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Please note that I will keep personal details vague, because it's a controversial topic and I want to stay anonymous. That may read cold hearted, but I assure you I wouldn't ask here, if I wouldn't care.

Context

I have two children. My first one is just a normal kid. Maybe it's more social than other children, because the daycare told us stories about how it helps with the laundry, takes care of other children and often gives away it's own stuff to make others happy - starting at age of 3. I've read a lot about parenting during my wife's pregnancy and for example I'm teaching by showing consequences instead of applying unrelated penalties. My first child believes me when I'm telling that something will end badly, but still keeps questioning rules that don't make sense and often we changed or dropped rules because of that. Other people call it a "beginners child", because it's so easy to take care of.

3 years later we got another kid, which is now 3.5 years old, and I'm exhausted. Every diaper was a fight. It never accustomed to any daily routine although going through it for months or even years. Every morning I have to explain that I have to work and it needs to get up. It ignores me, so I have to stop arguing and start commanding and forcing. I tried all techniques I've read on Parenting.SE and in books without any success. It doesn't have any mental illness and acts completely normal when with other people. It's just really really stubborn.

There are good and bad times with my first child, which is normal, but I cannot remember any real good moments with my second child, just ones that weren't bad. At this stage I think our whole family would be much happier without the second one. I never have and never would do any harm to it, but sometimes I think I wouldn't miss it, if it lives with somebody else.

Question

For the sake of the question, assume I can't do any better in parenting and focus on what I can do on my own.

How can I overcome my hate towards my child? Do I have to just suck it up until it gets older or is there an established practice for handling this situation?

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    Just as a reference point, have you read any material about "strong willed child"? It sounds like your first child has raised your expectations and your second child is quite different. Different children will need different techniques. You say you've "tried all techniques I've read", but we don't know what you've read. – Greg Hewgill Feb 4 at 0:54
  • @GregHewgill I don't remember that in particular. Maybe a link would help me. – Anondad Feb 4 at 0:56
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    You use the word “hate” but say you don’t wish the child harm. I don’t think you actually hate the kid. The words that come to mind, from your description, are resentment, disappointment,discontent, regret. These are just as unsettling, and, unwelcome I’m sure. It’s not talked about openly, but I bet many parents have at one time or another felt these same feelings. Maybe not all at once...but parenting is ^HARD^ It took a lot of courage for you to be honest with yourself about this and to seek help, which puts you at risk to be judged. Shining a light on these dark feelings... – Jax Feb 4 at 1:34
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    ...is the first step towards rooting them out. – Jax Feb 4 at 1:39
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    I think you are being hard on yourself. If it was real hate hate, you would never bother to write here. When it comes to topic, how were you when you were a kid? Were you obedient? A nice child? Maybe your second child triggers something about it. – Bahar Aykaç Feb 4 at 6:51
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I'll answer by extrapolating, no doubt somewhat naïvely, from my experience as a teacher in my second year.

When I began, I found that I loved teaching one or two kids, liked a few, shrugged my shoulders at a few, and hated teaching one or two. They hated my class and I was undermined by them, and we had nothing in common. I would have wanted them out of the class and would even feel happier on days when they were gone for any reason, because I could focus my remaining attention on the others, without these kids' misbehaviour and pushback and disruption. I felt guilty about this attitude, but couldn't address it head-on.

Now, I find that I love teaching many kids, like almost all of them, have no particular opinion on one or two, and hate teaching none of them. I also would like to get to know those last couple of students well enough to learn to like them. In fact, I often catch myself thinking and sometimes say (when addressing misbehaviour): "Even so, I wouldn't trade any of you." While the students might not realize the weight of that statement to me, the comparison with where I started is so encouraging.

So how did I get there? I believe there are two main factors:

1. Competence. I've become a better teacher in terms of classroom management; projecting my voice and projecting confidence; putting out fires; anticipating questions and confusion when planning materials; figuring out where to go in a new course, and estimating how much time a new activity will take; and many other metrics. Of course, I'm still in my second year and have far, far to go. But I feel OK about the job I'm doing and almost never go home beating myself up over how badly a lesson went, compared to last year. I'm much less frustrated, and that lack of frustration translates directly to greater enjoyment.

2. Emotional investment. I do my best to get to know the students and let myself be known. I often think of what a mentor teacher told me: "Every day I ask myself: What did I learn about them? And what did they learn about me?" Believe it or not, you don't have to depend on chance but can indeed choose to create emotional investment in a person by intentionally asking and listening and connecting to what they say.

My current strategy is to choose a question every day - from fun ones like "What's the worst fruit?" to deeper ones like "When have you felt truly scared?" - and ask it of every kid, writing down their answers in a shared document they take home at the end of the course as a record of who they are at that moment in time. Every day, every kid tells me something. And I find that the more I know, the more I want to know, the more I want to choose good questions, and the more I'm curious what they'll say if I ask about X, Y, or Z. Often, the students who are academically frustrating actually have the best stories, so I end up liking half the class because of our learning synergy, and the other half because their lives are interesting and they make me laugh.

I also try to create this emotional investment in my students. A favourite activity in English is an interviewing one where I first give them some empathetic/active listening tools, then have them write a bit, then have them interview each other using questions like "What is it like to be you?" as well as questions of their own choosing. Several students have pointed to this opportunity to get to know their peers better as a favourite assignment. But you don't need to be a teacher to ask that question. Looking at your child, you can ask (yourself for now, and them when they're old enough to answer): "What is it like to be you?"

The surveys for my first courses rated me high for being knowledgeable and passionate about the subject, but not for being respected by the class or caring about the students. In more recent surveys, these latter factors have climbed to about the same or higher than the former. Note that respect to a student means classroom management competence and care means feeling understood — the two factors above.


There's good news and challenging news for you in the takeaway. The good news is that you will inevitably become more competent. Just keep an open mind and regularly ask yourself how to adapt and do better than yesterday, and you will.

You had an easy run with your first child. Now you have the real thing and you're feeling helpless. This happened to me too: after my first practicum, I was told I was already teaching like someone finishing their final practicum. My ego swelled. In retrospect I see that I just had a fantastic mentor and a good class. So I went into my second practicum with too much confidence and it was much harder. I screwed up in many ways and I was even told I should consider quitting the path of teaching. I lost all joy in the work. But I needed more time, more practice, more accountability. What's more, I needed distance and a chance to start over. Three years later, my students say they enjoy my classes and I enjoy teaching them. So stick with it. You have been blindsided by child number two. But you'll get there!

As for emotional investment, that too has to wait a bit if it doesn't come automatically. After all, the kid has to develop a personality and individuality for you to invest in. But when they do, and even starting now, your outlook has to change. What do you know about who they are inside? How can you learn to know them better? (Remembering that questions like "What is the worst fruit?" can be just as good at sussing out a personality as deeper ones.)

One day a particularly candid student to whom I had explained some of the difficulties I was facing with teaching looked me in the eyes and gave me one word of advice: "BOND!" It requires a lot of work, a lot of intentionality, and a lot of self-critique to do so. But the reward of loving instead of hating students is so worth it.


Finally, I should inject the wisdom of an older friend I just mentioned this to. He heard the topic of the thread and then said: "Welp, that does happen. It could be a hundred things. I have a friend who didn't like her kid for a long time. Now it's better, I think, but not great. There can be a mismatch between parent and child. Or the child has an irritated bowel and will always be fussy. You never know." No doubt there's as much truth in that as in my bright-eyed non-parent optimism. But at the same time, if the question is how to proceed with the most hope and likelihood of getting along, I've found the above areas of focus helpful in my own situation. Hopefully they're of some use to you.

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  • I’d upvote 20 times if I could – Jax Feb 5 at 14:57
  • special +++ for the "know them" point! As the question suggest, the parent has no relation to the child, and I assume that children in general feel this. There is a book about this kind of "non-relationship" and how to build a new one. I am sorry, that I do not remember the title, only the author "Jesper Juul". – Allerleirauh Feb 5 at 20:23
  • @Allerleirauh Maybe "Your Competent Child"? Fantastic book! – Luke Sawczak Feb 5 at 22:34
  • @LukeSawczak This is definitly one I have read! Sounds like it fits the question – Allerleirauh Feb 6 at 6:05
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Problematic as it is, I'm glad you're able to put words on this, because you've pinpointed the problem. The child doesn't need to change, but you need to start liking the child. To address your question in your last paragraph, no you shouldn't just suck it up; this is something you should actively work towards fixing. Everybody likes the easy child. It is those who are more difficult to like, who need our liking the most. They need genuine high quality relationships in their lives, to help them succeed.

The best redemption I'm aware of, and which I can tell from your post is an option you haven't already exhausted, is this: assume that your child is trying their best. We are much more likely to empathize with someone who we believe are failing, than if we believe they are deciding not to cooperate. The simplest example is in communicating difficulties. Some children can elaborate on why they're sad, while some just cry. Others still scream and kick and bite. The former category, we are much more inclined to comfort, but the latter needs it just as much, and it is unfortunate that they should be further punished for their inability to communicate their failures in a constructive manner.

So drop your preconceptions about behaviour - "It's just really stubborn" - and focus instead on what difficulties the child has; what expectations it is failing to live up to. It may be that you need to help the child succeed before they can go on to succeed on their own. It may be that the child will always need major accommodations for their difficulties. Either way, it is key to identify what is failing, and what demands and expectations must be lowered in the immediate phase.

Children do well if they can. So if they don't do well, assume that they couldn't. While I hold this to be true in the vast majority of cases, there's also some evidence that regardless of how true it is, it is beneficial if we hold this view, precisely because it helps us to empathize with the child, which fosters cooperation.

Side note: you're commenting that the child "doesn't have any mental illness and acts completely normal when with other people". I'll throw in that girls are still (at least where I'm from) vastly underdiagnosed when it comes to both ASD and ADHD, for exactly this reason: the idea of the clinical presentation of these disorders are typically based on boys, and the presentation is often different in girls, who are often to a greater extent able to compensate for their difficulties. You'll often see exactly that pattern, that she copes in school but breaks down at home, leading institutions to wrongly rule out an underlying condition, and assuming problems at home. I absolutely don't have enough information on your child to hand out clinical diagnoses, and even if I did I wouldn't. That's not my point, and I'm not saying you should suddenly consider a disorder if you weren't previously. I'm including this just to say that you shouldn't take the mere fact that there are situations that work better than others to mean that the child doesn't have an underlying difficulty.

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  • Thank you for your outside perspective. I have to think about it for some time. – Anondad Feb 4 at 14:48
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    I think expectations are predominantly to blame in this case. It was expected perhaps that this second child would be like the first. If that’s the case, the OP needs to recognize that fact and let it go. I went through this to a milder degree with my 3rd child. He was tough! A side note on ADHD from someone who has it and is raising kids with it: lack of ability to follow a routine is something we all have in common...Even though I should understand how hard it is to remember. All. These. Steps!!..., I must admit, the daily amnesia my kids experience regarding routines is INFURIATING. – Jax Feb 5 at 0:10
  • A great answer! I will not decline that 3yo could intentionally make adults angry, but for the majority of cases they do it not intentionally as strategy or "planned". They miss understanding, ability to follow the rules or even the feeling for "important adult" things, which need to be done. – Allerleirauh Feb 5 at 20:32
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First off, I want to really acknowledge you. This was hard to say I’m guessing. Culture tells us that we are supposed to feel this unwavering no strings attached love for our kids from the moment we see them. Sadly this is not realistic and the expectation is damaging. It stops us from speaking openly and honestly about the struggles when we most need a community around us and to not fee alone and shamed. I have a nearly identical situation, one super easy, one testing my every nerve and skill. Its been so horrible at times, I get why you can use the term hate.

Please know: •You are not alone. •Probably a lot more parents have been in this spot than will ever admit. •You and your family will get thru this.

Ok so the constructive stuff:

  1. Please don’t assume nothing is amiss with them, get them a full neuropsych eval if you can. We assume we know the “why” behind things, but kids are motivated very differently. Likewise, double check they are getting the sleep and physical movement time they need, being cooped up is really hard on all of us.

  2. I suggest reading ‘The Explosive Child’ even the abridged audiobook will give you a lot (tip: i found the full length audiobook reader style distracting and had to switch to the other copy which is voiced differently, ymmv)

  3. Find some thing you like about them and give it more time. They act better in a particular situation? go there. They have a golden hour in the morning where they can be sweet? make a point to spend that time with them. Build a fort, go for a walk, do whatever breaks the cycle. For us, we found a near magical respite in the tiny quiet talks as they were falling asleep, it doesn’t always pan out, but more often than not its become our special time that has saved us from the often disastrous days. We have even now gotten to where we can use the time to apologize to eachother for failing to be our best selves thruout the day, and acknowledge that life is hard and we all do our best.

Hugs, and all the love and support a stranger can send.

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