When I was a kid, I was a lot like Annabel: very chatty, very busy, and very strong-willed. Stubborn, hard-headed, the whole shebang. It was predestined – growing up, many adults would sing-song at me, “someday you’ll have a child exactly like you!”
You’d think that because I’m raising a mini-me, I’d be full of patience and understanding for Annabel because I know how her mind works. Sometimes we’re a good match, but other times I feel like I am the worst possible person to be her mom.
We have the same battles all the time. Washing hands, getting ready for school, finishing her meals…these become epic standoffs. The déjà vu causes me to lose my temper faster and faster, to the point where I’m ready to pounce before she’s done anything wrong.
A few days ago I asked her to pick out her clothes (which she happily did), but when I went to help her get ready she ran away to hide (which she usually does). Instead of countdowns and warnings, I lost my temper completely, hollering as I stomped around and took things away from her.
She cried to Mike. “I’m scared! I don’t like it when Mommy yells!” There were tears.
I remember getting yelled at (deservedly), and being scared. I had lots of things taken away, lots of groundings, but when I was alone in my room I’d whisper promises to myself that I’d never yell at my kids. And there I was, yelling.
I could tell myself that I’m doing my best, but I’m not. If I was, I’d take that extra moment and hold back that yell. I could tell myself that someday she’ll thank me for being strict, but that doesn’t seem to matter when she’s looking at me through tears. I don’t want her to be afraid of me. She’s just a little girl.
I want to be patient. I ought to be understanding. I’ve lost so much, but I’m flipping out over the littlest things. I don’t have to scare her to get the job done.
She’s precocious and stubborn and smart and she’s only three and I need to remind myself constantly that she might talk like a nine-year-old but she’s only three. This was not the mom I wanted to be, but I’m not locked into being “that mom” forever. This is only the beginning…I want to make a change, and that’s half the battle, right?
I dont feel like the Mom i wanted to be either. I have had lots of frurated moments, times where that good mom voice pops out, telling me what a good mother would be doing. My daughter is 3 months and I admit I yelled at her at 3am. She wouldn’t stop screaming and kicking and moving which made it impossible to change her diaper. We should all try to be more patient with kids(everyone says 3is the hardest) but always remember not to beat yourself up. You are a wonderful mom who does fun crafts, throws crazy elaborate birthdays and lets Annie be herself while still keeping her safe.
3 months or 3 years?
Those battles sound exactly like what we deal with in our house. My older son is a couple months younger than Annie, also stubborn and strong-willed. I often have to remind myself that he’s only 3. And it’s so hard to keep my cool when he’s running away while I’m trying to get him dressed and we need to get out the door so I can get to work on time! I just remind myself that parenting is a work in progress. You’re not alone!!
Heather, give yourself a break, you are only human. The fact that you are completely aware and acknowledge that you want to make a change, is definitely half the battle. Most of us have been there and got through it, without our children suffering from PTSD, so don’t worry too much. Somehow it all works out in the end. Personally I think you are a fantastic parent, and you should give yourself props for that. Hang in there!
My daughter is chatty and busy and strong-willed, and when she misbehaves it doesn’t unduly rile me, at least so far. My son, on the other hand, is SO like me, easily distracted, strongly attracted to zone-out pleasures (TV, candy, etc.), and very sensitive, and I do find myself yelling at him periodically–there is something SO FRUSTRATING about seeing your own tendencies mirrored in your child. Yelling feels satisfying for a split second and then I think arg! parenting foul! and have to backtrack, which of course is a disciplinary no-no. I haven’t experienced your kind of loss and I can definitely see how that would raise the stakes in feeling like you need to do everything right, but I still think you should cut yourself a little slack. Or maybe I should cut myself less slack? I don’t know. Keeping all the balls in the air is just damn hard sometimes.
I don’t think any of us feel like we are the parents we wanted to be when we were younger. Parenting is hard! And I would bet you are being too hard on yourself, but I get it. My now 13 yr old was a lot like Annie when she was 3. A friend of mine gave me a cd from The Love and Logiic guys. I wish I could remember the title, because it was excellent. Anyway, the big thing I took from the cd was the “catch phrase” they suggest (ours was “uh oh”). The point is for you and your husband to use the same word consistently when the child does something wrong. It helps you maintain your cool while you search for what you really want to say and they tone you want to use (it’s really hard to yell a word like uh oh and mean it ;).
Anyway, I know you are doing a great job as a parent, Heather, but for extra ideas and reinforcement, I would definitely check out the Love and Logic site. Good luck!!
What a great idea!
Heather…don’t let it bring you down. You are a Mom. Sometimes no matter what experiences have shaped you, it’s just a part of the job. My mother rarely yelled (unless we were in the car) but me? How did I learn to take it up three octaves in 0 seconds? I can’t even tell you. And when they got older, I used to tell them it would take a lot to make me get there. I refused to yell. Now they know that when I do yell, it’s because as near adults, they have pushed me beyond measure. I am willing to bet that Annie won’t remember even if you do. Cut yourself some slack and then give Annie some extra love when you’ve lost it next time. It will all work out…I promise.
The child most like you is the one to often frustrate you the most. Hang in there. You’re doing a great job. And if you find there are certain tasks that you and Annie but heads over, have Mike handle those for a while. It helps.
I feel your pain. I have twin girls that are 4 and there are days that I go to bed feeling so guilty because I’ve yelled at them a lot. Kids know how to push your buttons and it’s hard not to lose it. I thought I’d be a totally different mom, too, and that it would come easy to me but it’s hard. I don’t have any answers but just know you’re not alone.
I could have written this. My daughter, same age, has gone to pre school in her pjs a couple of times because I just could not deal with it. I don’t want to be that mother either – but I do want her to be just a little more good!
Hi Heather, I recently came across a website on Pinterest where the mother was struggling with the same issue. She wanted to stop yelling at her kids, so she started a challenge to not yell for 365 days. Even if you don’t want to do the 365 days, she has some good tips on how to avoid yelling and what to do instead!
I was going to mention The Orange Rhino as well. My daughter is two (and VERY good at it…) so there was a lot of yelling and tears in this house. I grew up in a “yelling house”, and swore my kids never would and this has been a HUGE help for me.
I was going to recommend the Orange Rhino too! I did a 30 day challenge with her a few months ago and learned some pretty great tips to reduce/stop the yelling.
She does challenges every once in a while, I highly recommend signing up for one, even if all you do is read along and absorb the content…not only will you realize you’re not alone (or the WORST offender), maybe you’ll learn to become less like the mom you didn’t want to be in those situations.
Autumn Canter says:
I did the same thing when my oldest was 3 and I had a baby. It’s mostly stress. I have since learned to sense my triggers and tell my husband “If you don’t take charge of the kids now, I will yell at them. I will totally loose it.”
When I do yell (and it happens, we’re only human), I wait till I calm down and then I discuss what happened with my kids. “What could I have done better?” “How could I have helped this happen?” I might ask. What I’m doing is modeling forgiving myself and better strategies than yelling. I don’t blame it all on me. I turn those same questions on my son and daughter. Then I say, “Can you forgive me?” and “Can I forgive myself?” I throw in a “I’m sorry for yelling. Are you sorry for anything?” Sometimes I do lay there at bedtime filled with guilt. But overall, I think I’m doing a good job. Not perfect. That’s impossible.
Yeah, I do the same thing. I give my husband and daughter a warning that I’m about “to lose it” so that he knows to step in immediately. It seems to actually work well, it gives me a second to calm down before actually losing it and it teaches him when I’m “on the verge.”
Autumn, I am really hesitant to say this at the risk of sounding like a total ass (and maybe it’s none of my business), but talking through what you did wrong, how you could’ve reacted more appropriately, etc. with your kids might not be the best strategy. I only say this because my dad CONSTANTLY did this when I was a kid- any time he lost his cool and yelled at us. So, instead of just saying, “Sorry guys, I acted like a jerk,” he kind of prolonged the stress. As the child, I had to play therapist and somehow think of ways for a 40 year-old man to absolve himself of guilt and control his temper better next time. Not fair to a kid to have to rehash what the adult did wrong.
Autumn Canter says:
Nah, I don’t mind. Maybe there is no perfect way. My mother never once apologized for yelling. In fact, she’d more often say, “You should be glad I didn’t smack you like I wanted to!” My Dad shared too much personal information when he was guilty. Usually about how he was raised, etc. So, I think I know what you are getting at. It probably depends on the child and circumstance. I don’t always discuss my yelling. Sometimes I say, “I’m sorry I yelled, but you really made me mad!” I rarely yell at all, honestly. I’m not sure how things will go with my three year old daughter, but my son seems to require discussion and apologies. My husband does not apologize to the children–ever. Months later my son will get mad and bring up how “Daddy never apologized.” or “You want me to apologize to my sister but you never say sorry to me!” My husband’s response is, “If you don’t want to be yelled at, don’t act that way.” I think most of our parenting is reacting to how we were raised–wanting to fix the mistakes we think our parents made. (at least for me it is) I always wished my mother had shown some remorse or desire to change her behavior. She didn’t. So here I go trying to fill that blank with my son!
This describes me and my 5 year old daughter exactly. Seriously, I could’ve written this. It’s heartbreaking and eye opening when you really take a step back and take a minute to consciously observe your own parenting. So many times we just go with the flow and just try to make it through the days because we’re exhausted. When we do that we don’t take an active role in raising our babes. I’ve had so many days that I’ve felt like I’m holding a grudge against my daughter. She’s made me mad (doing the things that 5 year olds do, nothing major, I’ve just been too tired or lazy to want to deal with it) and I’ve just watched her like a hawk waiting to jump at her the second she steps out of line. It’s awful…the way I feel about myself and my parenting is so terrible. I want to be gentle and understanding and patient. I love this little girl to pieces but she’s a mini me and I think we just butt heads too much. It’s frustrating!! Every day I pray for strength and patience to handle her in the best way I can. Yelling isn’t the best I can do, you’re right. Thanks for posting this today! I really needed this!
I remember yelling at my girls, and inside my head a voice was saying, “Why are you doing this? This is not the mother you wanted to be.”
I don’t think anyone ever does it all right. The fact that you’re aware of this yelling situation means you will figure it out.
My girls are adults now – the older one is a teacher with husband and three small daughters. The younger one is an HR manager, planning her wedding to a wonderful young man. Both are still very close to me and their dad, we feel fortunate to be a part of their lives.
I did a lot of “mom” things I would love to undo, but I also did a lot of really great things. Your children will know you love them, and that you tried your best.
Pick up a copy of “Positive Discipline” by Jane Nelson. Its ahhhmazing for strong willed (and any kid!). It really helps you take the battles out of every day tasks.
Um yeah. My daughter was sooo easy as a child. She gave me a roaring case of Smug Parenting. The worst part about SP? If you have more children it will come around and bite you. Which it did for me. Meaning my beautiful, clever, sweet son. We are exactly alike, my son and I. There has been many a day I’d go to MY room and cry. Cry because it was hard and I was screamy. I absolutely hated being that way. Then you know what happened? He turned 4. I dunno how or what or why, but suddenly it’s all…better. It had nothing to do with any sorts of awesome parenting in my part. (I will NOT get another case of SP!). I’m just thankful to all the powers that be. You are an amazing parent, give it some time. Perhaps the peaceful 4 will help!
This post…I don’t even know what to say. It’s like you are inside my head. I have been struggling with this for the past few weeks and it hurts my heart that I’m not being the parent I can be. But like you said, being aware is the first step. The other thing to remember is to not beat yourself up when you make a mistake or don’t handle things perfectly. You have been through a lot and you deserve and need to be gentle with yourself. You are a great mom with children who know they are loved.
You are human, give yourself a break – we all have yelled. Figure out a strategy in advance then stick to it when you need it. Plan extra time in your schedule, if you can, so when Annie screws around, it won’t be as stressful. She may have to miss a day of school to let it sink in. Discuss with her the things push your buttons and tell her what the consequence will be then stick to it, don’t cave. She just doesn’t get where you are coming from because she’s three. Tell her that you don’t like it when she runs away because then you are late for school. if she misses school, or is late, she will understand. Set boundaries and follow through and give yourself a break if you yell, it’s normal.
ColleenMN, I think having to miss school because she’s not paying attention/ready in time is a FABULOUS idea. I think these sorts of concrete lessons are the best and this would work for Annie b/c she seems to really LOVE school.
Oh my goodness, I could have written this entire post myself. And my daughter is only 2…almost 3, so I feel even worse when I lose control more often than I should and start screaming. I feel like I’m failing. All the time. Why can’t I just remember to be patient. Why can’t I remember that it just makes me feel 10000 times worse when I start screaming and she starts crying and looks scared. I feel like a monster. I just try to remind myself that I’m not alone – I cannot be the only one whose 2 year old knows how to push her buttons. And I try, every day, to start again. I read a blog post a while back about not rushing your kids – and in it she talked about how she could beat herself up for all the times she got it wrong, or just focus on, in that moment, not getting it wrong again. I try to remember that.
Heather, three year olds are absolutely maddening. I’m raising my fourth one at the moment, and let me tell you, while it definitely has its adorable moments, this is by far my least favorite year. All the boundary testing and willful defiance that goes along with it — it’s enough to make the very best mom lose her mind once in a while. Please don’t be too hard on yourself. When Annie’s a mom herself, she’ll more than understand.
You are an outstanding mother. Outstanding. Nobody’s perfect – you’re human. The amazing ways you treat your children FAR outweigh the rare less-than-stellar moments. Lighten up on yourself.
You are certainly not alone in this. I, too, reached a point parenting my eldest (nearly 5) where I was just losing it, A LOT. It seems to be a gradual progression to the point where you suddenly realize “I’m really not doing a good job of controlling my emotions when it comes to my child.” I got a copy of this book: http://www.amazon.com/1-2-3-Magic-Effective-Discipline-Children/dp/1889140430/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1381755567&sr=8-1&keywords=1-2-3+Magic
I really liked it, though I actually haven’t read through the whole thing. We implemented the 1-2-3 counting and that’s really been a great trigger for us adults to calm down and not let things get out of hand. I’ve probably had a couple of bad moments since implementing the strategy, but nothing like I was having before!
Chin up! You WILL do better!
Monica S. says:
Yeah, I’m not alone. I do the same thing from time to time, lose my cool and yell. My daughters love me so much and are so innocent at 6 and 3 y.o. so when I yell, they react the same way and then I feel so horrible. Then I have a realty check, like this past weekend, I lost it and my 3 y.o. says to me, “Mommy, I think you need a nap.” LOL!! So matter-of-factly. It was great! It made me laugh and realize I need to find a way to chill out (!) before yelling. Ugh.
Wow! Everything you said, you feel, felt and want to change – I’m going through the SAME EXACT THING!!! You are not alone and though I have no real life altering, wonderful advice, it’s nice to know as moms we all have struggles and we are all trying our very best (even if it’s after the fact of losing it) to do our best as parents.
I got angry at my 14-month old yesterday. He has a cold and is teething and he was whiny. I was damn near yelling at him, asking him, “What is wrong?!”
I felt like a fool and a loser and awful. There was Adrian Peterson’s 2-year old kid who just got beaten and is gone and here I am, with my sick kid, and I lost my cool. I feel awful. But, I’m trying. He doesn’t know any better though he cries even when I calmly tell him, “No, don’t eat the cat’s food.”
Hang in there, Heather.
Knowing it needs to be changed and wanting to change is so important! With those 2 things you can get to where you want to be. Just take a couple breaths before you say anything, breathe before speak. You’ll get there! I grew up in a house of yellers, my husband is the yeller in our home and truly there are times “I” want to run away too. Our five year old whispered to me the other day she wished she had a different daddy, one that didn’t yell and wasn’t so mean. It broke my heart for him because I know how much he loves her and that’s not the dad he wanted to be. He just doesn’t see he has a problem. It’s so sad. But knowing it’s something you want/need to change is awesome Heather! That’s the most important thing. You’ll get there!!!
Absolutely. Monitor and adjust, parenting is not easy. Being aware that something is not working IS the first step.
I screamed like a mad woman at my kids. They are now adults and they still love me! You still love your Mom don’t you? Don’t be so hard on yourself and try not to over think things. Just be the best person and Mom you can be.
The serenity prayers works wonders!!!
I totally agree with Becki.
This made me laugh. Amen.
My darling Ava will be six in December. She is incredibly strong willed, fights with everything: getting up, getting dressed, putting on shoes, socks, brushing her teeth, hair, taking a bath, etc, etc, etc!! She spends a ton of time in time out. We take her things and make her earn them back, I lose it and yell, it happens. Have to remind myself to calm down. Ava did nap until she was four and half, then we have “quiet time” on the weekends -she goes in her room and watches tv, reads, whatever as long as she stays in there. 2 reasons for this: I need quiet time so I don’t wring her neck, and so does she.
I highly recommend quiet time when they stop napping. And I think kids do need to fear their parents. I feared mine! All my mom had to do was look at me with the I am going to kill you if you dont stop it right now! look. But these days, kids don’t fear their parents like they used to. Ava fears me, except for when she laughs in my face while I am yelling at her. UGH! Hang in there and don’t let up, they just get worse as they get older. Ava is just now coming around and getting a good color in Kinder, she’s an adorable, stubborn little shit!! Good luck.
Momma, PhD says:
I could have written this myself. It’s hard, we’re only human. We gotta cut ourselves some slack and try to do better.
It’s ok-just the fact that you want to be better is good. I don’t think it’s realistic to always talk in a cheerful happy voice anyway. As long as you aren’t screaming all of the time like the Costanzas on Seinfeld, it can’t be that bad. I personally don’t think it’s the worse thing in the world if your children develop a little bit of fear of authority. Mine are 11 and 13 and wonderful children. I yelled on occasion when they were little and felt miserable and like a failure-they still turned out fabulous.
Give her fair warning that the next time she does it she will not get to go to whatever it was she was going to. The next time it happens and she runs off…do nothing -say nothing just walk away and continue with whatever you need to do. If you were getting ready to take her to school, party, grandma..whatever, cancel it. Of course there will be tears and drama..don’t back down…let her own it. At three it’s time to let them be accountable for there own actions and experience the consequences
I did this with my young daughters. We were going somewhen special and they started in with a fight, yelling and crying etc. I didn’t say a word. I just looked at them and finally quietly said “we’re not going”. She’s remembered it to this day and she’s 46. She’s done this with her sons but I must say…boys don’t have near the drama girls do
I did the same quiet “We’re not going” that you did. My kids are grown too and they still remember it. It wasn’t play time either. I put them to bed and told them that they were going to go to sleep instead. The keys are to be consistent and really follow through, and also not to buckle when they are either raising holy hell about not being able to go or come out of their room five minutes later to say they are ready to go. It only takes a couple of times before they get it, and after that, a reminder was all that was needed. Something like “You can choose to listen now so we can go out, or you can go to bed instead like last time.”
All parents yell, every single one of us. Even soft-talking TV mom Michelle Duggar recently blogged that she adopted her gentle parenting approach because of her anger issues and that every day is a challenge not to yell.
In the words of Anne of Green Gables “tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it”.
Mary Brock says:
Upon reading all of these comments all I could think about was Michelle Duggar, and how she is always so soft spoken. Makes me feel better that she hasnt always been so gentle.
Maybe it’s just me, but when I was a kid, the thing that taught me when I had pushed the envelope and really screwed up was WHEN my mom finally lost her temper at me. I was a strong-willed little trouble-maker and would push push push until my mother was fuming–and I discovered when I’d gone too far and, because it freaked me out that she was that mad, backed off. Sometimes, with some kids, that’s what you need to really alert them to, “Hey, wow, I have just crossed the line.”
I mean, of course, work on this if you want to work on this, but don’t beat yourself up over it if you’re not instantly Mary Poppins or whatever. But don’t beat yourself up over it. She won’t remember the yelling when she’s older, because I am sure it is not SO OFTEN as to give her traumatic flashbacks as a young adult!
I completely agree with Kate’s comments. Unless you want to be fighting the same battles when she is 9, it’s appropriate and fair to you and Annie to address them now. She is smart, precocious and adorable…but she is also smart enough to start seeing how her behavior impacts others and watch these clues. It’s a life skill. There isn’t any reason for her to run away and hid when you ask her to do something. It’s disrespectful. I think boundaries and being firm when needed is actually part of being a good parent. I see so many of my friends struggling and feeling like failures becuase their kids’ lives (and theirs) are human, filled with flaws and discovery, rather than a perfect family like a sitcom. This is just my two cents, but I’d suggest firm expectations, logical consequences and a commitment from you and Mike to stick with the plan.
Jenny – when my now 13 yr old would throw these fits at 3, my mother in law would say “better to deal with it firmly now than when she is 16 and trying to take the car.” That always ran through my head when I would discipline. So I totally agree with your comment, better to deal with it now than later!
Oh, Heather! I struggle with this daily, as well. My youngest daughter is about a week older than Annie, and my oldest just turned 8. I’ve sworn multiple times that I would stop yelling, but it usually only lasts a couple weeks. It’s hard to stop and think before the words come out of our mouths, and it’s such a knee-jerk reaction. My go-to lately has been to put everyone in the house on time-out to think about how we can make things easier for everyone in the household. That way, everyone gets quiet time to calm down.
I feel like these words flowed right out of my very own finger tips.
I have an almost-6-year-old. She is incredible and I am more blessed than I can put into words to be her momma. When I was a kid, people used to tell me the same thing – “One day you’re going to have a daughter just like you.” When I was little it was to wish for a retaliation in having a child who talked as non-stop as me. When I was a teenager my single dad wished upon me a child just as sassy and mouthy as I was. My daughter is me, reincarnate. To the tee. I see every bit of me in her and like you, I think that should make me more understanding but it does not. She pushes my buttons in a way that she doesn’t do with anyone else. I see the manipulation sometimes and I know she’s playing me and sometimes I see her face and I tell myself that I’ve reacted too harshly – that she’s not calling my bluff this time. She also is an only child and most of our friends don’t have kids so she hangs out with adults most of the time, outside of school. It’s hard for me to remember that she is only 5 about to be 6 and that I need to give her the opportunity to be a child. It’s also hard for her to understand that I expect certain behaviors out of her and it’s hard for both of us to learn that we have to find the middle ground. I know from experience that this road we’re on can be bumpy at times, but you are a great mom. You have a ton of stuff on your plate, and you two, you three, you four will figure out our balance. In the whole relative scheme of things, you have only been at this for a handful of years from start ’till now. Hang in there. You’ll find your common ground and things will settle. When your kids a like,30 or something.
I struggle with the same thing – especially when you are trying to get somewhere on time (like school) and the three year old is screwing around.
My son’s teacher gave us a great idea. He goes to Montessori and they are all about logical consequences. When she won’t get dressed, no big deal. Just take her to school in her PJs. SERIOUSLY. His teacher assured us it will only happen once. No yelling, no fuss, just put her in the car and drop her off like that. Explain that if she can’t get dressed in time she’ll just have to go to school like that. Works for my son every time I say it – “okay, if you won’t get your clothes on we’ll just go to school in PJs!” All of the sudden he’s quite cooperative.
As the comments show, many of us struggle with yelling too much. My mom didn’t yell so I was surprised to find myself doing it. Back then kids were outside playing all day and now they are underfoot 24/7, which I think contributes to it. I agree with the suggestion to let her feel the consequences by taking her to preschool in her pjs. another mom was blogging about this issue, too. http://hannahandlily.blogspot.com/2013/10/not-much-happening.html
p.s. I think it is great that you are so honest and it starts a dialogue with other moms.
One of the most important, crucial, absolutely healing lessons you have to teach Annabel as her mother is how to make a mistake. And how to feel and express anger safely. You felt and expressed anger in a way you didn’t like, and by forgiving yourself, taking responsibility for it, and talking about it with Annabel afterward, you’re showing her that it’s okay to make mistakes, and you’re teaching her how to take responsibility for her actions, and to repair relationships. You’re giving her the gift of not having to be perfect to be in a loving relationship. It’s not whether or not you ever make mistakes, it’s how you respond to them and learn from them.
As she grows up, she’ll learn fro how you work on expressing your anger in a safe, productive way, with words: “I’m feeling so angry right now!”, or with removing yourself from the situation until you’re calm enough to decide how to respond to it and to talk about how you feel about her actions, or by going for a run or to a kickboxing class or ripping up a phonebook away from your children’s eyes–safe ways to express angry energy that don’t need to scare anyone. That is a HUGE lesson, that is SUCH a gift that will last a lifetime. The gift of kindness to yourself even with your “dark” emotions.
One more thing, when I got to point where I knew I would snap I put myself in a time out and told the kids to leave me alone until further notice. That was a signal to them to self reflect and adjust or they knew what I would do. It worked better than yelling, but it took me a while to figure that out….
Agreed. I had to do it this morning.
My 2 month old was screaming because he wants to be held all the time (just like my eldest did, sigh), and his nearly 3 year old sister was screaming and crying over her breakfast incoherently (we’ve decided that if the baby gets things by screaming and hollering, so do we).
I took 3 year old’s plate away, telling her as calmly as I could muster that screaming and crying told me she was too busy for breakfast. More tears, genuine this time. I gave her plate back, and told her no screaming. She started back when she left off, clearly testing me.
I could feel my fists balling up. I’ve never, ever hit my daughter, but sometimes? I really want to, especially when she’s in snot nosed mode like she was at the moment.
“You know what?” I told her and myself both in the steely tone of voice that usually precedes yelling “I am feeling very angry right now. I’m just going to go sit over there [living room] until I’m not angry anymore”.
That usually gets her attention. It also gives me time to talk myself out of anger.
I can relate entirely! I yell, I stomp. I try so hard not to, but I just snap at some point, especially when my 3 year old exhibits the SAME FREAKING BEHAVIOR night after night after night. Drives me crazy, and no matter what I do, she does not change her behavior.
I’m at a loss, other than this weekend I decided that since yelling will clearly not work with her (it does with my 5 year old), I just need to drop my pride and snuggle her to get back to a point where our anger has subsided. THEN, try to teach her right and wrong.
Hope it works. Good luck to you!
I could have written this post, too. Oy. I feel you! I’m also raising a mini-me and it can be infuriating. I just keep reminding myself, her independent streak is what makes her who she is and someday, will be a positive — even though right now it can mean tons of fights! You’re an amazing mama–and it is hard to be patient … I feel you!
Heather….tell Mike Paul McCartney is debuting new music on iHeart Radio tonite!! 6pm PT…Woot!
I can completely relate. One thing I always forget is how lack of sleep messes with my patience. You have a newborn! Also 3 can be tough- so hard to pick the battles worth having!
Jess Z. says:
I’m the exact same way with my son. We have very similar personalities, and I find it’s my hardest parenting challenge yet. It’s very hard to parent someone like you. I yell a lot. I don’t like it. I, too, have to remind myself that he’s only four. I find that it help to “step out” of the situation, think outside the box, and think about how he’s feeling/what he’s thinking, etc. Namely, be on the outside looking in and seeing what I’m saying vs. what he’s thinking/feeling/saying, and I usually don’t yell after I think like that. I find some creative way to diffuse the situation.
I was a mellow kid, but my mom had zero patience for any kid shenannigans. My daughter, though, is like her dad, ON FIRE, a lot like I think Annie must be. She is stubborn and loud and funny and really challenging for me. She’s a tween now (heaven help me, or at least give me free booze), but when she was small, I turned into that scary mom, too. At some point I had an epiphany like you’re having and somehow, I was mostly able to disengage from the power struggles. The things I tried to keep in mind: my relationship with my daughter was always always more important than [fill in the blank] and what will she learn if I force this issue? Instead of, say, getting into a big drama over whether or not she gets dressed right this instant, how about I walk away and do something else? Maybe she’ll be late for school [or whatever] because she didn’t get dressed in time. Maybe it’s just that, she’s late, and she won’t care. But maybe she’s late and she will care and she’s learned something I couldn’t have taught by yelling. Baby steps. Also. Be kind to yourself, this parenting gig can really mess with your mind.
Jessica V. says:
I haven’t read through the other comments yet, so I’m sorry if this has already been said … but I’ve always found that the age of three is the toughest one. Instead of the “terrible twos,” we’ve always had the most difficulties with the “threatening threes” (b/c you are always threatening to take something away, send them to their room, sell them to the gypsies :-), etc.). This age is SO tough! I think all parents lose their minds (and tempers) a lot during this time. Another thing to remember is that “three is two…with intent.” They know EXACTLY what they are doing – especially when they are pushing boundaries (or your buttons). And, when you do lose it – the best thing you can do is to apologize to Annie and then move on. It teaches her that everyone makes mistakes, even Mommy and Daddy. Good luck!
What I’m discovering is that parenting an older child and infant combo is insanely hard, so is it any wonder you want to scream the elder/should-know-better into compliance.
Mine has escalated her yelling/screaming in response to not being the center of the universe. Forget chasing her to put on clothes, that goes easy enough. It’s after her clothes are on that she decides to throw a fit if we.are.not.going.RIGHT.NOW.
In a sense, a three year old is a selfish beast only aware of his/her needs. Forget getting them to do anything for you. It’s all about them. When we get into power struggles, I have to remind her why she needs to do what I asked. I.e. “You need to finish your breakfast in five minutes if you want to go to school”. Going to pre-K is one of the things she looks forward to most (she asks for ‘school’ on her days off), so lord help me, I use it for leverage whenever I can.
If Annie likes pre-K (bet she does), you can make eating breakfast, getting dressed and other little tasks before she goes to school contingent on her going. “It’s okay if you don’t want to put on the clothes you picked out, but that means we don’t go to school today” (don’t take her to school in PJs, if she’s like mine, wearing PJs outside the house is not a deterrent to anything). If that doesn’t get her attention, walk away meaning it. Go fold some laundry, or do any other tasks that signifies “mom is not available”. I promise that if you call her bluff, she’ll walk up to you clothes in hand asking for help putting them on (been there).
For other stuff, just take into account whether the struggle is worth it. We had power struggles over dinner until I gave up ensuring my kid would eat, and just sent her to bed without food. In those rare instances, it was what she wanted (her response to something she doesn’t want to do is still “I go to bed now”, which is pretty hilarious at 8 AM), and if she wakes up in the middle of the night claiming hunger? I tell her it’s what happens if you don’t eat dinner. She won’t starve to death, and more importantly, it reduces struggles at dinnertime for an average of a week, until she is ready to test me again. Even if it’s only a week, I’ll take it.
I could have written this, but haven’t as it’s tough to admit. Big hugs to you!!
Oh man, this could’ve been written by me. Or about me. And judging by the comments, we are not alone. When I feel myself starting to lose my temper because Dylan won’t pick up her toys or runs and hides when it’s time to get dressed (what the hell is that about?!?) or ignores me when I ask her to do something, I tell her that I’m starting to get upset, and that I’m going to step away so I don’t yell, and then I do just that. Sometimes I think I need to just not be in the moment, and she needs to see that her actions affect other people, before it dissolves into yelling and fighting and everybody cries. Two was easy; I was NOT prepared for three. Hugs to you
(((HUGS))) Heather! I bet you’ve gotten a lot of advice above, but I highly recommend the “Love and Logic” books. I can’t say I remember to use what I’ve learned 100% of the time but when I do it works. They use logical consequences. In the example above, if she ran away you would say, “What a bummer. I guess you will be late for school.” and walk away. Or, “Guess you’ll wear your pajamas to school today.” If she is anything like my Charlie (and I believe she is!), she will be frustrated but will change and you don’t lose your temper. She wants you to engage her in the running away, etc. so when you don’t, it becomes way less fun and will happen less. Even if your engagement is mad, it’s still engagement. 3 and a baby was THE HARDEST time for me in parenting so just know you are among friends and it gets better!
Tammy M. says:
I think you need to cut yourself some slack, momma. You are doing a beautiful job. (I can tell that all the way from Michigan!)
It’s so easy to say that from where I’m sitting – with an 18 and a 21 year old! But, I do remember the 3’s, they were so much harder for me than the 2’s. But, I’d relive every day of them if I could.
It’s also ok for Annie to know you have feelings, and for you to model your feelings, even if they’re frustration and anger. In both my job training and when my husband and I went to premarital counseling, we’ve learned the value of saying “I’m feeling angry.” And expressing negative emotions in (at least moderately) healthy ways is good role modeling for our kids.
I think you’re doing just fine. It’s ok for Annie to see you upset.
I think every mother and father for that matter has felt the exact same way. Half the battle is to change the ways. I always say… being a parent is “on the job training” no manual… we just go along…and we learn as we go… from our mistakes and from our children. As parents there will be many, many more days like this. It’s the ups and downs of parenthood. There’s moments… the terrible 2’s or the teen years… it’s a learning process for sure. Hugs to you xx
I haven’t read any of the other comment, so forgive me if I’m repeating anything.
My two kids are now 19 and 17. When they were little I very much like you are now…plus, I very much remember being a child and promising to be a different kind of parent to my kids than mine were to me. I had a totally different childhood than you did…not warm and fuzzy. One day I was very stressed out and I remember grabbing my son by the arm to make my point. I was squeezing too hard…just like my dad had done to me when I was little. He used to leave marks. My son looked at me with his huge brown eyes and I heard my voice right then…my voice when I was a child…that I would be a different kind of parent. I let go I my son then…never touched him again in anger and we talked. He may have only been two or three years old but we talked and we never stopped talking. If a time out was needed, I was usually the one who needed one not my child. A talk or diversion can do wonders for all involved.
As my kids grew older the talks evolved…sex, drugs, suicide, bullying. Nothing is off limits. Keep your heart open, Heather. I know you will…I know you do. Being a parent is hard work…you and Mike rock!!
I was always in trouble for something as a child. Truthfully, I had a very unreasonable father. I feel I was always reasonable and fair to both my children, but, believe me, I did my share of yelling. And to be honest, spanking, which was not frowned upon back in the day. My “kids” are now 50 and 46 years old, just so you get an idea of how the times have changed. Anyway, what I wanted to say is that a few years ago my daughter gave me a Mother’s Day card where the front was a list of don’t do this, don’t do that, no, you can’t go there, etc., etc., like a mother would say to her child growing up. The inside of the card said, “Thanks, Mom.” So I’m thinking Annie will most likely appreciate all the “guidance” when she’s older.
My biological mother is almost 64 years old and I have not spoken to her since 2009 except when she was making an ass out of herself during my brother’s funeral meeting. I have no desire to talk to that haggard ol’ bag of bones who has nothing to do with her life except to carry around her own cross and beat her drum to let everyone know she is the martyr for her own cause.
I say this because I guarantee you that everything you ARE doing is NORMAL. The day you start telling her she’s stupid, fat, ugly, worthless, piece of shit, garbage, never going to amount to anything, better hope a man knocks you up so you can get welfare, and any number of other awful things a child should never EVER hear…then you are a good enough parent and *that* is all that matters.
My dad used a belt or a piece of lathe board to spank us. I remember how much it hurt…but HER words? They hurt way more and still echo through my skull when I’m feeling like I can’t do anything right.
(((((HUGS))))) We aren’t perfect and we aren’t supposed to be. It’s okay for her to see you angry and to hear you yell. It’s also okay for her to hear you say “I’m sorry Annabel. Mama doesn’t like yelling at you and being angry. ” Then share some hugs and maybe work on a plan to help both of you during those times of “let’s go now” moments.
I completly understand!! Don’t beat yourself up!! I too went down the infertility line into child loss and I do happen to have the most delicous 11 year old girl ever but I still lose it with her!! We are only human!!! Give yourself permission to have a mommy melt down!!! As mummies we seem to not forgive our parenting mishaps and we need to!!! one day Annie will say hey mumma remember when this happened and youu did that and I did that and you will both laugh!!
Leigh Elliott says:
I seriously was *JUST* thinking this same thing this weekend, in fact. I am so mad at myself when I yell at my daughter, but then again, I am usually at my wits end at that point and after three “warnings” it’s like an explosion goes off in my head. I snap soooooooo easily, and then I get so down on myself for being that way. I don’t want to do mental damage to her, but good lord, I have had to have already done that with all the yelling that I do.
Sometimes I think I am still doing better than my parents because they used physical AND mental anger outbursts on me, and I will not ever hurt her, physically. But yelling is horrible too. I really don’t know how it can be avoided unless I am on some sort of tranquilizer.
I understand completely how you feel, I hv been there with my six year old son. A couple of things that have helped me are, reading The Big Book of Unschooling by Sandara Dodd, even if you aren’t going to practice the unschooling theories, her parenting ideas really helped me relax in my attitudes and be one a happier person with happier children. And something that really helped my son and and I was when I started to lay in bed with him at night and rub his head and his back, sometimes I draw pictures on his back with my finger and he guesses what they are. This really helps us bond. Plus now that he is six, things are easier
Also, the 1,2,3 Magic video I borrowed from the library helped with our problems too
I am wondering if things could be dialed down a bit by making your home a bit less stimulating. If your voice is lowered, your daughter might listen more. If she has fewer outfits, getting dressed will be a smoother process. Maybe everything can be simpler than it is now. I look back to long ago and I wonder why I was in such a hurry to have my daughter go to preschool or stay on a schedule. If she doesn’t get dressed, there will be no huge fallout from skipping school.
I don’t know what Heather and Mike’s situation is, but being that I have kids of similar ages, I’d have to disagree with “why was I in such a hurry to have my daughter in preschool and on a schedule?”.
I’d love not to need to keep my eldest on a schedule. It would make my life easier right now. That said, even at 3, she knows she needs the routine. Eating at certain times, doing certain things during a day help give a toddler/preschooler a sense of control. I know my daughter’s worst days are often when she’s at home with just myself and the baby, because the baby’s schedule is still chaotic and unpredictable, which means she sometimes has to wait for me to take care of him before I can help her.
They both are doing okay at waiting around for the other’s needs to be met (okay, well, the baby cries whenever I am not holding him for more than five minutes…), but they’re young children: waiting wears them down, and often whoever screams louder gets the attention. It can get pretty frustrating at times. As an adult, I know that routine is not the be all end all, but to kids routine=knowing what comes next=safety.
I believe that is why when the baby is having colic, or a bad day (early teething, yay!), and I can’t really do much with my daughter, she asks to go to school. Yes, she gets to share the attention with 14 other kids there, but at least she reliably knows when it’s coloring time, outdoor time, or snack time. I can guarantee three meals and a snacks at the more or less appropriate time of day, but that’s about it most days.
I feel horrible about it, but the routine is what she craves, and the evidence points to power struggles multiplying for us when our routine such as it is, goes out the window. Since we’re a few months away from baby having a stable enough schedule of his own, it’s something I can’t provide, but preschool can, and my daughter realizes it, too.
My daughters are (somehow!) 28 and 25 years old. I’ve been a single mom for most of their lives, and believe you me there was sometimes yelling when they were growing up. Even so they’ve turned into pretty nice grown up people, and they both call me every day so pretty sure they don’t hate me. No good mom is ever proud of the yelling, but as has been said before in comments above we’re all human, and it happens. Just maybe hug them a little more and let them know you feel bad about it. (Yada, yada, yada … I just deleted a whole bunch of typing.) All you really need to know is this. Your kids will grow up knowing that you love them, and *in spite* of those off days they will be fine. Honest!
I recognized a lot of myself in what you wrote. My youngest is 10 now, and looking back I recognize now that much of it for me was fatigue, combined with stress and anxiety, along with a dose of hormones.
You’re right–you have to recognize what you want to change. But know also that getting more and better rest, adjusting to your new family structure, and of course learning to choose your battles, will also help. Please be very gentle with yourself.
I don’t know if you remember a conversation we had years ago, when I stayed with you guys while I was on a road trip. I told you how guilty I felt because I felt like I was doing things “all wrong” with my kids, and I was struggling on a daily basis. I’ll tell you now what you and Mike told me then (and it was fantastic advice!): Don’t focus so much on the negative, focus on the positive. No one’s perfect. The kids know you love them. Take it one day at a time. The few times you screw up aren’t going to be the things they remember (which was my GREATEST fear). I realized that the things that set me off we’re the things that made me feel disrespected and/or unappreciated. So, I changed my thinking on some things. Mainly, I let my kids know that it was a privilege for me to help them, not a right. If they didn’t appreciate my help, they didn’t get it. I think sending Annie to school in PJ’s might backfire, because what if she enjoys it and then you have a whole new battle. If she runs from you, set a timer for however long she has and tell her she must get ready On Her Own, by the time the timer goes off. Then walk away – don’t nag or watch over her. When the timer goes off, tell her you’re moving on to the next task. Continue until she no longer runs away. If she’s like my stubborn girl, she will ASK for your help and appreciate it in a whole new way! Best of luck, and don’t beat yourself up too much!
I feel badly that you’re feeling bad. Three year olds are just plain tough. I had an especially hard time with my first one when my second was a newborn. Now on my second three year old I feel like I’m finally getting the hang of Three but still feel guilty about some of the battles i got into with my older daughter starting at three.
Shannon B says:
You just described exactly how I feel. Seriously. I could have written this. It’s comforting to know I’m not the only mom who feels this way.
Every time I get upset with my 2 children who are with me I always think as you wrote about all I have already lost. So, I have this internal debate – should I not get upset with our twins for misbehaving because I will never get the chance to discipline their brothers? The answer is usually that we have to discipline the twins but by the time I have gone through this whole thought process I have often calmed down (but, I have yelled at them and then felt guilty as well. . .). And, as usual I have to agree with whoever made the statement that “parenting is not a job for sissies.”
casie c. says:
Thank you. Just thank you for being brave enough to post this. I’m not locked in either. Some days are rough and it’s nice to hear a reminder that tomorrow is a new day, a fresh start. Perfect timing for my tired mama heart tonight, so thanks.
Thank you for sharing this, Heather; it was exactly what I needed last night as I decompressed from a very trying evening solo-parenting my almost-6 and almost-3 year old with a migraine and on the heels of an action-packed pre-Halloween weekend (Dad had a business trip – on our wedding anniversary, no less!). I have been hearing the “you are messing it all up” voice a lot lately after I lose my cool, and it’s comforting to know I’m not alone. This morning, while the toddler kicked off about deciding she wanted to START OVER AND DO IT MYSELF after I had already helped her get all dressed, and as her brother dragged his feet about getting dressed himeself, I decided to employ the Calm and Firm and Takes No Prisoners approach – “if you are not ready, you will be late, and we will explain to your teacher why you missed the bus.” It was better – or at least less screamy, anyway! Now to see if we can all keep it up. Just…thanks. And hang in there. I had the same age spread with my first & second, and I know, it’s harrrrrrrd and it often just plain sucks. Sometimes, you just need to all sit on the sofa and snuggle and watch a movie and give yourselves a break.
My son is exactly Annie’s age and he and I are a lot alike too. My twins are just about James’ age as well. We were all at the pediatrician’s office the other day ad she looked at us and said “A 3 year old and new babies? You guys are BRAVE!”. She went on to tell us that in her opinion, 3 is THE hardest age. She kept telling us, wait till he turns 4 it’ll be so much better.
I hope so.
I don’t comment on your posts very often (even though I’m a faithful reader), but I had to comment on this one because it completely describes my relationship with my now 16-year-old daughter. I can tell you, it does not get easier. I’ve gotten a WHOLE lot better about maintaining my composure, but I let her get away with a lot. I still wish I could be a better mother to her, but I know that my relationship with her is still a whole lot different than mine is with my mom and even though I may yell at times or I may fold too often, when we get along, we get along great, and I can tell the same is true for you and Annabel, too. I don’t have any words of wisdom. Just an, I hear you, sister.
It is frustrating having little kids. I feel like I was mentally so unprepared for the constant barrage of questions and repeating myself over and over and over. I have a 4 year old, 2 1/2 year old, and a 1 year old. It is exhausting! It is the most amazing thing is the world having them in my life… but it is an exhausting job. I saw a saying recently that said “Bad moments do not make bad mamas”. It was reassuring to me, so I wanted to share it. Love reading your blog! You say a lot of things that I think but don’t have the courage to say
Take a parenting class. Every couple of years I do. I have a seven year old and a ten month old. We’re only human and sometimes we need a refresher on how to be our best selves. Classes help. And it’s a great lesson and act of love to tell your little one, Tonight I’m going to a class to learn how to be a more patient mommy.
You are not alone. My daughter Izabella just turned 3 and everything I have read says 3 is worse than the “terrible twos” and it’s so true. Everything with her has turned into a battle. Getting dressed, going potty, eating, etc. She says “NO” to everything and I try everything to convince her but it’s like in her brain it’s her job to “drive me insane” every day. And just last night after trying for 15 minutes to get her to go potty before bed, she ran out of the room and told her father that “mommy is turning into a monster and she was scared” because I was losing my cool. So I think we all understand where you are coming from. And you really have to give yourself some slack because you have James as well and I just can’t imagine dealing with two at the same time. But sending prayers and here is a link to an article I read that says it all. http://blogs.babycenter.com/mom_stories/you-know-you-have-a-threenager-09232013-when/.
Remember you are a great mom and just because you yell doesn’t take it away!
I feel like I could have written this. All I have is hugs for you.
Alethea Fitzpatrick says:
I found the book”Raising Your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka to be so helpful. HIGHLY recommended! And in the meantime, be gentle on yourself and make sure you’re taking care of yourself