Mattress Buddies

That’s what SJ and I have been calling each other for the last few days. Actually, he came up with the name. I like it. So, I’ve been repeating it.

Mattress Buddies

SJ & Me: Mattress Buddies

Last week, I had an idea. I asked SJ if he wanted to have a campout. We would blow up the inflatable mattress and put it in the basement. I knew he would enjoy this.

SJ had asked many times if he could play on the mattress. And no matter how nicely he asked, he got the same answer. NO!

He said he would sleep later if someone else was in the bed. I wonder if this need will lead to issues when he reaches his upper teens. Great. Another worry.

Anyway, the blowup mattress had many benefits. SJ would be happy and my wife would have a shot at sleeping later.  Thinking of others – aren’t I swell!

Filling up mattress

SJ filling up the mattress

However, I haven’t told you the whole story.

I’ve been yelling at SJ – a lot. He’s darn cute and can be very funny and sweet, but he pushes my buttons – even more than his brother.

After a day of school and talking to kids who don’t listen, are rude, and act disrespectfully, I am out of patience. I come home and want my children to behave. The last thing I want is more issues with kids.

So, I end up yelling.

I try to console myself. I play, read, talk, and do homework with my children. I am an active and engaged father. Anyway, everyone yells and gets frustrated. That’s life.

I know that’s true. But, something has been nagging at me. I know there has been too much yelling lately.

I raise my voice or make a sudden movement, and my kids flinch. And it makes me feel like shit! Am I so terrible? Such a beast?

I told my wife, and she said the boys are skiddish. I agree 100%. But still, they flinch. My own kids. It’s not like I beat them or am some raging lunatic. I feel like crap.

A fellow blogger, Penny at Authentic Life Journeys, wrote about her issues with yelling at her son. We have been following each other’s blogs for a while. So, I emailed her about the yelling thing.

After our conversation, I decided to sit down and talk to SJ about the yelling. I was nervous. I didn’t know how to approach him. After all, he is seven and happy-go-lucky. Could he talk about something serious?

I was also embarrassed.

Well, we spoke for a while and hugged each other at the end. I promised him that I would try and do better. He promised he would try to be more understanding and not push.

That was a month ago, and we have had discussions on the Sundays since.

“I think it was a little better,” he told me during our first follow-up meeting.

“Really, that’s it? Only a little?” I couldn’t hide my disappointment. That week, I tried to be extra patient and not yell. While I knew there were slip-ups, I thought the improvement was significant.

I would have to do better.

SJ and I have now had four such meetings. We talk privately about how we think the week went and how we communicated (obviously not his word).  One week he told me it was good, but we needed to talk more.

It wasn’t enough to just not yell. SJ wanted us to spend time together, and he felt comfortable saying that to me. This was progress.

Last week, SJ told me it was a good week. We talked and I was mostly patient. It was the happiest I ever felt after receiving a progress report.

Yelling happens.  I am not proud of it.  I know that there are better ways to express anger, frustration, and disappointment. I’m doing better. And I am determined to keep striving.

I am already seeing the benefits of my reduced yelling. SJ and I are in a better place.

I’m ecstatic to have my mattress buddy.

Mattress Buddy

My Mattress Buddy

23 thoughts on “Mattress Buddies

  1. I’ve been having similar problems with Elisabeth. She has really been testing my patience. With the addition of our little Jacob and the tiredness that comes with it, I have struggled to be patient with her and have found myself yelling far too often. I try really hard to be patient, but it is hard, especially when they know they are being naughty and they can see you getting angry and they push you even further. So I am with you, lets all try and yell less.

    • Good to hear from you. I wouldn’t be surprised if Elisabeth is simply calling out for attention. She may be jealous of the baby.
      Anyway, yelling less sounds good to me.

  2. I yelled at Yianni tonight and felt horrible about it….I am trying my best not to yell to my children but sometimes I just lack the patience. I always apologize though. I like the idea of having a talk with your kid and see the progress on each side. I am glad it’s working out for you.

    • Thanks for sharing that T. I am glad it is getting better but I am not going to kid myself. There is much room for progress. I wish I could be more patient regularly.

  3. It’s frustrating that yelling is one of the easiest things to do when we get angry and yet one of the least effective parenting tools. Plus, it puts those around us on egg shells, wondering what will set us off next. I always preach that positive reinforcement is much more productive discipline than negative, but we’re all human, and sometimes we yell. At that point, it’s best to remind ourselves what it feels like to be yelled at (not good), and then apologize for our outburst. That doesn’t negate the child’s behavior that provoked it–their misbehaving still needs to be dealt with–but we can explain we all make mistakes, and yelling was not a good way for us to handle it. Parents are human. We have to cut ourselves a little slack. Plus, kids can learn from us when we own up to our shortcomings and try to improve ourselves. 🙂

  4. I’m glad I was able to help 🙂
    That yelling stuff is the worst. I never felt good after I did it and I can only imagine how bad my son felt when I was doing it. I’ve been much happier with myself since I stopped the yelling. I know for a fact that it’s brought us closer as now he feels like if he messes up, he’s not going to be afraid of how his mom is going to act.

    I’m so glad to see that you two are talking about this every week. As I said in my emails, this stuff takes time. Remember when I made it Day 30 of my challenge and then I lost it? It sucked that I had to start all over again. Cut yourself some slack and know that you’re doing the best you can. I think you’re creating something really special between the two of you that will hopefully stay that way well into his teen years when it’s going to be harder NOT to yell 🙂

    • You did help!
      I am not interested in this challenge. I don’t like those kind of things where if you mess up once you lost the challenge. I am looking to improve my relationship with my son and my the way I deal with him. That is challenging enough.

  5. Go, Larry. You are a good dad! You did the hardest thing — talk to your son openly and honestly about it. In doing so, you let him know how important he is to you. That’s awesome.

    I remember apologizing to my sons at various times for yelling. It feels strong and powerful and sometimes works at the time. But, it leaves lasting damage.

    Trust me. Before you know it, he’ll be 17. Mattress days will be long gone. He won’t be around long enough to yell at cause he’ll be working and driving off to his buddy’s house. You are building a strong foundation today for a great relationship in the tomorrows to come.

    • Thanks Peggi.
      It is good to hear such words from someone who has raised kids. I don’t always think of the long term picture. I am just trying to get through the day. I need to consider what this means for our long term relationship. Thanks for pointing that out.

  6. Good morning,

    Last night as I lay down, a notification that you had written a new blog article came in on my iPad. I read it immediately because I like the title, Mattress Buddies. The title in itself is unique. It drew my interest.

    Then I read the article and it touched my heart, because I know where you’re coming from. When I was a kid, I was often yelled at, and I felt out of place, out of sync with the rest of the family. I didn’t know why then, but I know why now. But one thing that happened during the periods of my parents yelling is that I learned to shut them out and that was not so good. I learned to not hear them and that brought distance between us.

    Therefore, I rejoiced at the fact that you noticed your tendency to yell at SJ and had a desire within you to stop it. And you’re on the right way. Sure, bad habits do not stop immediately, but you have the perfect measuring rod with SJ. Your consulting him in your progress makes your relationship to him even closer than it already is, and more than that, it has opened up a door of communication where that kid feels like he can come and talk to you about anything on his heart. And that is what life is all about, being an open door for those whom we care about so dearly.

    So I say keep it up. The step you have taken to come out of the closet and admit that you had a problem with yelling at your kids was a courageous step. It is only when we admit that we have a problem, that we can begin to do something about. I hope more parents will have the courage to examine their behavior toward their kids introspectively, and then do something about those things that they discover that need to be changed. If that happens, maybe, just maybe, our kids will be more open to what adults have to say. They will feel an invisible empathy that lets them know, that adult is as human as I am.

    Excellent post, my friend. I really enjoyed reading it, yesterday evening.


    • Really glad you enjoyed the post, and I appreciate your comment.
      It was a tough post to write as I am not proud of my original behavior. I am happy it is improving and it is good on so many levels. Our relationship really is improving.

  7. I’m so happy to hear that you felt you had a problem and took steps to make your relationship better, which in turn will make you a better person. It isn’t easy, this raising kids thing, and we all just have to find our way through it. And hopefully without causing them too many trips to the therapist couch!

  8. Larry, that is awesome. More than anything I appreciate parents who are capable of self-examination. We all fall short, but to recognize that and work to do better is the key. And including your son in the process is a stroke of genius.

    I work hard to not yell very often, but when I do, I always apologize. I want my children to understand that I find them worthy of an apology. But I fall short in other ways. In particular I need to be more engaged with my children. It’s not like I don’t want to be, but I get so mired down in the daily tasks that I don’t make time to connect with my kids. I’m working on it.

    • I appreciate your kind words. I don’t feel awesome when I act like that. Not at all!
      I do think seeing me apologize can be good for my boys. We all make mistakes. They need to learn that sincere apologies can help make it better. Also, behavior can change if you make the effort.

  9. I am a terrible yeller. I hate it. One of them said to me once, “Why are you yelling at us? We’re just little kids, you know.” Ugh! I feel like such a failure when I yell. I apologize, tell them how much I love them, and just want to cry! Anyway, one of my worst times for yelling is when they practice piano. They got together and made me a chart. Every time we get through a piano practice without me yelling; I get a sticker. At least they understand positive reinforcement!

    • Thanks for sharing that. It’s cool that your daughters made you the chart.
      To be honest, that was one of the hardest posts I ever wrote. I am not proud of the situation. It’s gratifying to make positive changes, but it’s not easy.

  10. You never cease to amaze me. You are such a wonderful and involved father. Your sons are truly blessed to have you. Oh, and next time you’re feeling bad about how you’re parenting, think of all the kids’ out there whose dads have walked away and never looked back. You’re a great dad.

    • Way too kind.
      I wrote here about how bad I felt because of my behavior though I am happy that I have striven to be better. My boys deserve my best.

      • “My boys deserve my best” – that’s what makes you a great dad. You care enough that you want them to have your best. I don’t know many men who would say that, if any.

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