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My temper stops me parenting well

(35 Posts)
pinocchio Fri 17-Dec-04 20:50:50

New member alert! I've come here not knowing what else to do. Quick bio: am female partner of biological mother to two lovely boys - she's 'Mummy' and I'm 'Mum' - parent in every way but biological. Hope it's ok my being here. So, DS1 is 2+10 [3 in Feb] and DS2 is 6mths. Took me ages to bond with #1 as have never been 'maternal type' or much wanted kids - it was the wife's idea. Have always had quite a troubled relationship with him, all my fault I think. I'm very quick to lose my temper with him and find myself talking a lot in ultimatums. I know I don't have enough patience or sympathy to deal with his normal nearly-3yo behaviour - I know he's actually a very good boy, full of smiles and laughs, kind-hearted, affectionate, and lovely with his little bro. But, I also feel frustrated by his inability to do things immediately, and his capacity to mess about at tea-time and bed-time [the parts of the day I'm around for most - bed-time usually my job with him]. I feel he doesn't listen, so I shout and get cross, and that makes him push even more. I suspect I expect too much of him and know that disappointment is what causes anger, but I don't seem to be able to calm myself down when I see red. I've never smacked him, but I know I've been too rough with him in anger, and feel ashamed of this . I get very cross with myself for failing him, as I'm basically an intelligent person. I love both the boys very much and have bonded quickly with DS2 (another source of guilt). DS1 just gets crazy - typical 3yo - and I get tired (I have an exceptionally busy life - another story) and frustrated and just want him to do what I tell him when I tell him, and if he doesn't it makes me really (inappropriately) mad. Anyway, it's causing trouble with me and the wife. I don't want to have to move out, but I know she's got to consider the boys first. I just want to understand how she does so much better a job with them; how she stays calm; why DS1 respects her more and listens to her. I feel like I'm failing as a parent because I can't manage my own temper. I really hope you guys can give me some tips. Please.

motherinfestivemood Fri 17-Dec-04 21:01:10

Hallo, and welcome to Mumsnet - and you certainly aren't the only lesbian parent here, by the way.

Have a look at some of the various 'threenagers' threads; I have one myself, and she drives me up the wall, I freely admit. It sounds as if you've very much put your finger on the problem already - the way it's so easy to overestimate the capacity of a bright articulate child of that age actually to function on an adult's wavelength.

My (male) partner gets shouty too - he loves both our daughters beyond his life, but finds it really, really hard to stay calm. Come to that, so do I, but manage very slightly better than him.

IME, as well, pretty well every relationship crumbles from time under the pressure of children.

Does any of this help at all?

motherinfestivemood Fri 17-Dec-04 21:10:36


spacedonkey Fri 17-Dec-04 21:11:31

hello pinocchio and welcome to mumsnet

paolosgirl Fri 17-Dec-04 21:20:50

Hi and welcome! You are not alone, believe me - there was a very similar thread earlier tonight, with the vast majority of people saying they felt the same at some point. I have 2 kids, and my ds is what's politely known as 'challenging' - and I find myself often getting quite cross with all the mucking about, and refusing to do what he's been asked. The one thing that I have found to be helpful is to spend time with him, just one-to-one. We call them our dates(!) and we go out for bike rides, or to the pictures etc. It reminds me that things are not always about us winding each other up. Don't beat yourself up - you want to make things better, and that makes you a fab parent IMO. Good luck.

yuleicorn Fri 17-Dec-04 21:23:36

hello pinocchio,

I hope you stick with us here, as there is a complete font of knowledge, and wisdom,and tons of support!

For what it's worth I think many, many, of us have had hard times with our kids, and we realise that this is a 'safe' haven to talk out our problems etc... I really hope that is what you find too.

Kids are hard work, and can alter lives totally... (not always for the better/ or worse for that matter)

I hope things will settle for you but please keep posting, there are lots of threads that may be more specific to your needs but either way there are lots of really, nice people out here!

All the best xxx

motherinfestivemood Fri 17-Dec-04 21:32:47

Oh yes, I've thought of some things that work for me. Getting out with DD1 and walking along - this always gets us on a much better footing. It's clearly not feasible for you in the week (I take the inferiorettes to and from their childminder four days a week, because I work from home) but maybe a saunter to the newsagent or suchlike at the weekend, if you can't face the park? Nice time like that would soothe the other times, perhaps. Rather like paolosgirl's suggestions, but the on foot bit is important to us.

What exactly happens at bed-time: are there ways you can slow it all down for you so you're not feeling so frantic that he's messing around when you just want him in bed (not that I feel like this myself, oh no, of course not )

bigbananaflambe Fri 17-Dec-04 21:35:13


I totally understand what you're saying. My son is 2.5yrs old and makes me so mad - I didn't know I could get that angry. I agree, I expect too much of him and he's just being a normal 'challenging' little pickle - but I can't bear the fact that EVERYTHING takes so long to do these days - he is so unbelievably uncooperative and I have tried everything to make myself heard - I have tried whispering to him, being calm but firm voiced, counting to 3, threatening the naughty corner until all that's left is blind rage on my part - I shout so loud that I scare myself!! and he still takes no notice whatsoever - it is very demorilising - thinking here I am fighting with a 2 and a half year old about putting his goddamn trousers on this side of christmas and I cannot control him. I can't help but take it personally.

I know it's no big deal compared to many other 'issues' parents have - but it's really wearing me down - I am totally exhausted - 98 out of 100 things I might ask him to do during a day he is uncooperative. Aaaaargh!

shrub Fri 17-Dec-04 21:36:30

if intereste you could look up: nonviolent communication then look under articles and then parenting. don't be put off by the american style or title - it is also known as compassionate communication! my ds1's school use it and it really has dramatic results. it takes away the use of using threats or humiliation to get your child to do what you want. found it so helpful when i was a first time mum and didn't have the tools to help! it also advocates 'mirroring' the behaviour you want your ds to copy and the crucial bit is when you become aware of losing your temper, try and make an example of the perfect reaction so you teach him to manage his emotions. explain in short sentences why for example its tidy up time - 'we need to put the train track away now as its time for supper and we want to keep the track safe so we don't step on it and hurt ourselves or the track may get broken' etc. i think when you have children - there is a part of you that has to surrender to the time it can take at meal times and bedtimes, it can be tedious or frustrating but when you stop taking things personally (this is problably the most difficult part of the day for him too as he is hungry and tired) and accept he is just trying to make sense of the world and you are stilll a large part of that world. can you ask your wife to let you have 10-15 mins of breathing space when you come in to have a shower/something to eat so you feel more relaxed/enthusiastic about your time with ds1? another thing that helped me was transcendental meditation - it really helps you distance yourself from your emotions and has definately helped me not to get overwhelmed when the buttons get pressed. best of luck

yuleicorn Fri 17-Dec-04 21:44:45

my ds is nearly 3 and driving me mad.. love him to pieces but I completely 'forgot'about that challenging developmental stage whereby they contradict EVERYTHING you say and also try and DO everything themselves (even tho they can't!)

I too wish I was a calmer, more laid back kind of person, alas I am not.
So I am (sort of) treating this whole kiddy thing as a complete learning 'adventure'

<wierdo hippy music plays in background!!>

..hopefully I will learn, bit by bit, to be that Better parent.

YOU are obviously a very caring person, so PLEASE don't feel as though you are not good enough... you are.

serenequeen Fri 17-Dec-04 21:50:08

hi pinocchio, welcome! as mi says, you are not the only lesbian mother here, and more importantly not the only mother to be driven to shouty distraction by your 3yo! hope you get lots of good tips.

motherinfestivemood Fri 17-Dec-04 22:03:59

Also, you've got a new baby. That's going to put additional pressure on all of you. I vividly remember being far rougher, physically, than I should have been with DD1 - then two and a half - when her sister was very new. I am terribly ashamed of it. The sheer lack of sleep, the fact that the new baby won't do what you want (like sleep), the awful feeling of being back to square one...and that's not factoring in the additional elements of stuff like breastfeeding, if your partner's doing that.

xmascaroltygirl Fri 17-Dec-04 22:18:59

As MIFM says, I think the stress of having a new baby is probably telling on everyone, including your ds1. Like yourself, I was at my shoutiest when dd2 was a few months old and dd1 (then 3) was the Queen of Whinge. I used to do my best to bond with dd1 and give her treats but always ended up yelling at her instead when she continued to whine. I remember once I tried to take her out to a local cafe for juice and a biscuit - she spilled her juice, then cried because I wouldn't get her pudding after her biscuit, then yelled all the way home when I stopped for petrol and didn't bring her chocolate from the shop... I yelled at her all the way home, sent her to her room for ages and kept coming in while she was there to yell at her more, while she screamed . That kind of episode still haunts me 3 years later.

It does get better, though - honestly. The toddler/new baby stage was definitely the most exhausting and stressful. Now my dd2 is going through her Terrible 3s as well, but this time I have the trump card of knowing that it will end, and she'll grow up to be just as wonderful as my dd1 is.

People always talk about the Terrible Twos, but IME 3 is actually more difficult. Sadly, I don't think it matters how intelligent the adult is, as they seem very skilled in pressing exactly the buttons that reduce you to a gibbering wreck.

Your wife must be exhausted as well, so it isn't surprising that everyone is angry and stressed. Is she at home with them, or does she spend more time with them? It's also quite common for the partner who works more hours to feel they're less effective with the children - my dh used to feel the same when ours were tiny. I really think you should hang in there, as it does get easier with time.

From the various threads about 3-ish year olds I have taken up the mantra: "Itsaphaseitsaphaseitsaphase..." It really does work!

miranda2 Fri 17-Dec-04 22:21:42

Hi Pinocchio! I'm the mother of a ds who is 3+5, and I'm just like you! I get really annoyed with him for being 'stupid', and end up yelling...
One thing I've found has helped a bit is, I realised I was staying very calm, exercising massive self control when I was getting annoyed and then suddenly blowing. Then he would flinch away, which cut me to the quick - I realised my sudden explosion was totally random to him. So I now let it be seen that I am getting angry! I often find myself saying in a controlled but tense voice 'Darling, mummy is getting very angry now. Please do what I have asked you NOW, or I may end up shouting at you. I'm tired and stressed and not in the mood for you messing around.' (etc). At least then he's had fair warning!! It does seem to work quite well.
The other thing that works sometimes when he is being particularly obstreperous, is to make a joke out of it (you have to be feeling a bit stronger for this one!). So saying in an exaggerated voice for example 'no, i said take your socks off! NOt put them back on! You'll end up with socks all over you! Socks on your hands - socks on your head..' etc etc, whatever nonsense springs to mind. This usually results in giggles, a tickling match, and final co-operation in less overall time than a row would have taken...

xmascaroltygirl Fri 17-Dec-04 22:25:12

Another one I find - e.g. if they were being slow in coming over when I called them: I would call them again to make sure they heard me, then when they didn't come (e.g. standing in the doorway laughing) I would just lose interest, sit there gazing idly around me, hum a tune, maybe examine my fingernails...

9 times out of 10 they'll come trotting over. Children do nearly everything for attention - doesn't matter if it's "bad" or "good" attention. So if you act like it's a bit boring, then they won't get the payoff!

christmasstuffing Fri 17-Dec-04 22:55:57

i am so glad that im not the only one who has this problem, im forever feeling guilty but reading this has made me feel a bit better. thanks pinocchio for bringing this up. i am going to take the advice of this thread too.

canthisberight Sat 18-Dec-04 13:58:49

All sounds very familiar. Only thing I would add is that when I am feeling more relaxed with ds I try and remember always to say that I love him or cuddle him or praise him for something he is doing well. That way I feel that even if I am too cross with him sometimes, at least he knows that I love him too. I know that sounds really obvious but sometimes when we are going through a tough time together I find that I am so uptight that when he is actually doing what I say when I say it, I don't always remember to praise him or I say something really mean like "why can't you be like this all the time".

pinocchio Sat 18-Dec-04 17:14:21

Crikey - thanks to all of you for your encouraging words! I've had a good day with him today, and I know it's down to spending time with him all day, and going out with just him this morning. I do get some time just me and the two boys cos the wife does occasional night shifts so I'm on Mum duty the afternoon before and the morning after. Sometimes a bit traumatic as I'm worried about her getting woken by 3yo banter, but I'm learning just to figure - it's not all my fault and I can't keep him totally quiet. We put the Xmas tree up and his 'helping' was not always so helpful, but I really managed to keep it together. Actually, I think I'm more stressed when the wife's around - perhaps feeling like I have a potentially critical audience? Although that's mostly projection I think. Anyway, many thanks again to you all, and I'm really gonna try and implement a couple of things suggested here.

Blu Sat 18-Dec-04 17:53:06

Hi Pinocchio - in addition to navigating the difficult terrain of a 2-3 year old, it sounds as if the normal struggles with wriggly, wilful, prevaricating, unfocussed but energetic boys it sounds as if you are reacting with more complex problems, too, and ending up with extra guilt. Why do you thnk you bonded more quickly with the baby? Have you talked with your partner about your initial difficulties with DS1?

I do often feel exactly as you describe in exasperation with my DS (3), but get on better if from the start I position myself entirely in his world and approach things from his point of view, and then progress by stealth and guerilla warfare. Suggesting things rather than asking, using other characters such as his bear (bear says he wants to....) 'shall we do this' rather than 'will you do that', and above all, learning to spot battles before they have erupted, and diverting. Ultimatums are hugely discouraging IME: 3 year olds seems to live so much in the moment that whatever is at stake this very second is more important than what might be taken away in another 3 seconds, so they don't really work and you end up imposing a sanction and feeling like Herod!

Books often recommended about establishing patterns of communication that are not battles are The Social Toddler and the Social Child.

Good luck, and I hope you stay around on Mumsnet.

Blu Sat 18-Dec-04 17:55:22

PS I work f/t and find that the pressure to get everything right in the time we have is immense: 10 mins of me being horrid to him feels like such a huge proportion of our time. Don't know the answer to that one - but it could be part of the presssure on you, too.

florenceuk Mon 20-Dec-04 16:43:13

Can I join the confession queue as well? My 3yr old is driving me nuts at the momment and I have lost it quite a few times. Could be new baby stress (have 9wk old) or just threenager behaviour, but everything seems such hard work at the moment - from getting up, dressed, breakfasted to eating (actually not eating) and (not) going to bed. One day he whined over: wanting to get his cornflakes down, wanting to put the milk on, putting yoghurt on and then not wanting the yoghurt and then ate bugger all. Also seems worryingly violent in random manner (will hit DH in the face at random, often goes into "active" mode and runs round room waving fists and shouting Pokemon) and breaks everything - eg after gazing at a little fossil a friend gave him suddenly threw it at the wall; stands on things; will not leave any electrical alone; will use his feet to turn pages in a book which creases them, or pulls the flaps off; and is very poor at constructive independent play. And we cannot get him to leave the baby alone when she is feeding or sleeping, and he is very rough - so I can't leave them alone in the room together. My parenting skills just don't seem up to it at the moment and I'm worried that he often just doesn't seem like a very likeable boy - although he is very sociable - loves talking to strangers - he often pulls at other children and of course is hell at sharing or taking turns, so going to other people's places is difficult because I always seem to be going NO and pulling him away. So any tips and advice very welcome.

serenequeen Mon 20-Dec-04 17:19:00

florence, if you get the latest junior p&b there is an article (reprinted) about how your relationship changes with your older child once you have a new baby. i found it very heartening.

dh and i have also found ds hard going since dd arrived - although in the main he (ds) has been v. accommodating. i think it is a combination of challenging behaviour from the older child as the result of the new baby's arrival, combined with parental fatigue.

anyway, the article is worth a look imho. there was also a mn thread on this recently which i will see if i can find.

serenequeen Mon 20-Dec-04 17:21:16

this is it .

hester Mon 20-Dec-04 18:35:12

Hi Pinocchio, I think all the advice on this thread is very useful. I particularly like that the other posters have focused on the commonality between your experience and that of all other mothers. Quite right too! But as a lesbian myself, and as someone who knows a lot of gay parents of small children, I wonder if I'm right in detecting in your post a particular worry that you are not in fact 'Mum' in the same way that your partner is? Please forgive me if I'm wrong in asking this, but I have known a number of gay mothers who have struggled with this when their children are small. Because they are both women, they expect to experience motherhood in the same way, and are then shocked when one of them (usually the biological mother) seems to get more than her fair share of love/closeness/respect from the tot. My guess is that this is partly because the biological mother has a physical closeness with a small baby that another parent (of any sex) can't match, that the biological mother usually does the lion's share of care in the first year, and that small children go through a rather intense phase of preferring their 'real mummy' (and yes, some of my non-bio mum friends have had to cope with their child being quite rejecting for a while). Let me be clear: I think that fathers go through the same thing - but they perhaps find it easier to rationalise because they don't expect to have the same closeness that a mother would have, and they also feel less threatened because the father's role is more defined, acknowledged and applauded in society. I think it is an intensely vulnerable experience to be a non-biological lesbian mother - legally, socially, emotionally - and I wonder if that is part of what is going on with you and your son?

My friends' experience has been that this phase is quite intense at around 2-3 but thereafter improves enormously, as the child grows and develops relationships with both mums that are equal but different. Indeed, that both parents get to have their 'turn in the sun' as the child moves between them for what they each uniquely can give.

The lesson I have learned from this is that children benefit from having rather different relationships with their parents - they don't need two identikit mums as much as they need two parents with whom they can have different experiences and explore different facets of their world and their personalities. As lesbian parents, we need to understand this and not let our social/emotional vulnerability panic us when children seem to behave better or be more angelic with the other parent.

You will be a great mum to both your sons. Please get all the help you need to get you manage your temper and get through this difficult patch, and be confident that there will be times to come when your son is turning to YOU for help because he is fed up with his other mum! And please forgive me if I am barking up the wrong tree with all of this - your situation is unique and it might be that nothing i have said is remotely relevant!

Issymum Mon 20-Dec-04 20:26:59

One thing we do that helps is "role swap". When we're both there, DH always seems to end up being more disciplinarian, more 'shouty', more extreme than the other, pushing me into being softer, more nurturing, almost defending the DDs. When we feel that happening we play 'good cop/bad cop' for a day or two. As soon as the DDs (just 2 and nearly 4) begin pushing those boundaries, DH signals 'bad cop' and I get to take over and sort it out and he gets to be the 'good cop' who dispenses the hugs after I've given the time-out, who distracts after I've shouted and who gives lavish praise when the food is finally eaten after I've got tough. It really works. He's giving me the space and the responsibility to be tough and do discipline my way, I'm giving him the space to walk away from confrontation and spend 48 hours not getting angry and just having fun with the DDs. The DDs are wrong-footed (always helpful for maintaining the upper-hand) and almost immediately more attentive and affectionate towards DH which creates its own virtuous circle.

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