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I think I'm a bad mother

(22 Posts)
Jayne1980aaa Tue 04-Mar-14 23:03:59

I feel like the worst mother in the world.

My son is 5 and my daughter is 8. My son has always been difficult. He's angry and violent and it has always been near impossible to get him to do as we say or respond to any kind of discipline. He has a speech delay and sees a speech therapist 3 times a week. We have always felt that his frustrations are related to his lack of ability to communicate, though his speaking has improved tremendously in the last year. Tonight he thew a 30 minute long tantrum when I told him he couldn't watch TV until he had a bath. I ignored him while he acted out and focussed on making the dinner. He eventually stopped when a major distraction happened - the bathroom flooded! Once I had cleaned everything up I realized that at some point during the crisis he had given up on the tantrum altogether. While I was putting the sodden towels in the laundry he even got undressed quietly and took himself off to the bath. If it hadn't been for the crisis, I imagine his tantrum would have lasted an hour or more, resulting in me eventually forcing him into the bath.

Later, at bedtime, I read him a story. After, it was his sisters turn for her story. Unfortunately, my son screamed throughout, saying he hated her story, that it was stupid and he wanted his story again. When I had finished my daughters story (which was thoroughly unpleasant for her, given all the noise), he thrust his story in my face and demanded I read it again. I said no, he wasn't allowed. Because he had screamed throughout my daughter's story, and because it was late he wasn't allowed another. It's only fair that he had one and she had one, and now it's time for bed.

He screamed more and more, hit me, and kept pushing the book against my face over and over, demanding that I read it again. This all went on for maybe 20 or 30 minutes, during which time I continued to calmly explain why I wouldn't be reading the book, and why it was bedtime. Ok. So I might not be doing too badly as mother to this point, but here is where things change: amidst all the berating, pushing and screaming, I suddenly grab the book and throw it across the room. I hate myself for losing my temper, but I did. Obviously this made him even more angry. Eventually I turned the light out. He turned it back on again. He kept refusing to go to bed. My poor daughter was getting very upset as she couldn't sleep in all the chaos (they share a room, and this happens very often). Eventually I sent her to my room to sleep in my bed.

I left him for a while. A short time later I told my son that it was very late, I had had enough, and that this had to stop. I said that even I was going to bed. And I went! Turned off my light and climbed into bed. This is probably the wrong thing to do. But I was so at a loss. He had been screaming and hitting for maybe an hour and a half. He followed me into my room, and screamed 'I don't like you' 'I hate you', interspersed with somewhat logical reasoning, like "I love that book' 'daddy reads that book two times' etc. though there were these moments of logic, he wouldn't engage in communicating with me at any point. During the whole period, he would pretty much just scream whenever I opened my mouth, so he didn't have to hear me. Then, towards the 2 hour mark, I spanked him. I very very rarely do this. And every time it happens I despise myself for it. I lost control and I am ashamed of it.

Spanking never works of course, and so it carried on. Except with me feeling even more wretched than I did before. A few times, when the screams subsided a bit, I took the opportunity to go back to his room, where I would sit on his bed and gently say things like 'I know you like the book. I like reading it to you. But I read it once, and I didn't think you should have it again, because it was late, and also because you were not very nice while I was trying to read your sisters story'. He would just respond with a growl, tell me to go away, that he didn't like me etc. I even offered a song, because I always feel like however bad things are, if you end the night with a lullaby everyone goes to bed happy. But he wasn't interested. He kept saying no, he wanted the book again, and that he didn't love me anymore. Towards the very end of the whole ordeal, I began to sob in front of my daughter. I said I was sorry to have shouted, I was sorry for the noise, I knew I wasn't doing a great job that night. I asked her if she was ok. She said she wanted to be happy with me, that it was ok, and that she couldn't be angry with me and that I was the best mummy in the world. She said, as she often does, that she hates her brother. I said that she shouldn't say that, and that everyone is just very tired and we all need to sleep. I know I shouldn't cry in front of my children. I feel like I am a bad mother and have done everything I shouldn't do….

Eventually, my son cried himself to sleep, so I took my daughter back to her bed in his room. She started to cry, saying she wanted to sleep in my bed. I said no she couldn't because I had some work to do and needed the light on (also, she knows she is never allowed to sleep in my bed). She said she hated me. Eventually I persuaded her to stay in her room… By around 11pm they were both in bed and asleep. I am so tired, I have an early start for work in the morning and I still have to clean the kitchen and sort out the laundry. I am tired, and I hate myself right now. I feel like I am failing as a parent, and through my actions, my children have gone to bed unhappy. Should I have just read the story a second time? I know I shouldn't have shouted, and I know I should never have spanked. I know I should never have cried in front of them. They just got back from a week at their grandparents. I feel that they do a much better job than me. I ask my friends about how they deal with their children's tantrums but they don't seem to be too concerned by them. Everyone seems to be doing a much better job than me. I love my children with all my heart. I wish I was doing better by them. I feel like they deserve a much better mother than I can be.

I'm sorry for the detail, but I feel so alone right now and I needed to share my story. I just feel like I am doing this all wrong. That I am a terrible parent, always making the same mistakes, and I am raising children who may grow up to hate and resent me. I'm scared I'm raising an insecure daughter and a violent son. I'm scared that they will grow up to be unhappy adults and it will be all because of the things I did and didn't do.

I am so sorry for the long post. Perhaps there is someone out there who can offer me some advice. I just feel so alone right now.

GuineaPigGaiters Tue 04-Mar-14 23:13:31

Blimey OP, I think considering the strain you are constantly under with a child who tantrums a lot you do very well if you manage to hold it together every night. Throwing the book, shouting, crying....don't beat yourself up, I bet there are a LOT of us on here who have done one (or all) of these things at least once as a parent, in reality probably much more than that. I have also once spanked my child as a last resort so I totally understand the regret and self loathing that loss of control brings.

You sound exhausted and I'm not surprised if you are coping with this on a regular basis alone. Do you have a DP/DH who can take the kids for a while every day to give you some head space?

Please don't beat yourself up too much, you sound like a very loving and engaged parent who is just finding it all a bit much just now...we've all been there.

GuineaPigGaiters Tue 04-Mar-14 23:15:35

I'm not condoning smacking btw, I have never smacked dd since that one time. but I'm just saying that I can see how it happens...

You are clearly under a great deal of emotional stress and getting some help with childcare seems like the most logical first step to me.

ClaraFox Tue 04-Mar-14 23:18:07

Sorry to read you're having a tough time.

Do you suspect he has special needs? As in, unconnected to his speech delay? If so, maybe see your doctor or the SEN treachery at school to explore whether he could be on the autistic spectrum.

One thing jumped out at me regarding your OP. You say he shouted and hit out for 30 minutes. Can you curtail this immediately as opposed to trying to be calm and allowing him to do it? So , deal with him very firmly immediately and put him in his bedroom, holding the door handle in place if need be ( and obviously popping in to stop him if he starts to throw things etc in his room , then immediately leaving again. ) . Maybe it's time to effectively show him that his behaviour is unacceptable and yes, you are cross with him and he's going to receive a punishment ( by that I mean the withdrawal of a treat or being placed in his room until he can behave ) . Don't be afraid to bollock him in other words.

The flip side to this is maybe a reward chart? Would he respond to this? Concentrate on one aspect of his behaviour - so, he goes for a bath without fuss every night for a week and receives a reward ..allow him to place a star on a chart and then choose something. Just an idea anyway

phoolani Tue 04-Mar-14 23:20:48

Oh, wow, we've all been there! Or maybe just me.. But I've certainly been there. We get overwhelmed, we make mistakes, it does not make us terrible mothers. FWIW I've started reading that 'when your kids push your buttons' and I'm finding it really helpful in controlling my own reactions and therefore dc's.

CheerfulYank Tue 04-Mar-14 23:20:49

Oh honey. <hugs> You are a great mother with shitty circumstances.

I don't have any great advice right now but I hope someone will. I would be absolutely exhausted too.

I have smacked, once on purpose and twice (or so) when I snapped. I regret the times I snapped but I don't beat myself up about it. When I feel like I'm going to do it again I think about how terrible I will feel afterward and breathe deep and let the moment pass.

No I definitely think you should not have read the story again! You did the right thing.

CheerfulYank Tue 04-Mar-14 23:22:04

I have done what Clara said, holding the door shut I mean. I call through the door "I will open it when you're calm, you need time to calm down." I think that's okay.

mymiraclebubba Tue 04-Mar-14 23:22:32

Wow OP, i think considering the circumstances your son is lucky it took that long for you to snap and spank him. Without getting into a debate on the use of spanking, you did what you did and it hasn't done any long term damage so stop beating yourself up!

It sounds to me like there is more to your son's behaviour than just the speech issue, he clearly has anger management issues. Talk to your health care provider and get yourself and your son some support!

You are clearly an excellent Mum, you have patiently dealt with his behaviour and given him all the chances to behave along with explanations etc. Give yourself a break, have a cuppa (or wine) and start again tomorrow

Ilovemydogandmydoglovesme Tue 04-Mar-14 23:23:53

I once shouted in my dds face on her birthday. Beat that. sad

I don't know why I did it. It was vile. I really hope she doesn't remember. We had already celebrated her birthday, thank god. I felt absolutely awful. I buggered off out for hours and left dh to it. I'm welling up just thinking about it.

We all do these things sometimes. And then we learn from them and don't do them again. You sound as though you've had more provocation than most. Can you get some help?

The thing to remember is that you feel bad because you care about it. If you didn't care you wouldn't feel so bad about it. Or something like that. wink

SharonCurley Tue 04-Mar-14 23:27:07

Sounds like you have had a hard night.Are you on your own with the dcs?You are tired.It sounds like you dealt with it consistently and calmly for most of the night but just reached breaking point.Don't beat yourself up over it.Tomorrow is another day.It does sound like you have a frustrated 5 year old on your hands.Does he get lots of outdoor play?What systems have you in place re behaviour?I hope you get a good nights rest.Is there anyone who could come and give you a break in the evening to go for a quick walk or run?Anyone close to you that you could ring for 5 mins when the going gets tough?Is if possible that you could spend some one on one time with either child during the week?I'm no expert -just trying to think what helps me ...

Jayne1980aaa Tue 04-Mar-14 23:50:34

Oh gosh, I can't believe how kind you are all being. I was braced and ready for some tough criticism! Thank you so much for the support and advice.

DH is around, but tends to work long hours. He struggles with our son too - I fear it's getting to the point where the whole family is almost afraid of him, and it's vital that we deal with this...

On the special needs/autism comment - it's true, I have often wondered... His doctor and speech therapist are aware, but we are currently living abroad, in a country that has been much slower to recognise such behavioural problems in children. There are also language barriers to contend with... But I will explore further. Thank you.

I have tried reward type schemes, but he often hasn't responded very well to them. For a while I had a scheme where the kids earned money for chores, and that money would be put in the naughty jar/taken away when they were badly behaved. It works really well for my daughter, but my son now refuses to be paid for his chores - his tactic is that if he has no money, then none can be taken away! He is so stubborn!

Sending him to his room is unfortunately difficult right now, as he shares with his sister, who is generally there playing or doing her homework and so it isn't fair on her.. But I recognise that the sharing of rooms is a bit of a problem. I'm working on that - we are hoping to move in to a bigger place this summer.

Thank you again, so very much. I was feeling so low, and you have all lifted my spirits, given me some ideas, and made me feel better about things. You are right - tomorrow is another day :-)

Ilovemydogandmydoglovesme Wed 05-Mar-14 00:10:13

The beauty of Mumsnet. grin

CheerfulYank Wed 05-Mar-14 00:11:02

When my DS was going through a really rough patch it helped the most to "strike while the iron is cold" about the behavior when he's not upset, like the next day. Ask what he thinks should happen when he behaves that way. Explain how unfair it is to his sister.

I did this not in a "you should feel guilty way" but in a "I really want you to understand this and I want to listen to you too" way.

Nellie2477 Wed 05-Mar-14 02:39:38

(I hate my laptop - I just typed a whole essay and it just disappeared...argh)

I won't write it all again but I just wanted to say, OP, that you could be reciting my life right there so I know exactly where you are because I was there last night too and it is not a good place to be. The similarities are uncanny: DS1 is 5 and a livewire, we have just relocated abroad and he shares with his (2 year old) brother, he has started to get aggressive, mainly with me. Last night there was screaming and hyperactivity, followed by punishment that led to him hitting me with fists and headbutting, me using forcible restraint (horrible), nothing I did could stop him so eventually I lost it and threw him on the bed (horrible mother) as an alternative to smacking him which was so so close. Then I felt so awful that I burst into tears right there in front of him. To which he did not react well - it just made him angrier and behave worse until he caused his brother to hurt himself and I had to remove the baby from the room for the 2nd night running. Trust me - I was there and I wish I could give you a hug because damn I needed one last night.

I spent all day today dreading bedtime. It went better because hubby and I both managed not to lose our cool but they only went to sleep about 10 mins ago (9.20pm after going to bed at 7.30pm). I don't know how many more nights like this I can take. I really wanted to let you know that you are not alone and you are not a bad mother. I am not a bad mother. We just need help because it is bloody hard sometimes ((())))

NinjaLeprechaun Wed 05-Mar-14 05:57:39

After reading your OP I think you're an amazing mum for staying calm for as long as you did. Have thanks and maybe wine

Your son sounds a lot like my daughter when she was about 8 except she'd long since talked herself into being an only child by then, so I had it easier in that regard. I 'snapped' and smacked her about a dozen times (all before she was about ten) and felt horrible about it every time. I couldn't even begin to guess at the number of times I shouted at her or threw things. If it's any comfort, she's 18 this month and is a very pleasant young woman about 90% of the time. She even thinks I'm a semi-competent good parent, so I've obviously fooled her this far.

She was diagnosed with ADHD and mild OCD in her early teens, which I associated with things like her school-refusal but not her general behaviour until just now. I'm obviously a bit slow. She also has a bipolar-type mood disorder, I don't think that goes all the way back to her childhood but I suppose it's possible.

One thing that I learned is that it was very hard for her to stay mad if she was laughing. Telling stupid jokes is much harder but obviously better than adding to the general drama. Even if it only works half the time it's worth trying.

TamerB Wed 05-Mar-14 06:11:38

I think that you are a very caring mother but just out of your depth, I think that you could do with getting some professional help. Have you tried your GP?

mostlyconfused Wed 05-Mar-14 06:24:49

It sounds like you are doing the best you can in a bad situation. I think overall you are doing a great job. I wouldn't be able to keep my temper in check if my dc was having a 2 hour tantrum. Please don't beat yourself up.

I agree that a reward chart might help by focusing on good behaviour rather than bad.

You said the kids had just returned from a week at their grandparents. Could they be giving in and giving your son everything he asks for? I know my mum does that with my dd and it's always harder to discipline her right are a visit to her grand mums.

Hope things get better

Badvoc Wed 05-Mar-14 06:38:06

You are not a bad mother.
Firstly, your son needs help. This is not normal behaviour. You say you are not in the uk? Is he at school? Can you get the them involved/gp/he equivalent? Can the salt help get him assessed?
Separate rooms for your dc would be the next priority - if you can move in the summer that would be great.
If your dc are 5 and 8 why are they going to bed at the same time? Could your dd wait on your bedroom/watch tv Whilst you sort out and read to your ds?
It is very hard but it sounds like they could both do with some 1-1 at bedtime.
Please don't beat yourself up. I am very anti smacking but once it's done, apologise, move on and try not to do it again.
The Nspcc and parent line plus have some ideas on what to do for discipline instead of smacking.
I have never had much luck with reward charts tbh!

Driveway Wed 05-Mar-14 09:03:24

I read One Two Three Magic and I think it might help you.
It kind of says to stop explaining, otherwise you prolong the tantrum / arguing, which seems to have happened here. It's definitely something I make the mistake of doing sometimes. You aren't a bad mum. We all lose it occasionally.

Driveway Wed 05-Mar-14 09:03:48

I read One Two Three Magic and I think it might help you.
It kind of says to stop explaining, otherwise you prolong the tantrum / arguing, which seems to have happened here. It's definitely something I make the mistake of doing sometimes. You aren't a bad mum. We all lose it occasionally.

Bumpsadaisie Wed 05-Mar-14 17:08:07

Think you're an amazing mum. No way could I have stayed calm as you did!

You have no idea how your friends manage their kids behind closed doors. Don't compare yourself. Most people have spanked their children a few times, I know I have.

It struck me that your little boy sounds like he is still really needing to push the boundaries. I have a little boy too (younger, 2.5) and he does the same - its almost like he needs there to be a massive scene and then he can calm down once he sees where the boundary is and how far he can push us. I notice you said your son calmed himself down after the crisis. My older daughter was different as a toddler, she didn't push boundaries so much and was quite amenable to explanations. My son can just be naughty!

Perhaps with your little boys speech delay he has an inordinate amount of frustration to deal with and he just doesn't have the tools yet, its like having a toddler but who is the size and strength of a five year old. Very hard work. Do you think he might grow out of this phase?

With the bedtime story episode, you sound like you were being very calm and collected (bravo to you). But I wondered if you tried being both ultra firm about behaviour, snap it right in the bud, as well as giving him a lot of love and warmth and attention, that might help?

Maybe you could do less calm explanation and more firm boundary setting e.g. when he played up at story time "If you carry on like that, this story stops RIGHT HERE" sort of thing? Some children just need you to plonk the boundary wall down in front of them and make it VERY clear that they do NOT get to push that wall over and if they don't play ball that is IT. Combined with love and warmth too of course.

In your last paragraphs you talk about worrying that your kids will hate you - do you feel perhaps that if you are firm your son won't love you? Its an easy feeling to have. But its misleading - he won't LIKE you being firm, but he will love you and maybe he needs it, maybe thats what all this crisis manufacturing on his part is about - trying to get you to be firm?

Of course this may be totally off the mark altogether apologies if so!

Good luck x

Jaffakake Wed 05-Mar-14 18:23:53

I've no advice really as my kid is 2.5 & I'm sure we have harder times to come behaviour wise. I just didn't want to read & run. You stated you know smacking doesn't work & that's that as far as I'm concerned. We've all demonstrated behaviour to our kids we later wish we hadn't. All we can do is try to be better next time. I don't think crying in front of our kids is too bad - it's a human emotion & can be handy as a release instead of doing something else instead e.g. Hitting, so why hide it?
You sound like you live your kids & are doing your best. Big hugs x x

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