This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website and the Delaware County Daily Times‘ website.
WEST GOSHEN — When Sheila McCraith was busted screaming at her kids in front of a handyman, it was then she realized she didn’t like what she was doing.
The next day, McCraith committed to going 365 days — an entire year — without yelling at her four children, who were all under the age of 5 at the time.
“In that moment, the nine months the construction workers had been living with us, I barely yelled because I wanted them to think I was this super mom,” she said. “The minute they were out, I felt I didn’t have an audience, so I started yelling. That’s when I realized my kids are my audience. They are always going to be there and that’s the opinion that I most care about.”
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McCraith held strong to her commitment, though it didn’t come without its struggles.
“I had a lot support, both from my kids and friends,” she said. “I had a text team that if I dropped a line I was ready to lose it, I would get a “You can do it, hang on.’ I called my mom crying numerous times and she would tell me not to quit.”
Also to help her through the challenge, she decided she had to make it fun, treating it like any other challenge, such as a diet or quitting smoking.
So she began to sing, or do some off-the-wall things such as yelling in the freezer or at the toilet.
During the process, McCraith created an online presence, first with Facebook and then a blog, which she kept anonymous and instead adopted the name the Orange Rhino.
“I created a private community, like a forum,” McCraith said. “There are different topics on there and I try to think of it as a no-yelling encyclopedia — here’s triggers and people would weigh in. There was a lot of sharing. I was very honest in all my blog posts.
“I believe honesty is the best gift we can give to each other. It makes us all feel more normal. People would comment on whatever I would write and say, ‘Oh my god, me too. I’m not alone.’ It’s just a really cool camaraderie.”
All the pieces helped the Boston native achieve her goal, and more. Instead of 365 days, she went 520.
“I love my life more, I love myself more and I love my kids more,” McCraith said. “It just made everything more in a really good, positive way.”
With the blog and an article on The Huffington Post (“10 Things I Learned When I Stopped Yelling”) which went viral, people caught on to the Orange Rhino’s teachings and took her to a new level.
“Writing is really hard for me, believe it or not,” McCraith said. “I get very overwhelmed and often times, that was a trigger for yelling. I just can’t think what I want to say. I do a lot of diary and journaling and that’s very much like the approach I took.”
Her book, “Yell Less, Love More,” came out November 2014 and she took a different approach than many parenting books typically have.
“I don’t read parenting books because a lot of them are so ‘this is what you need to do, if you do it wrong…’” she said. “It was very judgmental. My approach here is honest and just like talking to a friend. There are no statistics in it and it is written with a parent in mind.
“If you have time for nothing but to go to the bathroom with the book, there are cliff notes and you can read three quick tips for the day and at least you have some sort of support. I made it accessible for parents and something they’re not going to get frustrated by. That would just make them yell more, which is not my goal.”
Now, McCraith has The Orange Rhino Challenge for parents and is beginning to tour around to have more personal conversations with parents.
“I’m trying to get out more,” McCraith said. “It’s really what I want to start focusing on because I find I love interacting with people and giving them hope that they can actually do it, that they can yell less and they shouldn’t give up. It’s very rewarding.”
Most rewarding to McCraith is her chance to make a difference in the lives of other parents and children through her speaking engagements, book and online site.
“I have some kids who write into my blog, which breaks my heart,” she said. “That’s when you realize how important this is. It’s a subject in parenting that I think really needs to be addressed. It brings everyone down and no one wins.
“The minute I started doing this and helping people, it felt like it was what I was supposed to do. It feels like my path, which I love.”
Visit McCraith’s Orange Rhino website at www.theorangerhino.com.