My 3 year old son just returned from a week long trip to California with his grandparents. He had a blast hanging out with family and friends he doesn't often get to see. He also got to eat all of the McDonald's he wanted, all of the ice cream he wanted, and got to stay up as late as he could.... i.e. he had no rules to follow... he even pooped on the lawn. Grandma thought this was hilarious, all I could say was - "we don't poop on the lawn, we poop in the toilet."
I missed my son terribly, and I took the week I had away from my son to read up on peaceful parenting, in particular the articles found in Aha! Parenting. I wanted to start fresh with my boy, because he is quite a spirited child. He takes after me and is very stubborn and opinionated, and I often find myself getting really frustrated and angry with him when he decides he's not going to follow the rules. I have spanked my son, I have given him timeouts, I have even locked him in his room... I have taken away toys, I have thrown away toys, and my boyfriend even destroyed one of his toys in front of him. I hate all of these methods of "discipline." I hate the threats, I hate the name calling (you're acting like a baby, or you're acting like a spoiled brat)... all of this goes on in my house and I hate it. I am sick of it.
When my son came home today I wanted it to be a joyful and peaceful reunion... and it was at first. He came home right in the middle of me cooking dinner, so after lots of hugs and kisses I asked him if he would like to watch Big Hero 6 while I cooked. Of course he did. So I got to cook in peace and he got to relax and wind down from his 20 hour car ride from California (yes, they drove). While waiting for things to simmer we cuddled on the couch and talked about his vacation, and then dinner was done.
Normally in my house we eat as a family at the dinner table, and all cell phones, games, and televisions are turned off. This evening I decided to give him a break since he didn't have any rules for a week, and I let the movie continue playing while we ate. I did tell him though that if he could not concentrate on dinner that I would turn off the movie. Well, after eating nothing but hamburgers and hot dogs for the week, he was suddenly picky about dinner and kept telling me he didn't like it and didn't want to eat. I told him that he could either eat his dinner, or go to bed early and hungry. He continued to ignore me and his dinner and decided that he was going to watch the movie - so I told him that if he didn't start eating in the next 5 minutes that I would turn off the movie and he was going to go to bed early. I set a timer, and he continued to ignore everything I said, and when the timer went off I turned off the movie. This of course started a temper tantrum, but I thought I was prepared for it this time. I had read about being a peaceful parent after all.
I acknowledged my son's anger and frustration, I reiterated the rule I had given him, and I reminded him that it was his choice not to eat his dinner and that all I was doing was following through on the consequences of his choice. I kept my cool with him, I didn't raise my voice, and I hugged him and kissed him and let him know that it was alright to be angry. I don't know if he took this as a sign of weakness or what, but the screaming ended fairly quickly only to be replaced by circular speak and negotiations. At first I thought we were making progress, but then he started in on this attitude where he would tell me wanted to be a bad boy, and I told him that that was his choice, but that being a bad boy came with consequences while being a good boy came with rewards. I told him if he was going to be a bad boy he wouldn't get his bed time story. Then the screaming would start again and he would say that he wanted to be a good boy, so I would encourage him to be a good boy, only for him to turn around again and throw a toy and say "I'm never going to be a good boy. I'm going to always be a bad boy." This went on for an hour. I couldn't get anywhere with him, and I kept asking myself why I was trying to reason with a 3 year old.
I got really frustrated, and I decided to leave the situation to calm myself down so I wouldn't yell at my son, and this elicited even more screams from him and he kept trying to run out of his room so I finally closed the door and he started banging on it and rattling it and this is an issue because he's broken the house once already. So, at this point my boyfriend decided it was time to step in and he opened the door and got in my son's face and told him that acting like a spoiled brat wasn't going to fly in our house, and that if he didn't calm down and start following the rules he was going to get a spanking, or my boyfriend was going to rip Mickey's arm off. Well, my son calmed down for about 10 minutes, long enough for my boyfriend to disappear into his office again, and I was left with an even more upset child and I was also angry because this isn't how I want to handle my son anymore. It's obviously not working. But, my son has been running in and out of his room all night, coming up with every excuse he can think of to stall going to bed: from "I want to kiss you and hug you" to talking about what's going to happen tomorrow, to having to go potty 20 times... finally I got fed up and closed his door so he would stay in his room and that's when I just lost it and started crying because all he could say in between fits of tears was that he missed his grandmother. (Please keep in mind that normal bed time is 8:00pm and I sent him to bed at 7:20pm. I think it's better to start in on our routine sooner rather than later, so while I would have loved staying up with my son chatting and playing or whatever, I also felt it was important to keep the rules in our house in place)
I tried so hard to talk it out, hug it out, and just be an understanding mother to my child, but he took advantage of my lack of anger and kept pushing and pushing and pushing until I snapped again and got angry with him again. I know things aren't going to change for the better overnight, but at the same time I felt so out of control of the situation, and I feel so lost and hurt because I am trying to be a better mother, and all he wants is to go be with grandma where he gets to sleep in her bed, and he gets to eat cookies every night, and he doesn't have a bed time. I try to tell her that she needs to follow the same rules we have here so that my son doesn't get confused, or think I am some kind of evil parent, but she just says that she's grandma and gets to spoil her grandson, and that his room at her house scares him so that's why he gets to do whatever he wants....... I try telling her that he is just being manipulative, that he knows she'll do whatever he wants if he just screams loud enough, but my parents don't care. I feel utterly alone when it comes to raising my son. No one wants to follow my rules, or try to interact with my son the way I want to. I never wanted to be this angry, hurtful parent who screams at her son. I want me and my son to have a good relationship well into his adult years. He is my only child, and I don't want to lose him, or have him never speak to me again like my brothers do with my parents.
My boyfriend raised his son, and is raising mine with the same expectation that he grew up with. His parents were both military, and very strict, no non-sense type of parents. My boyfriend turned out great. He's a freaking boy scout when it concerns the law, and he treats women with respect, he's just crap when it comes to dealing with children. He's quick to anger with children like he never is with adults, and I want to have a more peaceful home where we freaking sing kumbaya on the weekends or whatever, but I feel like he's just driving my son away. I'm afraid my son is going to resent him, and never have a good relationship with him.
My son's father is useless. He plays dad once a week during his supervised visits with my son because he's an abusive alcoholic, but my son is never going to know that because of the steps I've taken to make sure he never has to be alone with him. As a result however, my son thinks his father is this magical saint of a man that gives him candy and takes him to all the fun places. I would love to take my son to all the fun places, but I don't make much money and his worthless father doesn't pay his child support.
The more I write the more I realize just how completely I've effed up this whole parenting thing, and just how little control I actually have when it concerns my son. I am crying out for help, for some advice. I ask that you please don't hate on me, because I've been hating on myself for the last 3 years, and I really just need some kind words, and some sound advice.
Thank you for reading this monster of a note.