Losing Patience and Yelling
I am in my 2nd trimester and I have a 2 1/2 half year old aswell. I am losing it, it's very unlike me to yell or raise my voice. I pride myself on being CALM. Between my husband and my son I am losing it DAILY. My husband and I are at each others throats all the time. The little time I see him when he's not working we are fighting. I have started therapy for myself but my husband won't go. I have lots of reservations about the second child as my husband doesn't do a heck of alot around the house. And I barely can go to the bathroom by myself, alone time is a joke. I know i'm not alone out there, but does any one have words of wisdom for me. THX ANON
My main words of wisdom are to keep up the therapy. At least, that's what seems to be the only saving grace for me right now. I am in almost exactly your situation and my therapist has been a savior.
Things that have helped so far:
- letting myself take a break (even if that means letting things go around the house or letting my husband take care of our 2-year old in not exactly the way I would like him to).
- noticing the connection between my moods/anger/sleep/eating/drinking. It hasn't helped everything, but now when I start to feel angry I also ask myself if I've taken time to eat and drink.
- giving myself ''time-outs'' to think about what's really making me angry. Sometimes I start reciting in my head the ''I statement'' formulas they teach in communication classes. Sometimes, by the time I've formulated an I-statement, I'm not as angry - at least for a few minutes!
These things all seem to work best with the anger that I direct at my husband. I don't know what to do when I've had it with the 2-year old. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I work almost full-time, so my time with her is limited. That gives me a break from her, but then I also add guilt to my anger because I'm not treasuring every minute with her.
hope something in here helps for you! I just keep reminding myself that I wasn't like this before so this can't go on forever! (right??) - hot-headed mama
My husband and I have been together almost 6 years, and our son is almost 4. We also have another baby on the way. Absolutely everyone I know would characterize my husband as the best father in the world, and he is -- very hands on, funny, attentive, silly, and loving. But lately, maybe due to some work stress, I've noticed him yelling a lot more. He seems to fly off and raise his voice much more easily than he used to, often several times a day. I've mentioned it a few times over the past couple of weeks, both because I think it sets a bad example and because our son seems to be becoming immune to it, which I find disturbing. I'm certainly not perfect, but I really try not to yell. Any advice? By the way, I believe there to be zero likelihood of physical manifestations of this frustration, as there has never been even a hint of violence in 6 years.
prefer a quieter response
I think I know what it is! It's all your son's fault actually. Almost-4 is The Worst. It was right around that age that I became extremely frustrated with my daughter. While I don't consider myself to have a huge temper, I started to question my parenting style when some of the 4 year-old-style fearless defiance started. I know we're all cozy-modern- mindful parents and all, but when I realized that no amount of anger on my part evoked any level of fear in my daughter, I have to say I *wished* for a bit of that good ole' scary parent- scared kid relationship. I did some yelling. I may have then managed to read a couple of chapters of a parenting book (the first couple of chapters of How to Talk so your Kids will Listen... are good the first 4 or 5 times, but I never get any farther in the book), but mostly I had to get through a not-so-long tough spell with my kid before returning to my usual sanguine-cozy-modern-mindful self. Keep talking to your partner. This too shall pass. Katie
I have often seen that men tend to mask their feelings of shame/inadequacy with the use of insults and/or yelling at their loved ones. Instead of feeling that uncomfortable feeling, they tend to lash it out toward others. It's great that you are pointing out this problem to him and are reminding him that he is the main role model for being a male for your children. You mention that you have a new baby on the way and that he is experiencing work difficulties. Both of these are top stressors for men. Perhaps these events are triggering some unresolved issues from his past. From your brief description, you might make a great candidate for couples counseling (early stage of issues, an ability to see his strengths, non-violent) or you might encourage his to find a ''male friendly'' therapist for himself. You can probably search past BPN archives for recommendations/names in your area. Another search tool that is good is Psychology Today where you can do a zip code search. I also recommend any book by John Gottman on marriage. I find it is approachable for both men and women. Best of luck Amy
I have noticed my husband doing the same. My husband is also what everybody calls a ''great dad'' (and I agree with that assessment). For some reason, now that our older son is 4 and has starting acting up (up until now he was very well behaved) my husband seems to respond to our child's tantrums in ways that are not constructive (yelling, threatening, using corporal language that is anything but friendly). I'm not sure if this is the same situation with your husband or the yelling relates to other factors, but here go my 2 cents: We just recently talked with our son's preschool teacher, and she mentioned that the fact that my husband tends to yell more while I try to be more flexible and tend to stay calmer may relate to the way we were raised. We talked about where each of us were coming from, and she suggested we needed to find a common strategy to deal with the problem. She had other suggestions like trying to give as many options as we could, picking our battles, trying to explain to him why certain things could not be done, etc. I think that just having the opportunity to talk about this with someone who knows our child so well was sort of therapeutic. In any case, I have found that since our chat with the teacher my husband has been yelling a lot less. I guess my suggestion would be to maybe have this kind of talk with either a professional (child's teacher, therapist, etc.) or a friend who can act as a sounding board.
Also trying to find ways to keep a low noice home
There was a woman at Richmond Kaiser who taught a great anger managememnt class. You don't have to be a Kaiser member to take it. My husband took it and got a lot out of it (as did I cuz I'm not perfect). It is for your average person who has anger issues that they'd like to address. It is not for folks ordered by the courts to take a class. The class met for a few weeks in the evenings. It is a great way for folks who have challenges dealing with their anger to feel better about themselves and it also lessens the fear that spouses have of their partner getting out of control. You should be able to find archieved posts on this on BPN. Anon.
My husband is good with our 11-month old when he plays with him or basically whenever our son is in a good mood. But when our baby is fussy, cries or shrieks, my husband is very impatient. Our baby's shriek is piercing and my husband gets very irritated when he hears it. I have seen him yell in a very deep, loud voice at our child to stop it. Our baby then cries and is frightened. It has reduced me to tears as well. I am so disturbed by this, and although we have discussed it, my husband just claims to be irritated and have no patience for the shrieking. I don't know what to do because I've stayed home for a year as the primary caretaker (I love caring for our son!) but am scheduled to return to work in 2 days -- we need my income to afford our house. It's only part-time, but my husband will be picking him up from daycare 3 days a week. I'm horrified at the prospect of our wonderful, sensitive child having his spirit broken by my husband's yelling. What can I do?? I've even considered divorce (although I do love my husband) but I'm not totally convinced that that's the best thing for our family either. Can anyone offer any constructive solutions? I would do anything to resolve this and feel better about my husband's interactions with our son. Thank you. distraught parent
Without you there, the risk is too great to leave your child with your husband when he has demonstrated anger-out-of-control even in your presence. My father was such an angry father and it took me most of my life to recover from his truly terrorist behavior, if indeed I have. What you describe is not being ''impatient'', this is a man in need of anger management and a child who desperately needs his mother's protection. Your job and house are NOTHING AT ALL compared to your child's mental health, and maybe even physical safety. anon
My advice is based on the fact that my husband often expresses his anger inappropriately by yelling. More often he yelled at me or some situation other than the kids, but our kids saw this and were frightened. My advice to you is to find a time when your husband is willing to talk about this (when your child is not present or awake), acknowledge that parenting can get frustrating and make us feel at our wits end, explain, however, that the way he expresses his anger is upsetting you and your child, that it is inappropriate and that you need him to find a way to change the way he responds in those frustrating situations.
There are some good anger management classes for men who are not wife-beaters (check the index), and there are some good books (you might want to look at The Dance of Anger). Most importantly, in my opinion, if your husband does not show any inclination of changing, give him an ultimatum and stick to it. I give this last piece of advice, seeing the insidious way my husband's outbursts have affected my kids (they love their Dad dearly, but can sense in an instant when he is getting frustrated and act either fearfully or try to mollify him -- both bad reactions), and wishing that I had clearly and unequivocally stated that his behavior was inappropriate and if he didn't work to change it, I would divorce him. I wish you luck. Anon
I have found Non-violent communication to really help in my parenting. If your husband would be willing, the tools in NVC can help him to have self-empathy which can really help him to calm down when the baby is crying (or to remove himself and meet his needs in order to calm down). Also, NVC can help him to empathize with the baby in those moments so that the crying doesn't seem like a demand, just the baby trying to meet his needs. Check out the website: www.cnvc.org
They have classes and practice groups in the bay area. There will be an introduction to NVC for Parents on Wednesday, April 9th from 7:30 to 9pm at Epworth United Methodist Church. call 654-5260 for more info. Susan Empathetically Yours
You sound like a very loving and protective Mom and I understand your concern about the yelling. You mention that you have talked to your husband about this and although he has explained why he's doing this I'm not clear on how he feels about his behavior. As a yeller I know that I am not happy about my behavior and I am working on changing it through reading and therapy.
My guess is that if he is okay with it there is little hope he will change. On the other hand if he feels bad about it then it is possible that he can use this as a opportunity to nip this in the bud before it 1) escalates into something worse or 2) happens more often as your child goes through the irritating and patience stretching developmental stages that define childhood. (In other words - if your husband finds your child irritating now, wait until he is 2 or 3 years old and can shriek at the same time he is endangering himself and wrecking your stuff! Such joy.)
So, let's look at both possibilities: 1) He feels okay about the yelling and does not intend to change. I seriously doubt that your child's spirit will be crushed by a loud gruff voice. Bruised maybe, but ''broken'' is a bit melodramatic. There are lots of loud, gruff people in the world and at some point your little darling will encounter them. He'll survive. So, you have to ask yourself how it makes you feel. If this behavior makes you unhappy (as you have said) and your husband is not willing to at least try to change it then I think you need to question his commitment to the relationship and deal with this as a marital issue and not a parenting issue. That doesn't necessarily mean you should leave him but he needs to know what you are and aren't willing to put up with.
2) He feels bad about the yelling or concerned that it might lead to worse and would like to change his behavior. Now you can help him to deal with this as a parenting issue. I don't have a magic pill for him to take but there are many avenues for trying to improve one's parenting skills. There are books, classes, counselors, etc. A person should pick the type of thing that works for them personally. This type of learning can be a great source of personal growth.
My approach on this is to try to think of it as though my kids are giving me an opportunity for self-improvement. Its not easy and it is a constant work in progress but fortunately I have a very supportive spouse.
Finally, keep in mind that you are going through a huge and emotional transition right now as you return to work. Its natural that you are feeling especially protective but know that this is the first of many steps you will take in 'letting' go and trusting others with your child. This is very hard emotionally and you should demand support (i.e. love and respect for your wishes and concerns) from your husband during this time. take care
Earplugs or noise reduction headphones might help your husband. When my son yells I feel like I am being physically attacked because I am so sensitive to noise. Using earplugs has really helped me. I'm much more relaxed and can attend much better to him when he is screaming. --Not Loosing Hearing Anymore
Has your partner read any parenting books? Before doing something as drastic as divorce maybe you should consider forcing him to read one. The most helpful one might be ''Becoming the parent you want to be'' by Keyser and Davis. My husband too, has bad temper issues, maybe twice a year. When that happens I very calmly and coldly tell him to go take a brake somewhere else. I also tell him (not in front of the kids!) that I deal with the our 3 kids all day and I don't have any interest in dealing with an adult who behaves like one. I will never let him get away with it, ever. We talk about it after and every time he has said that he was sorry. The reason I am not letting him get away with it is that I fear his reactions could escalate. The truth is that there are stages in child development that can absolutely get on our nerves but it is our responsibility and duty to behave like respectful adults to our children. good luck
The kind of yelling you describe is abuse and like most domestic abuse it will probably get worse with time. If your husband is comfortable with treating an infant that way, how do you think he'll respond to the terrible twos (or a lying six-year old, or a junior-high smart mouth, etc.)?
I know a thing or two about just how horrible this kind of abuse can be because my sisters and I grew up being terrorized by our father who used screaming and yelling as a daily parenting technique. We often wished he'd hit us so that we could get some help. He never touched us so we didn't qualify as abused.
Look at the long years in front of you and your baby. Do you want them filled with pain and fear? You're right to look for a solution now. Hopefully all he needs is counseling. A little father-training may fix everything.
Remember, if a stranger in a supermarket yelled at your child how would you respond? You'd get your baby away! That's how you should respond to your husband. You'll be glad you're dealing with this now and not in 10 years. anon
Oh lord! I feel for you. I come from the same back ground and it is a torture and a heartbreak. Here are my techniques: when I feel like yelling, I found it effective to use ways of interacting with my kid that allow me to release the intense energy in body at the same time as being fairly playful. For instance I use a growly HAHAHA and scoop him up and wisk him around in the air. He thinks both the verbalization and the wisk is tremendous fun. He is now immitating the growly hahaha as a way to have fun. I also do a fairly loud habloodabahbleehafooeygosha!!! which he also thinks is funny. I'm still sort of yelling (and still feel crummy inside) but when he starts smiling then so do I. I found that I need to verbalize and to do something active with my body to release the tension, so if I do it big and loud but silly and goofy it accomplishes the task. (its better to be known as a crazy fun mom than the notorious mom). I also am VERY VERY clear with myself that I don't want my kid to grow up in the fashion that I did. That helps me to stay on track even though it is REALLY trying at times. Also, I constantly check in with myself about how tired and hungery I am. If I can't handle him, or don't have any patience I take a few minutes or a short break to take care of me before I tackle the kid challange. The kids can play by themselves for a little while. lastly, I remind myself that most of my frustration comes from wanting to control him rather than guide him as my mom did. I have to remind myself that our Kids are here to explore and do things their way and it is our job to make sure they are safe in their actions. If I look into his eyes and feel how precious he is to me and remember why I welcomed him into this world in the first place, then i remember to lighten up and create a space for him to have a happy childhood.
It is a constant practice to change yelling behavior. If you can get some support from your partner or a therapist that helps too. Bottom line: You have built up energy in your body. If you find positive ways to release it when you are with your kids then you can still be frustrated, but they won't have a negative, scarry, or confusing experience.
best of luck and keep trying every moment. Your kids and YOU deserve it! Jennifer
Having two kids under 3, especially if they are not twins, is worth yelling about! Seriously, do not let guilt about yelling build up--it will just lead to a cycle of more yelling. Once in a while, there is going to be yelling at this stage in particular. It DOES NOT mean that your kids will grow up in a family of yellers or that you will continue yelling throughout their childhoods. Nor will they be damaged--they yell often enough don't they? Try to do things to relax, make sure you are getting help from your spouse (I yell more when I feel I am being taken advantage of), and over time, it should get better. Right now you are in the stage of maximum drudgery and frustration. As your kids get older, there are many more ways to communicate that do not involve yelling (as in: no TV, no nintendo whatever if your room isn't cleaned up, etc. In fact, one important tip from someone who has been there--if you always live up to your threats, and teach them from day one that the word no is not negotiable, that rules are not mutable, your life will be a million times easier. Don't brook negotiation. When I say to my kids that there will be no nintendo for a week, they know that is going to happen and they do not argue. It is never to early to start teaching them that you mean what you say. It also means that you should not make idle threats!). Do as much as you can over time to help your kids learn, when they are ready, how NOT to push you past the breaking point -- everybody has one, and you are just human. Get lots of sleep, read humorous books about parenting, accept the fact that you are in a rough parenting patch and it will pass.
One caveat: I am talking about short yelling that occurs once in a while, not regular, abusive, insulting, degrading nasty stuff as is described in one of these other discussions. If you are being abusive get help.
One other caveat: There are points in child development where forms of deafness develop that require addressing the child in a VERY LOUD VOICE indeed. Their ear canals get clogged up by growth hormones or something.
Boy, parenting can be excruciatingly painful sometimes. Call the Parental Stress Service crisis line or hotline (they're in the phone book). They have counselors on call to talk you through just these situations and to help you diffuse your anger and frustration before you act on it. I was able to stop some very negative behavior towards my young son with their right-in-the-moment help and some one-on-one therapy. PSS also has therapists available for regular therapy sessions. They were a godsend to me when my son was very little and I've called them once since he's become a teenager. I highly recommend this service.
I recommend reading Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen and taking a class based on this book taught by Barbara Hornsleth-Croizat, (510) 526-0068. We did this and it really helped. Rita
For a good book that covers this, see my posting in the digest your posting appeared in re Rudolph Dreikurs's Children: the Challenge. If the yelling starts after the cildren ignore repeated requests then you will have to come up with strategies for making the children respond earlier. In general, to stop talking and start acting: taking them by the hand and leading them where you want them to go; walking away yourself and letting them see that you mean what you say, or whatever fits the situation (sometimes just letting them ignore you and letting them see the natural consequence of their dwaddling). I applaud you for remembering the effect such behavior had on you as a child and wanting to do something about it. Fran
It takes courage to admit that you are doing something you don't want to do. You are not alone, there are many parents who feel the same way.
A few things I can suggest:
1. Watch and see what triggers your yelling. Keep a log of time of day, what happened right before, and how you were feeling. It's also very important to look at what needs of yours are not being met. I know when I yell it's often that I'm frustrated about something other than what my child has just done or said.And other times it's that I'm tired or just feeling unsure of what to do.
2. A very good book is When Anger Hurts Your Kids by Matt McKay. It helps you understand more about the consequences of yelling a lot and also helps you see how your child's behavior may be normal for her temperament and age
3. There are many good anger management classes. Kaiser does a good one. I would also like to invite you to attend the free classes that I teach...they start September.6th at Kaiser in Richmond. They will be on Thursdays from 6:30-8:30PM. There are many parents who are struggling to find ways to get their children to do what they want them to do without yelling or hitting. Understanding your temperament and yours child's may be an important part of your wish to change. Unlike some parents, you already have made the important step of knowing that you want to do something different. Good luck.
Look at how much more open to change you are than your own parents! Our children provide the BEST opportunity to undo old and inherited behaviors. (The little teacher theory.) When you catch yourself losing it, be sure you do not malign your precious offspring, only the behavior that you find irritable. Suggest an alternative behavior. No name-calling! If you catch yourself, STOP right away, and say something aloud, like oh, mommy has chosen the wrong words; let me try that again. Show them you CAN self-correct and then be compassionate. Talk about it with them -a little later- to find out how scary you were. Call a warm line or a child abuse hotline. Keep those numbers on the phone. Our children will learn coping behaviors when their peers and other unruly adults get threatening. We have to give them a safe start. (The womb was good.) Being home and in your presence should feel emotionally safe for them. Where else can they go, really? You're the mom. Jennifer
I came from a family where sudden and angry yelling was fairly common, and it also took me quite a bit of work to avoid following in the same pattern, at least most of the time.
My approach has been to try to identify what were the circumstances when I would loose patience, in my case was when I felt rushed, so I tried to allow more time than I needed for anything I did which involved my child also - well, sometime I didn't have much of a choice being a sigle mom, but that's another story. Any time I could, I tagged on those 5-10 extra minutes in the planning which helped a lot.
The other thing I did was to learn to recognize when I was on the verge of yelling and remember how I felt when I was a child. That helped a lot too.
Lastly I tried to see to identify areas in my life from which frustration was spilling in my impatience with my kid and make whatever change I could.
Did that stop my yelling completely? No, it didn't. Did I yell less? Yes, definetely - a lot less-, and my easiness increased as I got better at recognizing 'yelling moments' and plan to avoid them and my kid's age increased.
My heart goes out to you. I too come from a family of yellers and hitters, who were very emotionally abusive, and there is nothing more wrenching than thinking you are replicating that pattern. My ideas:
How often do you yell? Once in a while or several times a day? If it's only occasionally, give yourself a little room to be human and don't feel horribly guilty. Recognize we all have room to grow as parents and humans. If it's more often, get into therapy as soon as possible. There are reasons that this happens, and you don't have to blame yourself, but need to find out why. There are lots of good therapists out there who can really help you with this.
Do you apologize to your kids after you yell? It can mend the relationship. Sometimes I don't think it's the occasional loss of control on the part of the parent that's the problem, it's the refusal to acknowledge it. I think children really appreciate when adults take the time to apologize. It helps all of us realize that we are not perfect. My children, even from a young age, can help identify what goes wrong and have ideas about how to do things differently.
Watch how your kids behave. Do they seem frightened? Or are they basically ok? My younger daughter has a much higher tolerance for yelling than my older one. Consequently, I learned more self-control parenting my older daughter because she broke down so completely every time I yelled. Different temperaments really react differently to the same situation.
When do you yell? When you're alone with them at the end of the long day? I always have more control with other people around, so maybe trying to build more people into the tough times might help, or somehow changing the situations in which you are likely to yell.
The most important thing is realizing that you don't want to reproduce those patterns--and you don't have to. It may be hard, but you can get it under control. What helped for me the most was realizing how depressed I was, and that this was a real ailment, not just a self-control issue. It took several months in therapy and nudging from some close friends and family for me to realize that I had a problem. I'm taking medication now, and I have so much more patience and am so grateful to the people who helped me get where I am now. It's no longer a matter of trying to hold it together when I'm at the breaking point, it's not getting to that point as often. And when you start to get things more under control, hopefully your family can really be there to support you in the changes you are making. It definitely took my husband a while to come around to that point...I had hurt him so much by my irritability...but now he really listens when I say that I need help and that I'm approaching the breaking point.
Good luck. The most important part is that YOU don't want to be that way.
The good thing is that you recognize that you are yelling and that you want to do things differently. This means you know or suspect that there is a better way to handle stressful situations with your children. You are right. There are two steps to a better way of handling conflict. The first is learning some different ways of managing life with your children. The second is paying attention to what you are doing and finding opportunities to try the different ways you have learned about.
The first step is easier. There are a lot of good books on raising children--I don't need to recommend titles; go to the library or bookstore and look for what speaks to you. There are also classes, which I personally got more out of; call Bananas (try the Health & Development warm line, 658-6046); also Rona Renner teaches parenting classes through Kaiser Richmond.
The second step is harder because you have to be conscious of how situations develop that lead to you yelling. It means paying attention to what you and the children and everyone else is doing and thinking about what isn't working well. Then you have to choose a new way of responding and see how that changes the situation. This can be very uncomfortable and also unsuccessful at first. You have to believe in your ability to make positive changes and persist. It's helpful to have someone to support and advise you as you do this because it's easy to get discouraged and lose heart even as you are doing all the right things.
Finally, don't be hard on yourself. You sound like a loving and responsive parent who wants to parent well. I think anyone would be challenged by having two children under age three! Louise
After yelling at my daughter once too aften, I sought medical treatment for depression I have had since forever and that psycotherapy had already helped but not enough to cope with a kid. I am happy to be taking antidepressants and plan to take them indefinetely. I now have the wherewithal to find a solution to a problem that is creative and keeps everyone's feelings and dignity in tact.
I hope I can give you some brief but useful feedback about your situation. I am the mother of a 3 year old and also a therapist. You are not alone in your feelings and in the experience of losing patience and yelling. Most parents experience what you are describing at one time or another. Usually, contributing factors are: sleep deprivation (esp. with 2 kids under 3); feeling helpless and ineffectual in response to trying to get them to do or not do something; being in a reactive vs. proactive mode; and, in some cases, exacerbation by a family history of yellers etc. In addition - often it is a case of needing to let go of control, versus gain more control.
Here are some initial suggestions/tools:
1. When you find yourself being reactive to a scenario in which you feel helpless -- you and your partner probably need to devise a plan so you can move to a proactive position (e.g. toddler complains, whines, cries, wanting to watch more movies/videos than you think are appropriate - come up with a plan/rule and explain it - 1 movie a week, let's put stickers on the calendar on the movie days).
2. Let go of how things should go in a day. Rather than more control, sometimes with children or babies we need to let go of control. In fact it can be the need or urge to control that gets in the way and leads to the anger. (of course this does not apply to issues of child safety)
3. Be patient with yourself and be sure you are getting sleep - nap whenever you can.
4. When you do lose your temper and find yourself yelling - don't beat yourself up - you are after all a human being too. More importantly, in fact essential, is to repair the incident with your kid(s). Apologize, and explain to them you don't think it is OK to yell etc. (whatever explanation and apology works for you). But it is necessary to repair and reconnect after a rupture, not just let it ride.
5. Talk to other parents or find a support group (see NPN etc), you are sure to find yourself with some company and maybe some good suggestions.
Good luck to you. Pamela
Thanks for writing what I could not. My experience is quite similiar except I have only one child and she is 4. I wasn't the victim of verbal abuse but witnessed my father verbally abuse my mother and brother, something I despised him for. There was lots of yelling and it seems to be getting worse at family gatherings now that my mother is on a mission to not take anymore verbal abuse from my father.
I have a very active 4 yr old and can handle things well when I'm not sleep deprived or under a lot of other stress. When I do lose it, I hate myself for it. What's worse is now that she's older I know she remembers each incident and she even tells me she doesn't like it when I'm mad or yell at her. This absolutely crushes me. I have apologized each time I've lost it, but realize my outbursts must be damaging.
I'm curious to hear from other mothers or fathers who have undergone some kind of anger management training either through parenting classes or individual therapy. What I want to know is can one really change. I've been harboring these horrible feelings that it is hopeless and my behavior will eventually alienate my daughter from me.
Not that I'm making excuses for my behavior, but I think there is somewhat of a code of silence amongst moms that leaves many women feeling like everyone else is handling the stresses and strains of family life better than they are. I was quite surprised and somewhat relieved when one of my mother's group meetings evolved into our sharing our worst mothering moments: the harder than necessary arm squeeze, the not so gentle toss into bed, the involuntary hand slap, and the extremely age inappropriate choice of words. What a catharsis.
Being a parent is incredibly wonderful but as we all know it is also incredibly stressful. If our gut response to stress is yelling it quickly gets out of hand, and becomes very frightening for our kids and for us as well. If your family history contains verbal or physical abuse it is extremely hard to break the cycle, but of course it can be done and it must be done. Kudos to you for recognizing that!
Parental Stress Services is a wonderful non-profit organization that can help you. Their hot line phone # is (510) 893-9230. You can be as anonymous as you like. No judgements are made. They have all kinds of resources to hook you up with if you want; parenting classes, lists of helpful books to read, anger management classes, counseling respite care, etc. At the very least call them and talk to a non-judgemental, caring, and trained individual that will LISTEN to you.
The first step in breaking the cycle is recognizing it, now go to step #2 and call Parental Stress Services. Good Luck to you and your children.
One thing to start with might be to apologize after you've lost your temper and discuss the issue with the kids. Mommy's sorry I was mad about this or that and yelled at you. Or Mommy's cranky and needs a nap - I'm sorry I got mad at you. Then, try to stop before you are too tired. Kids are demanding and exhausting. It will take time and awareness to change the yelling pattern, but it can be done. I know a lot of people who feel guilty about this issue. Take care and good luck. Cornelia
Oh boy, can I relate to this one. I've always had a temper and though I manage it quite well with almost everyone, I lose it with my four-year-old daughter. She has a strong personality but is absolutely within the bounds of a normal, loving, expressive preschooler and so I believe the problem is mine to deal with. When she gets on my last nerve, I yell, shout, and occasionally do things I don't want to do or even admit, like slapping her or throwing something (like a hairbrush) across the room as I storm out. We always make up and I have no doubt that she knows I love her, but this is not the behavior I want to model. I finally went to my doctor because I was freaked out about it. I was stunned when my doctor recommended anti-depressants but I was willing to try anything. I have been on them for about 6 weeks and so far I'm a lot more energetic, focused and cheerful, but I'm also having trouble with insomnia and headaches which could be side effects. I haven't stopped blowing up completely but I'm generally in a better humor and come home from work and spend the weekends in a better space to deal with my daughter.
I also asked for a referral to counseling and thankfully my insurance covers 20 visits (though with a $20 co-pay each time). I am working with someone who recommended Dr Weisinger's Anger Work-out Book, which is kind of dated and dorky but offers some useful advice. The counselor has given me one piece of advice I'm already using: Lower the threshold of acceptability. When my kid does something unacceptable, I used to say, three more times and you get a timeout (or whatever consequence is appropriate for the misbehavior). Doc said, she does it once, give her a warning and when she does it again, she gets a timeout. I started this new plan a week ago and it's hard for both of us to adjust to, 'cause I have to be consistent and tough, and she's still used to having four chances to misbehave, but it really helps keep me from getting to the boiling point. I have also monitored when my misbehavior happens, and realized that it's almost always when I'm tired and/or hungry (duh!). So, I'm snacking when she does, moving up bedtime a little each day, and really managing our time and activities so that we don't get caught in the downward spiral at the end of the day. I'm trying hard to give myself the time-out, and also to let my kid know when I'm getting close to losing it. She's old enough that I can let her know when I'm especially tired or cranky and she'll generally work with me to get through our hardest tasks (e.g. teeth!) and occupy herself. I am trying to be creative and easier on myself, too, with approaches like 5 extra minutes of video before bed and I'll brush our teeth on the couch! even though I'm pretty consistent about limiting TV time.
I'm a solo parent, so I don't have a partner to take over when I'm at the breaking point, but I do occasionally ask friends and neighbors to help me out, even if it's coming over for a few minutes to get the PJs on or the teeth brushed! I've also deliberately scheduled more off-duty times for myself and more company for my daughter by having a weekly childcare exchange with friends, and when people offer to babysit for free, I take them up on it enthusiastically (with full-time childcare and a mortgage on a single income, paid babysitting is a very occasional luxury!). Best of luck to you and I admire you for asking for help.
I also grew up in a very yelling home and I also have two kids under 3 (well one of them just turned 3 so I can't quite say that anymore). I wanted to respond because I want to really encourage you to do what you have to do to retrain yourself not to respond to stress by losing control and taking it out on them. I would strongly recommend that if you really feel you are losing control of your anger that you get into therapy. I'm guessing you don't want to become your mother (or whoever was the yeller) and we only have our parents as role models for how to parent, so you really have to work to break that down and recreate a kinder gentler approach. There are a number of therapists in Berkeley who should be able to help you. You might ask around friends for recommendations.
I'm not a therapist but what the hell, I'll give you my two cents based on my experience. You didn't say much about your situation (i.e. if you are working, if your spouse is helpful, etc) but I think there must be some factors that you could adjust to reduce your stress. Because let's face it kids that age are tough but they don't ordinarily do anything that can be helped by yelling and screaming so I guess you are stressed by all the other things that are pressing on you. I find that I start to lose my patience with my kids if I am thinking I'm going to get something else done other than be with them. If I'm thinking, I can unload the dishwasher or make that call or send that email, etc., when they don't cooperate, I get stressed. They know I'm only half there and then they get unhappy which of course makes me unhappy. So, what can you do that will allow you to surrender to your kids? (By surrender I don't mean give up yourself, but just be with them on their level, don't be distracted, pay attention and be in their world) Can you get someone to clean the house so you don't have to think about that, can you get a night out once in awhile so you feel like you have a life? Can you have a sitter occasionally during the day so you can run errands or get a manicure?
Ok, maybe you are already doing all that and it's not about that. I know that I have the tendency to yell (in fact I just yelled at my husband to hurry up and get the kids to the playground so I could have a break and write about not yelling) but for some reason, which I think is my pain from being yelled at, I have a very strict internal rule about not yelling at my kids. (I should make a rule for my husband - that would please him!) I don't yell at them. If I feel like yelling, I take a deep breath, make sure they are safe, and go in another room or in the backyard. I don't want them to fear me or feel that I, the center of their world, is unpredictable, nothing is worth that, as you well know. I choose the battles that are worth being fought and avoid the other ones. If my daughter wants to run around naked and I think it's too cold, but she says she's not cold, fine. If you limit the battles to the really important ones - those that really truly involve their well-being or truly unacceptable behavior, I've found there aren't that many. Also, I have found that the less I lay down the law, the more it is obeyed when I do. Most importantly, laugh, laugh all the time. It's funny when they are both screaming and wanting you and throwing things, it's a cliche of indentured motherhood and so far from your single self, you just have to laugh. Anyway, I hope this helps, and if you haven't been to therapy to process your own childhood already, I think you'll find it difficult but very rewarding and particularly insightful now that it's your turn to be the mommy. Good luck!
You have a self-awareness, an ability to reflect on your behavior and feelings, and are feeling motivated to change things. This means that chances are good that you are not replicating your own childhood experience with your kids. I wonder how overwhelmed you are feeling on a day to day basis. Are you able to have any time to focus just on yourself, e.g., exercise, read, take a bath? Are you able to have regular contact with other parents? Do you belong to a mom's group? Are you able to hire a sitter from time to time so that you can get a break? There is an eight week support/educational group entitled, Raising two under three held at the Marin JCC through A Parents' Place, their parenting support program. It is usually taught by a therapist or psychologist and they have a sliding fee scale. The class focuses on the challenges of raising two kids under the age of three and provides support, advice, etc. If you think that the problem is not simply due to the stressors you are experiencing but a basic problem with the way you handle anger and feelings of lack of control, you might find an anger management class helpful. These teach skills for looking beneath feelings of anger and slowing down your response. I know Kaiser runs these classes, and you don't need to be a member to join (it's just a little more expensive for non-members). Alisa