Thing 3

A New Phase Of Fun Parenting Times

Wes is going to be the child that drives me to finally give in and get medicated for my anxiety. I’ve self-treated for my entire life, always seeing my friends and family who NEED medicine has having it SO MUCH WORSE so I never take that step because I feel like – in comparison – my anxiety is so much less. But lately? As I toss and turn at night worrying about my sweet youngest child? I think…Yep. We may be getting to the SO MUCH WORSE level any day now…

For age 2-5 the trouble was related to his anger and frustration and his inability to process those emotions in any way that didn’t require:
-Hitting me
-Kicking me
-Spitting on me
-Throwing stuff at me

When you have a lively child who doesn’t deal with their emotions well, you have two kind of reactions. I call mine SANE and INSANE because that is how they feel. The SANE reactions are the ones where I think to apply this new method I read about or maybe try that thing my friend said helped with their child. My SANE reactions are thought out or planned in advance and I have a hope that they’ll teach me something or help me in some way with my lively child.

Many (not most) of my reactions were of the INSANE variety and not well planned or thought out. They were off-the-cuff and strictly a product of the behavior of my child. They often involved yelling and periodically throwing. I threw a stuffed animal at a wall one time and the plastic eyeball left a hole. That felt GREAT.

It’s okay (I think?) to have those INSANE reactions. Most of mine involved yelling and I always felt shitty afterwards and vowed to not let his behavior catch me SO off guard that I couldn’t react sanely to the situations. But sometimes? It still got me off guard and the unread Mom came forward and just reacted in the moment, usually with yelling and sending to his room which had about ZERO effectiveness in the grand scheme of things.

SO! The SANE moments always revolved around helping him process his anger/sadness/frustration in healthier ways. I taught him the value of screaming into a pillow or punching his mattress. I taught him to ask me for hugs if he was just having a bad day and needed some love. (We use that one A LOT.) I taught him to TALK about what’s bothering him instead of throwing a fit. We learned to take deep breaths.

Age 5 through today (we are 6+) have been so much better in terms of how he processes those emotions. He asks for help a lot more and talks things out a lot more. He has his GGRRRRRRR! moments of frustration where he tries to stifle screams instead of throwing fits. He takes deep breaths.

But lately – the problem is new. Now we’re in a phase where he screams various declarations of self-hatred.

Last night, while I held him in my arms trying to just hug him to the point of relaxation he kept screaming:

I hate myself!
I’m so stupid!
I’m a bad boy!

It was heartbreaking.

This has been trending for awhile but last night was the first time I really thought about what was going on. I wasn’t necessarily reacting with my INSANE self before, but I just would squash it by saying something like, I don’t like it when you say that! or That makes me sad because I love you!. You know, just mushy sentiments to try to placate.

But last night I tried to really think about it and I had no idea what to do so I just held him while he freaked out saying those things. I just sat there and hugged him while he kept saying, I hate myself! I’m so stupid! and my heart just shattered over and over and over again. This is a new phase for us, and I think it still very much relates to the old phase. The inability to express/process frustration/anger. I think it still comes back to me needing to work with him on talking things out. But sometimes I also wonder if he knows that saying that will get compliments thrown his way from me. Sometimes I’ll say, “Yes. You are being a big fat jerk. But you aren’t always a big fat jerk.” Because, well, sometimes he IS a big fat jerk. He colors on his sisters artwork or throws her favorite toy down the stairs. And he goes into the self-hatred fit when he gets in trouble. So I don’t want to necessarily respond entirely with compliments because he needs to know that his behavior is unacceptable.

But last night was different. Last night was just a full breakdown. He’d had a rough day (It’s Fall Break! Yay!) and he was frazzled and he had gotten in trouble a few times and it just culminated in one giant meltdown where he was just screaming about hating himself and all I could do was hold him. I didn’t even talk to him, honestly. I just held him and kissed him until he calmed down.

I guess I don’t have a point. Just maybe the first entry written on this new parenting road? So many firsts with this child. And so many chances – I feel – to screw him up forever.

Have you been there? Done that?

24 thoughts on “A New Phase Of Fun Parenting Times”

  1. I haven’t had THAT parenting issue (but I’ve had others!). Maybe Wes needs to talk to someone? Have you spoken to his teacher? The school psychologist? My son needed to see a therapist in second grade due to anxiety – I can’t say that she cured him, but she gave me some coping skills. Sending good thoughts.

  2. I wonder if maybe Wes is the one who may need to be treated for anxiety & not you? Just a thought. My 8 year old daughter sees a therapist weekly for anxiety that looks like anger. It helps TREMENDOUSLY. I think you are doing & trying your best but sometimes we gotta give it up to the professionals (and by we I mean me & it has really helped us)

  3. Third the therapist. My oldest, at that age, manifested her anxiety in terrible, awful tantrums and had a lot of self-hate talk going on–it wasn’t all the time, but when it showed up, it was traumatic for everyone. My reactions ran the gamut (like yours) until I finally realized that I couldn’t make it better (and sometimes made it worse, even though I was trying not to). So yeah, you are NOT alone on this by any means.

  4. I fourth the therapist, and the thought that Wes needs help coping with his anxiety. But more than that, it seems like you are trying to help him by yourself. You need help! Call in the big guns here. Pediatrician, school counselor, whoever. I don’t think these are just phases. All of that said, your sane mommy moments are so much to be proud of! I’m a lurker, but I keep coming back because you’re are very much the kind of mom I want to be.

  5. I haven’t been there and have no insight. But, I try to imagine my daughter feeling such things and my heart breaks. Big hugs to both of you… All of you,as I’m sure the whole family feels it.

  6. Reading this hits very close to home because we are going through something very similar with our 10 year old. He has started the I hate myself talk, and it is heartbreaking. I do the same things you do: the hugging, telling him I don’t like it when he says that because I love him, rubbing his back while he cries if he won’t sit up and hug me. I try to get him to talk. Sometimes the talking consists of more declarations of hate. He just repeats ‘I am so stupid; I am mean; I hate myself.’ I feel so helpless. Sometimes he even hits himself! I mentioned it to our doctor at my physical and she told me to take him to a counselor; she said not to just let it go. She said we wouldn’t want him to be 14 or older and have to start dealing with it then. So we are in the process of setting up that first appointment right now.

    I think it is so hard to see your child feel any kind of pain, but this emotional pain is the worst. The physical pain – you know that is going to have an end. The cut will heal, the bone will mend. The emotional pain has no measurable end so it is difficult to see our children feel this. How can we heal something we can’t see?

  7. My son also would say “I hate myself, I hate myself” at that age. He was the same one who would look for a wall to bang his head on when he was a toddler. I think both were related to overwhelming frustration and inability to express any other way. I brought it up at a pediatric appointment and she talked directly to him about not being so hard on himself. I wish I could remember more but it was a long time ago (he is 27 now) and it didn’t stay an issue for long.

  8. Contact the school counselor or your pediatrician for therapist referrals right away. He needs more tools in his toolbox for dealing with those feelings than you can teach him. A child psychologist is trained for this and can help you, as well. You definitely don’t want him to be 12, 14, 16 and not knowing how to deal with these big emotions. Good luck to you.

  9. I fourth the anxious kid needs treatment a$$vice. We have a very anxious kid who does the self hate talk only when he has gotten in trouble repeatedly or when he has actually gotten the message that we are disappointed in his behavior. Anxiety causes all sorts of fun behaviors in kids–this is one that gets a reaction from parents so it is pulled out often. If his anxiety is escalating with outbursts and “in”bursts, it’s time to call a professional. Kids often listen to an outsider better than mom or dad. It’s a “normal” behavior for kids dealing with lots of internal talk (sensitive, anxious) if that helps at all!

  10. Yes. Been there. My Neely minted 7 year old boy. He has mostly come out from the depths of it but still has a low frustration tolerance and needs help. His is a manifestation of sensory issues (often has effects on emotions). OT has helped, music therapy, possibly treating allergies (oops). He’s happier now than he has been in a while. It’s heartbreaking to hear and I tried talking to him from that angle but that resulted in open conversations (that he didn’t truly believe what he was saying it was more a description of his emotional state) it didn’t help stop it. The OT helped, holding him and being empathetic helped. Letting him know that I get frustrated too and talking about when that happens and what I do to deal with it helps. He’s always responded well to role playing, giving him better words for difficult situations. I would look into therapy, maybe starting with a social worker, keeping an open mind about occupational therapy too. It’s so hard to listen and weather that storm. Heartbreaking.

  11. Yup. Been there with my now 8 year old son with anxiety (got it from his mom…).

    Around age 5.5-6.5 he would react to getting in trouble or just minor issues (spilling water, forgetting to brush teeth, etc.) with self-hate talk. We tried most of the time to let him know that there is a difference between behavior and the person inside, and to love him through the issues. It worked well enough because that has now gone away.

    Now we’re on to acting out as the class clown at school to get easy attention when he gets stressed or overwhelmed…such fun!

  12. Have you read anything by Dr. Laura Markham? She is a pediatrician and author and she has a wonderful website with great advice about loving your child through problems, discipline tactics – you name it. I subscribe to her blog and love reading her stuff. She gives real life examples and even gives little scripts about what to say in different situations. The articles give me the tools to feel better equipped as a parent and not be taken off guard as much in those terrible moments (though it still happens sometimes!) Best of luck and keep your chin up!

  13. Concurring on the therapist suggestion–for Wes and for you. I don’t want to armchair psychologist, but I think you would both benefit from talking to someone who can provide an outside perspective and give tips on how to handle things.

  14. My son used to do the same things (though to a lesser degree from the sounds of it), and about 6 months ago we removed all gluten, nitrates, sulfates, and MSG from his diet as an experiment and within 2 weeks I had a new child. No more slamming doors and throwing things over having to turn the tv off. I asked him recently if he really feels different from before, and he said “I like my self better and I’m not as sad as I was before”….
    Hang in there, you’ll get through it one way or another!

  15. What kind of foods are those things in? (I know gluten, the rest I’m unsure.) Is it the kind of thing you can just see on a label? I wouldn’t mind a 2-week experiment.

  16. Nitrates and sulfates are in things like processed deli meats, bacon, hot dogs. But it’s now pretty easy to get all of those foods nitrate free. It’s definitely on the labels. MSG is monosodium glutamate, also on labels, also a preservative. I’ve also heard of people avoiding products with artificial food dyes, too. (Red 40, for example.) This wipes out a big arsenal of fun junk food (Doritoes, Gatorade, Apple Jacks, etc.) but more and more companies are eliminating those items from their foods anyway. It’s getting easier!

  17. There’s a great app called “shop well” that you can input ingredients you are trying to avoid. if you are unsure of a food, just scan the UPC, and it will tell you if you can eat it!

  18. I have so much to say but to sum up…I hear about half the moms I know, say their child has said these things and have these behaviors. My son is an anxious kid. He is anxious on several levels and for the record, has said these things. We have not done “outside” therapy. Not that therapy is not valuable, but for us as family, it is not our choice right now. That said. I have noticed a HUGE reaction with food coloring. Also, the fact that you all are on Fall break is huge. More meltdowns occur during breaks and times when children do not know what to expect or have a schedule. For Sam, I made an “out of school” schedule I put up that helps him focus and relax. Do you think Wes has anxiety? There is tons of reading out there to help and good therapists I am sure. I found this article just now I will post too.

  19. Like everyone else who has commented, I am coming from a place of compassion and empathy, not assvice. I’m also coming from the perspective of someone who, looking back on it, had depression and anxiety literally her whole life, but it wasn’t diagnosed until a few years ago (I’m almost 32).

    I don’t blame my parents in the least, and they are wonderful and supportive, but I do wish they had noticed that something was amiss and had intervened. They did their best, but they’re not professionals. It’s not a reflection on them (they also didn’t have the qualifications to treat my asthma. They took me to MDs), but I think that my quality of life, then and now, would be a bit better if there had been some sort of professional intervention.

    Also, based on my experiences, I would encourage you to research some resources (talk therapy, acupuncture, meds, whatever). You cope amazingly well, and it sounds like you have amazing strategies, but there are so many resources out there! I identify with the thought that “other people have it worse! Who am I to complain?”, but it’s not the Olympics, and anxious is anxious. My mom was (is) also anxious, and it would have made a difference in my life if she had taken the best possible care of herself and modeled it for me.

    I’m sounding like I’m giving assvice after all, and I’m not even a parent, and I’m sorry. But I’m also a big fan of your blog and of you and your family, and I’m over here in Decatur, GA, navigating depression and anxiety, and if you have any inclination to ask questions, etc., I am not one bit shy about my experiences with psychotherapists, psychiatrists, and complementary therapies. Sometimes, it helps me to hear personal experiences of someone who’s been through it, so I’m happy to play that role for you (or anyone else).

    And to end on a positive note, I may have all these issues, but I’m also optimistic, funny, driven, and I’m a fully functioning adult in nursing school…psychological challenges aren’t character deficits!

  20. He totally sounds like my girlfriend’s son who has a processing disorder. He thinks that if he does something wrong, gets reprimanded he feels he is a terrible person and starts yelling about being a terrible person. They are doing counseling and it has helped him tremendously.

  21. Jen H. – Hey y'all! I'm a GF/V, and mama of three wild boy chirrens(four if you count my Daddy. And I TOTALLY do). I love USC Football, the LA Dodgers(and my Mama's Atlanta Braves!!), reading all the things, drinking way too much coffee and anything that has to do with a yard sale. I'm an avid Baker and I love to garden, as any good southern belle does. I'm totally a catch. Just ask my husband!!
    Jenny H. says:

    I’m only speaking from my experience. My 4yo son is undergoing the diagnostic process for Autism. He’s at the Marcus Autism Center here in Atlanta and it is most definitely a process! One that I’m not unaware of as my oldest son was officially diagnosed with Autism 2+ years ago. About 6 months ago several different behaviours/issues began occurring rather regularly and I started noticing red flags. I discussed the issues with our pediatrician and he referred us to Marcus. So the whole Autism thing wasn’t really much of a surprise. What was a shock? Hearing that they believe he has Sensory Processing Disorder(which I believe will also go hand in hand with an Autism diagnosis in a few months). I came home from his appointment and started researching like a fiend. It made SO much sense to me. Certain behaviours jumped out at me immediately. It was kind of a relief in a way, if that makes sense? Because I had a name and I could learn how to help him. We are just beginning our journey but I feel like we are on the right path.

    I’m not trying to scare you, or freak you out. I’m simply trying to share my story. Brannon has many of the same issues Wes has. Give or take a few. My advice to you would be to write down everything you’ve specifically noticed about behaviours and talk to your pediatrician.

  22. *hugs* this parenting thing is hard!!! I’ve actually been trying some of the things you’ve suggested with my kids.

  23. I’ve said this time to time, but our sons are so so similar. Age, anger, hitting, yet sweet and snugly. Jackson doesn’t do much self hate talk, he does more ” I wish I was dead ” talk. It’s scary sometimes. He’s been on various medications for the past year and sees a therapist weekly. The best we can hope for is that eventually he will use the behavior tools we are teachimg him. Although me flying off the handle fairly often doesn’t help!

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