Why am I so angry at my 3-year old?! - Mothering Forums

Why am I so angry at my 3-year old?!

woodstar's Avatar woodstar (TS)
03:41 PM Liked: 0
#1 of 23
07-31-2008 | Posts: 254
Joined: Sep 2005
i must be the meanest mommy ever. my anger towards my 3 year-old son has really started to scare us both. why do i feel like this? he is only 3! the things he does are probably typical of most children. but it drives me insane. today, i kicked him out of the house ... i was at the edge. so, i told him to get out. of course i watched him from the window while he played in the yard. yesterday, i explained to him the importance of listening. he looks at me, tisks, and says "whatever".

his behavior is cyclic (sp?). meaning, some weeks we will connect and get along so well. then, the switch happens. he acts like a different child. he talks back, throws fits, breaks things, won't sleep, doesn't get along with other kids. i try to redirect, but i can't get him to look at me. when i talk to him about his behavior, he will divert his eyes and play with his hands. it is almost like he can't control himself at all. the rough week will end and then, my sweet boy will return.

i can't decide if it is me or him. am i the one going through a 'cycle' of meanness? that would make sense. then, he would just be reacting to my distance and grouchiness.

i just want to talk to someone who understands. sometimes i don't know what to do. lately, when i recognize the pattern, i remember that he needs more attention and affection. i try to do this, and he pushes me away.

i cry everyday during these periods. i worry about him. any suggestions or support would be great. i really don't want to yell and scare anymore.
lactivist's Avatar lactivist
04:34 PM Liked: 0
#2 of 23
07-31-2008 | Posts: 2,670
Joined: Jun 2005
I couldn't read and not reply. 3 is the most difficult age in my opinion. I am struggling on a daily basis with my 3yo son and he is my 3rd child. A lot of what you descibe is what happens here and happened with my other 3yo's. My son also has the complication of a dairy allergy that completely changes his behavior. He becomes aggressive and unable to focus and it just gets worse.

I have found some good ideas in Playful Parenting to diffuse some of my anger and frustration in relating to him. I also try to keep in mind that he is doing his best to discover who he is in this world and that means pushing against me to establish his own boundaries. I need to be there as a calm presence to let him learn this tricky world.

I also found a lot of use from the book Living Joyfully with Children.

I hope you find some things that help you too!

mean_jeannie's Avatar mean_jeannie
04:48 PM Liked: 0
#3 of 23
07-31-2008 | Posts: 928
Joined: Mar 2007

I think it is important to go back and look at your statement
i can't decide if it is me or him. am i the one going through a 'cycle' of meanness? that would make sense. then, he would just be reacting to my distance and grouchiness.
I get so frustrated with my 2 yo. He reflects it right back to me. I try to remember that and loosen up when I feel my anger coming on. I try to just grab that second before I lose control and connect with him. tickle, hug, something playful to help us both remember that we love each other and to honor each other.

I don't think you are angry at your 3yo. I think you might be angry at whatever situation you are in when you start to get reactive. That is an important distinction.

And remember to apologize if you find that you have done something undeserving. Like just today, I got frustrated and embarressed that my 2 yo was playing in the restaurant at lunch. (DUH!!! That's what a 2 yo does!) So I yelled at him and took his lemonade away. How the hell was that fair? I apologized and hugged him and he said, "That's okay!" Makes me feel like a poor mother. Let's just keep trying to recognize those emotions before they get the best of us and do better by our children. They are not bad children in the least, right? They are just learning their way.

catkendig's Avatar catkendig
05:02 PM Liked: 0
#4 of 23
07-31-2008 | Posts: 61
Joined: May 2008
Aww..... ((((((((((hugs)))))))))) I feel your pain. I have twin 3 year olds and they act exactly how you're describing. It definitely goes in cycles. Feel like I never get a break because they apparently choose to take turns with this - not that they take turns with anything else of course.

We use time-out frequently here. And we don't always follow the minute per year of age rule. DD can be reasoned with in a short amount of time so 3 minutes works for her. DS on the other hand needs a few minutes to calm down first, then a few minutes to "reflect." Only then can we actually talk with him. For him, we've found that we need to leave the room for those minutes otherwise he never calms down. Which is fine since it gets me to calm down too.

Eye contact is iffy but we've gotten much better with it. We had a therapist tell us that we need to get right in his/her face to encourage them to look at us and use our hands/fingers and keep drawing them towards our nose during the conversation. The kids almost always automatically follow the moving object so you are then bringing their eyes back to you. (Visualize field sobriety test of touching your nose with your finger )

Despite this, I very often feel that I'm on the verge of losing it completely and have frequently been in tears. Oh wait, that happens about once a month - go figure! Admittedly, I try to hand the reins of discipline over to DH during that time of the month since I'm likely to be much more unreasonable.

I've not tried it yet myself but would like to work on it - trying to whisper instead of yell. I've heard it works wonders, that it encourages your kids to actually listen to you since they must work to hear you. I think there would also be quite an adjustment period (for everyone) as the kids wouldn't associate whispering with discipline for a period of time.

Sorry to write a whole book here - just really wanted to commiserate with you as I feel I'm struggling myself. Age 3 is just so hard. Give yourself as many time-outs as you need. I've been known to lock myself in the bathroom for a couple minutes to practice deep-breathing exercises and force a happy smile on my face.
peacechief's Avatar peacechief
05:24 PM Liked: 0
#5 of 23
07-31-2008 | Posts: 311
Joined: Mar 2006
I had to write too, I'm so sorry, it is so miserable to be in that place. I actually came across your post randomly while sitting at my computer crying because I just totally went off at one of my sons and feel so frustrated and like a terrible mom - so many of the things that you wrote. And it's not by far the first time. What you wrote about going along for a while being fine and then going through a period of being so frustrated and at odds sounds so similar to me. I've got 17 mo old twin boys and in general they are great kids. But sometimes it seems like both of them decide that they are going to spend a few days pushing every single one of my buttons as many times as they can and then not take a nap. And somehow it always seems to be when I'm already feeling so desperate for a break that I'm really close to my breaking point and they just push me over the edge. And no matter how much I know and remind myself that they're not doing it to piss me off (though when they are jumping up and down in their cribs laughing and shrieking when I tell them through tears that I need them to lay down and go to sleep, it sure seems like it)... Even though I know they are just trying to figure things out, or just doing something that is fun to them, it doesn't really help in the moment.

I end up feeling like such a bad mom and worrying that I'm going to scar them (not to mention the fear that their first words will be swear words...) because I flip out like that... I try to apologize once I've cooled down and try to explain to them (even while I'm yelling, if possible) that I love them and I'm just very very frustrated because x, etc. I don't know that they understand any of it. (which is part of what's so frustrating - because they're not talking, I really have no idea how much they are able to understand, which is sometimes what frustrates me so much, sometimes it feels like talking to a brick wall) It's at least practice for when they do understand...

I don't really know what to tell you for how to not yell anymore, because I don't know how to not yell at my boys sometimes. But I really really can understand.
Evan&Anna's_Mom's Avatar Evan&Anna's_Mom
05:30 PM Liked: 430
#6 of 23
07-31-2008 | Posts: 4,388
Joined: Jun 2003
Any parent who says they don't get angry with their kids at least occassionally, especially in the toddler/preschooler age is, IMHO, either in denial or flat out lying (or should share their meds/drugs). Kids that age do irritating things. I think that age is especially hard because we expect them to act "older" than they are probably capable of.

That said though, we are the adults and should be expected to control the way we show and react to being angry. One of our key jobs at this age, I think, is to model good "anger management".

We also need to do everything we can to modify the environment to ease as much of the inherent stress as possible. So, start by looking at the basics -- are you both getting enough sleep? If not, how to change that? Good food at regular intervals? You too -- not just child! Enough time alone? Enough time with partner? "Enough" means something very different for different people, but I think its one that we often don't meet. Read a good book lately? Found a way to have at least occassional sex? Some sort of exercise? All of those basics help us keep our reactions to appropriate levels and expressions and when I regularly feel myself ready to lose it with the kids I can be certain something on that list is out of balance.
Magella's Avatar Magella
07:51 PM Liked: 27
#7 of 23
07-31-2008 | Posts: 2,445
Joined: Apr 2004

When we're going through a rough patch here and I'm getting angry often, I find it helps to remind myself (going so far as to hang up reminders) to 1) Put the relationship first (getting too focused on behavior and wanting my child's behavior to change just makes more anger--I need to focus on what kind of relationship I want us to have first) and 2) Be the change I wish to see (so, model the behavior I would like to see in my child).

Self-care is so very important to being able to care for our children and to be able to manage anger in a healthy way. I really love a book called Time Out For Parents: A Guide to Compassionate Parenting by Cheri Huber. It's a quick, easy read all about caring for ourselves so that we're able to be gentle with our children. It has some nice ideas.

When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don't blame the lettuce. You look into the reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or our family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and arguments. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change. -Thich Nhat Hanh
eta: Your child is the lettuce, and so are you. So no blaming yourself or beating yourself up.
woodstar's Avatar woodstar (TS)
09:38 PM Liked: 0
#8 of 23
07-31-2008 | Posts: 254
Joined: Sep 2005
thanks so much for all the great responses! they are all so true and helpful! they really hit home...thank you thank you! gosh, you know, sometimes when the moment has passed it seems so trivial. i mean, really how terrible can my 3 year-old be? of course he can test me constantly, but truthfully i think he is just trying to reach out and is frusturated since i am constantly on his case. i mean, how would i feel if i kept trying to 'live' and explore and someone kept correcting me and telling me to stop what i was doing. ugh. he is so smart and curious. i know that i need to have some undivided attention with him daily. he thrives on it. it completely breaks my heart when i start to feel like he is on my last nerve. it is so weird. how could i feel like that? i love him so much!

lately too, dh is working all the time. some weeks, we he may not even see him at all.

anyway, tonight dh was home and i was able to spend a couple of hours alone with my crazy 3 year old! it was so fun. he helped with dinner, and then we played games on pbskids.org. wow! sometimes he amazes me.

hopefully, we can start fresh tomorrow. he is already asleep (he went to bed at 7 !), since he has fought a nap for two days.

thanks again! oh, i love the quote!!
TortelliniMama's Avatar TortelliniMama
09:54 PM Liked: 0
#9 of 23
07-31-2008 | Posts: 1,401
Joined: Mar 2004
I've realized recently that a lot of my difficulty with feeling true anger at ds started around the time he became an age I can remember being (starting around 3 1/2 or so). It seems like now that he's old enough that I can remember my childhood at that point, I've been slipping more easily into the patterns of how I was raised. I'm certainly not doing everything like they did, but when I'm under stress, my mind just slips into the paths that were set up when I was the one in the child role. At times, I grasp a bit of rationality and ask myself, "Why are you so angry about this?", and I've realized that the deep down answer is, "Because I'm supposed to be." Part of me has internalized that anger at kid behavior is what you're supposed to feel.

It's ironic, because I was so proud of how easy it was for me to be a totally different parent than my parents were. And it was easy for awhile. Now it's taking more effort. I like to remind myself that if I'm improving on my parents' model, then my kids will be even a bigger improvement when they're parents.

I'm trying to read Parenting from the Inside Out, which I think talks about this. I don't really know, though, because I keep getting through the first chapter, then having to put it down, then losing track of the book, then eventually finding it, then finally finding more time to read, and having to start over because I've forgotten it.
Thompson'sMommy's Avatar Thompson'sMommy
11:15 PM Liked: 0
#10 of 23
07-31-2008 | Posts: 360
Joined: Jul 2006
Mine goes in cycles too. I think it must be a 3 yeral old thing! man it makes me crazy!
mama_mojo's Avatar mama_mojo
11:23 PM Liked: 10
#11 of 23
07-31-2008 | Posts: 710
Joined: Jun 2005
Three is really hard. I am also in the threes for the third time, and I also think it's the hardest age. They are not "socialized" yet, but they are fully social. They do not know/understand the "rules", but it's our job to teach them. We do not run in traffic, hit mama, knock over glasses, eat sugar from the bowl, fill the bathroom floor with water, etc. And at three, it seems my kids have been able to quick cycle from one bad idea to the next without giving me a breather.

Three is a hard age, and it's hard for them, too.

So, what are we to do?

Well, I just re-instituted the nap, and I already see a difference in my 3 yo, mostly in the form of resilience; she can recuperate easily from small offenses or injuries.

I cuddle her more, especially when we're having a bad day. If it's really hairy, I do it passively by slinging her on my back.

I put her in the bath when I'm ready to cook dinner.

I don't shower her with attention; she seems to get overwhelmed by too many eyeballs fixed on her for too much of the day. OTOH, I give her lots of my presence. I'm just with her, and I welcome her to be with me, as long as we can be agreeable.

Good luck! I repeat- three is a hard age.
Surfacing's Avatar Surfacing
11:28 PM Liked: 32
#12 of 23
07-31-2008 | Posts: 6,633
Joined: Jul 2005
Originally Posted by mama_mojo View Post
Three is really hard.
Also with a 3 y.o. here and yes, commiserating.

So when does it get better?
mama_mojo's Avatar mama_mojo
11:39 PM Liked: 10
#13 of 23
07-31-2008 | Posts: 710
Joined: Jun 2005
Originally Posted by Emese'sMom View Post
Also with a 3 y.o. here and yes, commiserating.

So when does it get better?

Somewhere between 5 and 7, I felt like I was seeing the person I met when each of my older two were born. I haven't met my third one again; she's still three.
One_Girl's Avatar One_Girl
01:50 PM Liked: 2767
#14 of 23
08-01-2008 | Posts: 4,668
Joined: Feb 2008
This is how three was for me. I think it was because my expectations were way to high and I was going through a divorce on top of that. When dd was about three and a half I readjusted my expectations. It sound like you might be expecting way to much from him. Explanations about behavior at this point should be short and should not contain a lot of moral talk. A child also doesn't need to look at you for you to know they hear you and if you spend a lot of time trying to be looked at and having a power battle over that he may become focused on that issue and forget the one before it. All of the things you describe are really normal. Three year olds are trying to get a sense of who they are and what they can do, they have a mind of their own and they now really know it, they are a little interested in friends but not in sharing much, and they are also trying to adjust with higher expectations and less patience for toddler like behaviors that they are still used to using. It is a hard age, I took more breaks for myself when dd was three than I did in all the other ages combined because it was a very hard age to cope with for both of us. You are not alone in finding three hard.

If you think that you are expecting to much and the problem may be stemming from you then you should explore that and what you can do to change your expectations. Sometimes kids act out because they can't cope with expectations so that would be a good starting place. You will get through this and get to four and five and things do start to ease up a bit as kids get older and more capable of meeting higher expectations.
woodstar's Avatar woodstar (TS)
09:14 PM Liked: 0
#15 of 23
08-01-2008 | Posts: 254
Joined: Sep 2005
everyone is so right on. i am expecting too much from him, and from myself. i envision this perfect arrangement....always have. if i am not living up to my expectations, i feel like a failure and that carries through to my parenting. once i forgive myself and look forward, i am easier on my children and find it much easier to connect.

i am sure every parent does things that aren't ideal. i do definitely apologize for my own outbursts and unreasonable behavior. this is one thing i know to be good, since my little man almost always comes to me after an 'incident' and apologizes for his behavior....too much for my heart!
Deir's Avatar Deir
09:26 PM Liked: 12
#16 of 23
08-01-2008 | Posts: 1,277
Joined: Aug 2005
couldyou have pms? I know this sounds weird but I definitely think my ds is so in tune with my emotions god and bad. He often seems to turn it up just onthe days when I feel least able to deal approiately. Also- at 3, maybe you are saying too much. Simple direction, few words, not so much emphasis on feelings and reasoning is helpful.
mamalisa's Avatar mamalisa
11:12 PM Liked: 1079
#17 of 23
08-01-2008 | Posts: 8,312
Joined: Sep 2002
Three year olds are brutal. I hated 3 with ds and it looks like dd is going to be the same way. Opinionated, indecisive, independent, needy, obstinate, bossy, stubborn, smart and full of joy, discovery and wonder.

I'm exhausted by noon almost everyday. Today I made her dinner with her standing right next to me telling me what to put on her plate. As I handed it to her it had ketchup, as asked for, that was no longer acceptable. She screamed, I wanted to cry. I'm 35 years old, bullied by an almost 3 year old. Sigh
eastkygal's Avatar eastkygal
12:41 PM Liked: 12
#18 of 23
08-02-2008 | Posts: 2,662
Joined: Feb 2006
Originally Posted by mamalisa View Post
Opinionated, indecisive, independent, needy, obstinate, bossy, stubborn, smart and full of joy, discovery and wonder.
Yes, this describes my DD1 to a tee. I'm thankful for this post because I just posted under Personal Growth that I think I'm ruining my DD. I'm healing from my second unexpected c-section (eventhough I thought I was doing everything to avoid it), trying to heal emotionally from the experiences, coming to terms with never giving birth vaginally, raising a new baby along with my 3 year old, moving to a cabin off-grid, getting reacquainted with my own mother whom I've had a strained relationship with for years, and trying to be patient. I'm just not being successful at juggling all these things right now. My big issue is patience. I've never had it. I'm one that will watch a pot come to boil and stress about how long it is taking. I'm not too zen. It is a character flaw, which causes bad things to manifest in my parenting - yelling. Now, I'm seeing DD start to yell more. She had such a sweet nature before... so calm. Now, I'm wondering if I ruined it forever.

Anyway, Dr. Phil said something the other day that really caught me. He was talking about the power in our names. For example: You are a (last name) and we don't talk in a disrespectful way to others. I kind of like that thought... not only for DD, but for myself. I changed my last name to my husband's when I married, and now I can use that to break the curse of constantly yelling at our children. I am a (last name) and we don't yell at our children. One way to do a timeout.

Anyway, you are not alone. Thanks for posting this. I have so enjoyed reading the responses you've gotten.
woodstar's Avatar woodstar (TS)
02:52 PM Liked: 0
#19 of 23
08-05-2008 | Posts: 254
Joined: Sep 2005
eastkygal, it sounds like you have way too much going on! whew. stress.

i hope things settle down for you soon. feeling guilty over your parenting makes your parenting worse i think. i did that for so long, thinking about what i did yesterday or worrying about ruining ds forever. one thing that does help me is to apologize and move on. obviously trying to change the wrong behavior of mine ;-). if you can find some one on one time with dd, you will also feel better. it is important to reconnect whenever possible.

i like the name thing, too. good idea.

Deir- yes, i really do think what you said is right on. pms, yes. and i do need to use simple direction.

Opinionated, indecisive, independent, needy, obstinate, bossy, stubborn, smart and full of joy, discovery and wonder - ha!!! totally!
gwynthfair's Avatar gwynthfair
12:10 AM Liked: 11
#20 of 23
08-09-2008 | Posts: 948
Joined: Mar 2006
If it occurs in cycles, have you considered that it might be related to your cycle?

Every month, related to my menstrual cycle, I get very depressed, moody and emotional, sometimes for weeks at a time. I have hormonal issues. My DD is always affected by this...unfortunately.
Binx67's Avatar Binx67
01:39 AM Liked: 44
#21 of 23
08-10-2008 | Posts: 54
Joined: Nov 2007
i have also noticed a correlation with my cycle and dd's stubborn streaks. last week, for instance, was sheer torture for both of us and i thought it would never end. this week is a completely different story.

it wouldn't surprise me if there isn't more to this theory given how physically and spiritually interconnected we are with our little ones.
msiddiqi's Avatar msiddiqi
03:16 AM Liked: 0
#22 of 23
08-10-2008 | Posts: 757
Joined: Apr 2005
Originally Posted by woodstar View Post
feeling guilty over your parenting makes your parenting worse i think.
Most definitely... I'm right there with all of you. My 3yo is a very sweet boy but he totally knows how to push my buttons. But guilt makes it so much worse. My uncle said to me once, that guilt is a useless emotion. If you don't like something, fix it, but leave the guilt behind. I really am trying to implement that and it definitely helps. I don't know about the rest of you but for me guilt leads to more anger.
I have noticed that when I imagine DS to be like any other friend of mine I speak to him in a more adult manner and calmer tone.. he seems to understand a lot better. I keep reminding myself that he is my friend and I need to speak to him with sincerity and respect, while letting him know how I feel as well.
Seems to work 50% of the time. I have actually gone as far as repeating it to DS and myself that we are friends because ultimately that is what I want our relationship to be.
macca's Avatar macca
09:49 AM Liked: 0
#23 of 23
08-10-2008 | Posts: 197
Joined: Jan 2006
3 has been the most difficult age so far. I thought I was lucky to miss the so-called Terrible Twos, but DD has made up for it in a big way
Reply Subscribe Gentle Discipline
Powered by vBadvanced CMPS v3.2.3