become very popular! In case you’re wondering:

  • I purchased PeaceMakers myself via the Kickstarter campaign – they were  not provided as part of a review request. I paid full price. Which I NEVER do — that’s how much I had to have these cards!
  • This post was not commissioned or sponsored by Generation Mindful. They were really thrilled when I shared it with them, but the idea to do it was all my own. It is not paid advertising. 
  • I was pretty thrilled when Gen:M shared this post through their social media channels and on their website! I hope you’ll share it too, or better yet write your own post about PeaceMakers! The more people who learn about this product, the more families will start creating their own special memories and traditions.
  • The only compensation I get from this post is if someone purchases PeaceMakers through my affiliate link. Which I hope you do, because this product is awesome or else I wouldn’t be recommending it. ;) If you love it as much as I do, become an affiliate! Details are on the Gen:M website.

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An Open Letter to My Menstrual Cup

by Kristen King

I watched you for a long time before we got together. My friends kept saying I should meet you, that I’d love you, that afterward I’d have no idea how we’d existed apart for so long. I’ve been set up before, so I was reluctant. Skeptical. But I decided to give you a try. I […]

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