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Anger Management?

(6 Posts)
StopHistoryRepeating Mon 18-Apr-11 20:11:58

I am a regular poster but I've namechanged for this. I am really sorry for the length of this post but I felt it was important to try to be as comprehensive as possible - I'd appreciate anyone making it through to the end.

Today I smacked my just four year old daughter for the first, and hopefully the last, ever time. It was an awful situation that was entirely avoidable. I take total responsibility for my actions and feel very guilty and ashamed. I say that not to deflect any criticism but just to be honest. I grew up in an intermittently abusive environment (I don't use the word "abusive" lightly- burns, broken arms) and I always promised myself I would never hit my children, but at the same it has sometimes been an struggle in volatile situations with my daughter not to let my anger take over. Until now I thought I was doing alright, apart from the odd shouting match.

It started with a battle over a pair of shoes - we were late, my daughter refused to put hers on. This is an ongoing thing, it happens almost every morning. Sometimes I can persuade her to do it herself, sometimes I end up doing it for her. This morning, after spending time as usual trying to persuade her and reason with her, I impatiently proceeded to dire threats: "I'm going to take away your princess shoes [really terrible plastic mules with bits of feather stuck to them that she adores? a recent birthday present] unless you put these shoes on NOW like we both know you can? Still refusal. So then I had no option, I felt, but to do as I'd threatened: I took her little shoe set out of her room and put them on a high shelf in a kitchen cupboard. She went mental like I've hardly seen her - screaming, throwing stuff, just a dervish of fury. I was a bit worried about her baby brother getting caught in the crossfire so I told her to go to her room to cool off. She refused, so I carried her, and as I was carrying her, she started hitting me. She's never done this before. At first she was more sort of flailing but then she started properly aiming with intent. I put her on the floor in her room, and it was obvious to us both that this was a new scary territory, I think. I told her never to hit me again, and shut the door.

Gave it ten minutes, but we really did have to leave for nursery by this point, so I went in again with the shoes (her normal ones, not the princess ones) She was sitting hugging her knees on the floor. I said that we had to go, started trying to put her shoes on, and she started kicking and hitting again. She wasn't screaming, she just had this completely defiant expression, and to be honest I felt completely powerless. That's when I started to lose it, I could feel it happening. I remember shouting at her "if you hit me again, I will hit you back", and she said she didn't care and smacked me across the side of my head. Before I knew it, I pulled her across my knee and whacked her hard, once, on the bum. Instant horror. Shocked tears from daughter. Shocked silence from me. It did have the (unintended) effect of putting an end to her tantrum, there was a weird calm, we talked about what had happened and why I had smacked her. We both said sorry and had a cuddle, but it all felt wrong. Then she begged ME not to tell anyone at nursery that she'd hit me. To make things worse, there was a streak of pink skin between the bottom of her t-shirt and the top of her trousers, where a bit of bare skin had been exposed to my hand. It looked horrific to me, but it had faded completely by bathtime tonight.

We kept talking about what happened in the car on the way to nursery. She said it made her sad when I hit her, so I answered that it made me sad when she hit me, and she seemed to accept this. But what a totally stupid way to demonstrate that hitting is wrong - meeting violence with violence. Actually the worrying thing is, I wasn't consciously trying to demonstrate anything - I really had just lost control: an adult woman hitting a little girl. It is shameful. If I'd just handled the shoe-refusal situation better in the first place, none of it would have happened.

I just wondered if anyone had any advice? Particularly anyone who has been in a similar situation themselves, in terms of growing up with violence and trying not to carry on the cycle. I've ordered "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen..." from Amazon (I had been iffy about parenting books previously, but this episode suggests that I could do with some help), but what else do you think I could do to make sure that this never happens again?

fandango75 Mon 18-Apr-11 21:02:22

hi sorry clueless but feel for you - you sound like s lovely sensible person imo. Didnt want you left feeling so terrible and no one posting anything, hope things improve for you soon

petisa Mon 18-Apr-11 21:17:03

I did not have any abuse in my childhood but I recently smacked my nearly 3 year old for kicking me over and over while I was trying to change her nappy. Similar situation to yours, and I felt terrible too. Don't feel too bad though, you sound like a great parent and we all lose it sometimes. It sounds really great the way you and your dd talked about it afterwards, it sounds like there is a lot of good communication and trust between you. I recommend Playful Parenting - it's really really helped me with situations like this.

monkoray Mon 18-Apr-11 21:54:09

I also recommend Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen. I am reading it at the moment and its full of ideas for diffusing situations and for allowing yourself to turn an argument into something else. The book talks a lot about children who have not had strong support growing up, so be warned that some of it may be uncomfortable reading given what you have experienced in your own childhood.
Have you had the opportunity to talk with a professional about your own childhood experiences. It sounds like you are very scared of repeating the past. If you haven't had the opportunity to discuss this with a counsellor maybe now would be a good time, you could safely discuss how your experiences do or do not translate into the way you parent.
You sound like you handled the aftermath of the smack really well. Discussing it with DD and explaining why it happened.
I hope you feel happier soon, you sound like a mum who really cares about her kids.

StopHistoryRepeating Tue 19-Apr-11 06:50:21

Thanks for your replies (and thanks for not letting my post go unanswered, fandango!) I will definitely look out that Playful Parenting book.

Petisa, it helps to know other parents who haven't had my experiences can also react the way I did in similar situations. It is very hard to keep a calm clear head when you're getting a pummelling! monkoray, you are right, my fears about repeating the past are definitely a big "thing" with me, probably my biggest. Rationally I can identify where yesterday is different to the sort of thing that happened with my dad but it still feels like I've failed in my attempts to keep the past in the past, if you see what I mean. I will have a look locally and see who there is.

Thank you again - I really appreciate you all taking the time to respond.

LaLeLu25 Wed 13-Jul-11 01:18:31

Can't believe you lasted so long. You seem a well adjusted person and are simply communicating to your daughter that violence is hurtful. Why do we all need books about playful parenting again if our children our displaying violence towards us? My daughter kicked me in the stomach during nappy change time when I was pregnant (she didn't understand but knew that it hurt my stomach). She has so much attention from my husband and myself as well as interaction and stimulation, that I sometimes wonder if she's too indulged. In your case you seem to be so anxious to avoid history repeating itself that perhaps you have gone the other way? You don't sound like a failure at all.

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