I am a yeller—at least I used to be. See, my house is loud. It’s to be expected when you put six people in a house and the kids are getting taller and their voices are getting louder. Just to be noticed, your volume has to rise sometimes. But then, there’s the yelling. The angry yelling. The playful yelling. The accusatory yelling. And the yelling for convenience. That’s the one that finally and rightfully bothers me. I noticed it the other day—starting with myself. “Jared? Could you bring me a drink, please?” I yelled to my husband from the couch. He hollered back, “What?” So I repeated myself—louder. The crazy thing is, I could have turned around and looked him in the eyes, or walked maybe 20 feet and gotten a little exercise with my drink, but out of convenience, I chose to yell. He obliged, and the yelling worked. Behavior rewarded. Soon after, my daughter started to holler for something. “Come down here!” I yelled back. She yelled again, until finally, with an exasperated sigh, I walked up the stairs.
On the way up the stairs, I finally tuned into my attitude. Our family really loves each other. A lot. When anyone comes home, he or she is generally greeted at the door with hugs and questions. My kids’ eyes light up when they see us in the car line after school. We like to see each other. So why did we think it was showing any kind of love and respect to be yelling to each other out of our own convenience? In fact, every kind of yelling within the walls of our home felt disrespectful. Our family mission statement is, “We will walk faithfully in love as Christ is formed in us.” No walking was happening—when it would take more than a few steps to get something, we would yell for someone closer to fetch it. The only faithfulness was on the part of the person fetching or responding. I couldn’t see any love through the frustration. Finally, as I looked through Scripture, I didn’t see how this yelling out of convenience was remotely Christ-like.
When we have an epiphany, we are generally faced with a choice: to continue in the same way, knowing that rewarded behavior is repeated, and fetching things for everyone else might be acceptable for a dog, but not for a family who loves and respects each other; or to change our ways, beginning with my own preference to yell.
Cue the family meeting and the “policy change manifesto”:
1. We will love and respect each other with our voices and actions.
2. Outside voices are for outside when both the “yeller” and the “yellee” are outside. Exceptions made for indoor sporting events.
3. We do not live in a mansion. Thank God for your abilities and our home as you walk from one room to the next to ask for help or serve yourself or someone else.
The results are starting to come in, and they are good. Voices being saved for those times when yelling for exhortation or calling to each other outside to play brings confirmation of the love we have for each other. Steps are being increased each day because we are getting up to walk from one room to another. More hugs and kisses from more face-to-face encounters rather than calling for a servant. Less frustration and sighing from not being able to hear or feeling interrupted and disrespected.
There are times when I will still yell. I will yell their names when the sun is setting and my kids are squeezing the last bits of sunlight out of the day exploring the fields behind our house—because it shows love for them and respect for their safety. I will yell as they run their cross-country races—because they love knowing that their mom will always cheer for them, showing love and respect for the sport they pour their time and energy into. I will yell if we should get excited about something happening in the life of our family, a call to celebration and common love and respect. I no longer identify myself as a yeller—I am a cheerleader, a protector, and a mother who is spending a lot more time looking into the eyes of her family and showing love and respect.