#Momlife Monday|I Used To Be That Mom

Last week a curious thing happened. I was with my girls and my 7 year old observed an interaction between a mom and her young daughter (around 5 years old). My daughter mentioned how bad she felt for the little girl with the “mean mom”. The mom wasn’t yelling but she was speaking in a very harsh tone, face scowled, and the little girl started to tear up. That made me feel bad for the little girl and her mom but it also made me realize that was us in the not so distant past.

I wondered how many people had observed our interactions when we didn’t know we were being watched and pitied my daughter for having such a mean mom. I don’t know the circumstances of the situation. I don’t know if the “mean mom” was having a bad day, if this was a regular occurrence, or any other details. I’m not judging her or the situation it just made me reflect on my own parenting.

I realized how far I’ve come in the almost 8 years I’ve been a mom. The first couple of years were relatively easy. They were filled with capturing pictures of “firsts”, savoring adorable baby moments, tapping tiny curious fingers, saying “no!” gently but firmly, and always on the lookout to make sure objects weren’t inserted into nostrils or ears. As the years went on, the “no” became less gentle, the finger taps turned into pops on the backside and my patience wore thin repeating the same things over and over again. Before I knew it, I had become a “mean mommy”. I yelled often (to the point of becoming a chronic yeller), was exasperated easily, and disciplined regularly.

I’ll never forget the day that I realized I had to change. I called my daughter to come into my room and the look on her face tore my heart to shreds. She was confused and worried probably even a little scared. She’d done nothing wrong but fully expected to be chastised for something. I no longer remember exactly what I called her for but I do remember it wasn’t anything bad. My daughter had learned to fear me because of my tyrant ways. I didn’t know how, but I knew that I had to change. I didn’t want my daughter to grow up being afraid of me or end up driving her away from me.

It is better to bind your children to you by a feeling of respect and by gentleness than by fear. -Terence

I did what I always do when I don’t know what to do. I talked to my mom and then read some books. At first, it was easy to put all of the blame on my daughter. She doesn’t listen, she’s too stubborn, she’s hardheaded, and on and on. Then I tried to make excuses for myself. I’ve tried everything, no matter what I do it just doesn’t work, it must be because mine and my husband’s parenting styles differ. Finally, I came to the realization that I needed to focus on solutions. So I took this approach-

  • Remember she’s a kid!- I wasn’t doing a good job as an adult of controlling my emotions or reactions yet I expected my child to do what I wasn’t doing myself!
  • Remember what it was like to be a kid- Always getting bossed around, told what to do, when, where and how to do it. Feeling like I didn’t have an opinion or a voice that mattered. Surely this isn’t everyone’s experience but I was putting my daughter in the same predicament I found myself in as a child.
  • Think before you react- Try to find the most appropriate way to respond. Whether it be with a softer tone, better choice of words, or taking a moment before reacting at all. It’s often the little things throughout the day that make the difference and not just the sporadic times you lose your cool.
  • Focus on being a more gentle parent- I decided that if I could “fix” myself things would fall into place. I had to make yelling the absolute last resort. I came up with things that I could do to avoid yelling at all costs. The list was filled with positive alternatives that I could do instead.
  • Respect her as a person- I started treating her like the little person she was. Not someone that constantly needed to be told what to do, not like someone I was puppeteering, and certainly not like an inconvenience. I began to really listen to what she was saying, understand her point of view, respect that she had her own thoughts and feelings and that even though she was small that didn’t diminish her validity.

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As I think back it makes me feel like I was not only a terrible mom but a terrible person! I realize that I didn’t have the tools that I have now. I’ve better equipped myself by taking care of my mental, emotional and spiritual health. My husband and I have worked hard to come together as a more balanced unit. Looking back I realized I spent so much time focusing on what I didn’t want to be as a parent that I hadn’t put much thought into what I did want to be. I had to put a plan in place to help me get there. I’m not there yet, I have my shortcomings and I still have a long way to go. My daughter’s reaction to the “mean mom” situation just helped me remember that even though I still have areas to improve upon I’ve made progress because seeing that uncomfortable situation felt foreign to her.

Parenting resources:

  • One of my favorite books is How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. The concepts can be applied outside of parenting scenarios as they are just good principles. I love the way the book is written and encourage you to read this with your partner or other main caregivers.
  • I love this 12-month approach to becoming a more gentle parent. Change is hard to encompass all at once but I often find that if I can implement it one thing at a time it’s easier to concentrate my efforts and attain lasting results.
  • I encourage you to seek out your own “gentle parenting” resources for ideas and approaches. There are lots of great ways to incorporate this into your parenting whether you have a “style” or not.

If you enjoyed this, you’ll probably like one of these as well-

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Nothing Wrong With Being Silly!-A post about not taking yourself so seriously.

 

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Seeing Yourself Through Your Child’s Eyes– A post with an exercise I found on YouTube you might want to try with your own kids of any age!

 


What are your thoughts on this post? Can you relate? Have you ever been the “mean parent”? Are you or were you a chronic yeller? Did you have a different “mean parent” response? How did you kick your “mean” parenting habits to the curb? Do you have your own tips you can share that might help other parents? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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29 thoughts on “#Momlife Monday|I Used To Be That Mom

  1. I haven’t been in this situation for a long time as I am in the next phase, grandparenting, but I do remember an ah-ha moment when my son was 3 and I saw him retaliate when an older girl kicked him. I roughly brought him inside, shouted at him for kicking a girl and put him in his room where I left him crying until he fell asleep. I felt wretched. How could that be right if I felt so bad doing it? It wasn’t long before I realised I was embarrassed in case anyone else had seen him, that I felt other people would expect me to chastise and punish him for kicking a girl (if it had been a boy, my reaction may not have been as strong) and that I did what I did because it was instinctive, I thought that’s what my parents would expect. I never did it again. I also thought I did it to show the parenrs of the girl that such behaviour was not acceptable even if she was allowed to get away with it. So much going on in such a small incident. And it’s not as if I had ever acted like that before. I had had occasion to ask politely that my family members not tap his hands for touching things he shouldn’t at my parents’ house, where I would hold the object and talk to him about it amd let him touch it safely until his curiosity was satisfied. There would be no smacking in my family!

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    1. You’re right, so many things come into play in such an isolated incident. That feeling is horrible, what did I do and why did I do it?! I’m glad that you recognized and rectified the behavior. What a great idea to hold objects and let him touch it safely, I’ll put that in my mental journal! I’m sure that even though you aren’t actively in this phase that your training preparing you for grandparenting has served you well! 🙂

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    1. Oh yes! Don’t let me give you the impression that it’s easy! Changing my own behavior is hard! It’s not just changing my behavior but my thought process and the way that I understood parenting from observing my own parents, the generation of parenting I grew up in and parenting now. Even though it’s hard it’s worth it. It’s a very different approach than I was used to but desperate times call for desperate measures as they say and the more I dug into this the more sense it made for me. It’s a daily effort where I’m presented with hundreds of situations a day that I choose kindness over meanness and sometimes I fail but more times than not I think I make the kind choice. It makes for a better family dynamic and I feel better about myself and my parenting related choices.

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      1. The same at least. I have a son who doesn’t react at all well to any nastiness, while it’s something I’m tuned into – others are not and they mess things up while I’m trying to make things better.
        Normally it works… not always lol

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  2. And exhaustion often gets in the way too. So often, you know what you should say or do but you are so exhausted or rushed that you just need the child to co-operate and not have to spend the next however many minutes coaxing, explaining and so on. And children know what buttons to press when you feel like that!

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    1. Oh don’t they ever! Yeah, I’ve explained to my 7 year old that there are times that I can’t answer her never ending questions. So when those times arise I just remind her and she holds the questions for later… 😮

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  3. It is a real testament to your character and your innate qualities that you were able to recognize the distance between your external actions and your authentic self and take the necessary steps to change for your own personal wellbeing and for the health and happiness of the people around you. I’m currently on that same path, but with underlying mental illness, it takes the support of a caring team of professionals (my psychologist, psychiatrist, nutritionist) to help me along. I’m also grateful for all the wonderful books I’ve read, my support groups, the amazing blogging community here (thanks, Niki!), and, of course, the phenomenal treatment that I received during partial hospitalization, which was when everything started to click into place. None of it would be possible without God’s grace. Becoming the person that He created me to be is my ultimate goal. I am most thankful for the faith that my parents tried to teach me. They were wrong about a great many things, but they instilled a few important lessons in my heart, and they gave me the basic tools to discover far greater truths once my mind began to grow more healthy. It’s a long road. My dad was (is) verbally and emotionally abusive, never having sought a diagnosis or treatment for his own mental illness or disordered personality, and I’ve learned through treatment that it can simply take longer for people who suffered childhood trauma (mine was mainly emotional trauma and the results of a complete void of empathy from both of my demanding, severe parents) to develop self-compassion. I am trying hard not to compare myself to others, who *seem* to pick up this kindness thing so smoothly and effortlessly! Honestly, I am an entirely different person from who I was just a couple years ago. Only, I want to be even better! There is still so much room for growth. Thank you for your reflection, and for giving me a little space to turn some things over that have been in my heart. Wishing you well this week!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Lulu, you are an amazing person! So many times we compare ourselves but it reminds me of Einstein’s quote “…If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”. I’ve often compared myself to others but I’ve realized that it’s an injustice to myself. We are all individuals with our own unique stories, strengths and struggles. I’m now learning to admire what I want (in a healthy way) and put a plan in place so I can take the steps towards making that my reality as well. I don’t compare myself because that diminishes my self-worth and value and I feel like I take away from the power behind the other person’s story. That’s just me though Lulu. You are so strong, courageous, determined and transparent. I admire you in so many ways. You will do such great things Lulu and I can’t wait to be able to tell people that I know you even if only in a virtual form ❤

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    1. Yeah, that coupled with unrealistic expectations is a recipe for disaster. I no longer strive to be a perfect mom but to be the best mom I can be for my girls whatever that may look like in the moment. That takes a lot of pressure off! Thanks for taking the time to comment, I’m glad you enjoyed this post 🙂

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  4. In Africa we get yelled at and spanked. Our moms never soothe us but somehow we never feel unloved. I had my share of a few beatings but never once did i feel unloved by my mom. She is still my biggest cheerleader and my best friend because she still loves and makes a lot of sacrifices for us. I ask almost everyone whom they care about the most and they give one answer their moms.They drive us crazy sometimes but i would vote them in for president a million times.

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    1. That’s interesting thanks for sharing. I think it takes a lot for kids to not love their mom more than anything. That being said, I’m glad I’m not the mom I was before. I wasn’t kind to myself and in turn not the mom I wanted to be. Thanks again for sharing your story ❤

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