How Not to be a Mother

Today before Toots’ kindergarten day began, I found out that she’d ripped the head off a toy that belonged to her friend’s sister. As the mom told it, Toots snapped the head off and laughed evilly when the little girl who owned it turned red. The story was corroborated by Alexa’s friend. Now, the mom wasn’t there and I wasn’t there, but the fact remains that the toy is broken and I had to address the incident with Toots.


I failed completely.


I confronted her in front of her friends, five minutes before class started and asked her to tell me the truth. She began to cry and told me that her friends were lying. I begged her to tell me what happened. It kills me that she might think it’s OK to lie (we’ve had other “incidents”) and I just wouldn’t have it this morning. Finally, she told me that she did it on accident and that she’d stepped on the toy. That’s as much as she would say. The toy is a doll and the only way the head could come on this particular model is if it were pulled off, so I knew she still wasn’t fessing up.


But I? Blew it again. I kept after her. All the way into class. And then I left her there upset and sad, and unresponsive to my “I still love yous.”


What the hell is wrong with me?


I left the class crying because I just don’t know how to handle my daughter and it’s making us both miserable.


I truly believe I am a horrible, horrible mother. What kind of women turns on her kid in front of so many people and accuses her of lying? Even if she were fibbing, I handled it completely inappropriately.


Now my daughter is at school thinking I hate her.


I don’t even know how I’m going to make that better.


15 Responses to “How Not to be a Mother”

  1. MissM says:

    You are not a horrible mother. You both made a mistake and will both get over it. Not at this moment though. She has probably already forgotten about it! If you apologize, she will trust you again and then you can talk about her issue… You are NOT a horrible mother. If that makes a bad mommy, then we are all bad mommies at some point. Mistakes…

  2. I remember times when I had to do what was absolutely necessary to protect my child and set them on the right path, SanDiegoMomma.

    I remember my 1.5-year-old daughter somehow crawling out of her car seat and trying to open the car door when we were flying along the Coast Highway at 50 mph. We had to pull over, and it pains me to this day that, despite everything I promised myself when I became a dad, I had to spank her little butt and make her cry before buckling her back into her car seat. I still feel like I had limited options.

    I think you did something from the heart today. You despise lying. You don’t want to have a lying daughter. You don’t want a daughter that rips heads off dolls. That makes sense.

    There is a balance that you are looking for, though, in communicating with a child. They are just little adults who don’t get it yet. And taking a strong stance on things is your parental prerogative.

    Here is an article from a parenting site you may find interesting:

    Note the following:

    “Don’t ask questions that set your child up to lie. If the last piece of cake is gone and your daughter has cake crumbs on her face, don’t ask if she ate the cake. That’s laying a trap, expecting her to lie. Say instead, “I’m disappointed that you ate the cake. There will be no more snacks today.”

    If you knew that she broke the doll, just tell her that you know and move on. No need to make her admit it. That just fosters the scared-to-tell-momma kind of lie, dig?

    — Wade Nash

    P.S. I’m agnostic — but I liked the link just as well — even though it is from a religion-based website.

  3. Me says:

    We have all been there.

    I think you should tell her you handled it wrong and let her know even mommies make mistakes. No one is perfect and we are all learning no matter how old we are.

  4. Laurie says:

    Well if you’re a horrible mom so are many of us. I’ve made so many mistakes, and like suggested, I usually just tell my kids “mommy is human, mommy makes mistakes..blah, blah, blah” I love Wade’s suggestion for approaching the lying thing though – it’s been an issue lately for my 8yo and I get so frustrated when he does it. This might make the situation better.

  5. Deb, everyone in the world has parenting fails. I did tell you about cutting the pants off my tantruming daughter, did I not?

    I guarantee you she knows you love her. (THE most important thing of all).

    You just need to take some deep breaths and make a plan for how you will handle it next time. Learning that timing is everything is a toughie–I still don’t always get that one right.

  6. Da Goddess says:

    First off, forgive yourself for being human. Once you do that, you can face Toots again.

    She’ll forgive you, too. She will.

    If there were to be a second piece of advice, it would be to talk to her in private next time. It’ll be easier on both of you.

    But always remember, and please never forget (bonus points if you know where that’s from): you are human; you make mistakes; you must forgive yourself before anyone else can.


  7. Mama Mary says:

    Swear, I was just about to write this post. We all fail on many levels. YOu and I, maybe on more levels than most. :-) I love Jenn’s comment above saying she cut pants off a tantruming toddler. that made me laugh and know that all is right with the world. I told Lil to shut the f up, and I’m blaming her for everything. It’s ups and downs and learning how to best deal with our kids, but you’re still an awesome mom and she most definitely knows you love her. You’re mom and always will be.
    Oh and today I thought about our drunken convo the other night when we shared stories of yelling “WHY ARE YOU SCREAMING?” to our kids. I did it again today.

  8. tinsenpup says:

    I think we’ve all been there or somewhere quite like there. She knows you love her. You’ll sort it out.

  9. Bejewell says:

    Just the fact that you’ve tortured yourself over this is proof enough that you’re NOT a horrible mother. It’s all about love, babe, and you’ve got that in abundance for your little girl. That much is obvious. Cut yourself some slack and make up for any mistakes by finding a way to laugh and have fun together for a while. Laughing and fun makes EVERYTHING better. At least, it does in our house.

    (P.S. This post made me want to reach out and give you a big old bear hug.)

  10. adrianne says:

    we screw our kids up the same way our parents screwed us up, no matter how hard we fight it and no matter how self-aware we are at the time. you are not a horrible mother, you are a human mother. besides, kids are resilient… think about all the shit we had to deal with that our parents threw at us! you’re welcome. :)

  11. Oh, she knows you don’t hate her. I hate when stuff like this happens. We’ve all been there. Maybe she’ll think twice about what she did, because you can bet she believes you really know the truth. Just have some wonderfulcozy time with her later. You are a great mom, or you wouldn’t feel this way!

  12. San Diego Momma says:

    Thank you for the love! I appreciate the insights and the support and the resources.

    I had lunch with Toots the other day and we had a talk about honesty. I’m hoping it sinks in, but I’m confident she knows I love her.

  13. Maria says:

    im not a mom but as a daughter i can tell you that my reprehended me many times in front of friends or family members and while i did get upset i never thought my mom hates me! so all i can say is dont be so hard on yourself. i dont know you lol but the fact that you are thinking about what happen and want to make it better its a GOOD thing! Stay positive.

  14. g says:

    I’m so sorry this distressed you. I think many commenters have great ideas. My first thought was that you should take Toots out to have some fun with you – go for a milkshake or some kind of after school treat, and maybe find out her side of the story. No judgement, just find out what happened.

    I like Wade Nash (Paul)’s admonition not to set traps for her – very smart.

  15. Sheli B says:

    I’m a mom in my late fourties with grown children. The only two things San Diego Momma did wrong was having the confrontation before school and in front of other kids. There’s no way a five year old is going to fess up in front of others. All kids are going to tell little lies, but I think they should be “busted” on them every time they get caught. Young children aren’t very good liars, and there’s nothing wrong with letting her know that you don’t believe her when you shouldn’t.
    At five, Toots needs to think that you are going to know when she’s lying every time. At fifteen, Toots needs to think you can still tell when she lies. So, the trick is to make the lying a worse offense than whatever happened that she was lying about. Moms don’t have to be sorry about getting mad when their little Toots has been naughty. The question to pose next time is not “Did you do this?”, but rather “Why did you do this?” Tell her that if she breaks someone’s toy on purpose, then she is going to have to replace it with one of hers. Then follow through!

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