I’m just going to come right out and admit this. I’ve spanked my son. More than once.

And I don’t like it.

I’m not saying this to condone or judge or anything else. I’m just saying I’ve come to the point several times (not daily, not even weekly, but a handful of times) where I’ve run out of options, out of sanity, out of patience… and I’ve spanked, hoping that it would be the thing to finally snap him out of it, to finally get him to behave, to listen, to calm down.

But it’s never worked. It’s never done that thing I want it to do.

Instead, to be entirely honest, all it does is confuse us both. Kendall looks at me and will say things like, “Hey mommy! Why’d you do that? I need my boo-boo bunny (the little rag bunny wrapped around an ice cube that we give him when he gets hurt).” And then I just feel terrible and have no idea where to go from there because we’re big on not giving other people “owies” in this house, and I have no idea how to follow up at that point other than to just apologize, talk to him about why I got mad and why he’s in trouble and move on. And then? He usually does the same damn thing an hour later. Clearly not working.

I stayed up until 1 last night, sacrificing precious sleep that I so desperately need this week, reading 1-2-3 Magic on my Iphone in bed. I HAVE to figure out how to more effectively deal with Kendall. I feel like I spend my days and nights yelling half the time, frustrated most of the time, and not able to cherish our relationship. This book came recommended by a few readers and a few Facebook friends, so I figured I’d put it in the Kindle app for my phone and read it while up late at night with Leyna.

It was like a punch in the gut last night when I read the following:

Ninety-nine percent of the time that parents scream, hit and spank their children, the parent is simply having a temper tantrum. The tantrum is a sign that (1) the parent doesn’t know what to do, (2) the parent is so frustrated that he or she can’t see straight, and (3) this adult has an anger management problem.

That’s exactly what’s happening. I’m tantruming right along with my tantruming toddler. I’m exasperated, have no idea what to do, and am having a hard time controlling my emotions.

How am I supposed to ask my two year old to behave calmly and politely when I can’t even manage to do the same?

And it’s not even entirely about the spanking because, like I said, that’s not a super common occurrence. No, it’s not something I’m proud of or something I want to continue, but I have much more control over the spanking. I can stop it. I make a very conscious decision to do it before I do.

It’s the yelling. The yelling has to stop.

Too often, my frustration escalates to yelling, and THAT is much, much harder for me to control. And, personally, I feel like it’s damaging. I can see it in the way Kendall expresses his frustration. He yells and screams as a way to get his point across just like we do.

It’s all a vicious cycle of yelling and screaming around here. He does something he shouldn’t, we tell him no, he gets frustrated and yells, we get frustrated and yell, he screams, we scream, and on and on until it’s level 10 chaos.

By the time I get him to calm down, I barely have enough time to calm myself down before he starts up again. It feels like I’m in a constant state of annoyance, perpetually frazzled because of this, so subsequent tantrums set me off even faster, and by the end of the day, I’m just… done. I have not an ounce of patience in me. The “witching hours” before bedtime I probably throw just as many tantrums as he does.

I hate putting him to bed at night and thinking all I did was yell at him that day (and he at me). I also hate the sense of relief I so desperately look forward to when I close his door behind me at night. I hate that we so badly need a break from each other at the end of the day.

I’m only a few chapters into the book, but I’ve already started some of the techniques it talks about. The hardest for me, I know, is going to be the “no emotion” rule. I’m a very emotional person. Anyone who knows my husband and I well knows we’re a loud couple. We’re loud when we’re happy and we’re loud when we’re mad. We yell when we argue, but it’s never hurt us. It works for us, as a couple, to get our frustrations out and move on.

However, dealing with our child should be a completely different approach, and I know we both need to work on that. So, starting today, I’m doing everything I can to stop throwing tantrums. I shouldn’t have to wait for bedtime every night so that I can finally find time to calm down.

How are you handling tantrums or how have you handled them?

Kendall is 2 years 9 months and Leyna is 6 weeks old

171 thoughts on “How I’m Failing At Parenting My Toddler”

  1. We have found that the ONLY thing that will work for Mason is time out. We screamed, spanked (which we only reserve now for DANGER situations) and just walked away.
    Walking away sometimes works (especially at home) because all he wants from me is attention so when I stop giving it to him, he usually snaps out of it. But of course you can’t just walk away in the middle of Target.
    We started putting Mason in time-out until he stops crying in a room where there is no distraction (the formal dining room). When he flips out in public we head for the nearest bathroom and take a time-out. Now it’s actually to the point where we say, “Do you want to go to the bathroom?” and he stops.
    We also recite “No crying, no whining, no tantrums” before we leave/before stressful situations and he gets that too.
    Good luck!

  2. Since I’m replying on my iPod I didn’t take time to read 53 comments. I’m sorry if someone else mentioned prayer.

    In these situations I pray! I often pray outloud if no strangers are in ear-shot and always when at home or in the car. I normally first say an Our Father” (The Lords Prayer) then ask God for help with the situation. I then thank him for everything I have In my life.

    *side note for Christians who might not normally pray often or feel worthy of asking God for help* Prayer does not have to be perfect, God knows what we’re saying even if we don’t express it “perfect”. I even think he helps us if we swear in our request for help! If you say something like “please help me from going fucking nuts” God understands and cuts us slack. Afterwards, mostly before I go to sleep I appoligize to God for my words and ask forgiveness.

    Try it, I hope it can work for you. If this idea sounds like I’m some religious nuthead then just tell to stop Steve from offering his dumb-ass comment!

  3. We aren’t deep into this, yet, but when I’m feeling frustrated I find it easier to treat him the way I want to be treated if I get down by his face, grab his hands and ask him to look at me. By the time he does, I’ve had a chance to take a breath. At the very least, it’s really really difficult to YELL in someone’s face! 😉

    Good luck!

  4. Thank you for being honest, and sharing!! If I saw someone yelling at a 2 year old on the street, I would be appalled, but when my baby was born, there I was yelling at my daughter day after day. SHE was infuriating me and I didn’t realize how unfair I was being to her and she was reacting to me more than I was reacting to her. Hindsight is always 20-20. Now that the baby is almost 1 and she’s over 3, and I’ve figured myself out a bit, we’re all a bit calmer here. But be gentle with yourself, ask for more help than you think you need and keep breathing. It’s hard, this parenting stuff.

  5. oh man. don’t be too hard on yourself. it’s so great that you’re trying to make things better – and by “better” I mean more in line with how you *want* to parent. that’s really all any of us can do. nobody’s perfect. it’s a learning curve.

    I’m at the bottom of the learning curve so this post is really speaking to me. we’re getting our first backtalk and tantrums from our 20-month-old son (just posted about it actually!) and scrambling to teach ourselves how to teach him. good luck and please keep writing about it if you feel comfortable doing so, it’s so helpful to hear how other mothers are handling real life.

  6. Oh, I hear you! And I understand your struggle. I have felt the same way. I also wrote about spanking my son for my first (and so far last) time and how awful it was for both of us: http://www.nycmomsblog.com/2009/11/why-spanking-is-not-for-me.html

    I have found that I sometimes yell at L when I’m stressed about getting out of the house, but I was the one taking so long and it wasn’t his fault at all that we are late. Hmpf, motherhood is not easy.

    Try to give yourself a bit of a break, you now also have a baby to take care of. Hopefully the book will help.

    Hang in there, mama, you are a great, concerned mother 🙂

    Dagmar

  7. I think we are long lost sisters separated at birth! I feel so bad about myself at night after I put my kids to bed when I feel like all I did was YELL at them. I love 1-2-3 Magic and this past week, which was particularly bad for ME, I reminded myself that I need to read it again! I feel like all I do is tear down their self-esteem, and for what?! Ugh. I’m right there with you Jill and thanks for sharing because we all have gone through this or will go through this!

  8. I wish I could give you a giant hug right now because I so totally understand how you’re feeling. Yesterday I was World’s Worst Mother for a good 10 minutes when Della had a spectacular nuclear meltdown (prompted by me asking a little too much of her when she was totally exhausted) and I reacted with a nuclear meltdown of my own and was so totally ENRAGED with my little girl that I could have broken every bone in her body and not cared at that moment. (How’s that for honesty?) All I did was yell and scream, but my thoughts were violent. And then 5 minutes later I was just awash with guilt and remorse because WHAT THE FUCK is my problem, she is a toddler, it is MY job to keep it together.

    D started at a new school recently which is really big into “non-violent communication,” and I’ve been learning a lot from them. Tantrums have actually declined by about 80% around here. Obviously I still have terrible moments, like yesterday, but they are so much fewer and farther between. And it’s because I’m learning how to DEAL with her when she freaks out. The other night she started to lose it because she wanted more bubbles in her bath and she wanted me to get in there with her and a simple no was not gonna cut it. So I got on her eye level and took a really soothing tone and said, “It sounds like you are a REALLY wanting to have more bubbles and have mommy in the bath with you! I’m hearing in your voice that you really, really want that. But we have a limit in this house that we only pour the bubbles in once. I know it’s a hard limit to hear, but it makes sure we don’t run out of bubbles for tomorrow. And I know you really want me to get in there with you, but tonight that isn’t going to work for me because I don’t want to get my body wet. I want to be dry tonight. Maybe tomorrow night we can take a nice long bath together.”

    And she just SMILED and started playing, tantrum gone. All I did was copy the stuff her teachers do with the kids when they freak out, and I was honestly stunned that it worked.

    The bottom line is that yelling and spanking and even time outs just don’t work very well because they don’t communicate anything to the kid beyond anger or silence. It doesn’t help them make a connection in their brain. When we find a way to get through and really make them understand that we need their behavior to be different, it’s amazing how quickly they respond.

    But let me say again I am NOT saying I’m some kind of goddess or know-it-all because I haven’t gotten this down pat in any way whatsoever. Just learning.

  9. Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood.
    Buy It!

    I now enjoy my 2.5 yr old son, love parenting again, and feel closer to him more than ever. This stuff works! Be diligent, follow thru, and reap the rewards.

  10. Oh I throw tantrums as well. But I’m trying harder to stop. Time out and taking away toys works well for the little one. When we are out and about though, that is where it gets hard. I try to bring distractors and snacks, but sometimes they just need to express that they are frustrated and tired. When I was a behavioral therapist we were taught to put kids in a “safe place” where they can throw there tantrums and just ignore it. Don’t let them know you are razzled, just ignore. If it’s not working, they will get the idea and stop.

  11. oh, Jill. Thank you. Thank you for being honest about this because I’m stuck at a crossroads right now where decisions have to be made – are we going to spank? Are we not going to spank?

    I was spanked as a child & grew up respecting & loving & never fearing my parents, but when I think about actually laying a hand on Harrison, I feel terrible all the way into my gut.

    & I would like to do something different as a parent. I just don’t know what yet.

    1. BA, I was spanked, too. And, like you, I don’t feel like it hurt me in the long run, but I also don’t think it’s a parenting style I want to adopt. I’ll be honest, a lot of that comes from my fear of getting caught up in the moment and going too far.

  12. We are dealing with so many of the same issues, so thank you for sharing this!! It’s incredibly frustrating to deal with a child that is pitching a tee-total fit and doesn’t understand why what they’re doing is wrong. I have found myself having more than one tantrum, too! It’s incredibly difficult, and I have been praying a lot for more patience- although I think sometimes God’s answer to a prayer for patience are more impatience-causing moments!!

  13. In a society where spanking is suddenly being considered child abuse, it takes great courage to say what you have said. I was spanked as a child as a last resort. I love and respect my parents today and grew up to be a well-adjusted adult.

    I think that as a parent it’s easy to get to our wits end and take the road that will make the most impact on our child to get their attention and let them know that Mommy means business.

    If it’s not the path you want to take, then it’s going to take a lot of diligence on your part to get K to learn to be disciplined without needing a spanking.

    I’ve probably been watching too much Supernanny for my own good, because this is a topic that has been on my mind. I’m terrified of what the 2’s have in store and don’t know if I have the patience to drill home what a time-out means.

    Discipline is hard on everyone.

  14. Thanks so much for all the responses, everyone. This was a really vulnerable post for me, one I was afraid of publishing, but you all are amazing. Thank you for the support, for commiserating, for not calling me a child abuser. I hate that so many of you are in the same boat, but I’m glad we can all come together to give everyone a big virtual hug.

    I just want to clarify by the title of the post I’m not meaning to imply I feel like a failure of a parent, but more that I feel like this method of handling his behavior is failing us both.

    1. Im having a horrible time as a recent divorced, single mom of a 2 1/2 year old. Its me and her in our apartment day in and day out, no family or visitors. So, when im not working online with my degree I take her to the park. Before we moved here we were active everyday with dance class, park, bike rides, church three days a week, library story time, bouncey house or cupcake bakery, something we would do everyday to keep busy. Now, we don’t live near those sort of things and she is bored and acting out. Its hard to keep from loosing my cool when i can’t just leave while some one else watches her. She pitches fits or tantrums when we leave the park, all the way in the car and up the stairs to our apartment flopping on the floor after fighting me all the way up the stairs. I feel like im going to have a stroke or pass out from the screaming and fighting and yelling she does. Theres no reasoning to her. My family has spanked me and were spanked growing up, but i dont want to hit her, i love her. but its come down to it the past few months. i feel so guilty!! Now i feel like never leaving the house because she throws those tantrums in public when we leave church, dance class or something fun where she is interacting with other kids and people. She doesnt want to leave. ANY advice on that?

  15. I loosely subscribe to the Alfie kohn/unconditional parenting model – basically, I don’t believe in time outs. However, if my son is hurting someone or doing something that directly bothers another family member, we will put him either in an area by himself in our living room, or on his bed in his room. Usually ignoring works when it’s just grouchiness, though. We do talk about his fit and give hugs when he’s done, and then just let it go, as he’s still pretty small (he’s about to turn three). When I yell, it scares the absolute shit out of him, so it’s actually a good reason for me to remember to stay calm, bc I HATE seeing him that scared.
    Can Scott do bedtime? Having a break in which I’m only doing the baby’s bedtime has been really good at our house. Also, doing one-on-one mom/big kid outings helps a bit, too. Hang I there, my second is 4 mos. And life is already a lot smoother than those first few weeks.

  16. We spank and I don’t really have a problem with it, except to say that it doesn’t really work. It usually just pisses him off and he screams louder so I honestly don’t spank that often because right now its simply not working.

    But figuring out how to discipline Phoenix is a daily struggle. And I find myself more upset because I’m yelling & frustrated then upset with myself because I spanked.

    The only thing that really seems to work FOR ME is timeouts and just ignoring him during his timeout times while he throws a tantrum. Eventually he’ll stop, but its still not a 100% fix but its a start.

  17. I do smack my kids, sometimes. For me, the golden rule is “never smack in anger”. I always warn them that if they do XXXXX again I will smack them, and I rarely use the threat, because I don’t want to dominate my kids, I *try* to reason with them and explain stuff to them. But sometimes all the fluffy-bunny parenting techniques fail, or aren’t applicable, and I find I’ve got to look them in the eye and say “if you do that again/don’t do as I’ve asked, I will smack you”.

    However, I yell all the time.

    I too Fail at parenting

    You’re not alone by a long shot!!

  18. Jill,
    I’ve spanked James on more than one occasion. I’m not proud of it and it’s not something I want to do again, but when nothing else is working I’ve done it in an attempt to get his attention and make him stop his behavior, but it has never helped. If anything, spanking him makes the situation worse and makes it drag out longer.

    I’ve read 1-2-3 magic recently. James has responded well to the counting, it does work “most” of the time. We still have our days of back to back time outs and exhaustion. I think the most important thing about 1-2-3 magic is ALWAYS following through…which is hard and can really take it out of you…which brings me to my next point of why having things like pre-school, mom’s day out programs, and just support and help in general is SO important.

    Good luck, it will get better. Believe me though, I absolutely understand your frustration and what you’re going through. ((Hugs))

  19. Thank you so much for this post. Your honesty made me feel so much better. More days than not I feel the same way you do. Good luck & keep your readers posted! I’ll have to look at that book you’re reading for sure!

  20. Wow-this so is my life some days. I will say-now that my very dramatic daughter is 3 that it does seem to get better. When my son was born (6 months ago) there were so many days I thought I was going to lose my mind. I was exhausted and the emotional battlefield that was my daughter was so draining. And we did time-out, and empathy, and warnings, and huge cheering when it was right, and yes, we spanked. But really the thing that helped me the most was when I read that she does this because her brain is so busy working on language development that emotional development actually gets by-passed. Suddenly every time she used a word like ‘delectable’ I could be amazed by her and realize…her brain can’t process it all. So we did lots of distracting and rejoicing over the good days and on the bad days…I didn’t change the rules or the expectations, just my expectations of what dinner would be 🙂 Take-out anyone?
    Hang in there. Spring is coming.

  21. My 18 year old step son is so much more frustrating than my toddler. I had a good friend tell me to try and find one positive thing to say to him every single day. When I rolled my eyes, she shared with me the time she thanked HER 18 year old step daughter for tying her shoes. Seriously, that was the only thing she could find that day to give positive feedback on.

    The 18 year old is too far gone for this to work effectively, I’m sorry to report. But my 14 year old step daughter AND my almost 3 year old respond amazingly well to the approach. Our daycare also takes this tact. If a child does something wrong, they have a stick that is moved from a ‘green can’ to a ‘red can’. It’s all very matter of fact. No yelling, no spanking, no time out – the stick gets moved from one can to the other, the child does it himself. They then LOOK for positive behavior, ANY positive behavior, to reward the child, praise them and let them move the stick back from the red can to the green can.

    For what it’s worth…

    And we ALL have those moments!

    hugs,
    M

  22. Let me just start by saying our kids are exactly the same age apart and same gender (same order)–mine just have a few months head start on yours. So everything you write has been a near echo of what I just did and felt.

    It does get better.

    Don’t be too hard on yourself.

    The most important thing is what you do after you loose your temper. Loosing your temper happens. (I read this in a magazine and it made me feel better. I was as desperate for strategies as you are now.) Here is what I do. I apologize. I sit my son down and explain that I got angry and why. I ask if he can forgive me. If he says he is angry at me I say, “It’s okay to be angry”. Then I end the whole thing by saying, “I forgive myself.”

    We might be modeling that we loose our tempers and are less than perfect, but we can also model that conflicts can have calm resolutions, that we care about someone else’s feelings and can forgive ourselves for slipping up.

    For Discipline: a lot of time out, consistently. I do a lot of counting with giving limited options. If my son won’t let me brush his teeth I say, “River, I’m going to count to three and if you are not in the bathroom when I get to three, you are going in time out.” And even if it seems stupid to put him in time out for something so minor, I do it. And now he usually listens!

    I also will take away favorite toys if he refuses to cooperate. If it is a transition thing (going out somewhere/returning home) I give many warnings, have him verbally confirm he understands, explain what will happen when you go our/when we get home that will be fun, and come to consentual agreements if he is very stubborn. “How about we leave after we read one last book? Do you agree on this? You pinky swear?”

    I found that I often lost my temper when I was trying to get him to sleep. So I put that chore onto my husband and dropped River’s naps soon after my daughter was born. (no nap means earlier bedtime. Hard to do without, but we’re used to it now!)

    If I feel myself loosing control and getting pissed, I tell him I am having a bad time and he needs to play by himself. If he won’t, I give him 15 minutes of time in his room so I can have a breather. That little bit of time refreshes me.

    I still have my guilt moments when I slip up but things are no longer hellish around here!

    Good luck!

  23. I can totally relate to you! I am currently taking a class called Parenting on Track. Unfortunately the teacher lives in Vermont but she does offer the course online as well as their is a book and online coaching with her that is available. Although it is a challenge to implement some of the techniques with the younger ones it totally puts things in perspective. You are not alone though! 🙂

  24. Thanks for your honesty and vulnerability in this post.

    I am in the same boat and trying to figure these things out as well!

    Blessings on the journery!

  25. First of all, you are not failing at parenting a toddler. You haven’t given up & are searching for/actively trying to improve the situation which is the root of good parenting. 🙂 Second, everyone has their “bad mommy” moments because we are all human.

    Talking to a toddler is just like talking to a man while he’s watching tv. You must physically get between them & whatever they are doing, make eye contact, & then ask them if they understand. Otherwise I just assume I’m not being listened to.

    On days that simply aren’t going well, I make sure I get down on her level, ask her to look me in the eye, say what I need to say & then ask her if she understands. On super bad days, I ask her to repeat it to me. This way I KNOW she gets it & if she continues the bad behavior it’s a simple time out.

    I’ve also pulled, “You can come out of your room when you’re done crying.” Typically she’ll cry for 5 minutes, find a toy or books to read & stay quietly in her room for 30-60 minutes.

    My youngest is 8 months old tomorrow & my oldest is 3.5 years. The next few months are going to be tough. It takes a lot of extra energy you don’t have to squat down with a baby in your arms & put that effort into communicating with an unhappy toddler. However, it will get better! The first 6 months were extremely difficult for me & MANY MANY MANY times I wondered why I decided to mess up my happy little family by having another baby. However, the last 2 months have been so much better. The baby is fascinated by his older sister, they both love the swings at the park, the interact more & everyone is happier.

  26. I know the last thing you want to do at this moment is read another book, but I also want to highly recommend Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood. I’ve read it and 123 Magic, and I prefer the Love and Logic approach, at least with my almost 3 year old. It really does eliminate the screaming (on both your parts). It gives a lot of perceived control to the toddler, and really, isn’t that what most tantrums are about?

  27. It. is. hard. End of story… but now you have to figure out how to manage. His little world was thrown a curveball by the new baby and he’s dealing with a changing brain and body that he doesn’t know how to manage, let alone emotions and feelings that he has no words for. You understand how that is hard for him because it is hard for you so you have to cut both of yourselves some slack. Next, find a coping mechanism. I came from a single mother home where she didn’t know what to do but spank and scream because that’s all she knew. It doesn’t work, my brother just got more aggressive I just recoiled. There are both positive and negative consequences in any reaction you have and also you can choose to either react or not to react. Think this over for a minute and think about what that means to your family. Is it an option for you to walk away from him when he is being ridiculous or does he follow you and tantrum for your attention? If you can walk away do that and count to 100 or sing a song in your head. Anything to make time between his action and your reaction. Next, if time out is an option that you can do with a baby in arms try it! If he constantly gets out of time out and you must replace him over and over that might be impossible with baby so think of a method other than locking him in room that might not be best because if he is sent away he could feel further rejected. Most importantly as soon as you have a free second, baby is napping, husband is home, etc. give him your UNDIVIDED attention for a long time. Not just a few minutes here and there. And praise praise praise good behavior. It will get better. Tantrums are so hard and something that gives us tunnel vision but you will come out on the other side. Trust me I work with children with autism as well as my own child and you can come up with something that works for him as long as you are adamant it will just take experimentation. Good luck and you are a good mommy… You might need a mommy break too so that you aren’t so burned out!! Seriously just an hour or two a week can help:)) HuGS

  28. One more thing, get him to change perspective. So get him out of house to play as soon as weather permits, or give him a task or duty when he starts to elevate that can sometimes stop fits in their tracks.

  29. As someone who was yelled at a lot as a child, and has a mother who never ‘got it’, I’m grateful that you’re realizing this when Kendall is so young and trying to make a change.

    Some of the things my mother has yelled at me still echo around in the cobwebs of my head – and let’s just say none of them are words of love and encouragement.

    I haven’t spoken to her since 1998. I have no intention of speaking to her ever again. And that feeling of relief you get when you close Kendal’s door is the relief I anticipate feeling when my mother is being lowered into the ground. Oh, I’m sure I’ll cry a bit too, b/c there were good moments, but mainly I’ll feel relief that there will never be a day where she can make me feel so badly about myself ever again.

    If that’s horrible to you, good. Keep it in mind.

  30. Thanks for that book reco. My 2 yr old has been acting up a LOT. Saying NO to everything even when he means yes…and he refuses to obey. I spank when he doesn’t obey. I send him to his room to cool down, and when he stops crying, he’s allowed to come out. That’s what was working for me…NOW it hardly does. So what needs to change?
    *sigh*….kids.

  31. When I feel like I’m going to throw a tantrum (and I do, I yell, in his face, kind of to startle him which usually results in him crying because I’ve hurt his feelings – and I hate it too) I give myself a time out. I just walk away from him screaming on the floor. And take deep breathes to calm down. Sometimes he follows me which just pushes me over the edge, but it’s better to try to get away than to take it out on my boy.

    Ugh, I hate discovering things like this about myself so I know a little of how you feel.

    When I was a kid I hit my little sisters a lot. I swore I would never spank my son because for me it’s a sign of lost control (I’ve heard of parents spanking “in control” but I don’t know what that would look like). Yelling is lost control too. Yuck. (that’s directed at me, not you. I have much empathy for you. You can do it!)

  32. what has really helped us has been to use the rule of saying yes as often as we can. little kids are told no all the time, about almost everything, so i make it a rule to make yes my default answer. if i can’t come up with a good reason to say no, i say yes. oh, and explaining why i have to say no works wonders. they understand way more than we think. sometimes the answer is simply, no because that isn’t safe, and my 21 mos old dd understands, and stops doing what i told her not to do. i also feel like by giving her a valid reason, i am teacher her to not just do things because someone told her to, i’m teaching her to reason.

  33. I have spanked Jack a couple of times. The first time he just looked at me and kept doing what he was doing The second time he just laughed and moved on. So obv it doesn’t work for him.
    His 2s were good but his 3s have been horrible. I could literally sit here all day and tell him to get his coat on so we can leave and he won’t. He has no desire to listen. at all. The other night, I’d had enough of the loud dump truck in the kitchen and I repeatedly told him to get it out. Finally I broke. I yelled, in that scary way where he probably couldn’t understand what I was saying. He continued to just look at me. So I took a deep breath and removed the toy. He ran to his room and was crying. Then he said, “I’m so upset bc my mommy is mad at me”. UGH. heartbreaking. When I went in to explain why I was mad and why I yelled, he told me that he didn’t want to talk right now. He came back into the kitchen with a different toy. He said that he was going to play with that one bc it was quiet and I wouldn’t get mad. I felt so awful.
    I’m going to have to check out that book. I’m at my wits end on what I’m supposed to do with him.

  34. I could have written this whole post, word for word. I hate feeling so frustrated that I’m just constantly screaming and resort to spanking at times. I am not at all proud of the way I handle his discipline most of the time and, it is sad too say, but, I see my mother coming out in my parenting and I especially hate that. (I love my mom, but don’t agree with her parenting methods she used when we were growing up)

    They have had some presentations of that method at work, I have thought about checking it out. I would love to hear more of how it works for you.

  35. I just discovered your blog today and you are not alone! My youngest will be 1.5 the day after my oldest turns 4 on April 7th if that gives you any idea. I never wanted to be be the yelling or spanking kind of parent but OMG there are times he drives me to near violence. At home I can put him in his room or walk away but when he acts out in public it is even more frustrating. I have read books, prayed, bribed etc and have recently come to realize that toddler boys are the equivalent of a preteen girls with their mood swings, back talk and over all crazy ass bs. Today he had a major meltdown so I laughed at him until I cried and then he started laughing. It is a vicious cycle but it is worth it. So sorry for the ramble but your post really hit home!

  36. I so hear you. I need to stop yelling too. I’m totally throwing tantrums along with him. I’m going to read this book too!

    Thank you for writing this post.

  37. Thank you Jill, for such an honest post. I’ve taught parenting classes, helped hundreds of others to learn to communicate better with their children and I promptly ordered 1-2-3 Magic from the library upon reading that snippet.

    I have raised one child (22) and my little one is 4. People say to me, “Oh, you must have found parenting so much easier the second time around.” I just paste a smile on my face, nod and LIE, “Oh yes, so much easier.”

    It isn’t. I was spanked, beaten and screamed at as a child and it is not easy to get over or avoid repeating.

    So despite what I already know, I figure there’s always room for more knowledge. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  38. Thank you for this very honest post! I think a million moms have been where you are, and you sympathize with all of them!

    My 2-year-old is about the same age as yours, so I am no expert, but we have had a ton of success with extinguishing for temper tantrums (I’m sure you know this, but extinguishing is very intentionally ignoring the behavior, in a very obvious, “I must have my earplugs in because I’m right next to you folding laundry and I can’t hear your screaming” way.) My mom works with 1-2 year olds in a childcare, and it is her all-time favorite way to end unwanted behavior!
    Wishing you all the best with your little ones, and I hope you really, really benefit from the 1-2-3 method!
    If you’re interested, there is a rather pointed response to this post at http://mindofthemother.blogspot.com/2011/02/in-defense-of-spank.html

  39. I am lying in bed with the guilt eating me up. I just spanked my 2 year old for the 1st time. I feel sick about it. He is the youngest of 4. It has been a long day and I am exhausted. I just wanted to get them all into bed and have a moment to myself. But he had other plans. I snapped when I heard him get out his bed and he started throwing all the blocks that had just been neatly snacked. And yes…..I am a moron for even having the blocks in the room. While I am not really a spanker, I am a yeller. I battle this daily. I do not want to raise my children to become yellers and I already see it happening. I am crying as I write this. I feel like I am screwing them up. I try to give myself a time-out…to give myself a chance to compose myself…and sometimes I do a really good job. But then inevitably, I fall off the wagon and start screaming again. I just do not know how to get a handle on it. Maybe I need to seek professional help….I just don’t know….

  40. 1-2-3- Magic has helped us a lot. We have a daughter who is turning 4 at the end of March and twin boys that turned two in September. Needless to say, I’ve struggled with guilt just going to work and leaving my wife to quarterback that trio at home.

    the 1-2-3 thing has been so helpful giving us something to go to for just the same reasons. We’ve both been in tears wondering why we’re not anymore patient. I”ve had people laugh at me saying it’s not a long term solution. It’s been a few months and it still helps (when we remember to do it).

    But we also have to remind ourselves: they’re toddlers. They’re supposed to be shoving at boundaries nonstop.

  41. Thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Sometimes we feel so alone…like it is just us. With 3 boys ranging in age from almost 6 to 15 months i spend waaaaaaaay to much time yelling. i have spanked and as you said it does me no good. Sometimes i feel like my boys only hear me when i scream but maybe it is my fault. Maybe thats the only way they hear me because that is what they are use to. My almost 6 year old and almost 5 year old yell constantly because they see us yelling constantly. It breaks my heart to think i am passing on my anger to them.

    Thank you! I will be reading this book asap!

  42. Jill,

    I applaud you for posting this, because if we can’t be honest about our struggles, there is no room for growth. It takes balls to be honest about spanking, especially on the internet where people are so quick to judge under the cowardly veil of anonymity.

    I relate 100% percent to your situation, and each new day as a parent seems to throw me more curve balls. I have a very strong-willed 5 year old daughter and a very sensitive 21 month old son. If I had a nickel for every mommy-tantrum I have thrown, I would be rich. And there is nothing like the guilt that comes with parenting, eh?

    I highly recommend “The Five love Languages of Children”, and I am going to read “1-2-3 Magic” now.

    Also, have you tried yoga? Sometimes it is the only thing that saves me from a complete meltdown. Ayana loves it, too! I can recommend a great website that has a ton of yoga workouts of various lengths and skill levels… the best part is that you can do it at home, whenever you can squeeze it in.

    Keep up the good work! What matters is that you are willing to put in the work to be the best parent you can be.

  43. I am so happy to read this tonight. It’s like a huge weight has been lifted. I have had “one of those days” today where bedtime is looked forward to. Both my 2 year, 11 month old son and I have had a horrible day full of yelling and tears. The hubby is out of town this week and I’m like… “what day is it? Oh, only Tuesday.” Sheesh, Both my little guy and I were taking deep breaths in the car. He was like (deep breath) “now your turn mommy…” LOL It’s crazy. I just feel so bad, and it truly is me tantrumming right there with him!!! I need to check out your book and keep up with your blog. It’s so great to also read all the comments. It makes me feel like I’m not alone.

    Thank you so much.

  44. Reading all of this has helped me so much. I have been crying for a week every night hating myself for spanking my daughter which is four. I feel so guilty and evil. I love her so much and i just hate myself for spanking her. When i put things together it is my stress. I have been having lots of family problems and lots of financial problems. It is to the point were im scared that ill lose my home and i dont want my kids to starve. I have been so emotional and i burst and spanked my baby. This will take time to learn but thank you all for this information

    1. Oh, Lyn. I’m so sorry to hear all that. Please know you’re not alone. Take some time, deep breaths, you’ve got this. It will all be okay.

  45. Since I’m commenting at the bottom of the list, I’m hoping no one will read this admission. I’m a 47 year OLD mom, I mean OLD. I had a baby at the worst possible time in my life. I have a chronic illness with chronic pain and am lucky the baby made it. I stay at home with him and I can barely manage myself, let alone him. For the last year it has been hell. He is 3 now and we scream at each other all day. I have no help, no family close by, no one to give me a break. I need to lay down most of the day, especially after I take my medicine. Here is my beautiful, bored 3 year old pulling my arms to go out to play. I get sooooo mad, I just want to be left alone. He throws stuff at me and I snap, smack him in the back of the head. He cries, I cry. It happens again 5 minutes later. All day, he whines and I just want to run away for some peace. My first son is in college and I don’t remember it EVER being this hard!!!! He wakes me up all through the night still, I”m just exhausted and I want to quit now but I can’t. It’s terrible, but I can’t wait for him to get bigger or for me to croak.

    1. Sherrie, thank you so much for commenting. I am really sorry to hear all this. Please know that you can find support. If you really need it, you can find it. I will HELP YOU find it. I will, I swear. That does sound like such a challenging situation. I know, for us, Kendall acts out the most when he’s bored. He was off from school for 3 weeks in August and it was pretty awful. I had a ton of work to do, and I couldn’t play with him the whole time. Do you have a Mother’s Day Out of K3 program near you? Please, let me know if there’s any way I can help you. I have a pretty extensive network of moms who are ready and willing to help other moms. You can email me- jill at babyrabies dot com. Hang in there.

    2. Sherrie,
      Clearly you are suffering so much, and I’m so sorry for what you are going through. Having been through a period of severe chronic pain for 6 months when I suffered nerve damage, I know how incapacitating it is and how it prevents you from being able to do almost anything. You definitely need a break, and I think if you had some support it would help both you and your little boy. There are free programs at many churches that Jill or I could perhaps help you find. Some are on different days, so it might work out that you could get several mornings during the week free to rest and take care of yourself. There may also be local support groups that can help you. Let Jill or I know how we can help, because it doesn’t have to be like this. I think if people knew the extent of your suffering and how it is impacting both you and your child, they would be happy to help you.
      — Katherine

      1. Sherrie – you are so not alone – I promise it does not need to be that hard. I know somewhat of the feeling, I’m fibromyalgic and the words “Mommy, get up” on the bad days have become like nails on a chalkboard, but my support group gets me through. You need a support system Mama. There is no reason for you to struggle through this alone. This too shall pass, and you and your boy will be okay. Just reach out to someone, please.

        1. Megan thank you so much. You’re too kind and I don’t deserve it. Yes, it’s a form a fibro for me too. Only it’s my neck and am take pills daily. I feel sooooo bad for my son. I’m such a crappy piece of poo for a mom. I know, I do need support but I just don’t know where to turn. I’m so embarrassed, I really wouldn’t want anyone to know. Thanks for taking the time to reply and offer kind words. Brought me to tears knowing that someone else understands. 🙂

        2. Sherrie,
          Please please please don’t be embarrassed. Lots of women have the same experience. You are not alone, it’s not your fault and you shouldn’t be ashamed. You are under tremendous amounts of stress, and you need and deserve support. You DESERVE it. It’s okay if you don’t know where to turn – we can help you figure that out. You’ll be surprised at what relief it will bring when you are able to get the help you need and realize you won’t be judged. Really.
          – Katherine

    1. Hi Jill, I’m replying a little late, but thank you for the honesty of your post. I’m lying in bed eaten with guilt right now after having spanked my 2.5 yr old son for the first time 🙁 It has been a stressful day, and I lost it and had a full blown mommy tantrum when my son clobbered his 12 wk old baby brother over the head with his plastic golf club while I was away for a couple of minutes getting dinner out of the oven in the kitchen. I cried after because I felt so guilty that I took my eye off the baby which resulted in his getting hurt (he’s fine, thankfully), as well as my toddler getting hurt. It was my fault for leaving the baby at the mercy of my toddler, and my fault for spanking my toddler who was only exhibiting age appropriate behavior. My son is such a joy on good days, but it has definitely been a challenge for my husband and me since we brought the baby home. I’ve yelled more in the past 12 weeks than the past 2 years before that. I know I need to stop yelling and I really don’t want to spank because I realize the irony of teaching my child not to hit…by hitting. We were a solely positive enforcement family until recently, when it seemed like yelling was the only way to get our toddler’s attention. But except for truly dangerous situations, I would like to find alternate ways to discipline. I had a Bad Mommy Moment today and I feel terrible. 🙁 I told myself I’d never spank and now I have. Parenting is so hard some days.

      1. That’s rough 🙁 Today’s a new day, and it’s never too late to forgive yourself. Hang in there. It IS so hard. You’re not alone.

  46. I have a 3.5 year old boy who is a complete handful. He was high maintenance from the moment we brought him home from the hospital. We had a rough first year, >10 ear infections that lead to tubes and adnoidectomy @ 13 months, numerous viruses mainly from daycare. I also had an appendectomy and was hospitalized for a virus I caught from hi
    Needless to say, I felt like I didn’t sleep for a year! Then after health issues calmed down, we were dealing with a speech delay. He has been receiving speech therapy since he was 20 months old. We dealt with constant whinning and crying on a daily basis and still are!! Now as his speech has been improving, he still chooses to whine and throw tantrums. The littlest thing can set him off. We were always so patient with him up until the last 6 months. I have had it! He not only yells and screams at us, he hits and tries to bite us! We have tried many methods to help him communicate better. We recently tried the ladder method ( from the book, “beyond time out”). I feel like a failure and have tremendous guilt. Why can we find a away to enjoy our son? Why can’t we have a peaceful house? Our sons deliberate definance has taken a huge toll on all of us. ( especially my marriage). We just don’t know what to do anymore! So tried!!

  47. I am in tears, again.Cornered.Failing to be a happy person/mother of this beautifuul child who deserves to be understood…Your post is about us.

  48. I feel this way all the time…and Wesley isn’t even a year old yet. I figured that this is just the way it had to be. This is how my parents were with me and my siblings, anyways. It is like a never ending battle. “Don’t climb on that…Don’t put that in your mouth…You’re going to hurt yourself…” and on and on and on…I feel like I’m just so in over my head.

    It makes me feel a little better that I’m not the only one who ever feels like this but I’m still anxious about what his childhood has in store for me. I just want to love my son. I don’t want to be mad, annoyed, frustrated and yelling at him all the time.

    I hate that I feel like my father…who was physically and emotionally abusive…even though the most that ever happens is yelling and frustration and both of us in tears. I feel like this is never going to end and there’s nobody there to help me.

    1. Jess, I’m so sorry you’re struggling with this, too. I wish I could tell you I’ve found the magic formula, but I’m still struggling with it. Hang in there.

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