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What To Do When Your Kid Acts Like a Monster

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What To Do When Your Kid Acts Like a Monster

You would probably assert that you love your kids more than life itself—that you’d throw yourself in front of a train for them. Yet, if you could bring yourself to be fully honest on this deeply personal topic, you might also admit that there are times when you just don’t like them very much. They’re misbehaving, they have a snotty attitude, they’re causing you trouble, not listening, or acting disrespectfully. They’re just a pain in the butt.

Go ahead. Fess up because you’re not the only one. Motherhood is not a state of constant bliss. No one ever said it would be. Fortunately, if you get tuned in to what’s happening, in time, you can use those unpleasant moments for your own benefit as well as for the benefit of your child.

Here are three things to consider when you feel like you birthed a monster.

1. Ask yourself what happened to you today that shifted your attitude, shortened your temper or severed your patience. Maybe you had a particularly difficult day: you’re overworked, tired or stressed, and it’s actually the monster in you that has reared its ugly head.

It’s so easy to blame your frustration on someone else, but if you’ve been heating up for some time, your child might merely be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I sometimes ask therapy clients to think of their emotional system as a big soup pot. Each ignored feeling adds another dipper full of soup to the pot until it comes dangerously close to spilling over the rim. Your soup might be simmering away even before your little one shoves his sister down the stairs or knocks over your favorite lamp on his rampage through the living room. The trick is to maintain the level of your soup (your feelings and stresses) relatively low down in the pot so that a bad behavior from your child doesn’t result in your pot boiling over. Believe me, your child picks up on your stress and can act out in imitation of you. Sometimes his misbehavior is a reaction to your sense of vulnerability and weakness. So put on a happy face for your own good and for his. Then take care of yourself.

– Give yourself a time out. Explain to your kids that you need to step away, take a breath and collect yourself.
– Schedule alone time: a bubble bath, your favorite magazine or an art project. Put a sign on the door that says, “Please do not disturb. Mom needs 30 minutes.”
– Take a refreshing walk and ask your spouse, a neighbor or the babysitter to watch the kids for a while.
– Plan some leisure or play time–even when you think you can’t spare a minute. It’s worth it to everyone in the family.
– Spend time in adult, non-work activities. You owe it to yourself to re-balance your life.
– Make a date with your spouse. A little romance is a great antidote to too much mommy time.

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Joanne Stern

Joanne Stern, PhD, is a psychotherapist with a private practice emphasizing counseling with families, parents, couples and teens. She’s a teacher, consultant, speaker, and expert guest on parenting and family topics, including communication, discipline, self-esteem, addictions, eating disorders, grief, and loss. Parenting Is a Contact Sport: 8 Ways to Stay Connected to Your Kids for Life is her first book. A mother and grandmother, she and her husband, Terry Hale, live in Aspen, Colorado.


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11:15PM PST on Jan 24, 2013


5:34PM PDT on Sep 10, 2010

Loved this, thanks.

7:29AM PDT on Aug 18, 2010

Parenting is a team sport. It's really important that once two parents decide on a discipline policy that both carry it out. In my family, I find my husband sometimes doesn't follow through with our discipline policy (e.g. take a toy away if our son is purposefully not listening/not doing as he is told) because sometimes it seems like too much effort. Our five year old son picks up on this immediately and realizes he can flout the rules longer with dad and will try it with mom, and with his teachers. Not only does this send the wrong message to our son, it causes tension between us. I get awfully tired of being the bad-guy and I end up lecturing my husband about consistence and feeling like the nagging wife besides. Parenting is tough enough without letting your child pit you against each other. Please work together and be consistent even when it is hard.

2:26PM PDT on Aug 17, 2010

Thanks for posting this article a lot of moms need to read this one.

8:01AM PDT on Aug 14, 2010

The big thing is consistancy , no matter how stressed or tired you are as parents. Parenting is the hardest , but most rewarding job on the planet.

12:38PM PDT on Aug 12, 2010

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3:48PM PDT on Aug 9, 2010

Nothing a good swat on the butt will take care of!

8:05PM PDT on Aug 8, 2010

You can negotiate and reason with the older ones. Those little preschoolers need the occasional whack on the behind. Nothing else seems to work sometimes.

9:45AM PDT on Aug 8, 2010

Excellent article. Thankyou.

11:36PM PDT on Aug 7, 2010

Thank you.

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