an experiment in righteousness


I swore I would never become one of those angry moms who is constantly yelling at her kids. I had seen/heard too much of that growing up, so I vowed to always respond with calmness and patience to any frustration I might encounter in my own parenting. And I was able to claim victory and never falter with my pledge from that day forward. Until…

I became a parent myself!! And my declaration of what I would never allow to happen has now been reworded as a daily prayer to God, that He would help allow it stop from happening (because it is…) Ouch!

This hasn’t been the situation from the beginning. Because even in the early years of parenthood, I still considered myself a patient mother. Of course there were always moments where peace was lacking in our home due to little ones; bits of whining here and there, some refusing to promptly comply every now and then… But I like to think I took all those moments in stride and I honestly don’t remember responding with harsh tones or angry outbursts. However, as much as I would like to believe my behavior was some sort of self-control in grand display (HA! How I have learned that God humbles the proud!!), I am realizing that in those instances, the real fact was, my patience wasn’t truly being tested.

The testing really started to begin over the last year. Once whining, disobedience, poor attitudes, sibling rivalry, lots of drama all started showing up on my exams in unprecedented extremes, my straight As in patience became fleeting. The grades I was receiving began to decline first to “I” (In need of improvement) and then dropped down to an all time low of “U” (Unsatisfactory). My precious claim to patience became a thing of the past as I started to face emotions of extreme irritation (a.k.a. anger) on a daily basis when disapproving behavior in my kiddos began to surface in great abundance. I must clarify that I don’t claim having this emotion of anger is what leaves me with the failing marks. Instead, it is what I am doing with the anger that is keeping me off the “honor” role; as getting really really really loud (a.k.a. yelling) is far from an honorable response.

So what to do? What to do? I knew that I was upset for just reasons (it was at my girls’ poor attitudes and actions when my anger would arise), however, I wasn’t dealing with their conduct in a just manner. I would tell them over and over again that it is OK to be upset and sad, angry and mad, but they MUST talk about it and work it out in a gentle and kind manner. They must not whine and scream when they were disappointed with their current situations. It would drive me absolutely C-R-A-Z-Y when they did not follow through!! But what would I do in response to that? I would yell at them to stop whining. That is not very effective parenting! How can I insist they demonstrate self-control when dealing with their emotions when I am giving full vent to mine as I holler at them to do so?

I read this excerpt recently and agree very much that “anger is good for identifying problems but not good for solving them. God created us as emotional beings and those emotions provide insight into life” (the book is ‘Good and Angry – Exchanging Frustration for Character in you and your kids’). And after reading through the majority of this extremely insightful and worth-your-time book, I feel like I have gained a lot of head knowledge on the why and the how to manage my angry moments without yelling. I also have a host of Bible verses that I keep hoping will prompt my heart to change my inappropriate ways. But to really develop in me a character that handles my frustrations in a better way, I believe my greatest need is the discipline to exhibit restraint.

It finally occurred to me the other day that perhaps I need my own “rod of discipline” (from Proverbs 22:15) to help me with this. I have known for a long time that well administered consequences are indeed a proven tool in correcting poor choices and developing habits of good behavior. Parenting is the area that comes first to mind where this principle displays its effectiveness. But a completely other area is what ultimately triggered an idea that would help to drive away tendencies I have of venting in less-than-righteous ways. It was when I was answering Halle’s question about the doubling of traffic fines in work areas and speeding tickets that it hit me, “I NEED A TRAFFIC FINE!”

Knowing I would have to pay a fine for any yelling would definitely make me think twice about what comes out of my mouth. When the consequences are painful enough, I can learn to do what it takes to avoid them. So with this plan of attack in mind, I was excited to announce to my girls that we would start a “mommy’s yelling jar.” Where at any time, when we all agreed that I had yelled, I would put in a set amount of money that could be used at the end of each week on whatever they wanted. The car was instantly filled with echoes of joy and delight!! I wasn’t sure if that stemmed from a “yay -mommy is working on how she gets mad” or “yay – mommy is going to have to pay us a lot of money” but I was glad they were onboard with my approach. Halle even made the comment, “Now we can go to DisneyLand for sure!” Ahem… I hope we do get to go someday, but it had better not be an all expense paid trip because of my yelling! But, regardless of how much I do end up putting in the jar, I think this is a great opportunity to really teach and model for my girls that we all MUST learn how to respond appropriately to disappointment in life. They receive consequences when they don’t respond well and now, so will I. It’s only fair.

So equipped with my money jar and new verse (paraphrased in the JoAnna Van Vleet Version…), I feel I am ready to tackle this feat of doing away with yelling.

Mommy's Yelling Jar

As of today (three days after my proposal), the jar is still empty! For a gal who is such a miser with her *own (see note below) money, this might just be an experiment that works…

*Rob and I each get a small amount of “blow” money every month that
we can use at our own discretion. It is not much, so I definitely am
not willing to give up a percentage because of my yelling.

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5 Responses to an experiment in righteousness

  1. Nonnie says:

    First, welcome to the club of women who profess “I’m NEVER going to do the same things my mother did!” Very humbling … and it has a lifetime membership.

    Second, have you thought about making a jar for the GIRLS?? At the beginning of the week give them each a snack sized m&m package that they cannot eat until the week has ended. Every time THEY yell at you or each other, or don’t respond to orders, THEY have to put an m&m in the jar. At the end of the week, YOU get to eat the m&ms … and right now, I doubt that they will have any left. So eat them right in front of their sorrowful faces and let them ponder then and there their transgressions!

  2. Emily Herrington Hartzog says:

    JoAnna, I simply LOVE reading your posts. I love how open and honest you are with your own shortcomings. I too struggle with some of this. I love the way you have resolved it. I may have to take a page out of your book and get creative. Thank you for being so transparent here. Your girls are so lucky to have you as their mom.

  3. tiffany says:

    Too clever! But I also like Nonnie’s idea for the girls! I think Jon and I need to have a jar for how we treat each other!…

  4. Meagan says:

    I love this! I’ll have to think of something for my myriad of parenting issues.

  5. Shanna says:

    What a great post about what God is teaching you. I need to do the same…I’m also a miser with the spend money I get! I love the idea posted above about the m&ms…may have to use that for fighting between the kiddos.

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