Mental Health,  Motherhood

How to Cope When Your Toddler Is Being An A-Hole

It’s 8:03 am and I am writing this with dried tears on my face. Instead of having a nice waking-up experience, my (almost) 3-year-old rolls over and starts kicking and hitting me. This is a standard morning routine and for the life of me, I cannot understand why he hits me so much. I calmly say ‘don’t hit mommy, use your words, what do you need’ and then all of a sudden– I catch a fist straight to the nose. I immediately start bawling because if you’ve ever been hit in the nose, the tears are an automatic reaction…

I put my son in his bedroom for time-out and shut the door while he proceeds to scream bloody murder from the other side. While I am sitting on the other side of the door wallowing from this latest blow, I remember just yesterday evening that I reached in the back seat from the drivers’ seat to grab my son’s water bottle and I caught a foot straight to the nose (again) and it hurt so badly that I began sobbing in the parking lot. The memories of my son essentially beating the shit out of me on a daily basis make me begin to ugly cry and has me thinking….

Where have I gone wrong as a parent? For the last year, my son constantly scratches me, pinches me, and hits me. He has somewhat of a speech delay so I chalked up much of his aggression to being frustrated because he cannot express himself adequately. He has been evaluated by a developmental specialist and there wasn’t any concern of him being on the spectrum or having a developmental delay, they simply dubbed him a ‘high energy kid with a touch of speech delay’.

Just a few months ago my son was banned from the gym we were going to because he bit another child in the face and left a decent mark. I was mortified and spent the next two days completely sobbing because it breaks my heart that my child is the asshole. This incident at the gym was essentially the straw that broke the camel’s back as they have had to call me back numerous times because my son was pushing or hitting other children.

Where does my child learn this behavior from? He does have a sister who is 4 years older than him and they do constantly hit each other. On most days you can find me breaking up fights and I constantly have talks with my older daughter about how her brother watches her and she can’t go up and take stuff from him. I also tell her that she can’t hit back when he does hit her and to instead come tell me and I will handle it. So far, none of my reinforcements have been working.

His father has been gone a huge chunk of his young life and was deployed for 7 months during the ages of 18 months to around 25 months. During that deployment, I was a full-time graduate student, had absolutely zero help with my children since we moved to California, have no family around and only a couple of friends to lean on. Was I a perfect parent during this extremely rough 7 months? Probably not. Did I discipline after every minor infraction? Probably not.

I really took a ‘pick my battles’ approach with my kids as my mental state was on the brink of nervous breakdown at all times. I did my best to cope, I saw a therapist weekly and was taking antidepressants. I tried to hide my stress from my kids and make their lives as normal as possible. But as I am reflecting back to those 7 months, this is where he really upped his pinching, scratching, and hitting me. Perhaps he started beating on me because his little brain couldn’t comprehend where is daddy went and why he was gone. The FaceTime calls only made him upset because again, he couldn’t comprehend where daddy went. I tried to explain as best as I could, and even made links for the kids to take down each day so they could grasp the time it was going to take for daddy to come home.

I was sure that my son’s behavior was going to change drastically once his dad returned from deployment. Let me just say it absolutely did not, the only thing that changed was that I now had backup. My husband would help me discipline him and reinforce that hitting was bad and we also praised him when he was good.

Its been about 10 months since my husband has returned from deployment and my son still beats the shit out of me. I am at a loss for words on what to do. His cognition is still a toddler as he will be turning 3 years old in a week. He is also a very large toddler as he has been in the 99 percentile for height and weight since he was born so when he does get into his tantrum fueled ‘lets beat the shit out of mommy’ mode, it’s comparable to wrestling a 5-year-old.

I try to cope with constantly reminding myself that this is temporary, although it has been going on for the last year and a half. I try to give myself a break because I know in my heart I am a good mom, his dad is a good dad, and we do our best to reinforce positive behaviors and discipline his bad behaviors. I have re-opened my childhood development text books from my undergraduate psychology days to look for a new angle, and I constantly find myself disappointed because I have been doing everything that the professionals say to do.

I try to cope with living life one day at a time and try not to focus much on the past, but it can be difficult when I am getting physically assaulted by my toddler on a daily basis. I show him lots of affection, individualized attention, and he has the capacity to be the sweetest little boy in the world. Then out of nowhere and completely unprovoked, I usually wind up taking a fist to the face or getting my arm scratched to the point it draws blood (yes I clip his nails).

I should note that his diet is pretty decent and not sugar loaded…he eats a lot of whole foods, healthy snacks, he drinks low sugar juice boxes on occasion. To say that I don’t occasionally get the kids a happy meal on a super busy day would be a lie (maybe once or twice a month). I would say that about 85% of the food in our home is organic and the healthiest option out there.

He also goes to daycare full-time where he eats very healthy and has a team of teachers reinforcing what I am doing. He has gotten 2 write-ups in the past 2 months for hitting kids. The teachers tell me they discipline him appropriately and to help prevent hitting at home. I have told them how much he beats on me and they tell me to just keep doing what I am have been doing and hopefully this behavior breaks at some point.

In the meantime, you can find me with scratches all over my arms and chest and on the verge of a meltdown myself because I constantly feel like I am failing as a parent.

For those out there reading this, do you have any words of wisdom on this? How did you cope when your child was an asshole? Do you have any advice on how I can help change his behavior or any tips on what I can do differently? I am so desperate for help and am willing to take any and all advice….

I cope by trying to take life one day at a time and by living in the moment…however, if you have any other advice on coping mechanisms or what I can do differently I would love to hear them!

Disclaimer—I LOVE MY CHILD, even though we are going through a bit of a rough phase currently! He may be really naughty right now, but I love him with all my heart. He loves me just as much although he can have a funny way of showing it!

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