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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
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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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    @Chimera it may be a language issue. Some second-language English speakers may use "it" mistakenly to remain gender neutral when "they" is more appropriate. – eipi Mar 18 at 19:50
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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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That's a tough one, especially since you are at this point and this child is 3.5 years old. Personally, I don't believe you "hate" this child. But probably more over you are mentally done with the early years of childhood and parenting in those years. I totally understand.

So what can you do? This I have wondered many times, but not because of a disliking toward my own, but more the blandness and monotony of early childhood parenting that makes everyday tasks and routines so painfully boring that you wish for it to end. But maybe not like end everything, but more like - can we just get to the point where we're all into our own things and you're in guidance mode more than total and complete slavery mode.

The most obvious answer is that time will normalize things and this will pass. But who wants to hear that?

In my earlier years as a parent, I realized that the general curiosity or engagement of children happens naturally, and without much need of deliberate interaction. But if I interacted, things would go more my way than whatever some may suggest. By that I mean, I can hand them a pile of little figures like those horrid LOL dolls, or whatever, and they will do what they do. But if I take a pile of them and re-tell some novel story with them, I can direct them into more engaging nonsensical activities that question and solve as the play time I share with them evolves. I can't say it was always fun, but in my own twisted way I did have some fun replaying the entire movie "predator" - yeah, the schwarzenegger one - to my toddlers with dolls and action figures. They got into it and eventually took off on their own with weird tales and what.

This is just an example, but what I am suggesting is that while this child is young, you may benefit from dismissing the normal conventions and just go nuts down the ill favored "f*ck it" road and just do the nonsensical without questioning what society expects or worrying about how you feel about any of it. You've heard from all over that it's not the child's fault, nor yours per say. Some are harder to deal with than others but if you are feeling like a stuck parent and the world is on fire, maybe the only sane solution is to change your world.

To be clear, I don't mean like - f this, I'm out - I mean change the scenery, the habits, food, practices, and see if you can slyly introduce means of wonder into this child through playful manipulation that doesn't turn it into some kind of me vs you thing, which kids seem to love to do. More like - invite them into things casually, but on their terms. Say something like - hey I'm going to build a tower out of legos. want to build with me? then just do it on your own and see if this child joins. Make things out of clay, in their presence and try to get them to join in... dull suggestions, I know, but I kind of don't want to admit that my own lurings of my own kids could well be seen as an act for CPS to look into. I went full on psycho and somehow my kids are a total joy now (not that they weren't) but in comparison to the average interests of kids, I have managed to build a foundation of bazaar fascinations, interests in literature, albeit typically not ones designed for kids of their age, and interests in movies and shows that ... let's just say wouldn't be played at a normal kid's sleepover.

I always treated work like it was the worst thing on earth. Sorry sweetie. I have to waste my life for a while doing awful things nobody should ever have to do. I would much rather build a lego tower with you or dissect this hideous play doh creature, but I have to do this or we have to decide which cardboard box we want to live in. From day one, really. I didn't do kid talk. I always spoke with sarcasm, or just more like a comically negative overtone to the insanity of the world around us, but in a light hearted way and not one of total depression and defeat. I believe it made them understand that I was never choosing to work over being with them, and that may well be why your younger one is behaving this way. You appear to not want to be around them, and they may well be giving you a taste of your own medicine as they see it.

But get psychological about it. Delight in the odd and the strange and just get dirty into things you wouldn't even care to do normally. It might be the effort you extend now, with total resolve, that makes this whole situation turn around rapidly instead of fighting such a difficult fight over a much longer span of time.

One day this child will probably be every bit as amazing as the other and you will feel a certain guilt from having these feelings once upon a time. But you will also probably not regret it because it was whatever it was.

Additional thoughts -

Your post is pretty abstract. It requires inferring your plight without any real clues to know to what extent your nightmare is. My wife has a relative who had a problem child from day one all the way up until he died of a drug overdose in his 30's. He was the very definition of utterly insane without legally actually being so. I don't know if you are dealing with a child like that, or if you are just at your wits end in an otherwise totally normal situation.

I don't know how interactive you are with this child. I don't know if you are following like a modern child rearing approach (like you know, no negative words, no screens, no sugar, etc) or if you are doing the exact opposite and hoping an ipad will get you out of another tantrum. It's all speculation.

But for me, the details aren't as important as the notion that life has taken you for a ride over the past 7+ years. You are spent. So my advise can be summarized by suggesting you adopt some of the things I did to keep myself from breaking apart when the excitement of life had to be redefined into dollhouses, horrible youtube videos, bad literature, and being surrounded by people who all seem to think raising a kid has to go by a certain standard that doesn't include weird things like atrocities, profanity, or whatever you know would get the soccer mom's blood boiling. I was, and still am, a father submerged in the concept that the world around us is practically a work of science fiction and we might as well go full throttle into the abyss or face a life doomed to the hellish cyclical routine of the so called american dream. It was the act of giving up that made me realize I was trying to do things according to a writ that I never agreed with. So I threw the writ out.

I wouldn't change anything I did, but even I have those moments where I realize I took it too far. Thankfully, never to the point of actual violence or fear. Just real life, from the perspective that there is no spoon.

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