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Big Sigh

July 30th, 2010

Man I feel like a crappy mom. I’ve taken to yelling lately (and not so lately) and it’s become my parenting technique. I’m so challenged by Toots especially and just don’t know what to do with her. So I yell. I have no parenting tools I guess. She talks circles around me and argues with everything I say and I don’t have good answers and I get frustrated and shout.

 

And every time I do, I think of Robin McGraw (Phil’s wife) who when asked if she ever yelled at her two sons looked properly aghast and disgusted and could barely stammer out an affronted “NO. Never.” Which just made me feel even crappier and like the mayor of Yellville located in the dark land of Yellekestein.

 

Then there’s the fact that I am probably destroying Toots’ self esteem. You know, because I make her feel like everything she does is wrong because I yell all the time. Also today I threw a brush. Not AT her, not even near her, but out of pure despair and freaking frustration. I’d asked her to get the brush located by our front door and brush her hair before bible camp (don’t even get me started on how God thinks I suck) and she said, “I’m scared” And I said, “I’m 10 feet away from the front door. You can see me from the front door. What are you scared of?”

 

Just scared,” she said.

 

Meanwhile, visions of being late and having to make breakfast and getting money for the children in Uganda and putting on deodorant before we could leave the house circled my head and I screamed, “GET THE BRUSH! THERE IS NOTHING TO BE SCARED OF! I’M RIGHT HERE!”

 

And she said, “I’m scared.”

 

Well I hear this a lot. She says it when I ask her to go to the bathroom by herself or get dressed or put something away. I understandish it somewhat. If I ask her to go upstairs for an item and I am downstairs, I get it. But when the item to be retrieved is 10 feet away from me and my hands are full and I just need her to get the dang brush already…

 

So I did what any self-respecting maniac mom who presides over the evil land of Yellekestein would do. I marched to the console table by the front door, grabbed the brush and threw it at the ground. Where it promptly broke making me look even more like a maniac. And then I collected myself kind of and said, “Please put on your shoes. It’s time to go.

 

Whereupon she ignored me and so did Booger and I threatened to take them to bible camp without shoes on. Because? I’m a soulless harpie.

 

Now they’re at camp — with shoes on and hair brushed — and I feel like a loser.

 

Am I ruining them with my maniacal momming?

 

Worse, Toots just dedicated her most recent book — Mummy Legends (It starts: “There is a legend. A mummy was born.”) — to me, and I totally don’t deserve it. I deserve the dedication for the book she’ll promote on TV one day…the one where she writes about her shattered self esteem and hair brush phobia.

 

In all seriousity, I feel like the lowest of the low. Please share with me your techniques for disciplining your child without resorting to being a maniac.

 

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On July 30th, 2010, Jenni said:

Sounds to me like she’s using the excuse “I’m scared” to get out of things she doesn’t want to do and/or to manipulate the situation.

Is summer camp something they enjoy? Then calmly make the option: put your shoes on or you DON’T GET TO GO to camp! Tell them ONCE and follow through! They’ll get the message real quick and I bet tomorrow will be a different story!

Get the brush, brush your hair, or you’re not going (even if the other one gets to go). The “salt in the wound” is when you drop of the one who got ready on time and not her!

The most important thing is to stick with it, even if when you stop to drop off she does have her shoes on, the comment is simply, and calmly, “sorry, Booger got her shoes on when I asked and you didn’t, so you don’t get to go”

I am betting if you stick on the calm side and are consistent for a couple days you’ll see a major turn around!

On July 30th, 2010, JenniferfromLaJolla said:

I think Jenni (above) makes some really good suggestions. I too employed the choice tactic. I always offered up two choices, both of which always worked for me. “You can brush your hair first, or put your shoes on, which do you pick?”

As far as the yelling goes, you are hardly the only parent who yells. I still raise my voice on occasion and my kids are teens–I know they don’t hear me, so why in the world am I yelling? I know it does no good. What does do good, however, a lot of good, is apologizing when we make a mistake or exhibit behavior we are not proud of. Our kids need to know we are not perfect, and that we can own up to our mistakes. As they get older this opens the door for discussion about forgiveness and taking personal responsibility. Hope that helps. If not, beat the hell out of them. I kid! I kid!

On July 30th, 2010, Candice said:

I hate to tell you this, but I have no sound words b/c I yell too. Way too much at that. I hated that my mom yelled all of the time, and now here I am a yeller. I thought I could break the cycle but I cannot. J also says he’s scared or he just ignores me. Recently E (4.5) had to spend the “rest” of the night in his room for calling me a butthead. We were consistent and guess what he didn’t call me butthead again. I have a hard time sticking to what I say, and that’s something I have to work on. I’m right there with you.

On July 30th, 2010, Trish said:

Ok, I know that there are people who claim to have never yelled at their kids, but they’re lying. That is like saying you and your husband have never had a fight. It’s impossible. Unless you are 1) a Zombie, 2) Brain dead or 3) drugged up so much you can’t raise your voice. I feel your pain. I am a yeller and I feel terrible about this. Now my kids yell. At me, at their dad at each other. But we are ALL working on not yelling. The self esteem thing? I don’t think so. My mother was a yeller and I’m pretty confident and have oodles of self esteem :) I think the important thing is to let the girls know you are sorry and you know you shouldn’t have yelled. And that if they would like to avoid any yelling in the future, they should pick up the damn hair brush when you tell them to.

On July 30th, 2010, Ami said:

I think most moms drink at least one cup of motherguilt every day. At least one.

And that if you didn’t yell, you’d certainly find some other way that you’re not perfect as a parent.

Well guess what… none of us are. And we do the best we can, we apologize if it’s within us to do so, and we go on.

Throwing a hairbrush and yelling doesn’t make you a bad parent. Unless of course you think that if you had not thrown the brush and had not raised your voice you’d automatically be a good parent.

Sometimes kids really are scared. It doesn’t have to be rational, and by its very definition, usually isn’t.

I was scared all the time, too.

On July 30th, 2010, jenny ford said:

wow, well I would NEVER…not throw the brush!! poor mama. your honesty is priceless. no one is perfect and we all feel like perfect jerks as frustrated and over-worked moms. every once in a while a brush must be thrown.

try to take a deep breath and catch yourself next time your blood starts boiling. i try, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

but number one – Jesus loves you, whether you throw a brush or not. :)

On July 30th, 2010, De said:

Here’s a big hug and a pat on the back and a glass of wine and an earnest “you’ll do better next time, we all have days like this.”

What gets me, by the way, is that I am WAY more stern than my husband, but the kids hop to when he tells them something, and more or less ignore me until I AM yelling. So not fair. And a little f-ed up that I’m jealous because they’re not afraid of me.

Any of that wine left?

On July 30th, 2010, De said:

Oh, is it High Seas? My kids had a blast at VBS.

On July 30th, 2010, Rima said:

I don’t have any tips because I am a yeller. But I think you get a special yelling dispensation during the summer months. I wonder if Robin McGraw was with her kids 24/7?

On July 30th, 2010, steph said:

I have one of those kids that talks and talks and talks and sometimes makes me crazy. I had a revelation recently…it’s not necessarily a conversation. Nope, doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to answer, you don’t have to justify or prove anything. (Sometimes that’s damn hard too, smart little bugs they can be.) My kid is not super stubborn so I can say things to him like, “xyz is my decision and I won’t be changing my mind.”, or “you may scream and cry all you like (obviously this is only when he is just being obnoxious and not truly needing anything), but please go to your room or out back, because I don’t want to hear it.” These types of things only work if I am calm, but they do help to keep me that way–neutralize, unengaged some of the time at least.

There are tons of great parenting techniques out there I’m sure. I think what may be most important are the techniques that keep us from the edge. Deep breathing, learning to choose our battles more wisely, giving ourselves a ‘timeout’, and being straight up with our kids–whatever works for each of us.

I’m not sure it was right or not, but it felt like and accomplishment to tell my 5 yo after I had been a little snappy…”I don’t have much patience today so I’m gonna need you to be an extra good listener for me.” I don’t know if it worked because he tried harder or if it centered me somehow, but we both did better after that.

You’re not ruining them, and yes you do deserve it.

On July 30th, 2010, Me said:

Have you asked her why she’s scared?

On July 31st, 2010, San Diego Momma said:

Thanks you wonderfuls for the advice and humor.

Jenni? I love the practical info and WILL USE IT!

Jenn: I KNOW your kids are great kids because they have you as a mom, so I respect ANYTHING you have to say. Thx.

Candice: I’m glad/sad you can relate.

Trish: Maybe there’s some kind of Yell Club we can join and put all our yelling toward a good cause.

Ami: I was scared all the time too.I kinda forgot about that.
Still…I believe she uses the “I’m scared” in situations where it doesn’t apply sometimes.

Jenny: I was worried about the Jesus part!
I am happy to know I am still loved.

De: Wine is coming by carrier pigeon. Also..I DID sign the girls up for High Seas! The one they were in this week though was a different camp (North City?)

Rima: Good point. I bet she says she was.

Steph: GREAT input. Thanks. The Deep breathing especially.

Me: She doesn’t have an answer for me. I was a scared kid too, so I relate and commiserate…however…it is my sincere belief that she is using “I’m scared” as a tool to not do things.

On July 31st, 2010, Cactus Petunia said:

My mom was a Yeller. She was Italian. She had 5 kids. We drove her completely nuts.

She even hit my sister and I with a hairbrush once, when we refused to get ready for bed, and instead ran around our room naked, shooting paperclips at each other in an apparent attempt to put someone’s eye out.

And yet I manage every day to use a hairbrush without fear, and still think of her as a competent role model for motherhood.

I’m pretty sure Toots loves you anyway.

On July 31st, 2010, Cactus Petunia said:

In case you think I’m a proponent of corporal punishment after reading my comment, I’m definitely not.
I was neither a yeller, nor a spanker in my own motherhood career. And I still earned the nickname “Meanest Mom in the Whole World”.
I’m pretty sure mine love me anyway, too.

On July 31st, 2010, Cheryl said:

Oh gosh, I’ve so been here. I have a kid who can be stubborn and argumentative, and didn’t know what to do with him until I was given great advice from somewhere else.

When he is disrespectful or argumentative (and he pulled the “I’m scared” bit too– it’s okay to tell the kid to suck it up if it’s an excuse, and it likely is), he gets reminded to stop ONE TIME. If he does not stop immediately, he’s grounded from whatever the favorite thing of the moment is for that day only. If it doesn’t stop then, he gets to go to his room until he settles down.

The idea is, if you take too much away, or if you ground for a week, or whatever, you depress your kid and put yourself in a position where there’s nothing left to do.

So… this works VERY well for my son, who just turned 11. It’s the only discipline technique I’ve had to use since I started a few years ago. Also works well for my brother’s teens, and I frequently recommend it to parents of my 4th grade students if they ask for advice. I get good feedback on it.

Before we started this, I sat down with my son and had a serious talk with him. I told him I was sorry for yelling and getting frustrated, and explained how and why his behavior was unacceptable. Then I explained the “new deal” and how it was going to work.

Sorry so long, but you asked… :-)

On August 1st, 2010, Melanie @ Mel, A Dramatic Mommy said:

I yell. It’s hard not to. My son and I are too alike and we know how to push each others’ buttons. I will appreciate his tenacity, stubborn streak and willingness to question everything when he gets older. But right now? It can frustrate the heck out of me.

I do my best to follow through on what I say. Kids catch on to empty threats really quickly. Be firm. Put your foot down and keep it there. Don’t cave. Perfect “the mom look.” Can you raise one eyebrow?

Hugs.

On August 2nd, 2010, Lex (@laprimera) said:

I feel you! I totally could have written this post. My 8yo is always scared of something and it drives me nuts. And I’m known to turn into a Banshee when they are making us late (again).

On August 3rd, 2010, Kelly said:

When my daughter, an Olympic champion gold medal button-pusher was in kindergarten, we had some BAD mornings, similar to your episode. On one said morning, I lost it, yelled a bit, and to avoid kicking HER, kicked her door instead. I kicked hard. With Doc Martin-ish boots on. It made a hole in the cheap hollow door. I stopped, and laughed, and felt (sorta) bad.

Cut to later, when the Type A/patronizing room mom tells me ALL ABOUT how my dear daughter had told the WHOLE CLASS about how mommy kicked in her bedroom door that morning.

I suffered the pitying looks and whispered comments (surely they weren’t ALL in my mind?) for the rest of the looong semester. We still live in the same place. I feel like I have yet to live down that episode of Bad Mommyness. And, I still yell. But mostly now at the boy, 5 1/2.

Also? My daughter is ALSO scared of myriad things, including me leaving her alone for one fraction of a second. Today at the beach, I left them alone in the car for about 1.5 minutes when I ran to go pay the meter & get a ticket for the dash. When I returned, my son informed me that his older sister was giving me about, oh, another 30 seconds before she was going to jump out & find a nice policeman.

It is hard, hard and sometimes thwarts your best-laid plans to follow through on a threat, but that is my best advice. That, and don’t wear Doc Martens around the house.

On August 4th, 2010, Da Goddess said:

Oy, I was a yeller for a long time, too. Until about six months after the divorce. (not that i’m advocating a divorce in your situation…not even close.)

Mojo is the oldest and always bore the brunt of the yelling/frustration/whatever. That poor child. We’ve talked about it a lot since and she says she doesn’t remember most of it. She just remembers me being unhappy. (God, that hurt my heart so much. I never wanted my kids to feel that way.) Anyhow, she was very good at lying and manipulation (still is) and had that innocent little face that would make it even worse somehow. But she survived. As did LD. Now both of them are relatively well-adjusted and have somehow survived to be teens.

You’ll get through this, Deb. You will. And so will they. Just remember that yelling isn’t the end of the world. Nor is frustration. It’s HUMAN. All you can do is take a deep breath, count to five (because no mom has time to count to ten), and do as suggested with offering two options. Cut and dried. The kids still need to do what they’re supposed to do, but they at least have a choice in how they do it. Or something like that.

Oh, and don’t forget: as citizens we have the right to life, liberty, and the PURSUIT of happiness. There is no guarantee of happiness…just the right to pursue it. As benevolent dictators, we parents get to make the rules and the kids get to follow them. If they aren’t happy, that’s not our problem.

On August 5th, 2010, Kate from Ohio said:

I just had to say that I’ve been in this exact situation with my 5 year old daughter and the only thing that worked was telling her it was OK with me if she went to daycare with a rat’s nest of hair. She jumped up and got that brush instead of having crazy hair all day.

Mornings are the worst because the kids and parents HAVE to be somewhere at a certain time and kids just don’t get that. All the responsibility is on you to make it happen and short of getting up four hours early there are just days that have a stressful start. Don’t beat yourself up, just try to think each day through before it begins.

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