Even before I started this blog I was obsessed with parenting. I read as many books as I could get my hands on while I was pregnant. Like most clueless well-intentioned first time parents, my husband and I thought we could do it all.The other day I lost my sh-t, along with my pride and any sense of parenting superiority.… Click To Tweet
I stopped trying to be the perfect parent and I started to understand why you should set boundaries in your parenting.
The Back Story
It all started the night before. I told my son to turn off his holiday movie and he proceeded to stomp and call me mean. He yelled at my husband, too.
I went in his room with him, deciding that he was too worked up to take a bath and I offered to put some lotion on his eczema. I tried to talk with him about managing Big Feelings. Emotional regulation has become a theme in our house lately.
As I became more frustrated with his lack of interest, I told him, “what the adults want is more important than what you want.”
This sounds harsh, but I was tired of collaborating. I was tired of trying to get him to see the way his behavior affects other people. Tired of trying so damn hard to be an authoritative parent.
I wanted to break through. I wanted my son to know how I was feeling.
The next morning everything was good until it was time to leave the house. E noticed it was wet outside from rain the night before and wanted to take his umbrella to school.
I explained that his school does not allow umbrellas. I suggested that he carry it into childcare and then keep it in the car. My husband even tried to reason with him.
As the minutes ticked by I decided to go downstairs and put on my coat. I allowed E to get in the car first before I got in. When I was buckling, he told me again that I was mean. I turned around in my seat and said, “I am not going to fight with you.”
For about half a second he was silent and then he said, “well then I’m never going to be good in school because you are mean to me.” He told me that he was going to deliberately misbehave. After everything we have been through.
Have you ever felt like your own child had just punched you in the throat? He knew just what to say to hurt me.
Without thinking I opened his door and told him in my most controlled voice, “get out of my car.” I grabbed his back pack and ushered him in the door. I told him to tell his father to take him to school.
This is what I learned over the following days:
Setting Boundaries is important
I spent so much time trying to coax and coddle my son that he started to think he should be rewarded for doing the right thing. Now I tell him he only gets a reward if he goes beyond the expectations. I am clear and kind with stating my expectations.
My son is aware now that I have limits to what I will tolerate. I love my child, but he is not allowed to abuse me.
My Child Is Secure
I was an insecure child who never felt like I belonged anywhere. Sometimes I forget that my son knows nothing but love and approval.
E has no problem being argumentative and disrespectful. He has no fear of being abandoned or ignored by his parents. No matter what he is always told how much he is loved.
This is my issue, not his.
My Child’s Behavior is Not a Result of Poor Parenting
He knows his behavior is inappropriate, yet he has no desire to understand how it affects other peopIe. I have tried every trick in my book. I have read everything, and tried everything. Now I am going to let professionals tell me what needs to be done.
I have exhausted my emotional resources so I am getting help. I do not doubt that I am a good parent because preserving my own mental health makes me a better parent.
Punishments and Threats don’t work
My child wants to control everything. He wants to argue over who is arguing. (“I’m not arguing.” “You are arguing about not arguing!”)
Everything is a power struggle. There is no easy way to redirect, correct, or even calm. Everything adults say is rejected outright as mean.
I still tell him I love him and do all the “mom” things. I am just not engaging in arguments.
My Child Needs the limits
For so long I have repressed my growing sadness and rage about what is going on with my son. I have tried played therapy, occupational therapy and anxiety medication. (For me.)
Guess what? Holding it all in and modeling the behavior I want to see has basically gotten me nowhere. My son is still acting out at home and at school.
The Bottom Line on My Parenting
I am done pretending that I have all the answers. Obviously, I care about parenting and I will continue to write and learn about being the best parent I can be while working within my personal limitations.
Dr. Green if you are reading this you are welcome in my home anytime. But be warned: you will share a bathroom with the 6-year-old you are here to counsel.
I have no idea if my ADHD caused my meltdown this week. But in some ways, I am grateful. I feel more myself than I have in a long time. I still want to work on self-improvement, which includes parenting.
The theme of this website for 2017 will be Self Improvement. So now I want to hear from you.
Have you ever had a lightbulb moment with parenting?
How do we set healthy boundaries with our children?
Tell me your meltdown story – if you are feeling honest.