Thursday, January 22, 2009

I Need A New Attitude

My attitude towards parenting sucks.

Let me explain. I feel like a bad parent. I can't really say I feel like one of the worst parents ever, because my children are alive, fed, unharmed, etc. But they lack training, attention, discipline... Their mom (that'd be me) can't seem to find a balance between wanting to control everything they do and getting frustrated when they don't live up to perfection that I give up and letting them do whatever they want as long as they're not destroying anything or harming themselves or others. And even then, my son (3) picks on my daughter (1) enough and gets away with it because I feel powerless to get him to stop.

I feel like nothing I've done with them works, so I just want to give up. I feel I've already failed and I feel I have no other options besides continuing to fail, because all the things I need to do to succeed take more energy/persistence/determination/patience than I feel I have. If I try to be determined today, I know I will fail tomorrow when I'm tired after doing so much today, and so I'll be inconsistent, and I'll be torturing my kids for nothing... All I can see is failure failure failure.

I've read half a dozen parenting books cover to cover. Logically I know the things I need to be doing. Establish rules and stick to them. Set logical consequences to discipline problems. Teach life skills. Praise a job well done instead of blanket "you're great" praise. Keep food in the kitchen. Put away toys you get out. Introduce my 3 year old to appropriate chores like folding towels or putting napkins on the table for dinner. No hitting, kicking, biting, yelling, or temper-tantrums or you go in the naughty chair for as many minutes as you are old. Keep a regular routine so kids have structure and know what to expect. I'm not STUPID, I'm just...stupid. *hangs head*

I get tired. It seems I'm always tired, no matter how much sleep I've had or how little I've done. And no, I'm not pregnant. I get resentful. I feel sometimes that my life has been invaded by little monsters who don't respect me or care about me enough to not drive me insane and who love to destroy everything and keep me from doing things I want to be doing. And I'm caged here as a slave to the little monsters, and I'll be judged by how well I take care of them. That's not a very good viewpoint if you're trying to inspire love instead of resentment. And then I get depressed because I love my kids and want the best for them and I'm failing them miserably.

So there's the problem. What's the solution? I've had enough experience working away from my kids to be grateful that I'm a stay-at-home mom. Maybe I can try a to-do list... Ha. That's not really working so well. I've read enough parenting books. They all say that I'm at least semi-normal in my feelings, and that I need to take care of myself before I take care of anyone else. So I had a babysitter take kids for an hour and a half today to try to reset my temper, which usually works. I was pretty happy when my kids were gone and I thought of all the things I wanted to do... and then when I went to pick them up my son threw a fit and my babysitter's having trouble with them because my kids always get their way after I've told them "No," so now they expect that "No" means "Pester Mom more until she gives in or completely blows her top."

I've lost my train of thought because my son's bugging me and I can't handle it and I've just thrown his coat across the room because he put it in my face. I can't get myself to behave. How can I get anyone else to behave? I just want everyone to GO AWAY.

Somebody please tell me how to stop being a moron. And if you hand me a book on parenting, I will point out the whole bookshelf I have of them already.


Heidi said...

You're trying to do too much. For a couple of weeks, you need to completely, one hundred percent refocus every bit of your attention and energy on doing what's best for your kids, WHICH INCLUDES GRABBING EVERY BIT OF RELAXATION TIME YOU CAN.

When your kids do something unpleasant or irritating, you have a crossroads, and it's okay to freeze-literally FREEZE-for thirty seconds while you make a conscious decision about what you're going to do. You KNOW what you should do in any situation, so decide to do it, ENVISION YOURSELF DOING IT, decide on a contingency plan in case your first plan doesn't work, and then do it.

Frustration should be a HUGE cue for you. The minute you feel a flare of frustration, BEFORE IT BECOMES ANGER, stop. That very instant, stop and tell yourself, "My emotions are telling me that something about my environment needs to change. What is it that needs to change?" Consider it carefully. Kyle's bugging you with his coat and you start to get irritated--what needs to change? Is his request to go outside legitimate? Then take him outside. Is his request unreasonable? Then he needs to gently be helped to put is coat back where it goes and offered an alternative activity. If he tantrums, then he needs to go in time out. You can rehearse all of this in your head in thirty seconds, and then get up and act on it.

And STOP being so hard on yourself. You had a twisted, twisted childhood and your responses to your kids are HEAVILY preprogrammed into you. It's not productive to get angry at yourself; it's productive to recognize your programming malfunctions and energetically, meticulously, unrelentingly work to change them.

And pray. I know you do that already, but keep doing it.

Heidi said...

I went through a really hard time with my oldest when he was about eighteen months old. He wanted way more attention than I felt I could or should have to give. He was often whiney and I often felt trapped and manipulated by what I felt were unreasonable and monopolizing demands. Then I made myself a rule: whenever he wanted my attention, he got it. The first time, just for asking, no matter how tired, bored, or busy I thought I was.

If he wanted my attention while I was cleaning, I would invite him to help me. Most of the time he loved this (and I now have a three year old who loads the dishwasher after meals), but when he didn't want to help, I would stop what I was doing and just hold him. It was a very non productive two weeks, but it was also strangely relaxing because I had ONE focus, ONE goal, and I was doing it well. And in the end, he became much less clingy, and I think we have a pretty good relationship when it comes to discipline.

(By the way, I'm doing that with my eighteen month old right now. I stopped this post three times because he wanted to show me and get help with something. Make that four times.)

Shay said...

Wow... I don't have much more to say after reading all of Heidi's comments. You know I have my son go to scream time when he is mad, and that is good for parents too. I like to go in my room when I need scream time. I usually am not mad enough to actually scream, but it is a time to unwind, and get my mind back to a non-angry mode. It is a time to calm down and help your mind get in a more rational mode. Because when you are angry, you can't think rationally.

One last thing cause Heidi said a lot of my suggestions... seriously... DON'T WORRY ABOUT US!!! Your babysitters are doing fine. I have had to deal with babysitting since I was nine! I am really ok. My nephew was really rejectionable at one point. He still really is. He is like ten or something now. Even at his age, he is filled with a lot of anger. He only has six sisters and that could be a big part of the problem.

Anyway, I'm talking too much (typing-babbler remember?? lol) I just don't want you to worry about us. Granted, I don't enjoy Kyle's attitude, but I know how to deal with it. I have worked on a lot of the attributes that you say you need at a young age.

Oh, one more suggestion... DON'T try working on more energy, persistence, determination, patience all at once. IT WON'T HAPPEN, and you will feel like a failure. Decide what one you want most first. Work on that one until you can do it. Then move to the second one in the priority list. If you are trying to do too much at once, you just won't be able to get it all done. Know your limits! ^_^

You are GREAT!!! ^_^

Shay said...

Oh, and did I mention that if Bug feels like he needs some time alone to scream, he goes in scream time all by himself. He slowly walks into his room while whimpering and closes the door to have some alone time to calm down. And like I said, it is different than time out for the soul purpose that time out we decide when he comes out. Scream time he comes out when he is ready. Don't give up on Kyle. More important, don't give up on yourself.

HailerStar said...

This is just a random question but do you have a daily routine? Creating one might help a bit. Blocking out structures of time for outside play, quiet time, meals, and such.
I know you love your kids. The fact that you worry about being a good parent proves you're not a bad parent. *Bad parents don't worry about their parenting* You just need ways to destress yourself and a plan of action or two for how to redirect the kids when they're driving you batty. *Easy for me to say, I know*
I think what will help you most is being kind to yourself and not beating yourself up and being consistent with discipline so they know you mean no and that asking a zillion times is only going to get them a time out.
Sorry if I'm not much help. Prayers and good vibes coming your way though.

sunburst5 said...

Hi Cat,
Heidi pointed me in the direction of your blog and I have to say that to a great extent it has been like reading a replay of my own life and feelings.

I felt that my reactions to life's situations were beyond my control sometimes. No matter how much I "knew" what I wanted to feel like, I just couldn't feel that way. It was like I couldn't get past the hard-wiring that I went through growing up.

Have you ever hear of EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)? Google it and you'll find plenty of info. It is really easy and works.

One quick example, I was taking DS to pre-school and was in a terrible mood (PMS,etc.) I had tons to do that day and didn't want use up my energy on being irritated about nothing and everything so at the stop light I did EFT. Five minutes later I felt much better and the day went smoothly from that point on.

Give it a shot!