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I don't know how to cope with my son anymore :(

(46 Posts)
starsareshining Thu 18-Nov-10 10:17:35

I'm sick of being spoken to like I'm a piece of shit and being hit or having things thrown at me at every opportunity. He's almost 3, a very bright little boy and his behaviour until about a month ago was great, very easily managed.

I'm currently building up the courage to see a doctor about a fairly serious mental health problem as well as SAD which I believe I suffer from, so this couldn't have happened at a worse time. This time last year I was sleeping on the settee all day or crying and I'm trying so hard not to let it get to that stage this year. I'm feeling an odd mixture of extreme anger and extreme guilt.

We very rarely go out because I just can't face a lot of things and it takes me quite a while to build up the courage to do anything. I feel absolutely drained by it all. Currently, I'm struggling to find the energy to get us dressed and fed and just do normal day to day things, so I really can't deal with this. He constantly shouts at me and demands that I spend every single second of my time doing things with him. He has never been clingy before and doesn't actually enjoy hugging me or being around me that much, it just seems to be another excuse to be vile.

If I even gently tell him nt to do something, he throws things at my face, screams at me, hits me etc. I woke up feeling more optimistic than usual today so decided that we'd get on a bus and go to the library to take our seriously overdue books back. I've been to anxious to get on a bus and go out and then he was so naughty that I'm now not taking him. Every single day he just drags me down. I had to fight to get into the shower, then he started throwing things at the glass shower door, screaming that it wasn't made of glass and hitting tiles which are currently hanging off the wall, knowing that I've told him to stay away from them. Any time I try to tell him off, he tells me off for having the nerve to say anything to him. I really don't enjoy spending time with him anymore. Mentally, I'm already very fragile and I honestly can't take this.

I keep telling myself that I'll look into some more structured discipline and try to sort it out, but when i finally get a minute alone, I don't even have the energy to move, let alone do anything useful. I wish I could send him to nursery now, as it'd probably be really good for both of us, but he won't have a place til next September.

I just feel like lying on the floor and crying and never getting up again. I'm letting him down so badly and I don't know what to do anymore

I know that these problems seem minor compared to some that are posted here, but I just can't do this on top of everything else. I'm getting to a stage where I'm just accepting him hitting me and not even reacting because I feel like a zombie.

vess Thu 18-Nov-10 11:07:05

Oh dear, get help for yourself ASAP!
His behaviour sounds normal for a child of that age, he doesn't mean to be vile - it just seems that way to you, because you're feeling vulnerable.

And he probably feels something is wrong with you, which scares and confuses him a lot. He doesn't know how to deal with that fear and so responds with bad behaviour. He is angry with you for feeling unwell, because you are his lifeline. He is frightened. In his mind, you're not allowed to be unwell. Ever.

Clare123 Thu 18-Nov-10 11:15:02

Gosh, please go to the doctors today. You little boy sounds very normal to me, but I do think you need some help. It is so hard being a parent - let a lone when you are unwell. Take care xx

Simic Thu 18-Nov-10 11:16:00

Building up the courage to speak to a doctor about a mental health problem seems such a positive thing to do - but I could really imagine that it's not easy. You seem to be showing quite a lot of strength - taking the opportunities of days where you feel more optimistic as well as making up your own mind to go to see a doctor. Instead of sleeping on the settee all day or crying, you're posting on here and finding strategies forward (like going to see the doctor and making a real effort to keep everyday life going).
I'm sure your son is perceiving all this: he's feeling you're at a particularly sensitive point, you're being strong and you're doing that by really summoning all your energy together. Kids have incredible antennae which pick up on everything. Is he just confused by it all, doesn't know what to make of this - really quite complex - situation? My daughter always wants reassurance that we are there for her whenever she catches a whiff of change or uncertainty (wanting all the attention, every second etc).
You are obviously being there for him and I bet that's helping him.
Maybe you can really look into ways that you could get some more breathing space (grandma? dh? playgroup where he could stay for a few hours on his own? neighbour?). And I'd definitely go for it, talking to a doctor.
I'm sorry, I'm not an expert on any of this and I'm sure there are people on here that are. But, you are DEFINITELY not letting your son down! You are looking after yourself and you are looking after him.

mollymole Thu 18-Nov-10 11:21:19

please go to the doctor and make a start on being kinder to yourself - you are not a bad mother

starsareshining Thu 18-Nov-10 11:33:10

Thanks for your replies. I do struggle a lot with this, more so because I no longer have any friends or many people to talk to. This forum has been such a relief for me at times.

I don't really think that he'd think that anything unusual was happening, although I suppose he probably has noticed that I'm not as fun as usual. But the underlying problems (not just being 'down') are always there and aren't really much to do with him. He hasn't known anything else so wouldn't know that other people have normal lives!

I do feel like an absolute failure at the moment though. We haven't really gone anywhere for a few weeks now and I can't seem to bring myself to do anything with him for too long because it's so draining. I haven't washed up for a few days, although I am about to put a DVD on for him so I can get it done. I don't even enjoy particularly enjoy watching TV myself and feel that he's missing out on so much because I'm increasinly having to sit him in front of it because I can't cope. I feel so, so guilty that he's been born as my son because he's usually such a lovely little boy and he doesn't realise that I'm ruining things for him already I accidentally pushed him over today when I was trying to get him out of the bathroom and it was awful. He thought I'd meant to knock him over and he was just crying and crying.

I did try to get him into the local playgroup, but it's full and will be until he goes to nursery. My parents both work full time and I have no friends. I do have a partner, but he's still living hundreds of miles away and comes to see us at weekends, so he can't help us very much. I'm reluctant to lean on him too heavily because things aren't going particularly well for him at the moment either. He left a very good university a year ago and is still out of work. It's unfair of me to keep calling him up and crying and expecting him to be able to take on all of my problems. He did get quite stern with me yesterday because he is worried that I'll never see a doctor. I have made the decision to make an appointment next week, but it is terrifying. I know that half of the things I'm going to come out with (or write down, not quite brave enough to say it all out loud )sound utterly mad.

So, do you think this will be much easier to cope with once I get my problems sorted and it will all seem like normal toddler behaviour? How do you react to these situations? What strategies do you have in place?

starsareshining Thu 18-Nov-10 11:34:50

Sorry about the typos, am typing it all out fairly quickly.

Simic Thu 18-Nov-10 11:48:01

It's great that you're going to the doctor!
You say your son doesn't know anything else - but isn't it a new stage now, because you have decided to see the doctor? You say you are terrified of telling the doctor about how you feel - I am sure your son can pick up on the fact that you're scared.
It's not bad for a child to discover that grown ups can be scared too. But, as vess said, he is just very frightened by that.
He's trying to force you to prove that everything is "normal" and you're fine. You obviously love him so much - maybe just try to think about that while he's throwing all of this at you. It's his way of telling you that he needs you and loves you and wants you to be well.
I often feel guilty that my children have me as a mother and that I'm somehow ruining things for them. But, he loves you because you're you. He doesn't care about all of that! His love is truly unconditional - the tiles and everything is actually proof of that! And you're doing everything now for him - you are going to the doctor and getting your problems sorted and making a huge effort not to just cry all the time. You're doing it!
I think in terms of how to manage the toddler behaviour, maybe just try to focus on him. Do something together: this might be a bit far fetched in your situation but a big bowl of soapy water on the kitchen floor and the odd plastic kitchen utensil for both of you to wash up together - complete with getting each other covered in washing up liquid foam until you have to go and get dry clothes on - might be the best remedy. Failing that, a big cuddle with a book. I think any time you can "invest" showing him you're still there for him, will help the situation. If, of course, you can get through to him for that long.
Don't worry about not doing the washing up - but it sounds great that you're about to do it. Also, don't beat yourself up about the dvds and tv. As a kid I watched loads just because my mum thought it was nice! - and loads of children watch loads of tv.. This is a particular situation - don't worry about the tv!

thumbwitch Thu 18-Nov-10 11:56:59

So to hear about your troubles.

One thing that I believe is that small children are like horses and dogs (and other animals) - without even knowing what they are experiencing they pick up on the feelings that you are feeling - and yours are in a state at the moment, so your DS is picking this up. He doesn't have a clue what it is he's experiencing, and as someone else has already said, it will be confusing and probably quite frightening for him - and he doesn't know how to deal with his discomfort so he's lashing out in the hopes that you can make him feel better and take the discomfort away - without at all realising that he's making things worse by his behaviour.

My Ds is a very similar age to yours by the sound of it and has recently started having more extreme reactions to being thwarted - and then when he's told off he tells me I "make him sad" and that I "don't like him". The only response that works is to give him a cuddle and reassure him that I do like him and love him, and the cuddle makes him happy again.

I don't know whether or not your DS is a cuddler, mine is (big time!) but perhaps it might help to just reassure him that whatever is going on with you at the moment, it's not his fault and you still love him and want to cuddle him.

I realise this is heavily oversimplifying what seems to be a very troubling situation but I hope it might help a little bit.
And do go and see your doctor for the rest.

starsareshining Thu 18-Nov-10 12:12:48

I'd love to do the washing up with him as he really loves 'helping' me, but it's not an option. My house is fully carpeted, even the kitchen and bathroom (full on burgundy old lady flowery style too) so we can't do much on the floor, and he's too short to do anything, even on little childrens steps, because he is unusually small for his age. Something just being investigated by the hospital, actually.

My son isn't a cuddler AT ALL. He really does not enjoy physical contact, exactly the same as I was/am. He doesn't exactly get upset, buts gets angry if I try to tell him off. It just compounds the anger and I'm getting slapped and kicked for ages.

I did try taking his toys away for naughty behaviour the other day and it didn't help very much. For starters, he isn't that into his toys and there aren't any toys he's particularly attached to. Then, with every toy which was taken away, his anger increased and fuelled even more naughty behaviour, resulting in the confiscation of even more toys! I was getting quite tired of walking up and down the stairs by this point. Everything I do seems to only work for about 5 minutes. So how do you deal with this toddler behaviour?

We get into these ridiculous agruments. He throws something at me and I tell him to stop it. He says 'no, you stop it', so I cleverly respond with 'no, you are being naughty, stop it', he slaps me and says 'No Mommy, YOU STOP IT'. It's as though he is trying to discipline me. Things which worked before are no longer working. For example, I recently rearranged his bedroom and moved him into a bed, and he now has much more space in there. He absolutely loved it and was making excuses to go upstairs and play. Now, I have to really fight to get him up there. I don't know what changed, but he won't even play for 5 minutes so I can have a shower. He's actually bent the frame of the shower door by hitting it so often.

mummytime Thu 18-Nov-10 12:16:00

Try to see the doctor sooner than next week. There is lots they can do to help. If you start to feel better and ca go out his behaviour may improve (my kids were awful if we didn't get out by about 9 in the morning).

Does he have a play group? Your doctor may also be able to get you some one from homestart to give you a break. Good luck!

thumbwitch Thu 18-Nov-10 12:40:47

What happens if you ignore him? Does he just escalate the behaviour?

starsareshining Thu 18-Nov-10 15:25:35

I can't really see the doctor til next week because that's the earliest I can get someone to watch my son. I was planning on going out today and the reason that I didn't wasn't really to do with how I was feeling, but that I'd told him we wouldn't go if he kept hitting me. I didn't really want to back down on that once I'd said it, so we ended up not going. I actually thought it was quite telling that he thought we'd still be able to go once he'd said sorry and was really shocked when I praised him for saying it, but told him that we still weren't going to the library. He seems to think that 'sorry' means he gets to do whatever he likes.

If I ignore him he just continues to do it. His reaction is about the same as when I tell him off, but with less shouting. For example, the other day he needed to go to the toilet at my moms house. She doesn't have a training toilet seat so I had to hold him on the toilet. He took that opportunity to slap every area of my body which he could reach (this was following on from me taking away a toy golf club which he'd thrown at me for telling him to be careful) and I tried to ignore it. When he got off the toilet he slapped me very hard across the face and it really hurt. I ended up screaming at him so then he started screaming and sobbing at me and it continued until he'd decided he wasn't going to do it anymore. Nothing that I said or did made any difference. My mom tried to get involved and speak to him about how he was treating me, but he seems to think that it's his right to treat me like that and to tell me off for daring to say anything or do anything that he doesn't like. About once a minute or so he'd just come over to me and shout 'Stop it' with real venom in his voice, even though I hadn't done anything and hadn't continued the argument.

thumbwitch Thu 18-Nov-10 15:37:30

Goodness - he has a lot of pent up anger, doesn't he.

At least he says sorry, even if he's not quite got the full implication of its meaning (bit like my DS).

I don't really know what to suggest - I presume you've tried "time outs" and all that and he just won't pay any attention - have you tried shutting him in his room? Or does he trash it/is it not safe to do so?

Again, my DS is probably very different but he doesn't like not being able to access me - so even the suggestion of either him or me being behind a closed door is usually enough to bring him up short but I'm not sure that would work for you.

When you have tried ignoring him, have you started by saying "I am not talking to you or paying you any attention until you calm down/stop doing that" and walking away from him? (obviously hard while holding him on the loo!)

SparklingExplosionGoldBrass Thu 18-Nov-10 15:43:39

It sounds like you really need some help, is there anything like a Surestart group near you? You are not a bad mother, you are unwell - and your DS is not by any means a bad child, he is scared because he knows something is wrong but doesn;t understand it, and is lashing out in fear as much as anything. Also, 3 is a stroppy age anyway as DC asre just starting to work out their place in the world and how much effect their behaviour has on others etc. But you sound terribly isolated - your GP can surely helpy you access some support.

starsareshining Thu 18-Nov-10 16:52:52

Thanks for all of your posts today. It really has lifted my mood. I won't go into my problems too much on here because it's off topic and very, very long, but if you are interested I have a thread in the mental health forum at the moment with a more detailed description of what's happening.

thumbwitch, no I haven't tried time-outs as I didn't want to do things without researching them first and making an informed decision about what I was going to do, how I was going to do it and what the point of it was. Or what the end result should be. This is partly what I meant when I was talking about not having the energy to properly deal with it. It's probably my own fault that it's gotten to this stage because I have been putting off dealing with it until I felt able to do it properly.

I don't know how he'd react to being left in his room. I assume that he'd trash it and throw things as that's what he does when we're in the same room. He often looks for things to hit, but it has to be just right so that it'll get the right kind of reaction from me. If I tell him to stop something or that we can't do something, he'll go storming off and you can see him deciding what to hit. His three options were a guitar, a door and a toy wheelbarrow. He looked at the guitar, then at me and realised that it would be taking it too far. Then looked at the door and realised that it wasn't going to make an impact. Looked at the wheelbarrow and realised it's quite an awkward shape to hit, so finally settled on the door. Didn't bother me at all. It's just funny that I can see him making those decisions. I have, in the past, said things like 'I'm not going to talk to you until you stop shouting at me because I don't talk to children who shout', but it hasn't crossed my mind to say it in these new and more extreme situations. All of my usual tactics seem to be ineffectual at the moment and, of course, I have been finding it difficult to implement new ones.

There is a surestart centre incredibly close to my house but I do struggle to go because I get so anxious about it. I try very hard to control my emotions in front of my son and seem stable, but I find it so difficult that I often end up not going. We don't have much money so I usually end up making excuses not to get on buses and go to places which require payment. I really do feel that I've done exceptionally well to drag myself out of the place I was in with no outside help, but I don't seem to be able to do much more for myself. It's only over the past two years or so that I've become so self aware and now I've hit a brick wall.

I have invited someone over tonight (for the first time in over a year) while my son is at a birthday tea party, but I know I won't actually enjoy it. It's all quite complicated, but at least having someone else here with give me something else to focus on. It was just meant as distraction, like the library trip. I just feel quite disappointed that I woke up determined to do make sure I didn't sit around and mope today, but I've just been dragged back down again. I'm sorry if this isn't very easy to understand. My problems are quite complicated and I'd bore you to tears with the details

I did want to have a look at the parenting books while I was in the library. Do you think I'm overthinking this too much and should just get on with things? I find it difficult to do things without properly looking into it first.

WowOoo Thu 18-Nov-10 17:01:58

Get on with things?

Get some books to read in your own time.
Go easy on yourself! Today i've been slapped, bitten, and kicked but it was all accidental or a joke gone wrong and I laughed it off or pretended to tickle them or something.

It's bloody hard. Glad to see you using a smiley smile

Get up a little bit earlier just so you have 5 MINS to yourself and write a list of possible things to do or places to go etc.

Need to deal with dh now. No peace!

colditz Thu 18-Nov-10 17:04:44

he is trying to assert authority over you because he's not sure who is supposed to have it. SOMEONE has to be in charge, and at the moment, you often aren't, so he thinks he must be.

When he kicks off and has a paddy, pick him up bodily, put him in his room and hold the door shut (with you on the other side of it) until he stops screaming and hitting things. Then go into him. Do NOT APOLOGISE. Explain that screaming and hitting is behavior you do not want to see and so he will always be put into his room so you don't see it.

At this point, he will start screaming at you and maybe hitting you again. Tell him to stop it, and when he doesn't, put him STRAIGHT back in his room, no discussion, and repeat until he gets a grip.

If he kicks off while you are out, pick him up and LEAVE immediately. Don't have big long discussions about it. Big long discussions to a 2 year old (and at nearly three, he is still only two) sound like "Fwah fwah fwah fwah toys, fwah fwah fwah biscuits fwah!"

If he kicks off at home, pick him up and put him in his room, and hold the door shut until he stops screaming and hitting.

All it will teach him is that you do not accept his behavior. It will not damage him. Don't be scared of his tears.

starsareshining Thu 18-Nov-10 17:16:46

I didn't mean that I was going to start reading books in the library, just take some out to read at home. But then the settee and terrible CSI 'no brain neccessary' programmes are always calling out to me, so who knows how long that could take?

Funnily enough, he's absolutely perfect whenever we're out. I think I manage to act more normal and assertive in front of other people too. We were recently at the hospital and the staff couldn't believe that he sat still and did exactly as he was asked to do.

The long discussions translated into baby language did make me laugh I have actually been able to reason with him at times, until now. Now he won't listen to me at all. I'm not worried about being tough (people often seem to think of me as cold) but I have worried about how his childhood experiences could shape him and didn't know how people generally reacted to things like that.

colditz Thu 18-Nov-10 17:18:30

You can't reason with him while he's screaming and hitting. He's not being reasonable.

WowOoo Thu 18-Nov-10 17:32:56

Do you watch CSI with your son?

I wrote a list of things that I need to try to do better, things ds2 will try to do better and we're getting on much better. bUt he's 4 and understands a lot.

He learns from example and his little brother IS NOT going to watch him jump all over the furniture and throw wobblies when he does not get his own way.

So ds2 sees me being very very firm with his brother and I've already had to be firm with the littlest.

I think the tantrums are worth it in the long run.
After a few days, they forget they ever wanted ice pops.

Mine are not perfect when out. So you are very lucky there!

WowOoo Thu 18-Nov-10 17:40:29

Sorry ds1 is 4, ds2 is 18 months. Am tired and should not type!

starsareshining Thu 18-Nov-10 17:40:44

No, definitely do not watch CSI with my son. Anyway, thank you all for your advice. I'm now feeling much better equipped to deal with this.

WowOoo Thu 18-Nov-10 17:41:53

Was being nosey! Good luck with it all.

starsareshining Thu 18-Nov-10 17:45:28

Haha! I don't think it'd be too good for his little mind. I forgot that it was on in the living room last night. He came in so I stood in front of the TV and he was desperately craning his neck to see what they were going to unzip. It was a rotting corpse. Although, he is very keen on the words 'dead' and 'kill', so perhaps he has managed to sneak a look at it!

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