vesper's picture

Desperately need advice

Sorry in advance for this being so long.

A little background- I have one 9 year old daughter. She is very sensitive and well behaved, soft hearted and loving. Each year her teachers comment on how soft hearted and sweet she is- so it's not just noticable to me as her mom. And when I say she is well behaved I mean - to the point that it has been years since I've had to discipline her for doing anything wrong. Usually if I tell her not to do something, she stops doing it. I do not spank her, or ever hit her in any way and never have, never will. It has never been necessary even if I believed in it, which I don't.

When I was married to her dad and she was very little, he yelled a lot (At me, but in front of her) and she became extremely afraid of loud men's voices. She is better about it now, but for many years just the slightest bit of raising my voice was enough to get her attention and she would still jump a little when a man laughed out loud or something like that.

So fast forward to about 2 and a half years ago. Everything was fine, I was divorced and my daughter was sweet and well behaved and things were great. We were very close- mother/daughter first, best friends second. Then I started having personal problems (money issues, health problems, insomnia that lasted almost a year and extreme depression). I became very impatient and angry with everyone, including my daughter- unfortunately. I started yelling at her for doing the slightest thing wrong. I hated myself every time I did it, especially because she is so sweet and caring and such a good kid, but I couldn't seem to stop. I finally got some help for my depression and health problems and got a job and got on top of my life- this was about a year ago now. But I was in the habit of yelling at my daughter by then. She had developed this habit of taking FOREVER to do anything I asked her to do- from brushing her teeth to putting socks on. I would literally tell her to put her socks on, and 10 minutes later she wouldn't be done yet with that one task. I work full time, I'm in school full time (taking 16 hours this semester) and so I am often rushing around and it is soooo frustrating when she takes that long to get ready. So I end up snapping orders- do this, do that, you better get it done quickly, what is your problem... etc etc. With plenty of raised voices.

There have been times over the past couple years when she has said things that are not normal for a kid- like once when I got onto her about something valid just before bedtime- she got upset and started crying and said she didn't deserve to sleep in a bed...?? She will often say things are "All her fault" and gets down on herself for getting 1 C if the rest of her grades are As and Bs. She doesn't have an inch of fat on her but will sometimes say her legs are fat or whatever. I know a lot of this self criticism is because of me yelling at her, expecting too much from an already exceptionally wonderful kid.

Then the bombshell- this morning I was packing her for a trip she is going on with grandparents this weekend, and trying to get myself ready for work. I was running late and as usual I was snapping orders like I always do, and I said you're only taking what I pack in your bag, don't come get anything else to take after I leave for work.... Because she will often want to take all kinds of stuff and not bring it back. So then I asked her if she wanted something different to wear than what I had picked out. She was looking at me with the oddest look on her face. I said "What?" She just kept looking at me funny and said what I had picked out was fine. I said "What's wrong?" She just stood there. I said "What is it? You can tell me." She said "I'm starting to be afraid of you." Of course my heart just broke into a million pieces. I said "Afraid of what?" She said "You." I said "Yeah, but what are you afraid I'll do?" (I know she's not afraid I'll hit her because I never do that.) She said "You yell at me a lot."

So of course I was just broken at that moment and felt like the biggest piece of crap on earth and the worst mother. I said "I do? I'm sorry. I won't yell at you anymore." And then I changed it to "I'll try my best not to." Then I hugged her and said I was really sorry and I'm just really stressed and busy with work and school and that sometimes she frustrates me when she moves really slowly, but that's no excuse and that I won't yell anymore, but that she has got to start doing what I ask her to do in the mornings, etc, and stop going so slowly.

Then she tells me that sometimes she's angry and because she doesn't want to take out her anger on someone, instead she moves really slowly. Like some passive aggressive behavior or something I guess. I suspected all along she was doing it on purpose... but I didn't know that even SHE realizes she is doing it on purpose for a reason. Does that make sense?

So I don't know where to go from here. I know I have to stop yelling and being so controlling. I know I want to implement a reward system if she does everything she is supposed to in the morning within a certain time frame. That should take care of that one issue. But I just feel like the worst mother in the world. Guess I'm looking for some advice, words of encouragement..? Something.. I know she is headed toward some really self destructive behavior if I don't do something now, and maybe it's already too late...? I sure hope not.

Jerseygirl's picture

What you are experiencing in common. We often take our frustrations out on our children and before we know it our children are reacting to it but not responding to it. And, that makes us more frustrated. I totally understand as a mom of three. I often yell and get upset because I think they aren't doing what they are supposed to. Then, I had to take a look at my actions and tell them what was going on. Not that they totally understand but them knowing it's not their fault helps.

I am always concerned that I will damage their self esteem (because mine was damaged) so I can be overbearing with asking "how are you feeling?".

What can you do? Don't feel guilty. Take it in stride...remember your daughter will be this age only once so treasure each moment. You have a lot on your plate and she needs to partner with you and feel apart of your life...

tweeter's picture

Dear Vesper,

Join the yelling club. I have a 14 year old son. I've yelled all his life. He no longer listens until I yell. What seriously helped me to stop yelling is to put index cards up all over my house that say "TALK" and "DON'T YELL" it really did help me control myself, it was a reminder. I have not destroyed him or his life, I apologize and tell him I was wrong and I will try harder. I reinforce it is I who is out of control not him or his actions. He is a WONDERFUL and very sensitive person as is your daughter,I have not destroyed him and you have not destroyed your daughter. You just have to try and try harder. Let her know she's okay the way she is your just having some issues and it not her that is the issue. Careful of the rewards, my son still wants to know what the reward will be for doing something he should be doing anyway. We now tell him the reward is me not nagging him to do something.