She did what?!

by lisacng / 24 comments / Read comments or add one!

I was picking up our 3.5-yr old (J) son from daycare. It was a zoo in there. Kids screaming at the top of their lungs. Teachers also yelling, trying to get them under control. Then, in the corner, I saw it. A teacher, hunched over, hand clenched on my son’s upper arm. She was talking, no, seething, between clenched teeth.

“Stop it right now.”
“You are a bad boy.”

I could tell he’d been crying for a while. His face was red. He could hardly speak, yet he tried. When he opened his mouth to explain, she made sure to cut him off.

“Shut up.”
“I don’t want to hear it.”


What was your reaction? Did you want to jump through the screen and strangle this woman? This teacher, who dared lay hands on a child? Who used abusive, degrading phrases like “bad boy” and “shut up”? Do you want to know if I had that woman fired?


Well, I can’t fire “that woman” because “that woman” is me. And we aren’t at daycare, we are in my home. At the kitchen table, pleading with my son to come eat dinner. On the sofa, arguing because he wants another TV show when we agreed on one episode a mere half an hour ago. In his bedroom, struggling to get him ready for a bath, then again, getting dressed for bed.

Sadly and regrettably, I have said awful things to my son. To my three-and-a-half year old son. Three…

It happens at the end of the day. It happens when I have something planned in the evening and my kids aren’t getting into bed fast enough. It happens when I’m actually mad at something else.

Why should my son (or daughter) bear the brunt of my fatigue? Of my need to get things done off my checklist? Of my inability to identify what I’m actually mad at?

Yes, I have even been mean to Baby O who is 7-months old. Just this weekend, my 3-yr old said to me, “Mei Mei (little sister) doesn’t like it when you yell at her.” And then later, he said, “You should apologize to Mei Mei for yelling at her.”

My son is more mature than me.


As odd as it may sound, I’ve resolved this:

To treat my children the way I’d like caregivers to treat them.

How backwards is that, right? Shouldn’t the mother of her children treat her children the best? In most ways, and in most hours of the day, I am. But when fatigue comes… When they’re not doing what I tell them to… When I’m already upset at something else…I need to remember my resolve.

What was your reaction to this post?
Can you relate?

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Henry February 25, 2014 at 12:05 pm

*sigh* I can totally relate to this post … as I too am quite guilty of doing the same to my kids … and it’s not till usually later that night that I think about how I’ve treated them and what I’ve said, that makes me feel so ashamed! Especailly if I yell at my daughter … she’s just 1 and doesn’t know any better … =( But I’m trying to work on my patience with the kids … they deserve better!


Eva C February 26, 2014 at 10:37 am

This post hit it on the bullseye for me/us. It actually brought tears to my eyes. Patience is not one of my virtues but seeing their little faces and how sad they are that we’re mad at them really breaks my heart and makes me try to be a better parent.


rooth February 25, 2014 at 12:22 pm

I’m curious (as a non-mom) what the preferred form of discipline is when J is not listening. Patience is a tough one but there is a point where enough with patience and you need to communicate in a way that they will understand and listen to you. Let me know if that doesn’t make sense.


lisacng @ expandng.com February 25, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Hi Rooth! Good question, and one that changes as a child develops. Also, one that changes from family to family. In our family, we TRY to use gentle, yet firm, verbal discipline. Give him his choices: listen, don’t listen & suffer specific consequences. It’s just when things get out of control, I forget I’m talking with a 3 yr old and say things I regret later. He is certainly never a bad boy, only his behavior is bad/unwanted. I don’t like to use the word shut up either. Seems too strong. I’d rather use “quiet please”. Trying trying trying…


Brad February 25, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Yes. Yes! I can relate. Parenting is a challenge, perhaps the most exhausting challenge of all yet the reward is so unbelievably worth it in the end. We’re teaching them how to be kind and compassionate, but strong and determined and more often than not they become the teacher and we end up learning as we go. You’re not alone! This happens to all of us. I loved this post.


Joyce February 25, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Oh yeah, been there done that. I feel awful too, but seriously, sometimes yelling is what it takes to get my kids to stop. I like your new motto and will give it a try.


Tamara February 25, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Yes, I can relate.
I have said “shut up” to my daughter. Awful.
And today I was trying to rush my daughter out the door and she put her hand on my arm and said, “I really don’t want to fight today.”
She’s only four!
Sobered me out of my anger REALLY fast.


Amber February 25, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Yes, I can relate. I have told my kids to shut up. My daughter immediately goes, “That’s not a FRIENDLY word, Mom!” And she’s right. I’m working on it.


Sarah February 25, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Oh my gosh, Lisa, I have been there, more often than I want to admit. I have been so frazzled lately and I know I’m taking it out on my son. Spanking him when I said I’d never spank. It actually got to the point where my husband told me I needed to change because he grew up in a home where he got yelled at and he didn’t want his kids to grow up in a home like that. Talk about a wake up call! I am doing better about just walking away when the mean mom monster rears her ugly head.

That being said, I think it’s hard to compare ourselves to babysitters. They are only focusing on the children, whereas we are trying to cook dinner, take care of kids, manage household tasks, catch up with our spouse, etc. all at the same time. Also, they get to rest in the evening and we are on kid duty! This doesn’t excuse my bad behavior, but I do want to give myself grace in the area.

Also… 3 1/2 seems to be universally acknowledged as a very hard age to deal with. I am starting to see a slight turn towards the “wildness” of 4 as compared to the obstinacy/whininess of 3 1/2 (J will be 4 at the end of March) but the 3 1/2 stuff is definitely still there.

My strategy lately is to give hugs as much as I can, and try to lighten the mood with humor when he becomes entrenched in some ridiculous power struggle (NO I WONT GO POTTY!!!!!)


lisacng @ expandng.com February 26, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Hi Sarah! Definitely agree with you that while caretakers can be focused on children, we are often multi-tasking. Nevertheless, like you said, it’s no excuse and I’ll try to give out more hugs and laughs too :).


Rick February 25, 2014 at 4:28 pm

That was an unfortunate exchange. I’m sorry to say I’ve had them with my kids–mostly my son. I’ve had to apologize to them (mostly my son). When they were a little older I talked with them to explore how the situation developed and where I went wrong. That helped me–how could I justify making the same mistake a 2nd time after going through that???


Lady Lilith February 25, 2014 at 7:20 pm

I can relate to this. Usually when I feel like that and my girls are not listening to me, we end up going to different rooms until we are ready to act calmly.


Shana Norris February 25, 2014 at 10:51 pm

Lisa, I appreciate your honesty. Sometimes it’s tough to deal with little ones (and big ones, and husbands) when we’re stressed. I just read a great post on Hands Free Mama about how to listen to our kids (stop what we’re doing, make eye contact, REALLY listen.) I tried that today when I was feeling tempted to hurry my son along to bed and it really worked to calm my irritation, I think because it put my focus on him – and the awesome Lego creation he was trying to show me. That being said, I can’t stop what I’m doing every time they want my attention, or I’d never get anything done. But I think it will be good for me to do this a little more often.


Stephanie February 26, 2014 at 2:34 am

I think all parents have experienced losing their tempers… kids can be frustrating! I am constantly reminding myself that it’s not easy to be a child in an adult world. <:)


kathy @ vodka and soda February 26, 2014 at 9:13 am

i think all parents have lost their tempers; i know i have. kids are tough and they try our patience.

so this is what i do with kayla. i’ve always done this with her and i think over the years of being firm with rules, it gets easier because they become familiar with the rules.

kayla is allowed to watch more tv now that she’s older. when she was younger, she didn’t really watch that much because i wouldn’t let her but now, screen time is a privilege. screen time is either her tablet or the tv. as soon as she gets home, it’s homework, then maybe if there’s time before dinner, ONE show. if she’s been really good all week, then she can watch one show before her shower but that’s not too often. before i let her watch anything, i tell her straight up (my exact words): the SECOND i call for dinner, i don’t want to hear any nonsense or whining because if i do, then you will not watch anything for the next 3 days. so, when i call for dinner? what is going to happen? and then she replies with “come eat dinner and i won’t make a fuss”.

most of the time she listens but sometimes she doesn’t so i simply walk over, take the tablet/turn off the tv and tell her: no more tablet. you have lost your privileges because you showed me you can’t handle doing this before dinner so no more for you until the next 3 days. if she screams and cries, she screams and cries.

as you already know, i’m very firm with rules. i always follow through and kayla screaming and crying does nothing to change the situation. i fully support giving options and most of the time it works but sometimes they just want to test (naturally) so when that happens, kayla is punished. i will not plead with a child, i will not bend the rules for her just because she’s crying. in my mind, rules are rules and every decision she makes has a consequence. there are times she tries to be argumentative at the dinner table and whine about the food on the table so i straight up tell her: i am not a short order cook. not only did you ask for this, but you eat what i cook otherwise you don’t eat. if you get hungry, that’s on you because i gave you food that you wanted but you chose not to eat so you have to deal with the choices you make. that’s it – no other arguments no nothing. i won’t force her to eat but she will sit at the table until dinner is done. most of the time, that reminder will snap her out of it and she’ll happily eat but i think she’s just trying to test the waters. for the most part, i am trying to teach kayla about how to make the right decisions and that every decision has a consequence, whether it’s a good one or bad one. which is why i tell her what i expect of her before certain events (ie. watching tv, if we’re going out etc) and what the consequences are. then i leave it up to her to decide if she wants to make a good decision or bad one. either way, she knows what the consequences are and if she makes a bad decision, she has to deal with her decision.

wow, sorry for the long comment! but i will say that by age 5, it gets MUCH better. like, 180 degree much better. they’re older, calmer, more rational and understand more. i think after 4 years of craziness, god grants us some mercy and ages 5-10 are a dream. then we get back into the craziness from 11/12-17 OMFG. i am NOT looking forward to that.


lisacng @ expandng.com February 26, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Hi Kathy! Thanks for taking the time to share your experience. I think at 3 years old, we are trying to help J understand that “now” means “now” and that decisions have consequences. It means we have to put-up with more screaming and crying, but judging by your experience, it makes the later years easier. So, I will continue down this path of teaching but try not to use derogatory language. I want him to always know that I love HIM but not his behavior. Thanks for also letting me know that it gets easier…but then tremendously harder. We’ll hold hands from the tween years and on ;).


Always Maylee February 26, 2014 at 10:50 am

You are only human. We all have those days and I know I will have moments when I will yell or act frustrated at my child when I shouldn’t. The most important thing is that you recognize this and want to change it. That makes you a great mom. 🙂

xo, Yi-chia
Always Maylee


Judy C. February 26, 2014 at 9:16 pm

Lisa, thanks for this very honest post. I totally hear you. Sometimes I feel so guilty if I have lost my cool with C. You’re a working mom of two kids, you’re probably beyond exhausted on a daily basis, and you are only human. All we can do is just keep trying to remind ourselves that they are only little and it’s our job to teach them right from wrong in a calm manner. On a more practical note, I also make sure that I eat a protein-rich snack before I leave the office at the end of the day so that I’m not short-tempered when I get home out of hunger. 🙂


lisacng February 27, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Hi Judy! Thanks for relating to this post. Good tip to fill my stomach before heading home. Definitely hunger leads to crankiness leads to a temper when it comes to kids who keep begging for xyz while you’re trying to do abc


Amy of while wearing heels February 26, 2014 at 11:08 pm

Oh Lisa, this post made me sad, mostly because I can relate. I think, though, what makes us both good moms is that we can assess that we may not have been the best moms we could have been and making a resolution to continue to try and do better every day.


Ihilani February 27, 2014 at 2:11 am

I couldn’t stop thinking about this post since it came out, and now I finally have a chance to comment on it. I had been feeling the same way a lot. Compared to Leo, who can’t talk back, run away, and make giant messes, Noweo is a little she-devil (though she’s actually a really good kid.) Honestly though, 3-4 yrs is my least favorite age so far.

I also noticed I lose my temper when I’m stressed or in a rush and Noweo doesn’t notice my body language or the sense of urgency in my voice. I’ve been trying to get into the habit of saying “Noweo, please listen” in a calm tone over and over and over until she complies. Eventually she realizes I’m serious. I notice that I often send mixed signals – I tell her to stop doing something but I do it in a joking tone because I don’t want to sound mean, but she takes it as me playing and doesn’t take me seriously, so then when I do get serious she still doesn’t listen until I’m hissing at her. I need to work on communicating more clearly.

I think one of the other commenters already mentioned it but I wouldn’t compare yourself to a teacher. They have the kids during their best hours of the day, then send them home cranky and tired, and you’re exhausted too, and you still have several hours that you need to get through before you can put your feet up. Maybe you lost it for a bit but your love and devotion to J far outweighs those moments of anger or impatience and he knows it.


Marie February 27, 2014 at 8:12 am

I don’t have any kids, but if I saw someone who is not the child’s parent doing that to the child I wouldn’t be too happy about it. At the same time though, every parent has a right to raise their kids as they want (granted, as long as they are not mentally or physically abusing them of course).

I can sort of understand though. Kids test your patience and when you have so many other things that are also stressing you (i.e. work, finances, home stuff, etc.), their actions at times can push a parent’s patience over the edge.

It’s definitely difficult to find that right balance of not losing your temper with them but at the same time setting boundaries and making sure they abide by them since they need structure.

I don’t know how you do it Lisa (at this point, I just can’t imagine even having a kid and taking care of them), but kudos to you for being such a great parent.


Kelly March 5, 2014 at 5:46 am

I’m sure all parents have acted frustrated at their child at one time or another. Thanks so much for sharing your honesty Lisa, some days can definitely be tougher than others but we are all human and you are doing a great job.


Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks March 5, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Great post, Lisa. We’re all human and sometimes we behave in ways we wish we didn’t. Admitting it in a public forum takes courage. Working to improve your parenting is hard work, ESPECIALLY at the end of the day when you’re tired and just want things to go smoothly (oh, how I can relate to that one!).

I relate to this post, because Sweets and I have sometimes very different ways of parenting. I am the talker. I might raise my voice to get Gavin’s attention, but I always explain why I’m saying NO or why Gavin has to do something. I am more prone to believe that young children need repetition … even if they know better, their instincts often overrule their brains … so, we have to continuously remind them of boundaries and limits.

Sweets, on the other hand, really believes Gavin knows better and is less patient when he repeats a wrong. Sweets gets much more frustrated, which causes problems in terms of finding words to explain himself. Sweets and I have had plenty of disagreements when it comes to how we discipline Gavin. At the end of the day, though, we both agree with you, that we want to treat Gavin in a way we’d want others to treat him, too.


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