Parenting sucks sometimes

Henry Vilas Zoo; Madison, Wisconsin

My son is struggling at school at the moment. He’s not listening, he’s throwing things, and he’s screaming at teachers and students. One of the directors even looked at me and asked point blank, “What’s going on with you guys?” Um, uncomfortable much?!

It did come on quite suddenly (age three and a half). We’re seeing similar behaviors at home, but I think we’re better able to control him through some behavior modification techniques I’ve learned working with kids with behavior disorders of varying severity. I count  with Charlie — though I count backwards “3, 2, 1…” and that works most of the time. I talk about being on “green, yellow, and red” at home. We have a little hand-drawn stoplight on the wall — we don’t need it now that he gets that “yellow” is a warning and that “red” is serious. Normally things don’t escalate to the point of being “on red,” but sometimes they do. Then he loses one of his toys.

Tantrums happen when he doesn’t get his way. He screams and even sometimes throws himself on the ground. Charlie does this at home and he even did it at the library. He wanted to check out a superhero book that was a board book, but was way too mature for him and I told him no. He threw himself on the ground, demanding the book. I told him I was leaving and started walking away. He screamed at me at the top of his lungs…but then he stopped when he noticed I was walking towards the door.

I guess we got a pass when Charlie was two. I remember him tantruming then and thinking it was “bad,” but really it was much easier to redirect him and to get him to forget about whatever bothered him. Now, he remembers! And then he shouts insults like “poopy head” and “you’re a bad momma!” It sounds tame and even funny sometimes, but it has to be dealt with. He gets a time out for “naughty words.”

Admittedly I’m grateful that the bad behavior we’re seeing is coming at a time when the book writing, publicity, and events are over. I can be home with him on weekends and he needs that right now. I cannot even imagine how my husband and I would have managed this when I was in the thick of writing — the book would never have been completed.

Charlie is going through a growth spurt. Just tonight I realized that he’s almost out of 4T pajamas. I wasn’t ready for that! And of course Charlie knows that we are moving. We don’t have family in the area and so when we are out looking at houses, he has to come along. We know it’s unsettling for him, but we feel like we have few options. Also, the women in charge at the “school” he attends are much older, like older than my mom. I think they are out of ideas in terms of discipline — and I’m worried they are not terribly consistent.

Working with special needs children professionally, I have sat in eligibility meetings and IEP meetings where I’ve had to deliver bad news to parents. It never feels good and it’s something I dread (though many parents are relieved that their children qualify for services — it can go either way). Now that I get a bad report every single time I pick up my son from childcare, it has given me a chance to feel what it’s like to have a child struggle in school. Frankly, it sucks beyond belief.

So I’m stuck. We are planning a move this summer and I really had hoped that he could hang in there a bit longer so that he (and I) could finish out the school year before a transition to a new care setting. If we weren’t moving, I would have already pulled him out of the school and found a new place for him. But we are moving and I just want to minimize the transitions he has to face over the next couple months. I want my work/school to end (June 15th!) and that be his last day at that child care. Then we would have the summer together for him to relax with Mom. I am looking at some half-day camps for threes — they sound perfect and he thinks they sound fun, too. We both are ready for a change. And we both can’t wait for the summer to arrive…

Playing polar bear with Daddy

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31 thoughts on “Parenting sucks sometimes

      1. Being a teacher for ten years before I had kids, I thought being a parent would be so easy. My 2 1/2 year old is a very difficult child. Now I have such a different perspective at parent teacher conferences and much more respect for the parents of my students. Parenting is hard work and especially if both parents work and there are siblings in the house. We thought we had life figured out with one child, but then along came #2 by surprise and all was turned upside down. I keep telling myself that yes the days are long, but the years will go by really fast.

  1. It gets better!

    In our orientation for the “4s” class at our co-op preschool, our teacher (who had been teaching preschoolers for 30+ years and had magical powers) warned us all that we would at some point that year wonder what on earth was wrong with all the boys. She went on to say that at age four, preschool boys have more testosterone raging through their little systems (in comparison to their size) than they do as teenagers. They are going through huge growth and hormonal changes and can barely stand themselves, let alone anything that upsets them.

    I haven’t been able to find any scientific sources for this, but I do know a lot of mothers of boys who had a very hard time at that age. Apparently, this book makes the claim:

    I’ve never had boys, but I will say that my eldest daughter had me in tears on an almost daily basis from age 4 to midway through her 5th year. She’s a reasonably well behaved person most of the time, at age 11.

  2. …while I’m waiting for moderation I also wanted to say, maybe you should listen to your instincts about this care situation not being the right one for him. At that age, my daughter would completely lose it in situations that weren’t structured enough or in places that were too loud, too brightly lit, too wide open…. etc etc etc. Basically, anything overstimulating would cause her to immediately overload. Her school was small and cozy and the teacher was very good at transitioning the kids smoothly from one supervised activity to the next, usually by having the kids sing a song or some other distracting techniques. If you don’t get the sense that the staff at his school have this kind of skill with touchy kids, he may need a different setting sooner rather than later.

  3. My little guy is 3.5, too, and 3 has been a NIGHTMARE. He was so sweet and docile … until we hit 3. The good news is that my 5 year old was just like this from birth until age 4. We were consistently consistent with discipline and now… she’s a gem! 🙂 But man, it wears you out. So hang in there and know that you are not alone. Maybe we should start a “Mothers of 3 Year Olds” support group! 🙂

    1. Boy, does it ever wear you out. I’m so tired… Let’s start that group!!

  4. How fun to see our “local” zoo (we’re about an hour away from Madison)! Hang in there with Charlie, it will pass, I promise

    1. I love Madison and visit as often as I can — that’s where my grandmother is!

  5. I’ve always heard and noticed in my kids that they tend to have out of the ordinary behaviors when they are going through a growth spurt. That’s the first thing I thought of when I read your post, and then I got to your paragraph about his spurt. Good luck. You’re a great mommy. Big hug!

  6. Being a teacher I’m sure you’ve already thought through the scary things that this kind of change can b a warning signa of.
    I love the parenting website handinhand They deal with just this kind of thing in ways that make sense and are loving–staylistening, playlistening, and special time. It takes a little time, but you might want to take a look.
    One other thing, if you think the house-hunting is stressing him out, why not let him out of it? It sounds like you and his father are both going to each house together. Splitting up the houses would free up time for each of you to take 1 on 1 time with C. After you’ve weeded out the places you don’t want, you can check out each others lists and then look at the finalists together.
    Good luck!

  7. It sounds like the daycare is not the best fit and it is very possible that is playing a huge part in his behavior.

  8. Correction: that website is handinhandparenting dot org. Give them a look. I hope it helps, ’cause it is awful to see your kid hurting and not have any way to help. I’ve been there.

  9. Aw. Been there. 3 was much more difficult for us with our son than 2 was. It was terrible, indeed. :). But this too shall pass. Just be consistent and make sure you hand out lots of extra love with the discipline! I’m sure you do. He needs to know that he is being disciplined because you love him. 3 is rough…hang in there!

    1. Thanks so much — really trying to do the best I can. This is sooo hard.

  10. I have two 9 year old boys and I am here to say, this is all completely age appropriate behavior. The reason pre-school is so beneficial for children is that it gives them the chance to learn the social skills of playing with other kids and the rules of how we act in a group setting. No one is born with those skills, we learn them. It sounds like they aren’t able to grasp the concept that Charlie is still learning.
    I understand your feelings about not wanting to change his daycare, but if the change is to somewhere better I think that the improvement in care will more than compensate for the disruption of his routine. No one should be made to feel like a bad parent or that there is something wrong with their child for completely typical boundary pushing in a 3 year old.
    While I am sure that the people who work there are very nice and well meaning, I think it is clear from the food they serve that they do not share your philosophy on a number of things. I suggest looking for somewhere else that is a better fit for your family, even though it is for a short period of time.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind reply. It’s been a rough time for us…

  11. We used “Hands are not for hitting” and “Words are not for hurting” there are several more in the series that may help as well. It is hard when your child has behaviors like that and you are not there to see it or deal with it….I use the counting as well…and have removed TK from a situation when she would behave in that unacceptable fashion. The taking of the toys has also been very successful…wishing you luck and patience.

    1. Thank you — it makes me feel better knowing people have been there before!

      1. “Raising Your Spirited Child” was excellent therapy for me, when my eldest was a toddler. If nothing else, it helped me understand sensory triggers that were upsetting me, and making it harder for me to deal with her rationally.

        Someone else mentioned house hunting. If there’s any way at all you can wrangle baby sitting while you do that, I highly recommend it. We’ve moved 4 times since my eldest was born, and after the first few times we realized that we just couldn’t bring the kids with us when we looked at houses. They get emotionally attached to every house and imagine themselves living there, then they imagine moving, then they get very stressed out — and then if you don’t move to that particular house they have all this grief over losing out on it. We bring the kids to see the house the day we sign the lease, when we know it’s official.

  12. My youngest is such a challenge right now (2 1/2) that I find myself wishing for fall when she starts school. Older sis is in the program and it is fabulous. I wish I could enjoy this time more but she can be stubborn.

  13. I am really glad I checked in today. I, too, felt that I luckily missed the ‘terrible two’ stage until my son turned 3 and whoa momma. But right now he just turned 6 and is in the midst of a huge growth spurt and what I was labeling as ‘growing pains’. My very empathic, kind little boy has been on yellow in school not once but twice this WEEK. I have been witnessing the behavior at home but once it carried over to school it’s been a myriad of emotions and techniques to nip this in the bud. I am going to look more into growth spurts and hormones affecting behavior. I guess all I can offer is maybe there is something to this and even though it’s tough right now, you’ll have your Charlie back soon until the next one hits! Hang in there.

  14. My very delightful son (who is now ten) went through a period during toddlerhood when he hated transitions (he’d tantrum about having to get out of the car and go inside the house after an outing) and was diametrically opposed to the #2 aspect of potty training. He’d pee in the toilet just fine but only do #2 while wearing a diaper, standing hidden behind living room curtains. Suggestions like “Hey, let’s try that in the bathroom” would meet with Hulk-like directives to “GO AWAY” and “LEAVE ME ALONE”. By the time he finally cleared that hurdle, he was almost 4.

    He was a lot of work. Went through a biting stage. Screaming fits during timeouts. We were very consistent in providing consequences for bad behaviors, but we never punished him for normal expressions of feelings, like crying or voicing anger in an acceptable way. He was a high-energy, long distance tantrum thrower, and sometimes we just had to let him burn through the excess energy at high decibels in the middle of the living room floor. We never gave in to tantrum demands, and we always presented a united front. He’s a GREAT kid now, but he really put us through the wringer!

    Quality parenting IS exhausting and tiresome, but I think it’s worth it.

  15. Totally hear you with how challenging toddlers are! This website has been a HUGE help to me:

    The link goes directly to an article about toddler discipline, but there are lots of other great toddler and discipline articles too. I really think following the advice Janet gives and the RIE philosophy in general has saved me from a lot of tantrums! They still happen occasionally, but not nearly as much as other parents I know who aren’t following this approach. It may not work for everyone, but it has really worked for me!

  16. We had two tantrums within 30 minutes of waking up this morning, because he couldn’t do what he wanted to (which was basically anything other than get dressed). I’m frequently told that I’m not his friend, now he’s escalated it to I’m not his Mommy. (shrug).
    Thankfully, numerous friends warned me that three would be much worse than two. Although I find this book a little outdated, I love it for the title alone: Your Three Year Old: Friend or Enemy. I’m just hoping that my son is ahead of the curve a bit, because according to the book, things really go to h–l at three and a half, and we’re barely two months into the “tantrum threes.” Enroll me in that support group.

  17. I am a 3rd grader, and my brother is 4 and he still throws tantrums. He just HAS to ruin everybody’s day before he hits the hay. I found this site by It’s awesome so far. Thanks!

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