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Feel so fucking helpless and pathetic - am I the only single parent who feels incapable of controlling/disciplining their kids?

(38 Posts)
CJCregg Tue 20-Oct-09 20:20:03

They behave like angels for XDH. They play me up the whole time. I just want to burst into tears. Bedtime can take two hours, and I'm exhausted. I've tried bribing, threatening, shouting, ignoring, and it always ends the same way. DD (who is far worse than DS) is rude, disobedient and eventually bursts into tears and says 'sorry'. We end up having a cuddle and she goes straight into 'everything's fine, let's have a chat about something funny' mode as if nothing's happened. I know it's all about keeping me on the end of a piece of string but I feel I have no authority over her, she's just winding me round her little finger.

I feel guilty about breaking up the marriage, and am conscious of ex being very good with them, lots of fun and not much discipline. But it's much easier for him because they're generally much more biddable with him. I have to exert some discipline otherwise they'd turn into spoilt brats, but they really resent it ...

Sorry, this is going on far too long. But I get depressed reading other threads where other single mums seem to be coping with this aspect of lone parenting and wonder if it's just me?

Please help. I just want to cry.

agingoth Tue 20-Oct-09 20:25:15

hmm- I am no expert here except for being a lone parent myself, with shared custody as you seem to have.

Are you the parent with more of the time? The truism seems to be that the parent with less gets more of the crap from the kids. They feel you are the 'base' carer while the other one is more 'special' etc. Could that be part of it?

Also if he has less time he may be 'spoiling' more, therefore you get the brunt of a) the spoiling b) the fact that you don't look as 'fun'?

You know in that case that you are doing exactly the right thing and he isn't, but I know that doesnt' help in the short term.

I understand guilt about breaking up the marriage, I did the same then resented ex for taking advantage of my guilt etc etc. It's a horrible position to be in and I think the dcs pick up on it. My boys have for some reason started being vg with me but until very recently they ALWAYS both seemed to prefer daddy, which I hated. Suddenly now ds1 is telling me he loves me all the time. He is 6 and I think getting a bit more of a sense of my feelings.

how old are the dcs?

agingoth Tue 20-Oct-09 20:26:05

Sorry above should read that parent with more care time gets more crap from the kids...obv!!!

CJCregg Tue 20-Oct-09 20:33:31

Thanks for replying.

DS is 6 and generally better behaved than DD, who is four. She finally broke down tonight and said how much she misses me when she's at daddy's, then she misses him when she's here, that all the moving about 'complicates everything' and she wishes we hadn't 'got cross with each other'. It was heartbreaking. But good that she expressed it, I suppose. We do talk about it and they are getting used to it (about 18 months down the line) but I think my guilt is making me weak and a bit of a pushover sometimes, because I want them to have a good time with me as well.

And DD is just staggeringly rude - blowing raspberries, mimicking me, saying 'blah de blah de blah' etc and laughing at me when I tell her off. She's like a repulsive teenager, stamping around with her arms crossed, sulking and daring me to do anything. It's a nightmare situation. She's clearly upset and doesn't know how to express it, but I can't let her get away with stuff like that, can I?

God, I don't know. This has been going on for months, I'm just reaching the end of my tether now. I dread bedtime, the thought of it frightens me and I get so pissed off as well as helpless. End up shouting, feeling out of control and, tonight, I slapped her on the bottom. Not too hard, but it was the only way I could think of to stop her smirking at me - I'd walked away and ignored her, and put her back to bed in silence, about twelve times by then.

I feel awful - guilty, useless, pathetic. And I can just hear XDH's voice telling me how much better he can do it.

pertbootywish Tue 20-Oct-09 20:45:49

aww I feel for you, and you're definately not the only one. Someone said to me that children miss behave most with the person they're most sure of their love from, in that they can express their frustrations and anger safe in the knowledge that you'll still love them. So I'd take it as a compliment.

Regarding your ex is he the type of person you could broach disipline issues with? Ideally you should be working together, I'm sure he wouldn't enjoy his time with the children if they were rude brats, which is what they would become if you chose to not disipline them either maybe you need to remind him of this?

SingleMum01 Tue 20-Oct-09 20:51:12

Poor you, sounds like you're going through a rough time. I haven't really got any advice, apart from they do pick up on your moods and the best thing is (if you can!) stay calm and do the broken gramophone talking thing otherwise things tend to blow up, then you just end up feeling bad.

CJCregg Tue 20-Oct-09 22:15:18

Thanks all. I'm going back to some parenting CDs I worked through few months ago and then let the principles slide over time ... if nothing else, it helps to feel I'm 'doing' something about it rather than bashing my head against a brick wall.

Cheers again.

Niceguy2 Wed 21-Oct-09 11:14:13

>>then let the principles slide over time ..<<
I think there in lies your problem. Hope I don't come across as too patronising here because I honestly don't want to.

But kids thrive on knowing a routine and where their boundaries are. They also need to understand that you are the parent and in charge.

So my suggestion would be to set a routine which the kids can understand. You can get them involved in setting it so they feel part of the process.

Discipline should never ever be compromised. If you sit them on a naughty step then by god they sit. If it takes 2 hours to get them on it and you are late for everything else then so be it. You give in once, they will soon learn that by playing up they can get away with it and next time you get it worse.

Praise good, punish bad. Always take time to praise what they did right. Its too easy to forget to compliment them for sitting nicely and reading a book or playing nicely with their sibling.

Also, have a think about the messages you are sending DD. If she's rude & disobedient then as a result ends up on the sofa getting a cuddle then she might be doing it to get some attention. Hopefully if you can build some "alone time" with her you can nip this in the bud.

Finally, the key in my experience is consistancy. You give in, you undo all your hard work. Parenting is all about playing the long game. Its easy to give in once when you are down, tired and emotional but you do that and you just make a rod for oyur own back.

electra Wed 21-Oct-09 11:18:36

No, it is not just you at all. At the moment I am having problems with dd2 as she is misbehaving at school, is very unsettled etc. I do feel that I am failing as a single parents at times, tbh....I also suffer with ill health and this does not help. I have friends who say they never thought of me as the type to have children.....but the bottom line is that I love them all very much and I do my best. Parenting is hard...

electra Wed 21-Oct-09 11:19:34

Oh yes and I also get dd2 asking why daddy and I can't get married again.

sad

womblemeister Wed 21-Oct-09 11:24:49

have you tried asking what story she wants that evening, about 1 hour before bedtime? it'll give her something to focus her little mind on. Obviously she won't get the story till she's tucked up under the duvet.

mummyfantastico Wed 21-Oct-09 12:00:34

My DDs play up for me more than they do for daddy. I am pretty sure it is because they know my love is unconditional but with him they are unsure.

It is really hard having to always be the bad guy, and DD2 picks up on this and tells me I'm the worst mummy in the world if I make her do something she doesn't want to eg tidy her room.

I think one of the problems when they play up at bedtime (for me at least) is that I don't want them to go to sleep without us being friends.

Haunty27 Wed 21-Oct-09 22:35:16

CJ - don't give in. They are hard work and know what buttons to press. DD is probably quite distressed, well you realise that already.

I'm a few years down the line and mine were -2 and 4 when the marriage broke down and they are teenagers now. My 13 year old ds wears me down to the floor almost every day. When I show him affection and time he responds differently.

None of that might be comforting but one thing I will say is *do not take the blame for the breakdown of your marriage*. It must have happened for a reason. Your dcs will be happier in the long run. It is certainly hard getting to that place where everyone can accept and live with the situation.

Take time for yourself too.

Haunty27 Wed 21-Oct-09 22:35:20

CJ - don't give in. They are hard work and know what buttons to press. DD is probably quite distressed, well you realise that already.

I'm a few years down the line and mine were -2 and 4 when the marriage broke down and they are teenagers now. My 13 year old ds wears me down to the floor almost every day. When I show him affection and time he responds differently.

None of that might be comforting but one thing I will say is *do not take the blame for the breakdown of your marriage*. It must have happened for a reason. Your dcs will be happier in the long run. It is certainly hard getting to that place where everyone can accept and live with the situation.

Take time for yourself too.

aseriouslyblondemoment Thu 22-Oct-09 11:05:19

CJ agree with everyone else on here it's bloody hard work going it alone but what was the alternative for you?
to stay in a bad marriage which wasn't providing the dcs with a happy homelife was it?
can't say how long it will take you to reach a good place as it were,fwiw ds1 and i had constant battles for nearly a year but fortunately now have a really good relationship
hmm dd sounds v much like mine tbh
out of interest is exh saying things to her which might be confusing her/making her feel torn and disloyal?
discipline and boundaries are total musts i find and i echo niceguy's comments here,esp.as i'm guessing that their dad gives in at the first sign of winghing etc and bad behaviour is basically seen as an acceptable way of getting what one wants!
children do play up more if they sense you're stressed so i'm hoping that despite the obv.time constraints that you do have some child free me time to just chill
smile
btw.marriage break-up aside,as a parent you will always have some form of guilt!please bear this in mind and be good to yourself!smile

NicknameTaken Thu 22-Oct-09 11:52:35

My dd isn't yet old enough to be really challenging, but I can definitely see this happening down the line. Ex already aims to win popularity the easy way - he'll give DD as many icecreams/chocolate/lollipops as she can eat, he won't enforce bedtime etc. It's lousy when you're always the bad cop.

So no advice, just my sympathies, and if you find something that works (Niceguy's advice, maybe?) please share!

mrsmhaAARRrrket Thu 22-Oct-09 12:12:37

no you're not the only one sweetheart smile
dd is 4 and 1/2 and just started school, i realised that she is just testing her boundaries and really pushing at them sometimes. i also realised that part of it was how i was behaving (that was really hard) and i am trying to make a real effort to get on with dd. she is now trying her boundaries less and less - atm.grin

fwiw dd has also said that she doesn't want to go to daddy's house as when she's there she misses me and when she's with me, she misses her daddy. (feckless feckwit that he is i also have to try not to badmouth him in front of her)

we have good days and bad days but i just exlpain to her that i'm haviong a bad day adn that i will feel a bit better after a cuppa (maybe!) - the good days are getting more and more but it does need monitoring smile

mrsmhaAARRrrket Thu 22-Oct-09 12:15:25

ex is also the same with her - sweeta, icecreams etc. i have to tell her that sweeets all the time can give her a tummyache and luckily there was also a cartoon on at the time about a teddy bear who had too many sweets and ice creams and felt ill grin

x is also not the best at agreeing with discipline - he has said to dd he doesn't agree with what i do shock

CJCregg Thu 22-Oct-09 20:20:03

Wow, thanks everyone for responding - sorry, I've been offline for 24 hours.

I think exH is partly responsible, in that he doesn't have a problem with sweets during the week, lack of routine and late bedtimes, and he reacts badly if I try to enforce discipline (was always telling me when we were together that I should 'chill out' but I was the only one saying 'turn the tv off now'!)

However, he has a natural authority with them that I really envy. I am much more vulnerable and easily-persuadable, and the aforementioned guilt means I find it hard to be tough. So yes, I have probably made a rod for my own back. What I need to focus on is being calm and firm, saying 'no clearly but also lavishing praise on good behaviour. It takes time but I know it works. Problem is, then they go off to exH's for the weekend and come back arsey and pissed off with me - I know she's angry with me and it's true that she's happier to let this out with me than with him.

It just feeds all my insecurities. I always compare myself to Laura Ingalls Wilder's bloody mother, who was so gentle and perfect!!

wunderful Thu 22-Oct-09 20:50:29

Hello, I was struck by your message today so joined mumsnet to join in!

Mr nice guy has hit the nail on the head, combined with some other great stuff. You cannot compete with your ex, so don't try, forge your own path, check developmental milestones to ensure you are not worrying about nothing, and remember tv is a treat not a babysitter, I have found leaving it off except for treat times is great, we moved jigsaws and games into the living room and use them far more, and I stop what I am doing and play. Also its great to take away. I create small treats when I can, so I can take them away. I even give 2 pieces in play piece so I can remove one without starving my child.

My kids are far better now. I split my bedtimes and spend 1/2 an hour alone with each child and it really seems to help.

Never ever promise what you can't deliver, consistency is everything. If you can't think logically say it will be discussed later. I have a 4 and 6 year old and it is dreadful at times, I also worked in childrens units for years with very damaged children as you can imagine. The staff group was varied, from namby pamby weak characters to a few stalwarts like me. Genuine love praise and affection, coupled with discipline and boundaries lets them know where they are. Children are adept at exploiting weakness.

You do not need to be anyone other than who you are, you can achieve what you want just believe in yourself.I hope thats ok as a post I havent done this before. Good luck

swanriver Thu 22-Oct-09 21:14:07

I'm just jumping in, I'm not a single mother, but just wanted to reassure you, if that's the right word, that it isn't just single mothers that suffer this sort of behaviour from dds.
I think it is a kind of revenge that she is inflicting on you because she misses you so much, not because you are weak, but just because she longs for you and doesn'tknow how to express what she wants. She is absolutely testing your love because she is frightened.
Don't let her attacks upset you (on the surface), show that you are a rock, that she can depend on you completely to listen to her and be firm on certain matters, and keep trying to ignore the outrageous rudeness rather than attempting to argue/reason with her.

swanriver Thu 22-Oct-09 21:24:25

I've just reread the first post again, and now have different suggestion!
Re-invent your relationship with the dcs. Don't be the "firm" hassled parent trying to get your dcs to behave.
Decide you are a team and concentrate on getting as much pleasure out of their company as possible. Play silly games with them, have picnics on rugs indoor with them, look at maps, make plans together, sit on their beds pretending to be a gnome, get down to their level, and stop worrying what you should be doing to improve their manners etc. They will be behave well when they think you are on their side and not stressed by their company. By all means give them nutritious food and put them to bed at a reasonable time but ENJOY all the little things. That's what makes kids feel safe.
Do you remember the bit on Banks of Plum Creek where Pa gets lost in a blizzard for three days? And Ma plays games with the kids to cheer them up (she is obviously out of her mind with worry but still...)

NicknameTaken Fri 23-Oct-09 09:48:05

Swan, this is my parenting philosophy too. I try to ensure we enjoy each other's company to the maximum. It doesn't mean that I give into every demand for sweeties - often I just laugh at the anguished faces she's making and she gets indignant and stops crying.

Of course, she's not yet two, so what do I know? It could be a disaster waiting to happen. But I hope she knows how much pleasure her mother takes in her.

meerkatmum Fri 23-Oct-09 22:14:02

CJ you are not alone, I'm coming to the end of my tether, and I'm starting to get a nagging feeling that i'm failing as a parent. I've always thought I was parenting to the best of my ability (consistent, no means no, firm boundaries etc.) and being alone made no difference to me or my DD, but over the past 2 months DD 4 yrs has been testing me to my very limits. She is rude, screams at me if I say no, refuses to do the simplest of tasks, and the smallest thing can set her off into a 20 minutes screaming fit.

I'm ashamed to say I haven't responded to these trantrums in the way I know I should. I can sometimes walk away and ignore her, but at times I've found myself screaming back at her blush. She always says sorry when she calms down, and I feel awful for being the worst mum in the world.

I'm not sure what to do next, but we can't carry on like this.

CJCregg Sun 25-Oct-09 20:38:50

meerkatmum, I'm so glad you posted. If nothing else, we can weep on each other's shoulders ...

I'm just doing my best (and it's by no means easy) to try to keep calm and thus firm. It's really frustrating and very difficult to do, but I think it has to be a combination of firm, consistent boundaries and lots of praise for good behaviour. And I often ignore the bad stuff, eg if I ask her to hang her coat up, say, and she doesn't or says 'no' or whatever - I don't say anything, but just wait until she wants something like a drink or a book read to her. Then I say 'sure, I'll do that when you've hung your coat up'. No hassle, no arguments - just playing the long game!

It's all small steps but it's helping. And I've been hugely cheered by support from MN.

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