Struggling with unconditional love :( - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 02-28-2013, 07:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Lately I have been struggling a lot with my kids. I have a 2.5 DS, who is objectively is more difficult due to being 2, being stuck at about 90% potty-trained for months, and the fact that I am home with him all the time. But it is my 5 YO DD is causing me the most stress. She was difficult as a toddler but even at age 5 continues to hit, scream, throw things, and have tantrums and meltdowns on a daily basis. She has also started being really rude, namecalling, and pretending to shoot us when she is angry. DS is starting to mimic these behaviors. The problem seems to be a lack of respect for others and inability to express her anger appropriately. I feel like she is so unlikeable so much of the time and it crushes me to have these thoughts about a child of mine. I find myself wondering if I really have unconditional love for her, because a lot of the time I don't feel it. I don't know how to get to unconditional love. I try to hide this from the kids but I'm sure they can sense it, and I'm sure it just fuels the behavior. DS is very similar to how DD was at the same age. I am dreading when he turns 3 and moves out of the "baby" stage. When both kids are together things are really, really difficult. If I am not within arm's reach of them things get totally out of hand very quickly, and I am exhausted. It is impossible to be within arm's reach of them and still go to the bathroom, do meals, bedtime, get anything done, etc. Someone is unhappy or in conflict at least 90% of the time, I'd say. Mealtimes and bedtimes are awful. DD is in preschool until 2:45 every day, so it isn't even like I am around her all the time. DD does fine at preschool, but she does take violin (her idea) and is really rude and uncooperative with her very patient violin teacher (who actually claims she is pretty well-behaved for a 5-year-old). When it is just me and her things are much more OK, I actually often enjoy myself when it is just me and her and it's not bedtime/mealtime/grocery store, etc. Unfortunately we don't get much time together.
 
DH and I have taken the kids to a psychologist so we could learn how to deal with them, and she said they are normal but spirited. We have had a number of sessions and have started doing special time with the kids, but have not seen any results yet. We are continuing to see her because I don't know what else to do. I think she is going to have us do time-outs and consequences for the kids, even though I emphasized I would like to work on preventative strategies. My ideal would be gentle/positive discipline but to be honest I'm not really doing that right now because I don't know how to handle so many situations. I have done some consequences and threats (which do "work" a bit), and sometimes have even put my daughter in her room, because I do not know what else to do to keep me and my son safe. I have a lot of trouble staying calm. My DD especially infuriates me. I yell sometimes, and DH does a lot of yelling (although in general he tends to be a very permissive parent), even though we know that shouldn't be happening. We just feel stretched so thin. DS isn't STTN and I haven't slept more than 4 hours in a row in over 5 years. I am thinking maybe even time-outs would be better than what we're doing now, but then I read how bad punishment is for kids and all the negatives of time out and I get scared that will just damage our relationship even more. I am the kind of person who feels much better when I know I'm doing the right thing, even when it's hard, and I think part of the reason I'm so upset is because I don't know what the right thing to do is with my kids. If I believe the gentle discipline books, she is acting disrespectful because her needs are not getting met and/or she is feeling disrespecting and witnessing it between me and DH, and punishing her won't help her feel any better about herself. Anyway, I have trouble implementing any discipline because there are 2 of my kids and I can only deal with one at a time... the other is off getting into trouble while I'm dealing with one.
 
I am regretting having kids, or at least having 2 of them. I am not the happiest, most patient person, and DH and I fight a lot. I'm sure that most of our kids' behavior problems are our fault. I feel like I made a huge mistake because I brought these beautiful, innocent people into the world and now I'm screwing them up. The fact that DH and I can't stand to be around both of them most of the time is secondary to my guilt and fear over raising kids who don't appear to be turning into respectful people. I read books and websites but get confused because there is so much contradicting advice about what to do and am so overwhelmed I'm not really sure what to do and what to work on first (including work DH and I need to do on ourselves). There is so much I can't figure out how to implement with two kids, either. Just finding some time to do "special time" with them was really difficult.
 
DH and I are both depressed, I think, due to struggling with this for so long now. DH works a lot and is also addicted to video games, our marriage is on the rocks. We both thought as a SAHM I would be able to do most of the chores and since DS got mobile I barely touch them, so a lot is falling on DH that he didn't expect. We have a cleaning lady and lawn service and still struggle with chores. When the kids were littler, all this was more understandable because I assumed they would just grow out of these behaviors but now that DD is 5 and she is still so difficult I am just so scared. The psychologist says she won't grow out of these behaviors unless we handle them correctly, which I assume she is going to teach us to do in our sessions. I guess I wish I could have faith that they will work and not damage my relationship with my children even more. I am trying to wrap my head around being OK with time-out and logical consequences. I have thought about going back to work and putting the kids in day care but that's really not what I want and I'm not even sure that would be the best for them. I want to have a more loving, enjoyable relationship with them and have them with me while they are small.
 
Didn't someone here once post (maybe not in this forum) that they couldn't stand the years between 1 and 7? I am looking for a nugget, something to hold on to that lets me know there is a chance things will be OK in the end. Something to tell myself when things get so hard, like they do so many, many times a day. The thought of screwing up my children and/or not liking them for the rest of my life just devastates me.

DD 12/07 DS 9/10

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#2 of 7 Old 02-28-2013, 08:10 PM
 
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Reading this, my feeling is that maybe you're a perfectionist and it is driving you crazy that things aren't perfect. In fact, things are really difficult.

Yes, kids can pick up on your stress, but on the other hand my marriage is easy and there's no yelling, and my older child (my spirited one) had huge tantrums at 5 too. I had no stress, my husband had no stress, she was an only child at that point, our house was neat, and she was having tantrums and freaking out regularly regardless. You are not the cause of every bad emotion your kids have - kids have bad emotions no matter the circumstances, and some kids are louder about their emotions than others.

(She is 11 now and is really very polite and well mannered, though of course she gets that tween attitude sometimes. But most of the time I am quite happy to be around her.)

So as for your dd's tantrums, my first bit of advice is to not take them personally. Most have outgrown them by 5 but enough haven't that it's not unusual. It's just them trying to figure out how to process their own feelings and regulate their own emotions.

Your feelings of being unsure of your unconditional love might be partly about your stress and depression. I'm glad your family is having some kind of counseling because there's a lot of emotion in your post and it sounds like in your house, and that will hopefully help you handle it. I feel like you're internalizing a lot of stuff that is external.

If she is feeling disconnected from you and picking up that you feel disconnected, that might make her test your relationship, and that's probably at least part of the behavior. I am glad the two of you are spending time together, but of course you need to somehow actually connect with her during that time, so try to keep it really pleasant during those times. And you know how bonding between mother and baby is helped by physical touch? That's true for older kids too. Touch her, especially holding hands or in some other way having some physical skin to skin contact similar to hand holding. Kids really respond to that even when they're older. Even my 11-year-old.

So if this were me, I would work on that connection, try to not take everything personally (especially the tantrums), and try to de-stress in whatever way you can. I know you've got a firecracker and a toddler in your house, but you do have to take care of yourself too. Do you have grandparents or someone they can hang out with sometimes so you can take a bath, go to the gym, take a walk, read a book, or do whatever you do to relax? Remember to enjoy your life. If you can get a bit more relaxed and things stop feeling so chaotic for you, things that now seem overwhelming might start to feel within reach.

Please keep up with us! I'll be thinking of you. HUGS!
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#3 of 7 Old 02-28-2013, 08:44 PM
 
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I think that between having two children who are both very spirited, especially one who tantrums daily in a way that is potentially harmful, a troubled relationship with your husband, and chronic lack of sleep, it would be a miracle if you WEREN'T depressed. Its amazing to me that you have managed to hold it together for so long and still have time and the will to work hard to figure out what is best for your family right now. You sound like you are doing better than you think you are, given the circumstances.

 

Things are often clearer when you can get some respite from the depression. Then it becomes easier to see more realistically what your daughter's issues are, and what your deeper feelings for her really are, and what the future can hold. Is there a way you can get some counseling for yourself? It can be wonderful to have a breather, even if its only for an hour, and have someone to talk to, and maybe get some clarity about a course of action.

 

Of course things will get better. This is not going to last all through their childhoods. You may have 3 or 4 years of it being difficult ahead of you before it feels good again, and you are able to easily feel the love you have for them without even trying, but it will happen. Also it will happen bit by bit as time goes by, as you get a little more sleep, as things calm down and your relationship with your husband improves because of the reduced stress.

 

You're doing everything right. You're seeking help, you're reading, and researching, and trying. Add counseling sessions for yourself and I think it will be so much easier to get through these next few years.

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#4 of 7 Old 02-28-2013, 10:13 PM
 
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I am not sure how your household works but obviously you are here, in the gentle discipline section, so I have some ideas of how you want things to be. I just want to share that, as someone who works with children, I have found that some kids need immovable boundaries and consistent routines. They basically work better if they have no envelope to push and they have limited freedom in how they structure their day (like watch two shows everyday starting at 5 and dinner time is at ___ and we always sit here, etc) and decisions to make -- "here is your peanut butter sandwich" instead of "what do you want to have for snack?")  

 

Some kids find it comforting that they can count on certain things being the same and are being done in the same way every single day and that, there are consequences to their actions and those consequences are also the same/similar every single time.  They need the rules to be explicitly stated, instead of implied, and enforced gently. Try making no empty threats; instead follow through as much as you can.  Just quietly take an action (time out/in, taking privileges away, whatever natural consequences you can think of) and give the behavior no additional attention thereby giving it no fuel.  I have seen this work and I thought I'd throw it out there.  Of course, as they get older they gain increasing autonomy.  They will grow out of this.

 

Be kind to yourself.  The guilt we moms carry when it comes to raising our babies is so much. We could really use some of the gentleness we are to trying to give to our children.  

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#5 of 7 Old 02-28-2013, 11:03 PM
 
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I might be the person who said that I had a hard time with each of my kids between 1 and 7. I do infants very well, but I had to push myself everyday to survive the toddler/preschool years. Then, when each child turned about 6 or 7, I fell in love with them all over again. This was proven over and over to me as a foster parent - I really don't like that stage! But send me an infant or a 6+ year old, and I am super-mama. Even with my own grand daughter, I had to grit my teeth, and I relied heavily on my teenaged DD to cover for me.

 

Hang in there. It really does get better, I promise. My advice is to not take it all too seriously. I don't mean to make light of your situation at all. But really, your kids will survive. Don't beat yourself up over your (understandable) responses to a child acting unreasonably. And if you can relax about the tantrums and such, perhaps the whole emotional climate of the house will lower enough that the tantrums gradually become less frequent. Get all the support and help you can find. Are you in a metropolitan area? Many major hospitals have resource centers for special needs kids, and may have a support group going.
 

Can you and your husband have some fun adult time together? Perhaps a scheduled, weekly date night? A babysitter would be well worth the expense, and might be a welcome break for the kids as well as the grown-ups.

 

I am interested that you feel your DD is disrespectful and uncooperative with the violin teacher, yet the teacher sees her as average for a 5 year old. This speaks to me of your expectations - what do you see as "rude"? 5 YOs certainly lack some social graces, but maybe what you are seeing is immaturity, rather than disrespect? Perhaps the teacher can see with less emotion in this circumstance.

 

I agree that "consequences" (a euphemism for punishment) and time-outs are lousy teaching methods. But it is quite natural that you don't want to be around someone who is hitting, screaming, or otherwise being awful. When she starts into a melt-down, what if you peacefully escorted her to her room, and calmly, lovingly said, "Please feel free to come out when you are calm and polite"? That seems like a real-world, natural consequence to me - no one wants to be around someone who is acting like a jerk. Then, when she comes out, I would not even mention the incident. If she is calm and fun to be around, the lesson will be clear enough - people, even Moms, don't like to be around people, even the kids they love, if they are acting unreasonably.

 

I hope you will check back in. Sending good thoughts your way... hug2.gif


Rhu - mother,grandmother,daughter,sister,friend-foster,adoptive,and biological;not necessarily in that order. Some of it's magic, some of it's tragic, but I had a good life all the way (Jimmy Buffet)

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#6 of 7 Old 03-01-2013, 09:40 PM
 
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We had positive time outs. Sometimes, I even went into the time out with my DD. Sometimes, I put myself in time out and stayed in my bedroom for 5 minutes so I could calm down.

 

I think that part of it is how you think about it -- I believe that it is totally fine to take a few minutes to just calm down and get your head back on straight, and that its totally fine for a parent to provide a structure for that for a child who is too young to realize that it will be helpful to them.

 

I also think its OK for children to be unhappy some of the time. It isn't our job to keep them happy all the time. NO ONE is happy all the time. shrug.gif Perhaps making peace with the fact that it isn't your job to keep them happy will help.

 

I think that kids whose parents can find that sweet spot of providing a home where it is possible to find one's happiness but without any sense that it is their job to MAKE their kids happy end up being happy more of the time than kids whose parents fail to the other extremes.


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#7 of 7 Old 03-02-2013, 10:42 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mamarhu View Post

I might be the person who said that I had a hard time with each of my kids between 1 and 7. I do infants very well, but I had to push myself everyday to survive the toddler/preschool years. Then, when each child turned about 6 or 7, I fell in love with them all over again. This was proven over and over to me as a foster parent - I really don't like that stage! But send me an infant or a 6+ year old, and I am super-mama. Even with my own grand daughter, I had to grit my teeth, and I relied heavily on my teenaged DD to cover for me.

 

Hang in there. It really does get better, I promise. My advice is to not take it all too seriously. I don't mean to make light of your situation at all. But really, your kids will survive. Don't beat yourself up over your (understandable) responses to a child acting unreasonably. And if you can relax about the tantrums and such, perhaps the whole emotional climate of the house will lower enough that the tantrums gradually become less frequent. Get all the support and help you can find. Are you in a metropolitan area? Many major hospitals have resource centers for special needs kids, and may have a support group going.
 

Can you and your husband have some fun adult time together? Perhaps a scheduled, weekly date night? A babysitter would be well worth the expense, and might be a welcome break for the kids as well as the grown-ups.

 

I am interested that you feel your DD is disrespectful and uncooperative with the violin teacher, yet the teacher sees her as average for a 5 year old. This speaks to me of your expectations - what do you see as "rude"? 5 YOs certainly lack some social graces, but maybe what you are seeing is immaturity, rather than disrespect? Perhaps the teacher can see with less emotion in this circumstance.

 

I agree that "consequences" (a euphemism for punishment) and time-outs are lousy teaching methods. But it is quite natural that you don't want to be around someone who is hitting, screaming, or otherwise being awful. When she starts into a melt-down, what if you peacefully escorted her to her room, and calmly, lovingly said, "Please feel free to come out when you are calm and polite"? That seems like a real-world, natural consequence to me - no one wants to be around someone who is acting like a jerk. Then, when she comes out, I would not even mention the incident. If she is calm and fun to be around, the lesson will be clear enough - people, even Moms, don't like to be around people, even the kids they love, if they are acting unreasonably.

 

I hope you will check back in. Sending good thoughts your way... hug2.gif

 

I agree with this!


mama to one '07 and one '09
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