Beth Vrabel lives in West Manchester Township with her daughter, Emma, 6, and son, Benny, 3.

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Putting parenting ideals into practice


Smart Mama

When my daughter was born, I had a parenting plan — calm communication, strong but kind discipline and consistency in approach.

Seven years, another child, and life battered those ideals. Just a bit.

While I still aim to mindfully parent, there were just too many times when someone slopped yogurt across the kitchen floor, screeched a lament over missing LEGOs, tried to sit on top of someone else’s head, waited too long to go to the bathroom, or tattled on a sibling — all while the phone rang, work deadlines came and went, dinner burned and my head throbbed.

Let’s just say that recently, I was on my way to becoming a yeller. I found myself barking at the children. Put your toys away! Quit fighting! It’s time to go, go, go! And, worst of all was when I caught myself shouting, “Stop yelling!”

(Insert forehead slap here.)

I know I’m not alone. At playgroups, fellow mamas talked about how fast summer passed and then whispered, “Thank God.” During those last few weeks of August, when we nearly crest the start of a new school year, children and parents alike just seemed to tucker out a bit. Ideals, schm’eals.

Call it serendipity, but just about this time I had a tonsillectomy.

Suddenly, yelling — and the guilt that went hand in hand with it — was not even a possibility. It hurt to speak louder than a whisper for more than a week.

If I wanted the children to hear me, I had to get to eye level. I had to calmly explain to 3-year-old Benny that while it’s great you love your puppy, when he walks away that means he no longer wants to be your pillow. I had to pull aside my daughter and ask her, “Are you speaking nicely to your brother?” versus snapping, “Be nice!”

Basically, I had to practice what I believe. I had to take the time to make sure I was being heard.

I’d like to say that now that I can yell without intense pain, I still never do. Frankly, there are times — like when the kids play walk-the-plank on the staircase — that a yell is justified. It’s the power drill in my parenting toolbox, one that I sometimes need, but more often a screwdriver works just as well.

Beth Vrabel lives in West Manchester Township with her daughter, Emma, 7, and son, Benny, 3.

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