Despite My Child's Hellish Behavior, I'm Still A Good Mom

by Jorrie Varney
good mom
Georgijevic / iStock

Problem-solving is my thing; I’m a bit of a junkie. The greater the challenge, the more rewarding the payout. Critical thinking, perseverance, and even some old fashioned redneck ingenuity have helped me through some of the most perplexing situations.

Arguably, there is no greater arena to flex your problem-solving muscles than parenthood. If you like a good challenge, parenting is definitely for you. The high of a parenting triumph is unmatched; it’s like the best piece of chocolate cake you’ve ever eaten — served by Channing Tatum.

However, you can’t win ‘em all, and in those cases, it’s important to accept defeat gracefully. There are situations I will gladly accept defeat. For example, you may see my kid rolling through Target in a swimsuit and combat boots because that is not a battle worth fighting.

Eat your soup with a fork, wear a Batman mask to preschool, and sleep in your tee-ball cleats — fine by me.

But when it comes to behavior and respect for others, I will not bend. I will go to battle. This is how I’ve spent the last few months with my son, addressing his nearly constant bad behavior.

He is almost 3, so most of his behavior is to be expected. He tests his boundaries and has emotional outbursts that are difficult to manage. He is not easily redirected to a new task or activity, and he is aggressive when he doesn’t get his way. This part is new for me — the aggression.

I’ve been in the trenches before. I remember the looming feeling of defeat as I helped my daughter navigate her terrible twos and then her threenage years. After what felt like an eternity, the fog lifted and the demons of toddlerhood retreated. The fruit of my labor was a sweet, well-behaved little girl.

My son’s aggression, coupled with the headstrong persistence often seen in this age group, has been challenging, to say the least, and I’ve recently found myself at a loss. This is usually my strong suit — trying something new or finding a different angle to solve the problem. But, try as I may, nothing has worked, and I’m exhausted and embarrassed by his behavior.

I feel like I’m failing miserably. Every day, I meet with his preschool teacher to get a daily report and discuss issues. I’m very lucky to have someone who is so patient with him, despite our complete lack of progress with his behavior. He is undeterred by our attempts to teach and redirect him. He is unimpressed with our reward system, and it does little to encourage positive behavior.

I could tell you what we have tried, but let me just summarize: everything. We have tried everything. Nothing has been effective, and my little boy is a little monster.

When I went through this with my daughter, I talked to a friend when I was feeling particularly defeated in my efforts. “I just feel like I spend all of my time correcting her behavior,” I said with exasperation.

Her response is something I recall often and has gotten me through many rough days. “That’s because you do.” She said. “That’s what it takes to be a good parent. You don’t give up, even when it seems hopeless. You keep going, and eventually, they will get it.”

She was right. My patience and persistence with my daughter paid off, so I cling to the hope that the same will be true with my son.

It has been said that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Maybe that’s true. Maybe I am insane, but I will not accept defeat on this. I love my son too much to let him become an out-of-control hellion.

I’m not going to stop trying to teach him right from wrong. I will continue to tell him when he is wrong, and I will calmly explain what is right. Every time.

I will be annoyingly persistent and consistent with my response to his behavior. I will do my best to help him understand his feelings, and how to express them appropriately.

I will keep trying because I am a good mom, and despite outward appearances, he really is trying to learn.

So am I.