Why I’ve been failing at parenting lately.

The Monster & Me: On parenting and failing.

Today I reached the point where I finally admitted to myself (and tearily to Troy) that I’ve made some bad parenting choices of late. Choices that have come from a point of love and a desperate desire for the very best for our son, but they have been poor choices nonetheless.

In an attempt to help Lachie feel some control over this great big world he is learning to be a part of, I have come to let him think he controls it all. It has happened gradually of course. With each increasingly loud protest over cleaning teeth, or getting dressed, or eating at the table I have come to yield more frequently. And so the demands and the tantrums have escalated to the point where I either give-in or yell; neither of which are constructive outcomes.

This point of mothering, where discipline is paramount, does not come naturally to me. Despite the challenges of the newborn and infant stages, as long as I fed and held and loved Lachie then I was meeting his needs, I was doing enough. Now, his needs are so much more complex. I must teach him how to behave, I must equip him with the skills to thrive in life. And in that respect I have been failing him. It feels awful to admit but far better than continuing in denial. Because now, now we have a plan. A plan to tip the balance of control in the direction it should have always been.

What we want is not to crush his fighting spirit, but to raise a person who respects boundaries and rules even if he doesn’t agree with them, who can deal positively with the disappointment of not getting his own way, and who can make good decisions on his own. We’re playing the long-game but the end-result is too important not to win.

What’s your latest parenting challenge? How do you deal with discipline in your home?

  1. Oh, Laura! You always hit the nail on the head… I’ve been feeling like this with Leo SO MUCH lately… He definitely has the power in our household… and it’s not just me that yields. His GG hates to see him upset… It’s hard to work around when you don’t like the tears and tantrums. Well done on admitting this, and consequently allowing me to admit this! Onwards and upwards! Much love x

    • Laura said:

      Perhaps it is an age thing more than I realised then? I dislike the tears and tantrums too, but I think the ironic thing is that trying to placate L has just led to him being upset more!

      Hoping we both have the strength to stand up to our two year olds, HA! xx

  2. Claire said:

    Oh Laura, our boys are so SO similar. This is exactly how I feel and you’re definitely right about needing to win this very important game. I try to be firm but often find myself relenting and just giving in- easy for everyone now but I worry about the long term. Although I have resolved to be more firm and consistent I still find myself falling back into old habits too easily. Challenges here are teeth cleaning, getting dressed/undressed and the main one – transitioning from outside to inside (he’s such an outside boy!). Getting him to help and distraction sometimes works, as well as using a timer but sometimes nothing seems to work and that’s when I often I find myself just giving in when I know I should be strong. Hugs x

    • Laura said:

      Claire – EXACTLY. I think keeping the peace has partly got us into this situation too. Toddlers are hard work and their tantrums can be exhausting. But as I was talking to Troy about, I think trying to avoid tantrums has actually led to MORE issues because Lachie has learned that they are his form of power (they’re smart little cookies these toddlers). The transitioning thing can be difficult here too. I find giving warning the best strategy, saying something like “Lachie we have to go inside in five minutes” but sometimes I just have to grab him and drag him inside.

      Have you read “Raising You Spiritred Child” http://www.amazon.com/Raising-Your-Spirited-Child-Perceptive/dp/0060923288 ?
      I have read bits and pieces but it has some great ideas for kids who struggle with change, it might be helpful for you.
      Good luck to us both! x

  3. sunny said:

    love your honesty. that battle has begun here as well. i think as soon as israel realised he could say no, he has, just because he can and it means he can control something. i understand it means a lot to him but am also very aware that he is 2 years old and as much as i want to nuture his love of freedom and the power it can bring, 2 is not the age where he gets to revel in it. my pain is because he cannot understand yet why i deny him certain freedoms. in time he will. i see this this as all part of loving our children and learning to work with them.

    • Laura said:

      i see this this as all part of loving our children and learning to work with them.

      I love this Sunny and you are so right. It’s hard when they don’t understand why, I agree. For us it’s been give him an inch and he takes a mile (human nature I guess!) but now to reel some of that freedom back in is going to be the hard part. Thanks for taking the time to comment. x

  4. I would love to hear your plan because I feel that very soon I am going to be in the same boat!
    At the moment our biggest struggle is at dinner time…but this sort of behaviour seems to be popping up more and more frequently away from the dinner table.
    In fact this morning we had a struggle first thing in the morning because Toddler C wanted to watch Peppa Pig videos instead of eating breakfast and getting dressed!
    At the beginning of the day I can be strong and patient but by the end of the day I find myself giving in.
    It is hard! Good luck!

    • Laura said:

      Caitlin, I read your post about the dinnertime battle the other night actually. Agreed that it is far easier to be strong and patient in the morning. Our plans are fairly simple really. When we ask L to do something, he does it or there is a consequence. For example if he is hitting with a toy he is asked to stop and told that if he doesn’t the toy will be taken away and if he doesn’t stop then that is what happens. For other situations it is a timeout of sitting in the corner to think about his actions. I also won’t be giving in to every demand like I have been. It was getting ridiculous, I could hardly sit down at dinner for all the demanding of different spoons and “put my shoes here” and “take my shirt off” etc. On the flipside we have started a sticker chart for good behaviour – good listening, polite manners, cleaning his teeth without fuss, etc, so hopefully rewarding the good also helps encourage it some more. I guess I am also trying to be a better listener and talk more to L about things, oh and stop yelling!

      So nothing ground-breaking at all but I’m sure it will still be challenging to implement!

  5. This discipline thing is the hardest part of parenting, I feel!
    Sometimes it is just so damn easy to give in and give them what they want so that we can have some sanity, but you are right, that isn’t giving them what they need. I am sure you will find your balance before you know it! Good luck

    • Laura said:

      Thanks Jess. Giving in has definitely been about saving my sanity but unfortunately I’ve made a rod for my own back so to speak. x

  6. Nina said:

    I’m actually opposite of you, where I felt like the newborn and infant stages were so much more challenging than the tantrums of toddlerhood. That said, I still agree that they are definitely challenges, and my son sounds like yours in the sense that they are very strong-willed 🙂

    Regarding discipline, I tend to pick my battles. I want to set a good precedent and try to make sure all rules are followed, but there are times when it’s okay to give in, especially when I’m on the brink of insanity. I also try to give him choices where it really doesn’t matter to me; e.g. letting him pick between two shirts to wear or where to brush his teeth.

    Probably the most important thing I try to do is to remain calm. This is so difficult to do when those challenges happen all the time or when you’re already tired as it is. But it really helps to step away from the situation, not react, and it’s almost like you’re watching yourself parent and you try to talk yourself through it.

    I’m curious too; what’s your plan? For all the madness though, Laura I think you’re doing a great job in the fact that you’re even cognizant of the problems and willing to solve them. That’s really what makes a great parent 🙂

    • Laura said:

      Nina, the strong-willed part is part of what I find so hard. It’s a trait that I love in L but yet it is quite challenging to manage as a parent. I agree on picking your battles but I think I somehow slipped from that mindset to not even trying to win any partly because it just got too difficult.

      As I mentioned to Caitlin our plan is fairly simple. Consistent consequence for actions, rewarding good behaviour and trying to communicate better with L, and of course, for me to not lose my temper (which I will readily admit is a big weakness of mine). I like your advice to step away from the situation and not react, I will definitely try to take that on board as I can do with as many tools as possible to help with my temper.

      And thank you. I know I am essentially a good mum, I’m just human and have my weaknesses and make mistakes like everyone else, all I can do is try my best to do better. x

  7. Rachael Sheridan said:

    Great to hear how you are going Laura with lachie. I still can’t find that manual. What I have learnt though (the hard way of a 1 year old constantly fainting from holding her breath) is to pick the battles and don’t back down on the ones you have decided on and don’t give too many choices. I know this can complicate their already complicated minds. Xxxxx

    • Laura said:

      Rachael, thanks for stopping by and commenting. The breath holding must of been so scary! Lachie went through a brief phase of banging his head on walls, floors etc but that is about the worst of it. You’re right about committing to the ‘no’, which is something I admittedly struggled with, saying no too quickly and then having no follow through because I can’t handle the fallout. Not giving too many choices is a good point too.

      Hopefully I’ll be a bit more clued on for the next baby whenever that may be!

      If you guys are ever up Brisbane way make sure you let us know, I’d love to catch-up and meet your beautiful babies. x

  8. Laura, this is me, & US right now!

    And I have NO idea what I’m doing, nor do I have any idea what form of discipline we’re supposed to be using.

    At the moment, Max is just dominating EVERYTHING.


    • Laura said:

      Cherie, it happens so quickly, doesn’t it. One moment they are little babies unable to control anything and the next they are walking, talking, DEMANDING toddlers ruling the house with the threat of epic-meltdowns!

      Max is about 7 months younger than Lachie, so you may have some time up your sleeve! Trust me, the toddler control and demands only get more, the older they get, at least that is what happened here! x Laura

  9. thanks for this post, Laura. I’m impressed by your humility in being able to admit your mistakes – and we all make them…I’ve made so many! Discipline is so difficult to get right. My little man is particularly impervious to it, so I’ve found it hard finding the right balance between making sure he feels the weight of his actions and understanding his capabilities so I’m not too hard on him.

    • Laura said:

      Hi Soph, so lovely to hear from you again. That balance, as you said, is hard to find with discipline, I agree. I’m hoping that these changes will help us get there.

  10. argh!! I am having a similar problem. I can’t seem to get Maksi to say thank you or sorry without tears. I think the problem is I thought up until now he didn’t really get it so I let him get away with it and now that I am sure he does he can get very cranky when I try to enforce it.

    The other thing is as a Primary school teacher I have always believed that unless there is a diagnosed problem, children should live within the boundaries that adults set for them so when Maksi doesn’t I feel such a sense of failure.

    But I am motivated to keep trying different strategies with him.

    • Laura said:

      Julia, YES. That was my same thinking… that Lachie was too young to understand what he was doing, and then that he didn’t understand why he was getting in trouble. But somehow we sailed right out of that phase and arrived at the point where he most definitely knows what he is doing and what the consequences are and yet I hadn’t changed my approach.

      I think we do what works until it doesn’t work and then we try something else. x Laura

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