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Thanking You in Advance: A Muse on Raising Boys and All Their Sound Effects

By Brooke Benton

I don’t usually have these moments, but lately they’ve come by the bucketful and I feel saturated and heavy by a type of inadequacy that leaves me lingering on one thought:

I am a bad mother.

The truth is that he is hard. He is five. He is a boy. He is a middle child. And oh, holy cow is he hard. (Wait, did I already say that?) Still, I wonder if it’s me.

I keep expecting him to grow out of his toddler tantrums.

Hasn’t happened.

I keep waiting for a reaction that that doesn’t involve hitting and screaming.

Still waiting.

And I just hold to the hope that he will stop blaming everyone else in the room for a broken Lego project,

a missing piece to his game,

a thought interrupted,

a moment upended…

Nope.

(But still I hope.)

It’s on these days that I put him to bed and cry. I don’t know what to do. I try patience. I try giving him extra attention.  Indeed I generally go to bed with a tugging throb against my fingertips from stacking so many Legos with the little guy.

I wrap him in his blankie—“Naynee” around these parts—and read and reread Can You See What I See? And he beats and beats me again at finding the little yellow man, the hidden pictures. And he basks in the golden sunlight of my affection and his eyes twinkle. And we kiss. And rekiss. And kiss again—his grubby hands on my cheeks, his sweetness so apparent that the next part is baffling.

A phone rings.

A doorbell rings.

A sister yells for something.

Anything, any interruption, something that dims that golden sunlight…

And he’s done.

My husband calls him mercurial. I call him impatient. And crazy. Misunderstood.

At this point I:

Try quietly kneeling with him and explaining why.

And when that doesn’t work… (It doesn’t WORK!)

I:

Try time-outs—“Naughty Step” around these parts—and taking and retaking away whatever toy he’s playing with.

Try overt-making-a-big-deal-out-of-it-high-pitched-fawning: “OH MY GOSH, BUDDY! THANK YOU FOR BEING SO PATIENT AND LETTING ME WIPE YOUR SISTER’S BUM!!!!!”

But even if the coos and attention make him happy, they lack the lasting impact I hope for—the hope that my measured reaction will distill itself into a measured reaction in him. That when we need to leave the house to run an errand he won’t dissolve into a crying heap or when it’s time to have Family Home Evening he won’t immediately jump into the charades part and then scream hysterically when he realizes we have to have a lesson first…

Then scream hysterically throughout the entire lesson while his sisters spontaneously burst into prayer or somersault off the couch.

Which might be a different post, but still. Sometimes I think they forgot the part about parenting our little ones. I always hear about getting my boy on a mission! And raising a Stripling Warrior, a hard worker, a responsible Priesthood holder! And I wonder if these idealistic urges have ever met my five year old.

Because for some reason I see his progression akin to my progression, and I see it as something that should be happening now—and I see him as a work in progress that doesn’t progress. I don’t want him to grow up necessarily, but I’m done with what feels like a stagnant place, where he is not growing into even a happier kid for that matter, or one that doesn’t rely on growling and head-butts for emphasis.

Because boy is he hardheaded. (And while I won’t go into the specifics of how I find that symbolic for all of him, I will say that my nose/pride/instincts/cheekbones is/are sore.)

And so maybe, for today, it’s not so much a question for my Segullah sisters but a plea. I need to hear from you mothers of boys. I need to know how you’ve done it and what you’ve done. I need to know that it ends—that it begins. I need to know that you’ve successfully raised your boys.

And how.

About Brooke Benton

(Blog Team) is attempting inner om with this writing stuff. Proud to claim four loud children, a patient husband and a fat black cat as family, she feels blessed to be their mommy-- their giver of kisses and baker of cookies. She is ever seeking a good novel and wishing for the sand between her toes, palm trees, the ocean.

87 thoughts on “Thanking You in Advance: A Muse on Raising Boys and All Their Sound Effects”

  1. I've got three girls, so maybe I'm completely unqualified to respond, but rather than concluding that you're a bad mother, I'd want to have him evaluated. Hearing, behavior, psychologist, whatever. It just seems like things shouldn't be quite that hard.

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  2. My boys are almost 18 and 16, so not fully raised, but turning out so nicely… and this from a head-banger and one slow-to-speak. You're doing it, and you're living it, which is what you do when you raise kids. It's a marathon with a sweet reward at the end. Sometimes it feels like it doesn't get any easier, but the gaps in between sores get longer and the love swells greater, because you are willing to sacrifice to get the boy to man. I loved your post. Sweet and real.

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  3. jane, i wasn't going for sexist, so i'm sorry for that– most mothers of boys just tell me that these are boy things… and being a mother of two girls myself, i'm baffled all the time by him.

    and thanks jenny. to think that maybe it's just that the "gaps between sores get longer" is a new, better way for me to look at it.

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  4. my sister had a really tough little boy…lots of temper tantrums, stubborn, very much a perfectionist, competitive, violent at times, but extremely sweet and loving-all at once. she found that keeping a consistent schedule with him and making him aware of that schedule and any changes helped a lot. also, she tried getting rid of quiet time as a punishment and instead reinstated it as something to help him gather himself together. after consistently helping him go to his room and sit and read for a moment, he now goes of his own accord when he feels himself get out of control. it's so wonderful to see him turning into such a wonderful little boy/man. also, there was a book she read about headstrong children that helped a great deal by giving her ideas and helping her to better understand his psychology…i can't remember the title. if you're interested, email, and I'll ask her what the book was. good luck. just keep at it, i'm sure you're a wonderful mother!

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  5. Oh boy.
    I have 4 boys.
    And so I have to say, this is not just a boy thing. Each of my boys has come with a completely different personality, temperament, ways of dealing with problems-conflicts-emotions. And you better believe I have tried just about every possible parenting "skill" to find the magic one that works. (Just so you know, it doesn't exist. For just as you think you may have found it, a morning will come, or a night, or a trip to the store, or park, or, or, or, and it will go right out the window. And you are back to the drawing board, or at the very least, a modification of what was once working like a charm.)
    Sorry, I don't mean to be so…real.
    But here's the important part:
    You are not a bad mother.
    You are not a bad mother!
    You are a great mother because you are asking these questions. And you are searching for answers. And you keep letting that little 5 year old boy know his mommy loves him.
    I could talk to you for hours all about my trials and errors. Compare notes. Comfort, sympathize and encourage each other.
    I still have a 13 year old(!) that sounds a lot like your 5 year old. I worry about him because he just makes things so much harder for himself that the rest of his brothers. But just maybe, his hard-headed, stubborn determination will someday be his saving grace? Maybe Heavenly Father knew that to get through his earthly trials he would need things that I can't quite comprehend right now. Just a thought.
    I wish you hugs, patience and solutions.
    Hang in there.
    🙂

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  6. Honestly that sounds just like my girl, who also happens to be 5 1/2. But she's been, um difficult/mercurial/demanding her whole life too. I constantly have to fight the feeling that I'm just not a good enough mother because I can never figure out the magic formula to deal with her. My boy is only 2 1/2 and he is much calmer and easier to deal with. So I'll add my two cents that maybe it isn't just a boy thing. I'll be watching the answers to see if anyone has any ideas.

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  7. From the mother of 5 boys – I'm at the tail end of raising. #1 married in the temple expecting our first twin (boy and girl) grandbabies!! #2 temple married – working on a career, #3 searching for his one and only at BYU, #4 on his mission, #5 14 – I'm trying not to run out of gas.

    I distinctly remember the day I wrote in my journal, "Jimmy is grabbing my leg and whining because I'm trying to do the dishes while bouncing Doug in the front pack – why is this so hard – I've got to find the joy…" Looking back tears come easily because I didn't know that joy was all around me.

    Here are my best ideas for getting through the hard years. When he starts throwing a tantrum – join him. Wait till you see his face. I did this and my son was stunned. I got down on the floor and flailed and whined right along with him. I felt much better and his fits lost their effectiveness. Try to relax in FHE. My now grown boys look back fondly on what I considered utter disasters.

    Most of all you're going to be fine. I won't agree with those who say you'll miss these days but I will say you'll look back and smile realizing with hindsight that there is joy all around.

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  8. I have three sons, one daughter, and am expecting our fifth child (boy or girl…we find out in a couple of weeks). My boys are almost 7, 5, and 3. Missy is 1 1/2.

    Son #2, my 5 year old, sounds very much like your son. He is very passionate and intense, super creative and lots of fun. He is busy from the time his feet hit the floor until he crashes into bed at night – never stopping in between. He likes things just so, and oftentimes I am not sure what "just so" is, which is a problem. He can be sweet as honey or sour as vinegar – and can change from one to the other within a matter of seconds. I find myself feeling like I have been wrestling with him since the day he was born. We have had some really hard times.

    But the last couple of months have been a little better. I've been trying to look at life through his window – it seems to face the opposite direction of the one I usually look out of. I've tried to recognize the strengths behind the actions that drive me nuts – he's steadfast, he's a fighter and doesn't quit, he's excited about things, he has tons of energy, he knows what he wants, he's committed.

    I've realized that we value these traits in adults, but not so much in children. In kids, we tend to refer to them as stubborn, uncooperative, unrelenting, overexcited, hyper, bossy, bull-headed. I think it's because we want kids to do what we want them to do, when we want them to do it, and in they way we want it done. Does that make sense?

    Anyway, since I've realized this about myself I've tried harder to focus on what great, desirable traits these will be when he is older. When he is a missionary. When he is a stripling warrior. When he is a parent.

    We still have our hard days. Sometimes I just want to curl up in a ball and cry my eyes out because I am exhausted and I don't know what to do (sometimes I do that). But I have learned that my place is just to help him learn to use these traits as strengths instead of weaknesses. I can't make him do anything…but I can remind him (several times a day) to control his voice, his body, his actions. And I'm probably the one who is growing the most from the process.

    If I were a little farther along in this process, I'd be able to offer more. But I can say this – don't give up. It will get better. You'll both make it!

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  9. Not what you exactly asked for, because I haven't done it, but I am currently doing it. I have one that sounds just exactly like your five year old. Exactly. And it is hard hard hard. The joys make it worth it but it doesn't take away from it being so frustrating. You're not alone.

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  10. FoxyJ– let's get our girls together. They'll change the world.

    As you well know Brookie– I have five sons(ages 17-7) they have all gone through their ages and stages of being extremely difficult. I well remember driving through the neighborhood when my oldest was 4 and pondering the consequences of leaving the screaming little menace on someone's doorstep. He's now college-bound-practically-perfect-in-every-way and we love to laugh about that story.

    But after surviving the chaos of all my boys it's my girl who has slammed me down and brought me not just on my knees, but with my forehead scraping the ground to God. SHE'S HARD. And has been since the second she took breath. If it weren't for our fantastic preschool I'd be certifiably insane.

    But this I believe– parents who keep asking the questions find the answers. You're a fantastic mother Brooke and the solutions will come(probably when you aren't looking).

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  11. As the mother of three boys (and a girl), I have to echo the idea that it's not just a boy thing. My oldest is quite calm and even-keeled; my second sounds more like your son, and my third I haven't figured out yet. It's my second that I struggle with, and I've almost wondered if it's simply a personality conflict. We are very different from each other, which hurts because it feels like our very natures collide and it is not fair to either of us. I keep hoping that the collisions will not destroy him.

    Mercurial is a good word–my second son is by far the most loving of all of my children. He is the most likely to give me a hug out of the blue, tell me he loves me, etc. But man, can he get angry. Explosive.

    We've considered therapy, actually, but I still feel his behavior is within the range of normal (which I think is rather broad). It's hard to tell what is simple immaturity (he'll grow out of it), what behaviors could signal that something really is wrong, and what my responsibilities are (How accountable am I for his behavior? What do I really need to correct?).

    It helps to see him through the eyes of others who see him as a great kid (though it makes me feel guilty sometimes, as though he'd have an easier time with a more laid-back mother).

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  12. I'm not a mother, but my mom has shared with me several times the story of my grandmother (her mother-in-law) finding comfort in the book So You Want to Raise a Boy. (To find it in a library near you, follow this link: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/1420561) The book may be out of date now, but in my grandmother's story, she was beating her head against the wall about one of her sons and was able to connect with him through the book by helping him see that what he was thinking and feeling was normal. While a five year old is obviously too young to read the book, maybe he sometimes needs to hear that it is okay to get frustrated and here are ways to deal with the frustrations. But like I said, I am not a mother, so I may be off base with my suggestion.

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  13. my boy #2 (of 3 is very much this way- intense- And tough- he is almost four and today we've already had 1 lb. of psrinkles dumped in the carpet behind the fm rm chair (he was trying to sneak and eat them)so sympathy and empathy!

    all I can say is i came from a family of 2 girls and boys are a different animal.

    They are deliciously tiring and tough but worth it!
    I still ahev many years ahead of me wish I had wise sage advice but i am still learning

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  14. I love these comments/suggestions, especially lanette and her journal entry–sounds like my morning today. 🙂

    I have 2 boys under 3 yrs right now. The joy still outweighs the frustrations but I remind myself often to laugh instead of cry. I know this chaos will pass quickly and I'll miss it.

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  15. i am already so overwhelmed by all these comments and suggestions.

    maybe it's just good to know i'm not alone…?

    and though i feel some of you were better suited to write this post for me (seriously, i'm so impressed with all the lovely comments!), thank you for getting me.

    and i know it's not just a boy thing. i know that. but somehow my girls are easier for me. it could be that they express themselves in words (and yes, tears) and with him, i'm always trying to deduce what's wrong– and maybe it's a feeling that i'm not getting him or something that makes me feel lacking, frustrated.

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  16. Growing up I had one older brother and three younger sisters, so I felt utterly unprepared to be a mother to three boys!

    My oldest son turns 11 this week. Raising him has been a constant surprise for me (so loud! so strong! so rowdy!) and so different from my childhood home. Letting go of my expectations has been really useful for me. These are little boys, NOT little girls. My boys are physical and have short attention spans and terrible hand writing and wrestle quickly and forgive easily. They are not convenient for teachers or choir directors or me, sometimes. They are busy growing into young men and aren't distracted by demands from others.

    And they do seem to be growing into fine young men. I find the first years out of toddlerhood (about 4 1/2-6) the most difficult. During that time I feel like my boys are trying to distinguish their identities separate from Mom, and they do it in ways that I find obnoxious and inconvenient. But around 8/9 it seemed to get a lot easier. Mothering is all about surviving those stages, right?

    I have also really loved the book Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. It changed the way I think about parenting and, I think, helped me embrace the wonder and magic of each individual child.

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  17. I have a girl like this. When she turned three and hit the tantrum stage, I patiently waited it out. She's 10 now and I'm still waiting.

    Wish I had something actually helpful to offer, but just know you're not alone. And sometimes that helps…

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  18. First of all, you're the best mother he'll ever have and the only one he'll ever need.

    Second, boys are hard and physical. Very physical. Have you tried sports/karate/physical interaction? My boys are always a wreck unless they play really hard, really physically. They just have to get out and run, climb, jump, kick. Get him in a karate class or an indoor soccer league. I second the structure as well, my boys do so much better when their day is scheduled (and has physical demands.)

    Third, I've done the parallel tantrum thing and it really works.

    Fourth, you're awesome and I love you.

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  19. go read "Ephriam's Child" or something like that from deseret book. It's philosophy is to teach you that the STRONGEST spirits have been saved for the latter days . . . well guess what, these stronger spirits are more stubborn and harder to parent. It gives advice on how to deal with your "stripling warrior" whether it's a boy or girl (mine's a girl).

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  20. I don't know that he needs to be evaluated. I have three boys and two of them are very much like your son. One of them has ADHD and it has taught me that I had to readjust the way I was parenting. I had to change certain expectations and try to learn how Heavenly Father wants me to parent these boys of mine. I don't think your parenting has created these issues with your son.

    I'll second Carina's advice. Physical activity is absolutely crucial.

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  21. Just yesterday I told my husband that my son #3 (I have 4 boys) who is also 5, must have been sent to the wrong mother because I'm just not equipped to deal with him–I often feel I'm causing more harm than good in my efforts with him. Yes, it was a comment made out of frustration, and this morning he's showing his sweet side, but I could so relate to your post. I do have some thoughts to share, though.

    1. Make it ok to feel what he feels. For what it's worth, my #2 was a very emotional responder as a toddler/preschooler. Early on we took the approach with him that it was ok for him to scream, (kick, etc.) but that it wasn't ok for him to scream at his brother or his parents. That it was OK for him to FEEL whatever he was feeling, but it wasn't ok for him to react in certain ways. We made a space where he knew he could go to get out whatever emotion was getting the better of him, and it wasn't long before he was going there on his own (similar to what Amanda shared about her nephew), and then eventually not needing it nearly so often.

    2. Avoid labeling. It's actually a tricky distinction to be able to see others for what they are (and where they are) and understand their needs while not giving them a label. In my mind a label puts your child in a box that is then mentally challenging for him or you to ever let him out of. And he's bound to change.

    3. See the strengths. Others have mentioned trying to see the potential strengths and gifts even in these frustrating behaviors. A counselor at my oldest son's school opened my eyes to the fact that many of the things that drive us crazy as parents are actually part of a child's fundamental nature, and can fuel their personal growth, if the child and behavior are NOT mis-understood. It's aimed at those who work with gifted children, but she recommended "Living with Intensities" by Susan Daniels, for help in this process.

    4. I have found with my 5 year old that the more he understands the schedule/consequences ahead of time, the better he does (he doesn't do as well when I give him too much leeway on things). After one dinner-time conflict that resulted in timers, threats and tears and finally a perfectly happy boy, out of frustration I asked my son "Should I just be mean right from the start?" He paused and thought and then answered in all seriousnes, "Yeah. That seems to work best for me."

    6. My main goal with my son is that no matter what we've feuded and fussed about during the day, that when I leave him in bed at night, he knows that I love him and think he's a great kid. . . I figure that if he can really feel that love, it will make it so much easier for him to figure out how to deal with the other challenges in his life.

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  22. I have a little guy that is how shall I say… a little intense. Years 4-6 have been daunting. Not that that was the only hard part but more difficult. Even as a little baby he would get so mad. He would bang his little sweet head on the floor. Once on the way toddling out to the car he had a fit and smacked his head intentionally on the sidewalk. This was terrible and left a little scrape and a nasty bruise. The injury however strange it may sound broke him of the head banging as coping habit. Every time he tried to bang his little head on the floor or the carpet the ouchie tenderness would snap him out of it.

    He is getting close to seven and some things seem to be at last coming together in a better way, but oh the fits he has thrown. Now when he asks me what I am making for dinner I can joke "Something you hate," before I would keep it from him until the very last moment. I would do this so at least prep time would be tantrum free. I think he feels emotions very strongly and doesn't quite know what to do with that intensity, so it comes out in lots of ways. I heard somewhere generally men get "emotionally flooded" more easily than women. It may be a little sexist but if this is true maybe boys can experience this too. I had four daughters before my son and they are all very different, but he is the only one different in quite this way.

    He has also had some anxiety issues that have been tough for him to navigate through, how to deal with that "mean boy" in his class etc. The anxiety can be at the root of the fits sometimes.

    It has not all been tantrums and anxiety. He can also be so wonderfully sweet and experiences much happiness. For a while after prayers each night he would ask me if I was ready for my "Kiss Treatment" Which comprised of a kiss to the forehead, each cheek, my nose and chin and a quick peck to the lips. He is also king of snuggles, well he and his baby brother. For awhile it took world class negotiating skills to make it through a movie with each of them sitting on either side of me vying for "my mommy, not your mommy…" and taunting each other by sticking an elbow or a toe too far into the demilitarized zone (me).

    Setting up a system of incentives helped him. Making a chart that had thirty little squares not necessarily representing consecutive days but each day that he made it through without a melt down he could color in a square. When the chart was full he got a reward he had picked out in advance. My sister-in-law did a similar thing for thumb sucking for her 4 year old and bought the toy and put it on top of the fridge so he could see it as a reminder of what he was trying to accomplish. Then changing the behavior switched from something that she was trying to get him to do, to something he was trying to do for himself. He was super pleased with himself when it was accomplished. My son would have had a hard time with the seeing it and not being able to have it. Mental imagery was enough. Perhaps a picture of the thing or activity would be better than the actual item. I had a friend who was struggling with inappropriate behavior with her daughter and she got a bunch of dot-to-dots and put them one at a time on the fridge and each time her daughter exhibited correct behavior she got to connect two dots. She had randomly circled some of them with a colored marker and when the little girl reached those spots she got a small little treat. Her issues were more impulsiveness, yelling, and disobedience.

    One thing that has helped is sending him to his room to "calm down" telling him that he can come out when he is calm and in control of himself. At first we had to physically take him there trying to be as calm and dispassionate about it as possible. Carrying a kicking screaming 5 year old to their room is not fun. Keeping him in there sometimes took a parent sitting or standing right outside the door holding the knob. All the while playing the calm warden parent. Not to punish him so much as provide him a place to "calm down and pull it together." Now when he gets out of control he will voice some protest but he will go down there himself and a few minutes later he will poke his head out of the door asking "Can I come out now?" To which I always reply "I don't know? Have you calmed down are you done having a fit?" If he answers in the affirmative I will reply "Sure come on out." With as much smile in my voice as I can muster. As far as his anxiety (which can be at the root of some of the melt downs) talking to him, asking him questions that he can answer simply with one word seems to work the best. If I ask questions that are too broad he will reply "It's too hard to explain" or "I don't want to talk about it" or with a grunt and then he shuts down or melts down. To avoid this I ask my little questions like a game of 20 questions. As I ask him more questions that are easy to answer, eventually he can talk to me about it in complete sentences but it is a little like cracking a safe. I feel like I am pulling the words out of him. Once they get flowing we can talk about it and work it out.

    Good luck. Counseling can also be fabulous. I have not tried it with the six year old but it has sure helped with one of my teenagers.

    I'm sorry for such a long reply post. If all of you didn't ask such good though provoking questions I wouldn't go on and on and on. I am new to reading Segullah and love it, way too much.

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  23. i have never heard of the first years out of toddlerhood being the toughest, so thank you for saying that. it's true that it seems harder than it should be– like, i thought we were out of this phase. but maybe not.

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  24. To make you feel even better…

    The other night my husband spied me in my unclothed glory and GASPED.

    "WHAT happened to you!?" he said.

    I looked down at the bruises that cover my body and said, "Your boys."

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  25. I love all of these comments. I have two boys, and they have very different personalities and have presented me with different challenges. My thirteen year old used to bang his head on the floor when he threw tantrums and always had bumps on his head–it was so frustrating for all of us, not to mention frightening–I was sure he would end up brain damaged (we thought seriously about making him wear a helmet). He finally grew out of this stage when he was four and is now a sunny, easy going child. My seventeen year old has always been a challenge–I suppose he would be labeled as a gifted child–he is very, very smart, but that has brought with it its own challenges, most particularly social challenges. I have wept more tears, said more prayers, pulled out more hair over this child than over any of my others–and he continues to challenge me. During a particularly difficult time five years ago, I took him to see a child psychologist and went for some counseling myself. And the thing that helped me the most was hearing the psychologist say, "Your son came this way; this is the way he is wired. He will probably always have challenges in this area, but he can learn to better manage them." I'd been feeling guilty for so many years, wondering if I'd done something wrong when I was pregnant, or wondering what I'd done in my mothering to make him this way. Accepting that our children come to us with their particular personalities and realizing that we are here to help them manage their own particular challenges rather than beat ourselves up over them was very liberating for me. And, just to give you some hope, my son is turning out fine. He still struggles socially, and he still tries me at times, but he is a bright, capable, spiritual young man who tries very hard to do what's right–and I think he will make a great missionary (although he may not be the easiest companion to get along with…but I'm trying not to worry about that right now). Hang in there–your little son will be fine. I can tell you are doing a great job.

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  26. (Sorry to "talk" so much, but this is something that's been on my mind a lot.)

    Another thought I've had is to try and get other adults involved in a positive way in my son's life. I think a lot of his struggles are magnified in his interractions with me specifically–I haven't figured out exactly why. My parents know of my struggles with son 3, so they make a special point to be positive with him and let him know they love him (rather than trying to "fix" him). Also, his piano teacher has been really good to come up with a program that works with his personality, rather than making him conform to her system. I'm also really fortunate in his kindergarten and Primary teachers. All of this is bound to help him (and me as these other people who aren't SO close to the situation can sometimes see things more clearly than I can).

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  27. segullah loves YOU.

    and re: the anxiety: my son has this too. his entire first year of preschool was a struggle. he doesn't want to do anything and he gets "tummy aches" at the thought of something new. my struggle is that i want to press him into it because i think it will be good for him. but i never do. i'm weak.

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  28. I am sorry I don't have time at the moment to read through all the comments (i plan to come back and read them all more this evening!), but I want to second the gal int he beginning who said keep a schedule, and I will go even further and say keep the rules you have made. Don't bend them for him. It sounds harsh, but I have comet o realize that for one of my sons, who sounds an awful lot like your son, this is the only thing that works. And that isn't to say that we have perfect harmony, but it is better for him when he knows the exact limits. He is the kind of child that always pushes for more. If he doesn't get his way he will throw a temper tantrum. However, when I am good about keeping strict to what our rules are, after about a week, he is more able to go with the flow. The sad thing is, that sometimes, I feel like being nice, and I give in and tell him he can do something out of the ordinary. Then it takes us a long time to get back to him not pushing for more. Am I making any sense? Here is an example:

    In our home, the rule is get your homework done and get your piano practiced before you are able to go play with a friend. Ethan generally has one sheet of math, which if he sits down and gets it done, will take him about 5-10 minutes. Not a big deal. And he only practices piano for 20 minutes. So that is half an hour total. If for some reason, though, he came home with 2 sheets of homework, he would probably pester me to let him do one sheet now, and one sheet after dinner. If we had been having a good week or so, I would feel generous and let him do that. However, the next day he would whine at me about how long piano takes, and why can't he do that after dinner. I would say no, do it now, and he would most likely erupt into a temper tantrum (he is almost 8, by the way!) and I wouldn't hear the end of it. This would go on for several days until finally he gets the idea I'm not backing down, and we will settle back to bliss (at least for that issue).
    I used to wonder if he had anger issues, and maybe he does. I am sure he gets them from me. But I have learned through him to be MUCH more patient. I do lose my temper on occasion, but it doesn't help anyone. These days I thank God for this child who can be very sweet and loving, especially to his sisters, and I thank God that he is teaching me patience. And I realize that this is something he will just have to learn to deal with.
    He is great at school… very well behaved, no doubt because there is a distinct schedule and set of rules. He knows what is expected. So that is what I am trying for at home now too.
    Good luck with everything. You are not a bad mother. And probably some of this will mellow with age. You love your son, and I am sure give him affection and attention. But we are all human, and you and he will probably both have to make adjustments to learn to meet at a place that brings peace and harmony. Just remember to be consistent!

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  29. It is such a comfort to read that there are so many other mothers out there that struggle with their children. My son has similar qualities and we have been "working" with him since he was two. It is difficult not to feel isolated in this journey. You hear opinions from so many different sources and start to question your instincts. The reactions of other parents also contribute to my self-doubt. I can't express how refreshing it is to see a smiling, understanding face in the midst of dealing with a 5 year old meltdown. It gives me a boost of confidence to know that I am not being judged harshly.

    One of the hardest realities I've faced in parenting this strong little spirit is knowing that no matter what the solution is, I am responsible for implementing it. That can be overwhelming and exhausting.

    Thank you for the post today. It makes me think that this generation of children is strong-willed and intense for a reason. It is our job to help them channel their passion for good.

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  30. I have four boys, followed by a little girl. And if there is one thing I have learned, its that boys are hard. That is H.A.R.D. Every one boy equals two or three children in my opinion…

    Best of luck!!!

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  31. my son makes a lot of sense if you knock about 2-3 years off his actual age. he's just immature. at nine he still behaves in ways we'd expect a six or seven year old to behave. in addition to being immature, he's insecure too. i've felt all the same feelings of inadequacy and at-a-loss-ness that you and the others have described here. does he need therapy? medication? a different mom? cause some days i've felt so frustrated and at a loss.

    but no other mom would love this kid the way i do. no other mom would see the potential in him that i see. i think it's a tender mercy of the lord that i feel about him the way i do. that when i'm not in the middle of a "moment" with him, i can still picture him turning out. i don't know exactly how that will happen, but i believe it will (because right now he's at school so i'm calm!)

    couple things:
    this may not end any time soon. best not to assume it will.

    there are tools to help. one of them, which i confess not being a fan of, is scouting. i'm trying to change my attitude about it (since i'm the assistant den mom)… but it's a tool that can help (see article: http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/56694/Missionary-preparation-Aaronic-Priesthood-and-Scouting.html )

    i'm starting to be convinced that one of the primary issues my son has is that he's not RESILIENT. Resilience isn't an attribute we hear much about, but it's crucial. so last week i started reading a book called Raising Resilient Children co-authored by Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein. It's giving me insights and hope. I highly recommend it. In fact, i was only on chapter 3 but i employed a small change in how i responded to a situation before school yesterday morning, and was astounded that my DS changed too. the usual head-butting stubborn whiney obstinate meltdown never materialized. i was completely amazed. so there are things we as parents need to learn in dealing with our children, that can help them and us. resilience isn't every kids' issue. but it's one that many struggle with. and i am learning things from raising this child that a loving heavenly father knew i needed to learn. so it's a win-win in the end. at least it feels like that right in this moment 😉

    best luck to you! ♥

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  32. I haven't read all of the comments, so sorry if this is redundant. Coming from a clinical standpoint, having him evaluated is a nice idea, but could label him unnecessarily. Still, it could be helpful to get some input on temperment kinds of things. For example, if "transitions" are the primary issue (which it sounds like they could be at least part of what's going on), there are things to do as parents and things to teach him.

    On a positive note, I heard of a study once of a remote tribe in Africa. 10% of the infants had temperment issues, which is similar to America (and other countries?). After six months, ONLY the 10% were still alive. The conclusion was an interesting survival of the fittest idea. The things your son struggles with now can become strengths, can be overcome, can help him be what Heavenly Father needs him to be in the future.

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  33. My boys don't seem to be like that at all.
    I do have a headstrong girl, though.
    My friend who I think is an excellent mother has a boy that sounds a lot like yours. She says it slowly gets better as he gets older but she has had to work really hard at being VERY consistant with rules and discipline (neither harsh, just consistant). She desribes him as very stubborn.
    With my children I just work really hard to address things NOW and teach them NOW because it pays off later.
    Keep doing what you are doing. Be creative. Be open to the spirit. Research and read and look for advice and pick out what you think might be good to try.
    The problem you face is that if you think that good mothers make a difference in their child's life, you can't help but blame yourself. But if you say that your child's behavior/problems aren't your fault, you are saying that you can't make a difference.
    I try to accept my child with his weaknesses and potential. I think it is my job to help him reach his potential. I know I can make a huge difference. I have seen it in my own children.
    I think you are doing lots of wonderful things. I agree that one on one time is really important and makes a difference.
    Also, helping him know what he CAN do when he is upset is good. My children were allowed to cry, they just have to do it in their rooms where it doesn't bother anyone. Does he need something physical? Maybe he can throw stuffed animals on the bed?
    How is his whole life? Are there any issues or problems? Is he being abused, teased, bullied by a family member or someone else? How does he behave at church, preschool, friend's houses, with babysitters? What is his relationship like with his older sister?
    Are there any activities that aren't good for him (TV) or that he should do more of because it helps (physical, art, music, reading)?

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  34. My middle son used to give me fits. He seemed bipolar, super sweet and happy, then saying his life was horrible, wanted to kill himself (and this was under the age of 8). He challenged me for sure. Now he is 12. Life is better. We got past so much of the problems, but not without much prayer and very clear instruction that I would tell him.

    I was often inspired to tell him he was choosing to listen to Satan. Or my husband would spell out clearly how certain behaviors weren't acceptable. We had to set very tight limits on things like video games and computer time–clearly explaining it was like eating ice cream, good, but not too much.

    I homeschooled him in 2nd and 5th grade because he couldn't handle school/they couldn't handle him (he is very creative and not very cooperative, but kind and gentle). In sixth grade they called me in to the office and suggested a psychologist. I prayed about it, and didn't feel it was necessary. I was inspired to read the New Testament with him in the morning. We kept praying with him and for him.

    Now, somehow he is no longer a challenge (mostly). He is learning to be more responsible and more cooperative in school and in doing chores at home.

    There is light at the end of the tunnel, but seek it out in prayer, prayer and more prayer. You will know what is best for your son. Maybe he will need outside help, but maybe he just needs more clarification about what is expected of him.

    God bless you in your effort. As hard as this son has been, I am still trying to figure out how to be a good mother to my 8 yo. daughter (and I have two more coming along).

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  35. Brooke – You are getting such great comments and advice. As I read your essay I thought immediately of Ian. He is #2 and a middle child who just turned 6. He and Luke sound very similar. Transitions are hard for him – he likes to know his schedule and doesn't appreciate changes. He is incredibly creative, always building/making some fantastic creation out of a cardboard box. He needs stimulations a lot whether it's coloring, play doh, whatever but he has to be using his hands. I don't think Luke needs to be evaluated…he just needs time and loving parents – which he has. There are days when Ian will cry all.day.long it seems. But he is my most lovable child. If you kiss him {even admist a screaming, jumping tantrum} he has to kiss you RIGHT BACK. He writes love notes to all of us and leaves them taped to mirrors. He is maticulous with his homework and insists it be done on time and perfect. He gets frustrated when his detailed instructions for making a marble run don't work out the way he wanted. Anyway, you get the point. He is double the work and double the love. I found that when Ian throws a fit putting a name to his feeling helps. "You are frustrated because you wanted tacos for dinner and we don't have any". Sometimes he just needs to be acknowledged with his feelings. Or, I'll say "I wish I had a magic wand to make Honey Nut Cheerios appear right now in our house"…which ususally makes him smile. I found that "Raising a Spirited Child" helped me and "How to talk so your kids will listen". Each had approaches that have worked with him, and he's doing better than he was a year ago.

    Best of luck. You are not alone and you are an AWESOME mother.

    Amanda Lythgoe

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  36. What a beautiful, real post. I have 4 children of the male variety and can relate to many of the moments you mentioned. My oldest, now 15, can still be many of those things, but in warm-fuzzy moments I catch a glimpse of the kid that I raised him to be and I know that there is hope for the rest of them. I recently wrote a post about my oldest if you are interested: http://gerbsrandomthoughts.blogspot.com/2009/03/i-need-to-remember.html

    There is hope. Just keep doing what you're doing and loving that boy and you'll be amazed at what he can become.

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  37. This made me cry for you. Parenthood can be so hard.

    Just a couple of thoughts — if they click, great, if not, ignore them.

    I have a friend, a mother of nine, who talked about the principle that the Savior never says "Go to your room" but says "Come unto me." I keep that in the back of my head a lot when my instinct is to run away or push away. Not always great at it, and I am not always sure what that means practically in the world of parenthood, but it has opened my mind to considering different ways of approaching hard moments and personalities. With our strong personality child, we have spent more lap time, more cuddle time, more love time. I'm thinking I need to do more of this with my 'content to be alone but sometimes pushing people away' child.

    The other thing I believe firmly in is that "true doctrine, understood, changes behavior." It seems nigh unto impossible to teach that with a child who is headstrong, but there are moments where we can. So I seek for and try to be open to those moments. Life is ultimately made of those moments, and I do see the truth distilling into their spirits, in spite of my weakness.

    I also seek for the doctrine that I need to guide me.

    Related to this, imo, is that when we are afraid, we want to control more. Pray that you won't be afraid, because then you will be more able to feel the Spirit. That is another thing I tell myself often, FWIW.

    I completely echo what others have said. The fact that you CARE is evidence of your heart. Part of the plan is to be raised by imperfect parents, so don't worry that you aren't perfect. Just keep seeking the answers, just like you are.

    You are loved, Brooke.

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  38. It just seemed like my boys were extra mean to me during this age! My youngest is 3, so we'll see if he does that, too…

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  39. You are a good mother! That is apparent, though I don't know you, because you are asking the hard questions and you want to do what is best. There are such fabulous ideas and a cameraderie of shared experience here today. It is a great balm for my own discouraged motherheart. Thank you.

    I am the oldest of 5 girls (no boys), so the world of boys was very foreign to me when I had my oldest son. This year, my five will be 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10. The bookends are girls. The 3 in the middle are boys. Some of the issues they face and how they resolve them are so gender related, but some of it is entirely wiring. Generally, my boys need so much more large muscle activities and much of the trouble they get into and the frustrations that they have (and are) can be resolved by regular heavy duty sweaty play. I find that to be less true for girls. All my children crave structure and are somewhat iffy on transitions. We do the absolute best when we have recognizeable schedules and plans, sometimes down to the most minute detail (4-4:30, run around outside, 4:30-4:35, come inside and wash hands/ eat snack, 4:30-4:45 do math worksheet–lather rinse repeat). I second the poster who mentioned how much worse things get when consistency is benevolently interrupted. My own very strict mother has complained that I am a "mean mom" but my kids just do so much better when the rules are the same for all occasions. That consistency is exhausting. I am interested in that Raising Resilient Children book mentioned here. My boys especially are NOT resilient.

    My middle son, when he was about 6 months old, became apparently frustrated and balled up his little fists and turned bright red and just screamed! That was my first clue that he was wired differently. He is mercurial as your son seems to be, turning on a dime from the sweetest thing to something, ahem, less desireable if his wishes are not met. He doesn't flail or do the head-banging that some have mentioned, but there is much screaming and hitting and what we call emotional hostage taking where he refuses to do whatever it is that you are wanting (like leave for church or get out of the busy street) until you do what HE wants. It's lovely. He has a finely tuned and vicious sense of justice (think Hatfield and McCoy) But he is a social charmer. People who only see him when his eyes are twinkling love him and can't imagine what I just described. He has never been visibly anxious about anything a day in his life. My husband calls him our very own Bart Simpson, with all that entails. It's quite a package.

    My older son has the transition issues that you describe and the social anxiety issues. He is generally just a degree or two off from whatever his age-appropriate peers are doing and he can't see it, so that makes for many tears and difficult classroom situations and not very many friends. My heart breaks for him. When he was smaller, the only way I could get him out of the full scale meltdown he would go into when something didn't go his way or a transition came upon him unawares was to hold him VERY tightly (human straitjacket) and just whisper calm nothings until he could see his way out of lockdown and release. One particular incident, I remember vividly sitting in human straitjacket mode with him on the stairs (ours do a switchback halfway up so there's a landing of sorts) and feeling all my muscles twitching from the effort of restraining this very strong child and the thought came to me–you won't be bigger than he is much longer; you need a different plan. That thought was terrifying and all too true (he is the youngest in every school class and the tallest by several inches). Since then, we have been thrashing around for that better way. We went through the schools and he had an IEP for 2 years, which got him a fabulous pre-school teacher who said, even though the school psychologist said all his tests were within normal range, there is something there and I will take him on and then regular kindergarten with pull-out time with the Special Ed resource teacher who would help him sort out frustrations and work on his social quirks as they happened. They did such a fabulous job that he no longer qualifies for services and has no IEP, but still has many of the same issues, just on a more containable level. Knowing the school psych was no help (since she said he didn't qualify to begin with), I have flailed about searching for other options this year as a new bad school with bad teachers is causing considerable problems for us (yeah, and looking for a different school). I was led to a fabulous book that is beginning to help called the Explosive Child by Ross W. Grene, Ph.D. He talks about kids with low frustration tolerance and describes children with all kinds of "issues" (either diagnosable or not) and how their inflexibile/explosive tendencies can be understood, managed and guided.

    Oh, and parallel tantrums never worked for me. I have the best luck with full scale ignoring (NO negative reinforcement), and as they get older, calmly reminding them that nothing good comes of this behavior.

    Generally, I think there is some power in finding a diagnosis, because then it's easier to tap into resources and people who have "been there done that", but there are no perfect fits and it becomes too easy to go around sprinkling the alphabet all over our quirky children (ADHD, NLP, PDD, etc etc) with little help. So far, I read it all, and try and extrapolate what resonates and find things that might help. Some other books that have helped are 1-2-3 Magic by Thomas Phelan and Raising your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, both of which were recommended to me by other moms with quirky boys. And music is wonderful. I find that when piano is practiced (or songs are sung or listened to) in the morning, it somehow orders the brain and allows for smoother transitions thereafter.

    Parenting in general is HARD. It takes us out of our element (sometimes sooner, sometimes later) like nothing else can. I have often heard the adage that children today are exactly as stubborn as they need to be. This makes me so afraid for the future of my children, because they are STUBBORN.

    I have many bad mommy moments, many hours with my heart drawn out in prayer begging for answers, a better way, but there are good mommy moments too. I especially liked Jenny's "gaps between sores" line. I'm a long way from the finish line, but already we are ebbing and flowing and that's enough for now.

    But please, you ARE a good mom. You ARE a good mom!

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  40. Maybe it's a middle child thing rather than a boy thing?
    I haven't read all the comments, so maybe that's already been mentioned.
    I have 3 boys and my middle one is 5 too, and while not as dramatic as what you described, the elements are there and I was lucky enough that he started to out grow it by now. My sister has two dramatic girls and the standing joke for us is that I don't need a daughter, I've got my little bear (his nickname). He adds enough drama to make up for not having a girl!
    I had to look up mercurial – it's perfect. My guy came home yesterday happy as a clam and in tears 2.3 seconds later over….nothing, really.
    The one thing I've learned, is logic does not work. LOGIC AND REASONING DOES NOT WORK WITH THEM!
    The best thing I can do is acknowledge his feelings, emphasize, hug him better, and then move on. If he's not moving on, he goes to his room to work it out alone. There's just not much more I can do. There's a book, "How to talk so your kids will listen, and listen so your kids will talk", that gave me those ideas. And they work because when your child is upset, he doesn't want to listen to reason, no one does really.
    Anyways, sometimes I wonder if it's harder because they're boys, and the world doesn't seem to be as nice to tenderhearted boys as it is to girls.
    Good luck.
    Oh, and I agree: YOU'RE NOT A BAD MOTHER!

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  41. I have 3 childern aged 8, 10 and 12. My son at age 8 is and always has been delightful. My 10 year old daughter is a gentle, loving soul. My 12 year old daughter was born with attitude. It is not just a boy thing. I love her but have so often wished I could give away before I kill her. As a baby she screamed and rarely slept. She has had tantrums which literally do last for up to 3 hours of screaming and throwing. Why? Who knows? Yet at school and church she is amazing. It is just at home, which is why I always asked is it me? I used to be a teacher. I am a trained Montessori nursery teacher, and a qualified primary school teacher (up to age 11). I am experienced with children. I have spent 15 years in primary at church. I have taught classes of up to 36 children, had up to 12 nationalities at once in classes in London. Boy, life was easy with all of those children compared to the one I have at home. Why? i really do not know. There must be a reason she was sent to us. We must be able to make this work. Heavenly Father loves me and he loves her, so somehow it will work out. Maybe my timetable is not the same as his. All I know is that she is mine to love and teach. As long as we are trying then there is light at the end of the tunnel. You are working hard. You are looking for help. You are in my book a great mother for that alone. Sorry I can't be any help but good luck and you are in my prayers. I have loved this post because it helps to know I am not alone, and also to get some more ideas. Thank you.

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  42. And as if my message weren't long enough, another idea:
    Countdowns are a huge help for my transition averse children. As in, "in 10 minutes we will leave, in 1 Dora episode it will be nap time, or in one more Jenga turn we have to put the game away" However you can measure time, just so you count down from there so that the change doesn't sneak up on them, as much as is possible.

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  43. I have six boys, new to your website. Looks like you got a lot of comments, and I'm not sure if I'm repeating them, but it sounds like your son needs some occupational therapy, sensary input. He sounds like my fifth son, just a little different. Processing is a little different than others without a need for this sensory input. Early childhood education centers, through schools or counties, can lead you to whom could evaluate him. Best of luck, it's so nice when someone says, "This is why." Then they give you the keys to helping him make sense of his life, what he needs to exist and be successful, and they're so good at what they do. Jenny's sister, Amy Jo

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  44. It is a fine line to walk. How hard to push them or not. My son had huge issues at preschool. Just refusing to go. Pitching a huge fit when I tried to make him. Sometimes I could get it to happen sometimes not. If I was not reasonably certain that he could work it out once there I would not take him. Usually he was ok after a little bit. Only once did his huge fit continue at preschool and I just turned around went back to pick him up. Dropping him off didn't mean that he was over it. He would usually just sit and watch from a far until the activity drew him in. The preschool teacher was ok with me leaving a hesitant quiet working out his issues boy, I just didn't dare and I'm sure she wouldn't have wanted me to leave a freaking out coming unglued boy.

    He did better in kindergarten after the first couple of weeks, but this year and first grade! I think we are mostly through it but I/he ended up getting two truancy citations and nice threatening letters from the school district. I could get everyone else to school on time but he would just refuse to go. It was so challenging. It wasn't until one day that his dad happened to be working from home and I was at my wits end that I ask him if he could talk to him and see if he could figure out what in the heck was going on. Twenty minutes later he emerged frustrated but with one clue: There was a "mean boy" or at least one that he perceived as mean in his class. Later I was able to talk to him about it and he decided that if his teacher would move his desk away from that boy he could try and go. There have been several other things like this that have gone on but we are finally making progress. He developing some of the skills he needs to cope as well as facing some of his fears.

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  45. My $.02, for what it's worth:

    I have 2 boys, just barely 2 and almost 5. For the first three years of my older son's life, I thought I was a bad mother. I can't remember what tipped me off, but at one point I realized that my friends' children did not throw 1-2 hour tantrums…or refuse to leave the house in the mornings…or…a million other things we had problems with. It felt so good to recognize that I had a reason for being absolutely exhausted! I am seeing the differences more and more as my 2 yr old is showing me a whole new side of boy. Still active, still loud, just not so…intense.

    My older boy is HARD. So hard. For him, change in routine or plans is very hard. He also needs an hour (2 is better) of unstructured time in the morning before he is ready to go anywhere. He needs time at the end of the day to unwind and process things before he can go to sleep. Especially after super stimulating events (parties, big outings) he needs recovery time. If we keep him out and partying too late, we will pay for it for the next day or even two with incessant whining, tantrums, bad behavior with brother/playmates. His tantrums are the worst of any child I have ever seen, and once they start, they do not stop until he is done, no matter what I do.

    The latest example: some small thing upset him at a play area at the mall, and he lost it. I had to carry him kicking, screaming, hitting me, biting, trying to rip my shirt (mind you this is a 45 pound, 44" tall boy, not a wee toddler) through the ENTIRE mall to get to where we were parked. Since we'd left my mom with the keys, we just sat outside the mall doors with, yes, everyone still staring as I held him in a human straitjacket on my lap so he would not injure either of us any more. Somehow I got him in the car, we drove 20 minutes home (still screaming) and when we got home he continued to scream in the car by himself for another half hour.

    And yet, when he's not having a bad day, he is so profoundly observant, loving, exuberant, thoughtful, and wonderful to be around that I want to wrap him up and keep him this age forever because it's such a joy to be with him. He is not autistic, he is not ADD or ADHD, he is not depressed. He is intense to the nth degree.

    We took him to a behavioral specialist for a few months. It was a good experience, seemed to solve some things, but we moved shortly thereafter and that undid all the progress. I can tell you more about it if you'd like but this post is already getting too long…

    I have been on an endless search for the "magic formula" that will solve my parenting problems. I have just found a book called Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. She believes that if your child is spirited, that's not a bad thing. It is the only book I've found that feels these children have great qualities that will serve them well as adults…if we can just get them there. The book says about 10% of kids are "spirited", and they are within the normal range of behavior, but there are some ways of dealing with them that will help both you and your child make it through the day. She helps you work from a positive point of view. You'll learn to predict some of the things that set your son off. Here is the website: http://www.parentchildhelp.com/SpiritedChild/tabid/59/Default.aspx.

    Also extremely important is taking care of yourself. You have got to find something that recharges your batteries–reading, painting, baking, girls nights, spa or massage, whatever. All moms need "me time", but with a child that takes this much energy, it's easy to think you need to expend everything you have to help them. The truth is you ARE helping them even when you are taking care of your needs, so that you can help with theirs in a calmer, saner way 🙂

    Best of luck. You're not alone.

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  46. 4. I have found with my 5 year old that the more he understands the schedule/consequences ahead of time, the better he does (he doesn’t do as well when I give him too much leeway on things). After one dinner-time conflict that resulted in timers, threats and tears and finally a perfectly happy boy, out of frustration I asked my son “Should I just be mean right from the start?” He paused and thought and then answered in all seriousnes, “Yeah. That seems to work best for me.”

    HA! That made me laugh. The things that you don't expect from kids.

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  47. i have a daughter two years younger than my son and i really do think they are about the same emotional level (age)… or she may be a little more mature. but it's close.

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  48. SORRY THIS IS SOOOO LONG. I just read my own comment (aka mini-thesis) below, and it appears that I've proposed an entire, embarrassingly detailed theory on parenting here. My doing so was merely "prompted" by your post, Brooke, and should not be considered an "answer" to it. In fact, this monstrosity of a comment is no more than a stream-of-consciousness record of what thinking about your question and reading the various comments evoked in me. (Apparently, I have a lot more thoughts and feelings about today's parenting styles than I even realized!) That's why I'm throwing my thoughts out to the group VERY generally, because what I'm saying may not even apply to you at all, or to any of the women who have made comments here. How can I know anything about anyone else's circumstances when we've never even met? Put simply, I can't. But you did ask for input from mothers whose children are already raised, and maybe my theory qualifies.

    Okay (big breath), I'll begin with a personal view that I'm not eager to articulate, for fear of hurting someone's feelings or giving offense. I generally keep my ideas on parenting to myself unless I'm asked, because I figure that whatever works out for a given mom or family is their own business. When someone does ask me for advice, I'm often reluctant to give it because my parenting theories might be taken on as criticism. I would hate for that to happen, as I am not standing in judgment of today's mothers. I think they work harder at being mothers than any I have ever seen, and that may be the problem. Many of them are working too hard, harder than we did…and I suggest that what they expect of themselves is unreasonable. Or maybe I should say, what they are allowing their children to expect of them is unreasonable.

    I do not fault the mothers at all for this situation. But I admit to being critical of what I will call the "new" parenting techniques. (I'm not alone in this view among women my age, by the way.) I see moms who are giving everything they have and then some to their kids…loving parents, dedicated, devoted parents, who are not able to enjoy their children as much as the mothers of my time did. They are not able to enjoy them as much because they (the kids) are overly demanding, self-centered, and entitled.

    Of course, children automatically come that way…They are children, after all, and they are born thinking the world is all about them. What's more, they are right, at first. They want what they want when they want it, and for the initial few weeks (maybe three months or so), they need what they want when they want it. And that's as it should be.

    But here's where I see the "new" parenting and the parenting "as my friends and I did it" part ways. It used to be that when a child was three months old, the mother began to differentiate between when the baby truly needed her and when the baby just thought he needed her. In other words, if the baby was fed and dry and well-rested but still crying, the mother would elect not to run over and pick the baby up every time. This decision wasn't because she was mean or lazy or selfish, and it was hard (then, as now) for a mom to do, but we were specifically taught that the baby would be gaining valuable knowledge by learning that sometimes he needed to rely upon his own resources to entertain or soothe himself. We were encouraged to simply make eye contact with our baby, smile, and reassure him that "You're okay. Mommy's here, but she's doing the dishes"…or "tending to your sister"…or whatever.

    Letting a baby cry was more "okay" then. Crying is what babies do. After all, they can't speak, right? So the crying is not in and of itself a bad thing. It's a communication, pure and simple. Sometimes a baby is protesting because that baby thinks it needs to be held and entertained every minute of every day and into the night. After all, it's fun to be held and entertained and loved on….but ALL of the time, on demand, is neither realistic nor reasonable. In fact, I propose that it's not even helpful. I mean, life goes on, right? And there are other people in the family with needs, too. But the baby doesn't automatically realize this. He cries. He gets mad. He may even throw a fit. And that's okay if he does. He still needs to be taught that sometimes it's all right, even good, for him to entertain and nurture himself. (Not most of the time, mind you, but some of the time.) Before long, the baby learns how to please himself and becomes a happier, more adaptive and competent child as a result. And self esteem ensues, REAL self esteem, not the trumped-up (fragile) kind that comes from too many undeserved compliments. And not the grandiosity (dependent upon external factors) that comes from constant subjugation of everyone else's needs to his. The truth is, learning to be depend upon one's self sometimes is a good thing. It's called independence, and some kinds of independence can and should be learned at a very young age, when children are most easily taught and before entitlement and its underlying over-dependence upon others for well-being sets in.

    The same holds true with sleep. Most of the children I know today are sleep-deprived, and so are their parents. I was sleep-deprived as a mom, too, but only until my babies were about 2 or 3 months old, when they were officially (by "my day's" standards) ready to learn to sleep through the night. Everyone did this the same way, and everyone's babies slept through the night, with no parental guilt or recriminations. We were taught, again, that it was good for our babies to learn to self-soothe and to create for themselves a going-to-sleep mechanism. We were instructed to feed the baby, sing to the baby, tell the baby a story (establish a night-time ritual) and then put the baby in his bed…saying good night, lovingly tucking him in, walking out, and closing the door. At first, the baby might cry, thinking he needed mommy to pick him up and feed or play with him. Sometimes he would get mad and cry loud and hard, throwing a fit because he still wanted to play. More play time is what the baby thought he needed, but what he really needed was a bed time, a good night's sleep. And, in less than a week, the baby had learned to take that good night's sleep for himself…and knew how to get to that blissful state on his own. Some cuddled with a toy or a blanket, others played with their hair, but all learned how to go to sleep without assistance. And this was a good thing, because mommy was well-rested, and so were they. Which makes a big difference when it comes to daytime behavior. Sometimes a mother shows her love best by NOT doing something the baby wants. And sometimes, the baby needs the opposite of what he is demanding.

    So to make a long story short (okay never mind…this comment is anything but short), I don't think those mothers today who struggle with 4, 5, or 6-year-old children having fits and acting out are bad mothers. In fact, most of them are very good mothers who are applying (again, in my opinion) faulty methods. The child is still acting like a baby because he has not been given those early opportunities to learn to take care of and discipline himself. The only difference is that now the child can talk instead of cry and hit instead of thrashing around in displeasure. He also has more tools in his arsenal to act out with when his unreasonable desires for more and more attention aren't being satisfied. The child thinks he wants a toy, or an activity, or a treat…but what he really needs is a limit, firmly set and consistently, confidently enforced. The child is pushing and pushing and pushing, trying to find a boundary he can feel safe (from his own "bad" behavior) within. I truly believe this. And it all begins at the beginning, in infancy.

    Many young mothers I see are working way harder and with much less well-being than I did (due to the unreasonable demands and expectations of their children, to say nothing of the sleep deprivation). In my admittedly unprofessional opinion, these mothers and others like them are experiencing collateral damage from the "new" parenting techniques, where too many mere whims are misdiagnosed and indulged from the get-go as "needs," and the parents are not given "permission" to set appropriate limits and boundaries at a very young age, in infancy. Sadly, the parents don't feel entitled to draw the line early on, because the culture and custom no longer support that. Today the call is for freedom from scheduling naps/feedings/bed times and extends to complete freedom of expression, even when that self-expression is out of line with the rest of the family's (or outside world's) right to live a reasonably enjoyable, comfortably structured life. Respect for others is an important thing to teach, and it starts with respecting and honoring yourself as a person who is a parent in charge of the family. And yet, many parents have been told by the "experts" not to start setting limits until the children are toddlers, which is pretty late to get started. You don't want to be teaching children that they are not the kings of the world just before they hit the terrible twos. Far better for them to be learning as babies that there are reasonable limits to their kingdoms. A number of children today grow up feeling like they run the world because they have pretty much been doing that since they were born. (Subconsciously, this can't feel good to them because they are not equipped to run their worlds. They cannot be expected to differentiate between what they really need and what feels good in the moment.) By the time so-called "time-outs" are instituted, the child is already having major entitlement issues and is basically on a power trip. And there's nothing worse than a two-year-old on a power trip who hasn't been given the opportunity to acquire any skills or mechanisms to help or discipline himself.

    This is just my own observation. These are just my own thoughts. I'll write them here, for everyone to see, and I hope nobody is offended. Purely and simply put, the old parenting techniques worked well. I think most parents had a less stressful life, and so did the kids. At heart, children aren't happy running the show. They sense that things are not as they should be. They don't have the know-how or understanding to wield all that power. They want someone to take it back; they just don't realize they want that. It's the parents who have to realize it, and then the parents have to feel justified in taking it back…relieving the child of undue power without feeling guilty about doing so, or worrying that they are inflicting lasting psychological damage or irreversible harm on the child who throws a fit or tantrum about losing its heady but damaging effects. Better a fit or a tantrum now than an inability to cope with the world and its disappointments later.

    I had one son who was a tantrum thrower. He didn't get his way when he threw them, and he got very little attention for them either. He was told, pleasantly, that he was being very loud and hurting our ears, and that he needed to go to his room until he was finished. When I tell that to mothers now, they explain me that they can't get the child to go to his room. And that's probably true, because the child hasn't recognized the parent as an authority figure since infancy and isn't about to suddenly do so now. That's another one of the problems that is making today's parenting so difficult.

    Okay, this is going to sound strange, and I'm probably sticking my neck even further out on the chopping block of political correctness, but did you ever see the Oprah episode where a guy came to teach her how to get her dog to stop being crazy and neurotic? It turned out that the dog needed HER to be the pack leader, and she was not giving out that signal because she was too worried about the dog. She was turning herself inside and out trying to please this dog. As a result, the dog was in charge of her entire household. This was making the dog neurotic, the dog "psychiatrist" said. It actively needed a pack leader, and this doctor dude had Oprah practice being the authority figure in the relationship through body language and action and attitude. Honestly, I am not comparing a baby to a dog, don't get me wrong. But I AM drawing an analogy at some level, to the extent that the training of young children and dogs is (or used to be, when I was a young mother) rather similar in the sense that kindness and firmness and strong boundaries and confidence are key. You can't reason with a puppy, and you can't reason with a baby or toddler either. You just need to be the boss from the get-go, early on, and that is established by you setting the rhythm and flow and schedule according to what your superior intelligence knows is best for the child. Sleep is not only good but necessary. Learning to be reasonable is a worthy life skill. Not being set up to be an unhappy adult because you always expect everything to go your way is a positive thing. When parents are convinced of this, their conviction is transmitted to their children. A pack leader is born. heehee

    Children who are acting out physically and emotionally at the age of five should probably be tested as a precaution, to make sure there isn't something neuro-chemical or developmental going on. Your son, Brooke, may have issues that need to be addressed, and it's always a good thing to rule in or out. Every child is different, but here's what I think is most often true (and I'm qualifying my theory again even as I say it because I'm afraid someone might take it to heart and turn it against themselves in some negative way, which would not be justified). But here it is: I think that the majority of these "strong-willed" children are absolutely fine. They simply have strong personalities, and their no-holds-barred devotion to giving free reign to those personalities is a byproduct of the "new" parenting. What's more, blame should not be assigned, because it is what it is. The new parenting is what everyone has been taught in college and in the media, so of course people are using the recommended method. Clearly, parents today (or most of them) are trying their very best…in fact, they are giving it their all. Their ALL. And the children are taking it. ALL of it. More than is reasonable. And more than is good for them. Or even comfortable for them.

    I can't tell you how reluctant I am to submit this very frank (blunt?) comment, but maybe someone out there will find some value in the former way of doing things. The thing is, even if somebody does end up thinking I may have a point, it would be very hard to change course midstream with a child who is used to one approach and would now have to switch to another one. Still, have you ever watched "The Nanny"? Those kids do seem to react favorably to her techniques, her retraining, so to speak. It's the parents that have the hardest time changing, because what they are asked to do feels "wrong" in light of what has become accepted practice, and they don't feel comfortable assuming the role that the nanny woman models for them…or maybe (because of the cultural constructs presently in place) they plain don't feel entitled to it. Of course, that lady does sort of overdo things, but you get the idea. Also, it would require a lot of stress-inducing emotional work and courage of conviction to buck the mainstream parenting techniques and revert to some of the old-fashioned ways I'm remembering so fondly (especially when you're not even sure you're barking up the right tree and yet must do the "nanny" parenting with an air of confidence and justification that communicates itself to your children), but it might be worth a try if any of this makes sense to anyone. It might also be an option to take some of what you like and leave the rest, perhaps combining elements of both methods of parenting in some way that works for your family. (And again, I'm not addressing this directly to you, Brooke.) I'm just sort of throwing it out there for whoever might have use for it.

    On the other hand, it may well be that I am just an old biddy thinking everything was better back in the "good old days"…

    (I'm not entirely discounting that, by the way…Have you ever seen that sign that says, "Oh, no! I've become my mother."?) *sigh*

    All I can say is this. I believe that the old-fashioned techniques made parenting more pleasant. I may have enjoyed myself more as a young mother because I was culturally encouraged, in a sense, to be the queen of my own castle. My purely anecdotal observation is that more children were obedient and well-behaved then than they are today. Question: Is this because the children are more "valiant spirits" today? Maybe so. But maybe their valiance could be better channeled.

    Don't get me wrong. It was still a hard job being a parent in the 70's, but the basics of getting them fed and dressed and bedded were not so hard. You actually had energy left over after doing these "essential" things to tackle the bigger stuff…like helping them learn to share…or overcome shyness…or do better in school…or serve others. And a lot of the time, you just had fun together. Because they were good companions. And they actually appreciated the time you spent with them instead of taking it for granted. (Again, I am not saying that mothers today don't have fun with their children, because I've seen them!) That's the thing. None of this stuff is very black and white. Fortunately, we can always pray for inspiration and receive it. Thank heavens.

    I can't believe I am going to click "submit." Mothering is such a sensitive subject, and no one does it perfectly. (I surely didn't! Not even close.) We all try so hard and mean so well that how we go about it can be a very tender topic. But love is the most important thing, after all is said and done. These are just techniques I'm talking about here. And remember, these are only my opinions, and my agreeing with them doesn't make them right. I'm open to the possibility that different times really do require different parenting techniques, and that all of these difficult children may just be part of the last days. Who knows? Not me. But maybe there is something worth considering here.

    Again, Brooke, please realize that I am not addressing this to you, but that your post was a catalyst for my thinking about things I've observed in my ward and with family and close friends. Thanks for giving me a chance to get it said, for what it's worth.

    (submitted with love and no small amount of trepidation)

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  49. The spirited children do have special qualities, I think. My niece was like this, and she is a major life force as an adult…and VERY creative. But boy, was she a handful for my sis.

    =)

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  50. I respect the tone of your comment, Sue, and I did read it all! So please accept this comment with the respect and appreciation I feel for you mothers who have gone before 🙂 I sometimes wonder if you remember the good old days as better because you don't remember the tough days quite so clearly as those mothers who are living it. Some days the kids are just tough, tough, tough, and the slight variations in approach or tactics don't matter all that much.

    I do think society as a whole is more accepting of child-like behavior from children, and I actually think that is a good thing. Children should not be expected to act like miniature adults, no matter how convenient that would be. They are not adults and should be treated differently, appropriate to their developing minds/bodies/spirits.

    By the way, all three of my boys have been sleeping through the night since they were eight weeks old. They have a strict 8 pm bedtime. And they still have tantrums and misbehave.

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  51. i do find that we have to limit tv– but this is true for all my kids. luckily, he has such great feedback from his teachers in primary and at school. so that quells a mother's heart for sure.

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  52. Wow, I just read your comment/book Sue, and I almost skipped it when I saw the length, but I want you to know I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH YOU!
    I have three kids, 8yrs and under, and what I thought I could do with my oldest vs. what I do now with my youngest I think reflects what you are talking about. I believe you that parenting is different these days although I don't believe that's all bad. What you said about taking some from then and some from now is probably the best advice. For example, I feel like I was never taught how to make decisions because everything was decided for me. I came home from school one day to find my room being wallpapered with pink hearts. I hated pink hearts. But I had no choice. It was always like that. When it came time for me to decide what I like, I looked to my mom, expecting her to tell me. I definitely want to raise more independent children than that. On the other hand, I would have died before speaking to my parents, or any of my elders for that matter, the way I hear children speak today. We learned to ask for things, ex. "Can I have a drink please?" instead of whining "I'm thirsty!" and expecting mom to run get us a drink. (that's a pet peeve of mine, not sure if it applies to what I'm trying to say)
    Anyways, you are brave saying the things you did because you are risking that people will feel criticized and there are things we could argue about the "good ol' days" that weren't so good,(I grew up with spanking, anyone?) but overall, I agree with you. And I must say, I felt like a doormat for a long time, thinking that my kids never listened, I had no influence on them, they walked all over me…when I discovered the power of using my authority as mother and establishing a more I am the parent, you are the child atmosphere, the change was amazing. Screaming and yelling isn't necessary anymore, my kids do know how to follow rules, and I can set boundaries and be authoritative without being a meanie. It feels like freedom to me!

    Oops, I'd better stop before this becomes as long as yours!

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  53. i haven't gotten through all the comments yet, but can i just tell you all how much i love you? from the bottom of my heart, feeling major L-O-V-E. i'm reading these and crying and requesting books at the library and humbled that so many people believe in me– that i'll actually do justice by him. and it's making me feel like i can.

    thank you thank you…

    xoxoxo

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  54. I just re-read my comment and realized my example of wallpapering my room might not make sense to others. What I meant was that I grew up in a kind of children-should-not-be-heard-unless-spoken-to attitude. I don't think my opinions and ideas were valued at all. A bedroom is a perfect place to let a child display her personality and I wasn't allowed to do that. Instead, I was always told what I wanted and expected to like and be grateful for it. And it didn't end with childhood – don't even get me started on my wedding quilt!
    I don't want to raise my children that way. I hope that makes more sense.

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  55. Thanks for your comment, Red, and for the kind tone of your response. Actually, it sounds like you and I are not so far apart. You have a regular bedtime! (Which I agree is not the same as having kids that don't misbehave…)

    Don't tell, but my kids misbehaved, too.

    =)

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  56. Of course you'll do justice by your son. Your love for him is woven throughout every sentence of your post. It's clear he could not be in better hands, which is why (I believe) the Lord sent him your way.

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  57. sue, i do appreciate your comment and it reminds me of when i had my first child and my mom taught me the whole "establishing rituals" thing and boy is it fabulous.

    i can't function without sleep, so over here we live and die by a schedule. in fact, it's usually our grandparents who want the kids to deviate from it! 😉 and my hardest son is my best sleeper at 11 hours a night. no joke. go figure.

    that said, i think there is a lot of wisdom in what you've said. there ARE too many options. i feel like every parenting thing i read says to give your kids options (do you want the blue pajamas or the red ones?) and that is just too much. sometimes even I don't want options– i just want heavenly father to tell me what to do!

    anyway, you're loved sue. thank you for your long awesome comment.

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  58. "I sometimes wonder if you remember the good old days as better because you don’t remember the tough days quite so clearly as those mothers who are living it."

    i've wondered (with friends) if sometimes blogging doesn't make this worse. there is a sense of commiseration, yes, but there's also this entire contingent (myself often included) that just shows all the fun, amazing times with my kids. it's stuff i want to remember, but every day i also have thousands of other moms to compare it with.

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  59. And thanks for your short, awesome reply, Brooke.

    I hope my post didn't give the impression that I don't realize that some kids are just plain HARD. My sister had three of these, and I watched her struggle mightily raising them. In fact, she quit at three children instead of six (as previously planned) because she said that one of hers was like two of most other people's. She was right!

    The good news is that they're all grown and doing well, in no small part because she hung in with them, just like you're doing.

    That's what moms do. And we rock.

    =)

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  60. Sue, Thank you (!) for your comments. I completely understand and agree with you. I can also see The Mrs.' point, as well, and agree that a combination of parenting styles is probably the best bet for raising healthy, well-adjusted kiddos these days. I can always tell when I have lost my grip as a parent when I start yelling and feeling out of control. Then I know my kids are in control of the situation and we have reversed roles! My boys (4 and 6 yrs) have very opposite personalities and I do have to tailor my responses to them at times, but overall, our home is a happy home when they know where they stand. And that is as the children in a striving-for-Christlike-order family. They should be happy, loved, and carefree, but . . . they should also have very defined limits and positive discipline. That is what they want and need! Are my kids perfect and tantrum-free? FAR from it! 🙂 But they are much happier when they are living in a 'house of order'… as am I!

    I don't mean any offense with my thoughts–Sue's dissertation (you are submitting that for a PhD, right? 🙂 ) just really sparked something in me. We all have to do the best we can as parents . . .and rely on the Lord for help and direction.

    And Brooke, your love does shine through your words–they touched my heart. You will find a way! If you want some good book recommendations, I have been reading a couple lately–"Every Child Has a Thinking Style" by Lanna Nakone, and "Raising a Sensory Smart Child" by Lindsey Biel (more for Sensory Integration Issues, but I have found good clues to my oldest son's specific, but subtle, challenges in this book).

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  61. Thanks for your comment Sue. I agree with so much of what you wrote. I try to take the best of "old school" parenting from my parent's and modify it with the best of the more recent past. I have been heavily influenced by my parents' and by my best friend's philosophies (I unfortunately live in a different state so I don't see her). Be the parent! And be consistant with rules and consequences if you want your child to learn to behave.
    Thank you again for sharing, even with wondering if it will be taken well. It gets hard when I am surrounded by mothers without these same ideas to discuss parenting and think things through and adjust things as kids get older, or I have a baby and a new child to raise.

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  62. I was raised in the seventies similarly to how Sue described. It worked well for my mother, but we were all reasonably entreatable, malleable girls. I think my mom (hopefully secretly, but knowing my mother, probably somewhat openly) disdained of the mothers around her who weren't producing socially acceptable children. I saw a lot of merit in the way I was raised and I have tried it with my children. They have always had a fairly stiff bedtime. They were all sleep trained as early as I could manage and sleep well, through the night in their own beds. There are five of them, so my physical ability to be at their beck and call is limited by the ratio of kids to me. But things haven't worked out quite the same for me as for my mother. In fact, as she has watched me parent my kids in the same manner as I was parented and get largely different results, she has realized the distinct possibility that at least some of the children she just thought were over-indulged and bratty in her younger days might just have been tough kids.

    I am so grateful to have been taught by my mother because the prevailing wisdom as Sue so aptly described DOES produce indulged children, but worse, expects perfection in the process–a process that can almost never deliver what it demands, placing heaps of blame on the parents.

    My kids have their own issues and the best way I can describe the effect of some draconian parenting methods (not what Sue is talking about at all, but more of the seen-and-not-heard variety) is muffin top pants: when you put on a pair of jeans that really are too small to hold your "all together" altogether in the pants the result is a "muffin top" or what I have also heard called the dunlap effect, where your belly dun-lap over the pants. When there are issues that firm, consistent, independence producing parenting don't even begin to address, the issues just spill over in some of the messes we have been discussing today. The absolutely difficult trick is to prayerfully and honestly figure out your own answers for your own children and change when change is warranted.

    I think in addition to the rose-colored blogging glasses we all wear, something that makes the distress at our inability to find the good old days is the fact that for the most part, those of us in the young parenting trenches now were taught an exceedingly rosey view of SAHM life: where if we are good and faithful, our children will be well-behaved, our husband will love us, honor his covenants and be gainfully employed and that it will all be bliss. And while the promises of faithfulness are real, they are not limited to mortality in their fulfillment and they are NOT easily achieved. Yet another reason to seek heavenly guidance, if only to lift up our hanging hands.

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  63. besides all the wonderful comments and other moms admitting to their struggles, it was comforting to hear just ONE Mom (you), say you struggle with raising your son. My son is 5 1/2 and I have 3 girls. He challenges me and I feel like I've screwed him up. I feel completely inadequate to be raising him.
    Of the many things I've learned and continue to learn with raising him, I've figured out he HAS to get outside and get some energy out. I also do "races" to see how long it takes. "ride your bike around the block and I'll time you". And he is such a sucker when it comes to Mom offering him loves and snuggles.
    You are such a beautiful Mom inside and out and I love how open you are about your struggles and success.

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  64. Is it possible that our culture also can add to the challenges? I think our culture is more intense, more competitive, more information-overloaded, more activity-overloaded, etc. than ever. IMO, it's really, really hard to not feel that the culture defines what you 'should' do, and instead to learn to trust yourself. This can even be true in the Church. "You should do _____ " can so often permeate our conversations…when the shoulds end up being more about personal experience or opinion than about absolute truth.

    There are some basic principles that guide parenting, but in the end, I think so much really does boil down to doing our best, studying it out in our minds (whatever that may look like) and seeking divine guidance. Because, after all, they are God's children first. And I have found it's easy to forget that in moments of desperation, exhaustion, fear, or other emotions that are so common in parenthood.

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  65. Dear, dear Brooke. I could tell you stories (and show you holes in the wall, broken doors, etc.). But that kid is out serving the Lord right now as a maturing, obedient and wonderful missionary and I would not want you to judge a young man by his boyhood.

    Instead I will tell you (and only because you asked), hang in there! With the help of the Lord you can do all things. And you will be amazed at who your boy will become.

    Best–

    p.s. I could have written this very same post about my only daughter…

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  66. after i published this post i felt a little worried about it– i would never want my lukey to think raising him was too much. BUT, isn't there such a shared sisterhood in being honest? i've been so impressed/inspired/lifted up by all these comments and all this love! thank you!

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  67. i think this is normal in lots of parenting conversations. i'm always feeling like the odd one out while talking about my daughters, because we're not raising dancers or allowing every new fashion or whatever. i HOPE i'm being the parent, but i do wonder (from this discussion) how totally proactive i've been.

    but here i go…

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  68. My Grandma raised 5 boys and when my sister (a mother of 3 boys) asked her how she successfully raised so many boys she replied, "I yelled. A lot." I think about that often and laugh as I try (key word: try) to raise my own FOUR boys. Heaven help me.

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  69. oh rebecca, thank you! that made me laugh AND i think it lends credence to sue's (& others' theory) here that this newfangled parenting sometimes doesn't make us very good at actually laying down the law and acting like parents.

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  70. I was the oldest of five boys. My mom would send us to our beds if we couldn't be happy. She would also talk to us about what we felt, try to help us figure out why we were feeling that way. She would also pray for us.

    "You can go sit in your bed until you can be happy and pleasant."

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  71. oh, i am SO worried about my boy–but its great to know that someone will be able to help me through the long years of raising him. my dad always says: "it took a ward to raise me" and im relying on the help of others with michael.

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  72. don't you think it's so true about "a village?" i never really bought into that until i realized how much i need my network of ward members and neighbors and friends!

    and michaela s: i have much to learn from your mother! and the praying part… i always need that.

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  73. I am late to the discussion, but I hope I have something to add. I am the mom of three boys and my middle son has really challenged me. He is a sensitive soul with an enormous capacity for compassion and love. He feels things very deeply on both ends of the spectrum. The very thing in his nature that makes him so loving, affectionate, and compassionate opens the door to rage and fury that overwhelm him.
    When he turned three his outbursts started. Pre-school was a real nightmare for all of us and I was sure he was on the road to prison. We worried, we tried this and that and anything we could find. What we should have done more of was dig deeper for more patience, worry less, focus on the positive and remain calm. How I wish we had.
    My boy is growing into a fine boy. He is in second grade. He is the teacher's pet because he loves school and he prides himself on good behavior. He still has the occasional outburst at home, but they are fewer and he is able to get himself back under control quickly. We are so proud of him and grateful that he has such strength in him. We have realized that he was blessed with a strong will and a passionate nature for a reason. It is already serving him well as he begins to face the world we live in.
    My advice is to love him with all your heart. When your patience is gone, pray fervently for more. Work hard, very hard, on helping your son find the language to express his feelings. Make sure he knows that he will never be punished for sharing his feelings and that every feeling can be expressed appropriately. It took years for my son to learn this, but now that he has this tool he clings to it like a lifeline. His anger frightened him. It was bigger than him and he needed the language to tame it.
    Keep doing what you're doing. Keep laying with him telling him stories. Keep playing with him until your fingers hurt. It's that love that he will trust when you have to discipline him. And no matter what, discipline calmly and dispassionately, even though your heart is breaking inside and you want to sit down and cry as you wonder if things will ever change.
    It is hard. It is discouraging. It is exhausting. But it's what we signed up for as moms. What we have to remember is that the Lord trusted us with these souls and He is an excellent matchmaker. We CAN do this and He will help us.

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  74. I've had siblings that were all kinds and combinations of difficult in various ways that you describe.

    I remember talking to my mom once about how _____ was so stubborn and annoying. Mom told me that she likes to think ahead and envision the future when that stubbornness will become spiritual valor that keeps ____ from going along with the crowd and in stead throwing a fit and preventing some terrible evil.

    It sounds to me like you are doing all that you can. I think you are a great mother. It's not your fault. Keep doing what you are doing.

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