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In a dark place and need some reassurance

(40 Posts)

I need some perspective, and some common sense replies from other parents who also have spirited toddlers, because I am getting very close to having some sort of situation where I do something I regret. Someone, please tell me this is all normal and that it gets easier.

My son is 2.5. Never been a great sleeper, only now just going through the night and wakes very, very early (between 4.15 and 5.15am most days), and still has a day time nap. Lots of work and help from a sleep specialist to get him to this point, so that’s a positive.

But he seems to be so much harder work than other children in terms of personality. He is defiant to the point of insanity, and doesn’t seem to give a monkey ‘s uncle about any kind of threat or discipline I use. I follow every rule you’re supposed to – calm, consistent, carrying out said threat. He just ramps it up, hits me, throws things, runs off (and I put the reins on if he does that, too dangerous to have him walking anywhere otherwise) and generally creates chaos and carnage.

He is with a child-minder 3 days a week, and is totally calm with her. He’s a great eater and has no problem concentrating. He’s a very active child, lots of fresh air and walks along the beach etc.

What worries me is that I’m frequently having moments when I am starting to shout at him. He woke at 4.15am yesterday, and refused to sleep on the drive home from soft play. By this point we had both been awake for 8 hours and I was desperate for a break. But he just kept taking his arms out of the car seat and messing about. I pulled over and screamed, literally screamed in his face that I hated him and that I didn’t want to be his Mummy anymore.

Can someone please tell me that this is normal, that we all blow up occasionally and suggest ways of me controlling my anger in these situations? I often have to lock myself in the kitchen and cry because he’s being so naughty and not listening (or just doing the opposite of what I ask him to do) that if I don’t remove myself I will shout again. I’m also starting to use the F word around him when he kicks off, which I am deeply ashamed of. He’s a bright child but I get so wound up when he just destroys toys/days out/the house that I feel he must hate me.

I jokingly tell people that I wish I hadn’t had him. But I’m not joking. I don’t enjoy being a parent and if I could undo it all, I would. Am I out of control?
Sorry to drone on, but any advice would be great. Thanks.

pinkoyster Wed 13-Feb-13 09:27:30

Huge sympathies. I do know where you're coming from, and have a spirited 2 year old toddler myself. I don't know the best way to deal with them, but I do what you do in that I try and walk away/go to another room if I think I'm going to lose my temper. I ashamedly also have shouted, and DS barely flinches now because I think he's desensitised to it. His behaviour is exacerbated by others-DH, DM, DMil letting him do things that I don't-play with pans on the stove etc so that completely undermines my authority and he doesn't give two hoots if I tell him he can't do something-he just asks someone else later.

Sorry I'm not really giving you much help, but just wanted to let you know I understand where you're coming from. I will reassure you though that for every day that is God-awful there are days that are wonderful so don't be too hard on your self (as I was advised by some lovely MNetters a few days ago when I was having a wobble!)...

Thanks so much Pink, this DOES help, and I've been reading another thread (but with older children).

It's SO hard, isn't it, esp when you are so tired you don't have the energy to deal with all calmly and in a mature fashion. I get fed up of negotiating all of the time, I just want him to get on with what I've asked him to do.

Some days are bearable, it's true, and of cousre I love him, but I also wish the time away (fair enough, when you have a 15 hour day with them and just want to slide down the wall and pass out)!! xx

NeedlesCuties Wed 13-Feb-13 09:59:48

You're not bad for how you feel, but it is important for him and for you to try to keep your temper under control.

Do you have a DP? Any family or friends who can help?

I'm in a similar dark place with my DS (he'll be 3 this month). He used to be wonderful, but since DC2 was born 6 months ago he's gone bucko. Usually DS is great during the day, but a nightmare at night which all started when DC2 was born sad

I've also felt bad for shouting, it is hard how relentless kids are, and I truly never realised that before I had them!

Don't want to make you more anxious, but your son could be getting ready to drop his nap. My DS stopped daytime napping the month after his 2nd birthday.

The shouting, not listening etc is often a child testing their boundaries, while they learn new social skills.

Thanks, Needles, you are so right, and I'm sorry it's been tough for you too. Relentless is bang on, I take my hat off to you with two kids!

I would be delighted if he dropped his nap, it's a pain tbh, but as he's such an early waker he'll never make it through the day. The sleep specialist advised me to just leave it, it will fall away naturally, and not to cut it or reduce it until he's 3. So we are just living with it at the moment (we did try reducing it to see if he would then wake later but it just made the early wakings worse!). He has no signs of dropping the nap, and even with one is sparko at 7pm for bed.

Yes, DP is on hand, and generally pretty good, but he doesn't understand, really, and often talks over me when I'm talking to DS or suggests unmanageable modes of discipline (such as future events being cancelled, all of which mean nothing to a 2.5 year old!). But we've discuused this and we're getting there. I have lovely friends but no family near by. DP works far away so leave at 6.30am and isn't back until 6.30pm, so I always have to do the morning/afternoon drop off/pick up, breakfast, tea, etc, though DP usually does bath time.

Have you read 'How to Talk so Kids Will Listen?'. Someone has suggested it, just wondering if it would help with a 2.5 year old.

Good point on the social skills, that's one to keep in mind. xx

I have one too. He is very spirited and lively - he's 3.1YO - so you have my sympathy. He never listens to me, seems to relish the consequences given to him and will come up with some really good reasons (WTF) for why he should continue doing what he's doing and not do what I want him too. I have shouted at him.

DS is our fourth child and this really helps. I know that this stage really doesn't last for ever. With my first DS - even though he was in many ways more obedient - it felt endless and I felt I was hanging onto my sanity by a fine string. I promise that the charming, lovely little boy that is visible sometimes will be visible more and more as he gets older.

So that's my first piece of advice ... consider it to be a temporary state of madness. That he is good for other people is brilliant - it means that he will be for you eventually. I read two books at about this point ... how to talk so children will listen and bringing up boys. They helped me put it in perspective and gave me the confidence just to keep on going. I think I learnt to compromise more with them. I give choices ... this or this.

If sleep is a battleground for you mine was teeth brushing I suggest that you just let it pass ... if he doesn't want to sleep, don't force it. Continue to use the support you've got to adapt his sleep patterns to his growing needs. If you can arrange it please, please get yourself a couple of nights away where you sleep, lie in and try to reconnect with the person you were before small monster invaded your life.

And remember TV and a warm drink of milk are your friends. You can always grab yourself an hour by plonking him in front of Justin and friends. I had such high standards for my first child because I really thought I could influence his nature through parenting well. By the fourth I've discovered that their personality is much more nature than nurture so I don't sweat the small things like a bit of TV if I'm not coping that well but do the table manners, pleases and thank yous and being kind to others

x-post grin ... it helped me, the book at this age

Oh Tea, and all of you. Thank you very much for making me feel a bit more human.

Confidence is key, too. Mine has been shattered by parenting, I feel a failure on so many levels (bad birth, bad sleep, bad behaviour), that it's so good to know This Too Shall Pass.

I've ordered that book from the library, fingers crossed it will help me to adjust some of my own tantrums and learn to deal with him better. He is, after all, only 2.5! xx

It is. Which is why I'm suggesting if you can manage it some time to yourself you should because it's easy to forget that in order to look after your child you really need to look after yourself.

Now tell me to feck right off if I'm sticking my beak in or I'm talking bollocks.

Have you been to your maternity unit to take advantage of the service to review your birth with a midwife? I've heard it really helps you accept it for what it is ... because whilst the process might not have been a good one, and not what you imagined, and might have been really stressful and it might have been touch and go for either of you ... it was ultimately a good birth because your DS arrived and you are both here to tell the tale.

It might also be worth visiting your GP to see whether some CBT is available because that's a lot of "bad" things going on and knowing what I know now (having had the feelings you've had) actually it could all be normal and you might need help to start seeing it differently and stop projecting your negative feelings onto the situation.

It is hard being a parent for the first time and spending so much time alone with him whilst your partner is out earning is very intense. My family were hundreds of miles away and it was hard having no support.

If you lived near me I'd have your DS over for a playdate with my DS - they could trash my house - I would give you brew and wine (sparkling natch), tell you some of the stupid parenting I've done, make you laugh and send you home.

<goes off to repeat This Too Shall Pass about my arsey 11 YO>

LargeLatte Wed 13-Feb-13 13:23:16

SharkSkin - I notice that you mentioned you had a bad birth experience. Did you ever get any help for that? Do you think you need to talk to anyone? I had PTSD after ds1's traumatic birth and it definitely affected the dynamic between me and ds1. found him to be very hard work as a baby, toddler, and he is still a real handful - I say it's like he was born fighting for his life, and no-one told him it was OK to stop fighting.

And stop thinking of yourself as a failure. Allow me to let you into a little secret <whispers> None of us have a clue what we are doing. We are just making it up as we go along. So long as you are trying, you are not failing.<end whispering>

Tea, you big softie, what a sweet and kind and brilliant offer! I shall accept your offer 'virtually' and raise a glass of wine (not sparkling, full-fat red) to you later on tonight.

I have had counselling, so it's very spooky that you have suggested it, via my GP. I had a session with a midwife who talked through my birth literally minute by minute (that was weird), who in the end basically said, 'Look, your DS was 9.7lbs and back to back. He was never going to move, you laboured for 36 hours, so cut yourself some slack and move on.'

She had a point. In my darkest moments I lose sight of the good bit (healthy child, fab breast feeding experience, lovely job to go back to and kind friends).

Thank you for such wise words. I wish I could offer you some similar ones for your 11yo, but alas, it's very much still the land of toddlers for me at the moment!

xx

pinkoyster Wed 13-Feb-13 13:57:56

Shark, if you'd have seen me just 2 days ago, you'd have been shocked at how shit I was coping. DS1 screaming his head off at me, and my 6 week old ds2 hanging off my boob, whilst also screaming at me in between feeds (fecking 6 week growth spurt). I literally spent the entire day bawling my eyes out.. I then posted on AIBU re what a shit mother I felt, and the replies perked me up so much that yesterday and today I've felt like a different person. Yes, it's hard. I'm emotional, tired, exhausted and all the rest but others have reassured me that it will get easier and I'm going to trust them.

I too also miss life before the DC. The fact I had a great job, loads of brilliant holidays with just DH and myself. But I also remember sobbing my heart out when I miscarried after TTC for a year. And how WANTED my DS1 was. And how jealous I felt when I saw anyone who was pregnant, and despised my stupid failing body.. And then I'm really grateful I have them both (albeit DS2 was the result of an epic contraceptive failure!).. I realise this may not necessarily apply to others, but apart from the initial euphoria that you can rest, and you don't have a screaming toddler to contend with, I'm sure you wouldn't be without your DS..

Bumpsadaisie Wed 13-Feb-13 14:39:46

Shark, your DS is your first so its really hard as you cannot put it in a timeline context. 2.5 year olds are hard!

This defiant difficult stage is something they have to go through. Though it feels like it is all going wrong for you now, it can help to remember that this is actually what he's supposed to be doing, developmentally speaking, at the moment. He's trying to assert control and independence while at the same time being very frustrated and still pretty much totally dependent on you. Its a recipe for driving you both mad!

He will come out of it - I am sure in 6 months things really will be better. Still not easy a pie, but all the time he will be becoming better able to express himself with words rather than actions and better able to get a grip of his very strong feelings about things and avoid quite so many rows. He'll also be better able to defer gratification and more rational. You'll be able to do deals with him - if he does this now, then we can do that later. At 2.5 he doesn't really "get" those kinds of concepts yet.

My DD was hard work from 2.5 to 3 (compounded by the arrival of her brother at the start of those 6 months). By three she was much better. Now she is 3.7 and provided she is not ill or hungry or overtired, she is great company and a hoot - I love spending time with her. A year ago I could not have believed I could have actuallly looked forward to spending time with her!

DS is 16 months and appears to have quite a, er, forceful personality -- it's gonna get much worse before its gets better ...

Bumpsadaisie Wed 13-Feb-13 14:45:14

PS about the shouting, we all do it. Sometimes they deserve it, sometimes you perhaps lose it unjustifiably because you are so blimming tired and overstretched. Obviously its not great to be 100% shouty witch, or get to the point of being violent, but don't worry too much about it otherwise.

Indeed if you apologise for shouting from time to time, it teaches them valuable lessons. My DD is great at apologising now - so she should be, she had plenty of opportunities to learn as I had to apologise to her for losing it so often, ha ha! grin

Bumpsadaisie Wed 13-Feb-13 14:46:56

PPS about comparing with other people's kids, don't!

My kids are angels when they are out and about in public. They are both extrovert types and they love to be up and doing and seeing people and places. My friends must think I have the nicest kids in the world. At home though when its just us and they are bored and tired, they can be really difficult!

Thank you Large, Pink and Bump. I KNEW that if I posted my heart out on here someone would come and tell me if was all ok, and that this is all very normal. And look at how many of you did. Such sweet and kind words.

Thinking of it in terms of what he should be doing developmentally makes so much sense, and in a weirdly gratifying way, makes me feel it's not all my fault! I just need to take a breath and leave the room and then start again. Lower my expectations and move on, sister. It's just all so compounded by the fact that sleep has been such an issue: it's easy to feel sorry for yourself when come midday you've already done at least 7 hours worth of parenting (and then some), the same amount as a 'normal' job!

So thank you again, wonderful folk. You're all so generous with your time and warm, when you're all also knackered too! xx

Bumpsadaisie Wed 13-Feb-13 14:55:46

A final PPPS about discipline ... I remember when DD was 2.5 getting really worried as she just didnt seem to care when I shouted at her or have any sense that she ought to do as she was told. She just used to laugh at me and carry on regardless. At the time I thought I really worried about it - why did my kid not respect me, have I raised a sociopath etc etc. I talked to friends with older kids and they advised me just to hang in there and keep setting the boundaries; even if it doesn't "work" to change the behaviour, there is value in setting the boundary per se.

I'm not sure how it happened but by 3 or so she was starting to realise she was supposed to do as she was told. Suddenly I would say no and she would actually listen (most of the time).

I am sure it will be the same with your boy.

A final word of comfort - in my experience, those kids who are "easy" in their twos are often total nightmares in the threes - not least because they are then verbal, savvy and much bigger. So its good your son is going through his defiant stage earlier rather than later!

Bumpsadaisie Wed 13-Feb-13 14:57:01

Good luck Shark. smile

ledkr Wed 13-Feb-13 15:01:33

I post like this sometimes about dd who is baby no 5 and very ...ahem spirited.
What has worked for me is sleep.
Dh is fab but works long shifts and so I was reluctant to let him help anymore than he does already. However i had become almost ill and wasn't coping so dh took over completely while I put ear plugs in and slept. It's made all the difference and I was able to look at her routine calmly and change stuff as I wasn't exhausted.
Early waking is related to not having a nap too early in the day and not going to bed too late. Dd was also waking up as she was hungry so I've upped her snacks and mealtimes. She now sleeps a lot better and I'm able to enjoy her and I've fallen in love with her again.
I hope this helps.

matana Wed 13-Feb-13 16:15:54

I have a spirited one too and on bad days can identify with what you have described. Life at the moment consists of overwhelming love and wonder one minute and utter frustration the next. I went through a shouty patch a couple of weeks ago and his behaviour deteriorated further as a result. It's so hard, but it pays dividends when you manage to give them understanding and patience, showing them the right way to do things rather than shouting. Of course when you've had a long, hard day and are utterly frazzled that is far easier said than done. The early waking must be particularly hard though, at least I can get a good night's sleep in before the chaos begins. Perhaps if you manage to get him sleeping in longer it might help your state of mind during the day. Is he still seeing a sleep specialist?

It also helps me to remind myself that ds isn't really naughty. Defiant. Strong willed. Inquisitive. Curious. Active. Bright. But not naughty. Testing boundaries is how they learn. Has your ds had a recent development review? We had one recently and it was great to help put things in perspective. The upshot was that ds was within normal parameters, , albeit towards the higher end of the activity spectrum. They will review him again in 6 months unless we notice a marked deterioration in his behaviour before then. In reality I am sure he's normal - just 'more' of everything! It's just that with only having one I have nothing to measure him against. The HV was great and reassured us that he was happy, healthy and bright.

The only thing that really concerned me in your post and that i couldnt really identify with was that you said you wish you'd never had him. Do you really feel like that? Do you feel like it all the time, or just sometimes? Might you be depressed? I think you're doing remarkably well on next to no sleep, so don't beat yourself up. Parenting is utterly relentless and oftentimes thankless and takes a huge toll on you. Try to focus on the positives. Today it was hearing ds shout "mummy, yay!" When I went to collect him. Even if he then told me he didn't want to come home with me....

mummy2benji Wed 13-Feb-13 16:25:40

2.5 is a dreadful age. Ds (now 4) just ran everywhere and no amount of "STOP!!" "COME HERE!!" or "I AM GOING TO THROW ALL OF YOUR TOYS IN THE BIN IF YOU DON'T GET BACK HERE NOW!!" did anything to change that. It DOES pass! The fact that I am sane (takes long thoughtful pause) enough to be here writing this is testament to that. Ds is still lively and constantly on the go, but he now mostly heeds "STOP!!" and doesn't attempt to run into roads or destroy the inside of shops. He is also a sweet and caring older brother with dd2, who is now 3 months.

We've all lost it and screamed at times, and felt like the worst parent in the entire world after. The other day I said to ds "I'm sorry I shouted, darling". He sighed and said to me, "It's okay, Mummy. Try not to do it again!" Try to recognise if you are starting to feel your control sliding out of your grasp and take a minute to leave the situation, if you can - go to the toilet or into another room for a minute. Take a big breath and tell yourself that it will be only so long before it is his bedtime / he starts school / he leaves home at 18. If you are in the car, try to zone out and ignore him for a minute. We all yell occasionally and he won't remember at this age, but do your best not to shout that you hate him, even if you feel like that at the time. Invent a new swearword and shout "why the poodlebottoms can't you do as you're told?!" It might even burst the bubble of rage and frustration and make you giggle.

Finally, chocolate and a glass of wine! wine

Hello everyone - sorry for not replying and thank you all yesterday; DP worked late and by the time DS was asleep and I'd caught up on chores and work, I was pooped.

The running off mummy is a big issue for us, but now I just carry the reins in one hand and put them on if he kicks off. Sort of works. Sometimes.

ledkr - is that true about the riming of the nap? Because he has an later nap with the CM (around 1pm), but an earlier one with me (12ish), and in 18 months I've never noticed any difference at all in the EW!

Matana - thank you for replying. I still call the sleep specialist when I am feeling wobbly, and she assures me that everything I am doing is great, and can really do no more! But like your DS, mine is very much 'more, more, more', and I just have to remain calm and steer him (and me) in a different direction, and I will never say I hate him again; that was a pretty low point for me.

Do I wish I hadn't had him? Do you want me to be honest? Yes, generally, mostly, I do feel like that. Parenthood has been a shock; I had him when I was 38 so maybe that's the issue. I also have no family near by (but lots of people have that), so unless I leave DS with CM or DP, there's no break (apart from work!).

The thing is, I could moan and moan about it all for ever: the fact is, DS is here to stay and having read all of your amazing and honest posts, I know that it will one day get a little bit easier. That he will listen, and he is taking it all in. Continuing to set boundaries even if they are pissed all over is good advice.

You are all incredible women; thank you for making me feel less of a witch and more of a human being. xxx

Lavenderhoney Thu 14-Feb-13 13:06:26

Op, my ds was a very active 2.5 yr old. He was up early, no matter when he went to bed! You say in your op you were expecting him to sleep after soft play, and one thing both me and ds had to get used to was he wouldn't sleep and I would get some me time as he got older. I learnt not to wait for me time. I remember getting stressed when he didn't want a nap and I wanted him to as I got a break.

Look at your schedule when he is there, keep it full and build in some tv time and give him a snack and say right I'm going to read the paper or whatever for 30 mins. Take it slow and teach him to play alone for a short while.

Try not to yell at him as its very hard to stop once you have started. Try looking at baby pics of him to remind yourself he is still very young. He might sense your stress building and get stressed himself, or just like pressing your buttons to get a reaction-any reaction.

He behaves at the cm? Well you could ask what she does with him and see if she has any advice. My mil who is a cm told me " do everything slowly" which made a difference.

I would say when my ds was at his most impossible he was hungry/ tired or thirsty or all three. Plenty of snacks, let him have lots of water and not too much excitement. Can you write a diary for a few days to see what pattern emerges?
And build a routine around that?

Thanks, Lavender. I think you've hit the nail on the head! I get very stressed if the nap doesn't happen, even though I'd be happy if it went as then we could just get on with our day, rather than having to always be out so that he can fall asleep in the car on the way back from soft play/swimming/the park.

I'm also not very good at doing things slowly. everything is a count down to nap time or bed time, essentially when the day is over so that I can get a break. Even bed time is stressful because he will spend 10 minutes every night screaming in his cot (Mummy I NEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED YOU) before going to sleep. Don't even ask me how much we've done to just get him to fall asleep and generally go through the night!

I can't look at baby photos (even though I am carefully keeping albums as I hope one day I will). They just remind me of the birth and the year I was off on maternity, and how much I disliked it all.

xx

A diary is a great idea, and I think I need to really readjust my behavior. He is, as you say, still very young, and I am expecting too much from him.

Lavenderhoney Thu 14-Feb-13 14:10:42

Shark, are you going home after activities so he can sleep in bed? What do you mean by get on with your day? I used to do that then after dd was born and she had to nap wherever we were as I had ds to think of and going home for one to sleep wasn't an optionsmile

I'm sorry looking at baby pics makes you sad. Have you any of when he started walking or anything that you can separate out?

I understand about countdown to bedtime! But maybe you could help him and you with that by having a walk about 3, then a quiet story, then he helps tidy before watching cbbebbes and you escape to the kitchen to cook? Then bath and stories?

I felt I had just got the hang of it and a lovely routine then he went into another stage of growing up! And I had to sit down and think what to change to fit his developement.

Bedtime- sounds normal to me. I used to have a bath so he knew I was close and could hear me. A friend used to go and mow the lawnsmile Now I say I am tidying up and bash about in the kitchen, with a promise to come back for a kiss later.

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