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I am a mother of two girls, 2.5 and 5.5 years old. I am really struggling with them. Yes I know all moms struggle but I am completely losing it now. The constant “no” to everything by the older one and the constant shouting and stubbornness of the little one has gotten beyond my control and now my relationship with my husband is getting affected as we are both always in a bad mood because of the way kids are behaving. It is impossible for me to get my older one to do anything without shouting at her and I am not exaggerating - take a shower, eat breakfast, time to sleep, change clothes - anything and everything is a "NO" followed by a massive tantrum. Which always leave me angry and shouting and the power struggle begins ending in tears and bad mood.

And terrible twos of the younger one adds extra burden and complicates the whole situation further. Every time she gets angry she will call me "naughty mamma" and that really works me up.

I do get worked up very quickly I will not deny that. I want to change this environment in our house and get some control. My relationship with my kids is getting worse by the day and I really think it’s affecting their character building and hence this post. I almost feel like I hate my own kids and I can see me being on constantly anger mood is feeding into their behavior.

Any recommendations and suggestions of any sort will be highly appreciated.

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    What is your husband doing? Is he around for any of this? Does he back you up when he is? – Paul Johnson Aug 27 '18 at 10:47
  • He does when he is around. – Mnmir Aug 28 '18 at 11:24
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Hello and welcome to the parenting stackexchange. I understand it must be some very difficult times for you, and I may not be able to offer as much support as I want, as I do not have the online material and reading needed about non-disciplinarian educations that tend to avoid those tantrum situations.

However, there are several things I think it is worth considering in your case.

Listening

As exhausting child tantrum can be, it is a sign of anger, which means there is something causing that anger. While you want to achieve a given goal, for example "changing clothes", there are many reasons a child could be angry (or sad) for the sudden external imperative of a parent forcing the task.

So I would say, it is important to know why anger comes at a given moment. Take care, it might be for multiple reasons, and it might change from one time to another. For changing clothes, I could think of:

  • They do not like those particular clothes,
  • They were in the middle of a game or another task, and didn't want to be interrupted
  • They are tired

To avoid tantrum, it is important to know what actually causes the temper. Feel free to ask, while suggesting where the discomfort might come from ("Are you angry because you wanted to continue playing?" "Are you angry because you don't like those clothes?", ...) Sometimes, you might not find the cause however, but it may be important to persist in case of other tantrums. You should probably avoid expecting answers from the open-ended question "Why are you angry?", as they may lack the intellectual process to fully understand why themselves.

Giving choices

An important thing to consider in those ages is to let the children have some freedom and choices. The particular choice should ideally match the issue that caused the temper. If the child does not like the clothes, give them the choice between various clothes you have chosen. If the child didn't want to get interrupted during its game, offer him some time or point to finish.

Two things to be careful about when giving choices though:

  • Do not offer open-ended choices. Before 5 to 6 years, the child might not have enough insight on what possibilities are given, which will put them in a difficult situation. Or they could choose something you don't have.
  • Check beforehand that the choices you give them are valid. You don't want your child to choose a given clothing, and later find out they are dirty...

Explaining

While it seems important to focus on your part on the result, it may be important for the child to understand your need. After all, it is also the case for many adults: we don't like to have something to do when we don't understand why we do it, and we might be angry about it as well.

Take some time to explain why you have a demand. "You need to change clothes because they are dirty, which could make you sick" "You need to change clothes because we soon need to go to school, and you cannot go to school in your pajamas", ...

Giving heads-up

To avoid the anger that might come from being interrupted, it may be useful to give some heads up. For some time, I took care to tell every night to my daughter what was the schedule for tomorrow. Proposing some time before the task could also work "You need to changes clothes in 5 minutes, before going to school". It may even given some way to give choice (5 minutes? 10 minutes? 2 minutes?)

Routines

While I do bring up routines last, it is an important thing to consider. It is often useful to setup routines for some of those tasks. When things go the same way every day, children tend to get used to it easily, and are prepared to the next task, which avoids the anger.

For example, for some time, we had the "evening routine" setup, and we even printed the routine and fixed it on a door with pretty pictures. From memory, it was something like:

  • Eating dinner
  • Brushing teeth
  • Using the toilets
  • Getting into pyjamas
  • Reading a story
  • Sleeping

I don't remember very well, but we might have chosen the order together with our daughter. After that, it became really easy to get through all items in order, as long as there was no exception (or exceptions with explanations). And I think after 4 years we still go through the routine without (much) effort, even if it's not printed anymore.

I do not suggest you setup some routines right away, because I think it is more important to understand what the issues are in the first place. But I think it is important to mention it, because your current life as you talk about it seems like a (bad) routine: every day the tantrums. So it is important to break the circle first, to change the current routine.

  • We have a routine for both kids since very early and we will follow it diligently. Everyday shower time is the same and everyday the drama is the same. I do give choices like which book would u like to read, or which pjs would u like to wear,and than the response is "I cant decide" and then there is a tantrum about that too. I also give heads-up 10 mins and we will close the tv for e.g. but everyday there is a tantrum over it. I am sounding really frustrated I believe but its like I have tried all the tips but none seems to be working :( – Mnmir Aug 28 '18 at 11:24
  • Do not worry about sounding frustrated. I would be as well in your case. Did you try reading some other related questions about tantrums on the site? I've found this answer interesting as well. parenting.stackexchange.com/a/34164/13212 – DainDwarf Aug 28 '18 at 11:35
  • Also, do you know why there are tantrums in each case? For example, why does she not want to shower? Is the water too hot or cold? Is it uncomfortable for her to have water on some part of her body? Is it because of the interrumption? Is it too often to her taste? I know my daughter is very sensitive about water on her face for example, and it took us many weeks to figure out this was the issue with showers. Also, do you explain why you ask her for those things? – DainDwarf Aug 28 '18 at 11:45
  • yes I do as much as I can. I do need to analyse why the tantrums happen. I believe the shouting and crying just does something to my brain and I stop functioning rationally and than react in a way which I feel horrible about later. – Mnmir Aug 29 '18 at 4:51
  • I know the feeling. :( Is there anything that could help you approach those tantrums more peacefully? Do you need some "child vacation"? Maybe a weekend or a week without parenting could help you relax enough, if someone in your family can help you get that. Or do you need time to reflect on why it makes you react so? I know my wife helps me a lot understanding why I do not react rationally as I want in some similar cases, which later helped me avoid it (most of the time). – DainDwarf Aug 29 '18 at 7:37
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@Mnmir, I want to encourage you first and foremost. Hang in there. The difficulty of your struggle can yield beautiful results if you are continue to love and care for your children through this.

I love what @DainDwarf has written and agree with his answer. Reading the comments underneath I thought it'd be good to expand on his final point.

Your situation may be being furthered by routine coupled with your children's growing desire to feel in control of their surroundings. It's difficult because you and your husband, being their parents have to keep them alive and make decisions in the best interest of the family (which may not be in the child's perceived best interest).

To help to start alleviating the tension I suggest:

1.) Pick a weekend and let the schedule go for the day. Allow your kids the opportunity of choice for safe, productive things to do but let it be their decision. The aim is to laugh and have fun with your kids. Take a break, have fun, screw plans. IMPORTANT: Dads need this too. Make sure he can join in.

2.) Ask how the routine you usually have makes your kids feel. Then ask why. Give them a voice and acknowledge them. DISCLAIMER: What they say may be completely bogus reasoning but that's not the point. The point is to start building a rapport with your kids as a person who knows what they want. When they feel you know what they want, then they can be more open to instructions.

3.) Ask, "If you could change the routine, what would you change?" and pick out a suggestion and change your routine with artistic interpretation.

Parenting comes with times where we need to be "the bad guy" and our kids will think we are really mean because we make a decision. That doesn't have to always be the case.

A much wiser and experienced parent once advised me:

Let your no mean no, but say yes a lot.

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