Have I Made a Huge Mistake?

Posted by on Apr 7, 2013 in Blog, Thoughts | 10 comments

Have I Made a Huge Mistake?

What do you do when you take a long look at yourself and you decide that a huge parenting mistake has been made?

Well, I can’t help but think that I’ve made a huge mistake…

Here’s the thing, despite all my efforts to the contrary (and believe me, they are mighty), despite all my thinking and strategizing (which you know is extensive), despite all my attempts at raising children who are thoughtful, kind and respectful towards others… despite this all, I can’t help but feel that I have utterly failed.


You see, I have one very, VERY angry child.

I have a child whose high-pitched screeches rival those of ancient predatory pterodactyls, who hurls furniture (yes) against bedroom walls in fits of rage, who hits, smacks, kicks, punches, and… even spits. Ugh! I have a child who hurls words like knives (and has also hurled knives).

What’s worse, this kind of anger begets more anger which means that at times, I have three children in various stages of utter rage seemingly bent on total destruction.

And I am tired.

Because, you see, I really am trying.

I treat my children with respect, honoring their integrity and autonomy.

I read about different parenting strategies, I have done a lot of research on child development, and I am informed about the various ways in which we educate children.

I am thoughtful about how I interact with them and really think about the best ways to handle the various challenges that arise in their lives (if you’ve been with me the last few years, you know what I am talking about).

And yet… and yet, I can’t help feeling that I am making a big parenting mistake in my attempts to raise intelligent, creative, and empowered tots.

I believe (or at least would like to think) that this anger is a sign of a precocious child whose fury stems from feelings that are a larger than the body that contains these feelings, whose rage is a symptom of unsatisfaction, not with oneself but with one’s inability to be fully who one wants to be.

But is that true? What if I am wrong?

What if I have been mistaken all these years in how I have chosen to raise my kids?
What if I haven’t been strict enough in my disciplining (or worse, what if I’ve been too strict!)?
What if my efforts of empowering my children have overwhelmed them and it turns out that they are, in fact, living in turmoil and distress because I have given them more than they can handle?
What if my assumptions about them being capable of thinking reasonably and creatively are wrong and they feel lost and ungrounded because I am expecting more of them than they are ready (or able) to give?

Is it possible that I have misjudged them (and me), giving them more than their youth can handle?

There are times when we doubt ourselves and that doubt is to be reckoned with, moments when we need to take a long look at ourselves and the choices we’ve settled on, to decide whether a parenting mistake has been made and hurts are to be mended.

Have I made a huge mistake…?

This, my friends, is the truest test of parenting.



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  1. Parenting produces so much angst at times like these, doesn’t it? If those kids only knew what they put us through… 🙂 My kids all have times like this when they are so. very. angry. My strategy in times like these (although I often fail myself) is two-fold – 1. under-react and 2. stop the behavior immediately and tell everyone it’s unacceptable.

    1. Under-react – if my kid is angry or out of control, I think it’s a very scary place for him to be. If I meet him in his anger or get all crazy about how awful he’s being, it only makes him feel more out of control and like he’s a bad person. Kids hate being angry even if they won’t admit it and so my goal is to help them calm down.

    2. At the same time, vicious words, physical aggression, teasing, etc. are not permitted and any time I hear or see stuff like this, I try to shut it down with VERY FEW words. If it’s my toddler hitting his brother, I scoop him up, bring him directly to his crib, and walk out. He has learned this is his time-out place and he really does calm down quickly. If it’s my 9 year old, I may say “STEPS” and this is his cue that he’s to go sit on the steps until he is calmer. He is allowed to return whenever he feels he is ready but I may send him back several times if he comes back when he’s still seething. Absolutely no lectures at this point. They just can’t process it.

    Then, after everyone is calm, we talk about things. I can’t change their minds about how they feel toward their brother when he’s upset them, but I sure can set the ground rules for acceptable behavior. And when they step over the line, consequences ensue.

    I know I am messing up with these very things daily – I get mad, yell, etc. If I’m having a hard time with it at age 39, then it’s normal to expect my kids will struggle as well.

    I empathize with you! Intense personalities can be such a challenge. My advice (and I apologize because I have just come across your blog so maybe you’re already doing all these things) is realize that it’s normal behavior (but still not permitting it to go unchecked, to speak less, and to keep your volume low. It does help, I promise. Oh yeah, and make sure you’re getting a break from the kids so you can recharge.

    • Hi Sarah,

      Thanks so much for your thorough and helpful feedback. You and I think very similarly and approach these problems in much the same ways. Like you, I agree that the first approach is to ground ourselves (and our child) and to follow that up with a conversation about what is/not appropriate behavior. Indeed, much of what I write about provides various strategies on how to do that for different situations.

      The thing is, and I guess this was my moment of confession, despite all of our best intentions and efforts, our strategies don’t always work and we (parents) inevitably go through moments of doubt when we wonder whether we are doing the right thing for our kids. This vulnerability is difficult in parenting for it shakes us to our core, it reminds us that we are – to a large extent – flying by the seat of our pants and have little more than our own faith in ourselves (and whatever research and support we arm ourselves with) to keep us afloat. These moments are not to often brought to light in parenting conversations (perhaps we’re ashamed to admit that we don’t actually know what we’re doing) and I think we owe it to ourselves and other parents, to be honest about our vulnerabilities, our fears, and even (gasp!) our mistakes. 🙂

      Thanks again for stopping by!

  2. And sometimes you need professional help….And when that happens are you still a failure? Maybe I find most parenting “advice” found online frustrating and patronizing because almost all of it righteously proclaims that if you “did it this way” all of your children’s problems would disappear. Well, in my world that is impossible. I have children who cannot stop being angry, anxious, and difficult without professional intervention and, yes, medications. Am I a failure? To some I am. And according to me? Ask me in 20 years. I hope the choices that I have made with show that I chose the right path for my children. Only time will tell. Every single day is filled with doubts, every single day….

    • Hi Mel! Thanks for your response (truly). I honestly think you hit on one of the things that makes this (parenting) business so hard. Everyone else! We try our best, we do our homework, we test out different strategies, and we go to other resources to get help so that we can continue doing what we believe is in our child’s best interest. It gets tricky when other people start making us second guess our own judgment about what is best or how to go about it. Why? Because we really don’t know what we’re doing and we’re feeling pretty vulnerable throughout the whole process. It’s easy to get swept away by other people’s “helpful” advice.

      In a way, I started this blog as a way of solidifying my own ideas about what I want to accomplish with my kids. I wanted to be able to put them down on paper, think about them, test them out, and basically cement my personal parenting strategies precisely so that I would remember them and what I am trying to accomplish as a parent. This is a humbling process for you put yourself out for everyone to comment and critique. On the other hand, it has been very empowering to force myself to (a) admit that I am vulnerable, (b) admit that I make mistakes, and (c) move forward (despite (a) and (b)) with what I still believe is best.

      And I suppose that is how we determine whether or not we are failures. Not because of the choices we end up making, but why and how we make them. You’ve made some tough ones, that’s not sometime to easily dismiss!

      • Good thoughts here, all of them. I would never judge someone a failure for needing professional help with her child. The thing is, no one else can know what your family is going through and no one else understands your child like you do. Anyone who makes you feel bad about a choice you have made is not being helpful to you or your child. I try to avoid such people as much as possible.

        Of course we may have regrets about a choice we have made or we wish we had done more or something differently. We want the world for our kids! But you can only try so hard, you know? Eventually you run out of patience, time, energy, money, whatever. And when I run out of patience, I believe that’s where God steps in. Apart from him, I can do nothing. And while I am all too human and absolutely fallible, I believe that I can trust God to handle my problems way better than I can.

        Blogs like this one give us a place to learn, discuss, and share each other’s burdens. This is a huge help to people when things get tough. I find that sharing my burdens with someone else makes them so much more bearable.

        • Thank you Sarah. My hope with this blog is that it will become a space where parents can share both their frustrations and parenting strategies. I really appreciate your feedback.

  3. Dear Karla,

    oh, yes- it is a real challenge to raise “characters”.
    In moments like the one you described, I always tell myself that I prefer to pin my kids to the wall ten times a day instead of raising “victims”.

    Once I even rolled on the floor in fury myself which was not only great for letting off steam, but quite impressing, as far as the faces of my two sons told…

    Not that you need any advice, but since I love tricks, I have to share this one:
    Quite often “The little devil on the shoulder”-trick helps. The little devil is sitting on kids’ shoulders and makes them burst in anger. The only way to get rid of it, is throwing it out of the house: open the door, kick it out and enjoy the relief.

    Have a nice day,

    PS: Every kid has a “mean” mother!

    • Nicole,
      Thanks for stopping by. I actually love the “devil on the shoulder” tip, it’s brilliant! I had tried a similar tactic (although not very effective) where we gathered up the anger into our fists and emptied it out the window. I think the simple act of “throwing” something is cathartic, even if it is something invisible. That said, the symbolic devil is even better. I am going to give that a try. Thanks!

  4. Mistakes are Inevitable. No human is perfect!
    One must just do the best they can and move on to the next challenge, trying to learn from mistakes.


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