Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Backed into a corner

So wise Mamas-how do you deal with that feeling of being backed into a corner and feeling like the only way out is with force? How do you keep being respectful to your children when they are being downright rude and difficult?

We had an incident at the park the other day where Tannah was being cross. She was cross with me, she was cross with her sisters and she seemed hell bent on making everyone cross with her. It culminated in her lying down and screaming at me when I told her I was not going for a second round of pushing on the swings (for a few valid reasons I'm not going into). I decided to pull the pin on the park because no one was having fun so I herded everyone to the car and started to get ready to go.

Tannah says "NO! I will NOT get in the car!" and proceeds to sit on the ground and make her cranky face at me. I am still keeping my cool at this stage and I ask her again. "NOOOOO! No no no! I'm staying here"

By this point I was tired and I'll admit it, I was pissed off. I felt like her behavior had backed me into a corner. The way she was treating everyone was not OK, tired and a few days after her birthday or not. If an adult had been speaking to me the way she had been then I'd of told them to piss off and gone home long ago.

I asked her to get in the car again. This time it was not a question. She stands defiantly. "NO! You are being the meanest mother EVER!" Well that was it for me. All that anger I had been controlling came welling up and I thought "Fuck you! I'll give you mean!" and then, it bubbled over.

"Get in the fucking car Tannah-NOW" Loudly, in front of all the people at the park who were already staring at the 6 year old being, for want of a better word, an asshole.

She says nothing but does not move.

"NOW!" I scream it. So loudly and I am seeing RED.I'm so MAD at her and my internal dialogue (thank god we are at the park so i just say things in my head and not out loud)is running and it's feels like a string of expletives.

She is startled by my yell. She looks at me like she can't believe I have spoken to her that way (I don't speak to her that way)her anger moves to upset and she gets in her seat. I've won. I scared her into getting in the car and she is crying. I've made a six year old cry by yelling at her. But the adrenalin is still pumping from all of the fight or flight hormones from the "backed into a corner" feeling. And before I can stop myself-

"No sleepover on Thursday. Tough luck"

The sleepover has been planned for weeks and she has been so excited about having 4 friends come to stay. The thing is I said this because I wanted to upset her. It is the emptiest threat in the history of empty threats-and we don't use punishments, rewards or threats at our place so it's completely left field. And it hits the mark.

"Mummy noooooo, I'm sorry. Pleeeaaseee" Sobbing now.

All of a sudden I feel like a piece of dirt. Regret. Knowledge that I handled it badly and bullied an overtired child into the car. Tannah's behavior was not OK but the way I handled it by screaming at her and making empty threats to scare her into submission was worse. I drove home without saying a word.

Later we talked, I apologized. She did too. We discussed behavior, hers and mine. There was cuddles and confirmation that the sleepover was going ahead.

How do you stop the volcano erupting?


Marita said...

God it is so hard sometimes. After two years in counselling with Annie we've got a system, I warn her of red light behaviour, say something along the lines of 'I am feeling very angry and I want to yell loudly' ... Which requires ridiculous amounts of self control and is probably contributing to the migraines. It works, although the boundaries constantly shift and I do much better when I'm not tired. When I'm tired I yell a lot. Thankfully by that stage of the day Hubby is usually home and hands me tea, chocolate and suggests quiet time in the bedroom.

At least after a couple if years I counseling we are both more aware, well I know I am, of our triggers and that does help to stop things escalating.

Oddly Heidi and I don't seem to have the same personality conflicts... Yet.

greendraggon said...

Well no counseling here (yet) but we have a similar system. I tell DD that I am starting to feel very cranky and likely to start yelling soon. That usually shifts things. Doesn't mean she does what I wanted but it does shift the dynamic. Interestingly occasionally what happens when I let her know I am being stretched too far what happens is that suddenly instead of overwhelming rage I feel quite sad instead. It's easy to pull myself together when that happens, like a big release but without the fireworks. Confirms my thought that the rage stems from feeling unheard & therefore unvalued.

Rachael said...

I think the idea that you are always going to avoid this type of thing is unrealistic, but of course I understand you wanting to try.

I think you did exactly what I would have done. That said if I could choose a better way it would be to bite my tongue and carry the person to the car. (not easy I know). But try to do it calmly as possible and let the child know that we'll discuss it further and assign a consequence (if that's your thing).

So anyways back to paragraph 1, you did what you did, and then you made ammends and gained a learning opportunity.

I think though that sometimes we need to accept that these things will happen and move on.

In my discussion later I would be talking with the child about what a consequence of that behaviour might be, for example you may be less inclined to take kids to the park if you know it will be difficult to leave. If she takes this on board then you will discuss before you go to the park how things will go. (I have done this since forever with my change averse child and you possibly have too).

Missy Boo said...

I have no advice - but even letting my child know I'm getting angry does not make her back down, she just pushes the envelope further :(

My Miss 5 did the same thing as Tannah at the shops yesterday. I didn't yell, I walked to the car, got in and started to reverse. The steam was literally escaping from my ears!

A mother of 3, stood applauding me as Miss 5 apologised and hopped in the car.

Marita said...

Oh Rachel has reminded me of a brilliant strategy that I shamelessly stole from another autism mum a couple of years ago. It related to play dates and outings, our kids always have trouble with transitions, so when the outing/playdate comes to an end there is challenging behavior. Heidi wails and clings and cries and cries, Annie runs and hides.

This mums technique was 'if you can not leave nicely we won't come back', I acknowledge to my girls that it is sad to be leaving but we will be able to come back, if we leave nicely - no hiding, no running, and no tear storms.

Leah said...

Look I have absolutely zero idea! i know the feeling of regret that ive had to up the ante to being so aggressive to enforce a boundary. but i also wonder if its a good thing for them to feel a massive tanty can hold us hostage. especially when a good deal of thought is given to maintaining equilibrium and their emotions and opinions are attended to and given weight. everyone loses their shit sometimes, i would hope my kids do it because they are unable to control themselves and not because it's a proven winning strategy. like if i lose mine, it is because something untenable has occurred, not because i am just a cranky uncontrolled arsehole.

Christie - Childhood 101 said...

Hugs to you, being a mama can be a tough job at times and we are people with feelings and emotions too. Although you feel bad, I think the learning opportunity it presented will be remembered long after the tears have dried xx

Sif said...

Honestly, from what you did there, the only thing I'd be inclined to work on is the "getting back at", part. I say *I* would work on that part because for me that's the biggest challenge. When I'm feeling hurt from a lack of respect by my kids, I want them to hurt too and so after I've had to lose my cool to get them to be reasonable, I have a tendency for tipping into, "And now I'm gonna make you wish you never started this".

Respect is a two-way street. That is often said to parents to make them see that they have to respect their children as people as well, but it does work the other way, too. If you show your children a lot of respect, you can expect that they will at least try to reciprocate. T wasn't in this instance, for all sorts of reasons I know, but she is also getting older and beginning to be able to balance her desires with the need of others - of course, she won't be there for a number of years yet, but yes, you can expect more from her than from her younger sisters.

I think "frightening" her is overly emotive self-talk. She might have been surprised by your yelling at her, but would she be expecting you lash out in any other way, or was it shock, as in a wake up call "I've pushed mum too far, she's really upset", which can be upsetting to her without being a direct threat to her. It could be upsetting in the same way seeing you cry over a loss might be upsetting.

I'm rambling, but I guess that is because I've had to work through a lot of the balance of relationships with my children, understanding when I've crossed the line into abuse as opposed to asserted myself as a person who also deserves respect.

Sif said...

Also, I'm assuming you talk to her later about how you both felt about the situation. Debriefing mends a lot of hurt.

Toushka Lee said...

I have too many stories like this one. I relate to that feeling like shit after making your kid cry all too much. I liked the last two lines though - that is where the good and the happy comes in. You can't be perfect all the time. Neither can kids. Sometimes you are both imperfect at the same time and shit happens.

Francesca said...

I'm sooo with you. I definitely need some help regarding self-talk when I'm feeling like that. I need something to say to myself to manage the anger when it creeps up like that.

My toddler pushes these same buttons. Both my husband and I are so often stumped for ideas to manage his behaviour. It's so completely irrational and over the top that no amount of 'talking' or explaining helps.

shae said...

Thanks everyone for the dialogue on this.

It's a tough gig at times huh?

Deborah said...

Oh Shae, I totally feel for you. In the last few months I have erupted more times than I care to mention and it's an awful feeling.. especially when you see that you've scared your child. I have no wise words at all, just that I hear you totally. And you're doing okay. You were under extreme pressure and it can happen to the best of us who have the best of intentions. I love your honesty. And I love that you repaired it all with her. xxx

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