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I got the slap down

It's just past 9pm on Monday night, and I am just about ready to share my maniac Monday morning story with you.  Please tell me that my household is not the only crazy household at the 7 o'clock hour on a Monday morning.  Lunches, hair, socks, breakfast, milk, shoes - it's all a mess.  A big huge complete mess.  Some mornings, I feel terribly.  I raise my voice and I yell.  I know I shouldn't.  But, I can't really help it.  I don't think.

This Monday morning was not unlike all the other crazy Monday mornings before them.  Missing socks, slow-moving sleepy children, tangled hair, and weather-inappropriate clothing.  I just about had it.  My youngest [almost 4-year old] girl looked at me, opened her big eyes as wide as they could go, and screamed.  Just flat out screamed.  I mimicked the face she made me, and I screamed back at her.  I know.  It was big of me.  Then, she slapped me.  On the face.

Grrrr.....  it took a lot of all my maternal love and instincts to hold my hands back from slapping her back.  Really.  It did.  I wanted to cry, but not really.  I wasn't sad; I was mad.  "Pissed" is a better way to phrase it.

After she went to school with her daddy, my morning felt sour, tainted by our morning's fiasco.  When my little girl came home after school, she ran to me immediately and apologized, "I'm sorry for hitting you this morning."  I hugged her so tight, and I apologized too, "I'm sorry for screaming at you and making you angry."  We spent part of our dinner conversation talking about "appropriate use of body and language", a discussion that was prompted and led by our little girl.

Have you had altercations like this in your household?  What are ways to deal with it, in the immediate term but also in the longer term?  And, most importantly, are Monday mornings just as crazy in your household?


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I'll be interested to hear people's comments on this. My son is just 17 months old (today, now that I look at a calendar) and he is constantly coming up to me and hitting me. Sometimes when he's frustrated. Sometimes for no reason I can fathom. I've tried all kinds of different tactics: I say 'we don't hit,' I try to demonstrate what 'gentle' means, I hug him or kiss him, I get up and walk away. I show him how sad it makes me. I look forward to the time when he's at an age we can talk about it, but right now that's not an option. I'd love to hear any toddler strategies that have worked for you.

And I'm right there with you on the Monday morning crazies. Well, most mornings, actually...

We were going through kicking issues when we just happened to come across a board book called Feet Are Not For Kicking by Elizabeth Verdick. She actually has a Best Behavior Series of books (Hands are not for Hitting, Teeth are not for Biting, etc.). When the kicking would start I would say, "No, feet are not for kicking, what are feet for?" And then they would stop kicking and tell me what feet are for (kicking balls, running, etc.) Worked best when our kids were toddlers.

This post is so timely...I've just returned from dropping my son off from school and am feeling so badly about how our morning went. School mornings are always stressed...leading me to scream, sigh, do everything for him and so on. Then he feels negative about himself too as he heads off for school. Mornings are usually better if lights are out the night before no later than 8:00. If I have to wake him up, things go downhill quickly. I don't have too much advice, just a note that your household sounds a lot like ours. You're not alone!

It sounds to me like you handled it well. Your daughter felt bad and apologized and you had a good talk about it afterwards.
Of course a four-year-old hitting is very different from a 17-month old hitting -- I think a lot of little kids that age hit and just have to learn that it isn't acceptable to hit mommy or anyone. Sometimes it takes a while. My son used to bite his father when they were playing -- I think Teeth are not for Biting helped, but it took a while. He also used to hit me sometimes when he was little, I would usually put him down and tell him that we don't hit, mommy doesn't like that. He really liked for me to hold him, and I wouldn't hold him if he was hitting me, so that was fairly effective. I think keep at it, and eventually it will work!

As I read this post, my son, sweet natured little boy of two years, slapped me, said "I don't like you", then tried to kick me. He missed. He's probably annoyed that I am on the computer and not opening the Playdough uber-caddy I just bought at Target. It's tough.. it does make me angry and even a little hurt when this stuff happens. I get why he did it, but I don't necessarily think I have to do things on his terms ALL the time and won't... the world doesn't unfortunately work that way. So, I told him it's not ok, that even though I love him he needs some bedroom time and after a couple minutes we move on from there.
By the way, I have slapped back, not hard, but nonetheless slapped and it doesn't feel good. Guess what happened?? Just pissed the child off even more and we both ended feeling even worse. Guilty, sad and just overall crappy.
With all this said, if our homes are safe, comfortable and mostly happy, I think we can assume this behavior is a "phase" that will pass. I haven't heard of a kid yet who hasn't b-slapped his or her sis/bro/Mom/Dad/friend on some occasion.

Yes, very timely. We were all going for a walk yesterday after getting home from work and Max wouldn't stop when instructed, nope. Just kept running around the corner and out of sight. I'm sure he thought this was pretty funny but that side of the block has no parking strip so it makes me very nervous anyway. When he finally came back and I was explaining how he needed to listen when we say stop he up and kicked me. So that was it. Much to his and his sister's dismay we marched back to the house and went inside to sit on time out. When he was done I asked him to tell me why we had put him on time out and he actually answered correctly, I then explained how we treat each other w/ kindness and respect. Incremental progress.
Monday mornings are the worst, I am trying to let him make choices as much as possible (he's 3-1/2) but putting on a new pull up in the morning is not negotiable. So we struggle too, and they get breakfast at daycare! I have no idea what we are going to do when we have to figure out breakfast and lunch, too. Good luck.

We actually just had one of those nights last night. I woke up grumpy, to my husband telling me I got to bring the 3 yr-old to playgroup (which takes about 1 hr longer than taking the 5 yr old to kindergarten), which meant time for a shower for me, and I had all these job errands to do, so I was feeling grumpy and grungy. Got home in time to go back and get the 3 yr old from playgroup, then got home in time to leave again to get the 5 yr old from kindergarten. AAAHHH! Dinner? No, I didn't have time to go to the store...pizza. At 6:45, when I usually have the boys in bed by 7. (By the way...first thing I ate all day.) Flew through "dinner," skipped showers to go straight to stories. I just wanted them to go to bed so I would have a minute to think. And of course, this is the night the 5 year old really earned his nickname, "Pokey." 20 minutes to put on some pj pants. I totally lost it, in the loudly yelling "Just put on the freaking pajamas already before I REALLY lose it" variety. Which of course made him go slower, and made my blood boil even more. Ended up with me sending him (naked) in to bed, throwing the pjs on the bed with him, turning out the light and declaring no stories. It was a pretty bad scene. I could hear him crying--but, kinda that fake "I want attention" cry--and I just ignored him until he fell asleep. I was so upset with myself. I apologized this morning, and he forgave me, but still...Bad Mommy.

As for mornings...we're pretty lucky in that the boys will wake up by 6 am. (Although, "lucky" is not the word I use on the weekends, when they still insist on waking up at the crack of dawn.) I usually have the 5 yr old pick out clothes the night before, and he'll dress himself. So by the time I roll out of bed at 7, he's at least dressed. We do give ourselves a LOT of extra time to get ready though...we don't have to leave the house until 8:30, and the deal is if he's all ready by 8, he can watch a cartoon before we walk to school. Pretty good motivation for him, as he loves cartoons.

I cling to a quote by Winnicott, a child psychologist, who said that there is no such thing as the perfect mother, only the "good-enough" mother. My daughter is just starting to learn assertiveness and defiance and it scares me. When she is assertive and defiant and expressive, I basically tell myself that she is exhibiting positive qualities, but not in the right context. At least, that's what I tell myself. It helps take the edge off.

I'm really impressed by parents who apologize to their kids for things they've done or said. My parents never did that.

And, for the hitting back, I work with a lot of foster kids and the only conclusion I keep coming back to, is that it reinforces the behavior rather than stopping it.

Just my $.01 worth.

You are most definitely not alone with the morning craziness and resulting less-than-perfect mommy moments. No matter how hard I try to be organized in the morning, there's always some last minute drama. I have yelled, too, felt horrible and apologized...but I agree with what you said about the way it affects your morning and makes you grumpy long after the chaos has subsided. I've learned that I do best when I try to move on and chalk it up to a "learning moment" for all of us.
It makes me feel better to know I'm not the only one who has mornings like this!

Oh, the mommy guilt we carry. I lost it with my 3 year old the other day when he, for the millionth time, refused to sit in time-out after pushing his little brother down. I used my "I mean it more than I've ever meant it" voice to tell him to sit back down and he cried and said "Don't talk like that," in a very sad little voice. I guess it was my mean voice more than my stern voice. In any case, I hate it when that stuff happens. I apologized later, and talked with him about why I spoke that way and how he felt. He seemed to get it, that sometimes mom gets angry too.

There are times I am so grateful for impulse control. It really is the hardest thing out there, to raise these little ones. Touches the rawest of emotions, no?

Timely post for me as well. Yesterday my 5 year old son, sort of by accident, sort of playing, sort of on purpose, bonked me in the nose with his head so hard I thought it was broken (my nose, not his head).

I yelled, without thinking, and then walked away mad. I was pissed off the rest of the morning and he knew it, bringing about huge "I'm sorry's" and such. Felt like crap.

I do yell, which I know almost every mother does but still, I hate it. When I do, I salve myself with one of my favorite quotes, from Reese Witherspoon no less, who said "if you don't yell, you're not spending enough time with your kids."

My two year old has some of these demon qualities...the other day I noticed that my 18 1/2 year old cat can neither see nor hear, so I am very protective and already feeling the iminent loss. So what does my sweet child do? She somehow decides that now is the time to test Mommy by repeatedly hitting, kicking and mauling the sick cat. I just lost it yesterday. It was one of those times when I craved husband so I could just say, "you take care of her, I need some Mommy time!" I definitely used my loudest, outdoor voice and yelled at her to stop repeatedly. She was in more time outs than I could count and it was miserable. I think that she can sense that I am stressed about the cat and about some things going on at work and with my parents, and it is making her nervous. She is testing me to make sure I am still safe for her even though I am going through a hard time. I am trying to remember and respect that and give her lots of cuddles and praise, and just "be" with her as much as I can. But man, she can push my buttons like no one else ever could, and I expect it will be that way for about another 50-60 years!

Oh man, this is so my life. My husband travels a great deal and is rarely home to help in the morning with my 1 yr old and 4 yr old girls, and things do get out of hand.

The only thing that works is if I can manage to get ready for work BEFORE they wake up. That rarely happens. Even if I make it in the shower, Murphy's Law says the baby will awake before I'm even out of it. Then the 4 yr old, who's normally the first awake, will decide she's sleeping in that day and will be an absolute nightmare upon being wakened. Early bedtimes don't matter. Sometimes she lays in bed flipping through books long after the nighttime rituals and goodnight kisses.

With 2 kids to be fed and dressed and lunches to be made I find it hardest to extricate myself from their clutches long enough to get myself dressed. Usually there's a lot of wailing and whining and clawing at my legs as I do it. Hair? Strictly wash n' go, or a ponytail if I had to give up on the shower. And forget makeup in front of a proper mirror. I'm lucky if I can get it on in the parking lot before work.

The other day I lost it and shouted above the racket -- from the depths of my soul, mind you -- "I just want to get dressed!!" The release felt so good. They both looked at me in surprise and promptly started crying. I didn't feel so good after that.

I hate that these mornings are so common. I hate that my 4 yr old often starts her school day with a weight on her heart instead of a spring in her step. And I hate that I always resolve to be better next time, to wake up earlier, to be more together, and can't quite make it happen. Not regularly at least.

The only thing I can take some comfort in is that my oldest is very good at recognizing and expressing how she feels, telling me when she's feeling hurt and needs a hug, and telling me (rather politely actually) when I'm not being very nice. We talk about what went wrong and we hug and I always apologize for my blow-ups. I just wish I was better at keeping things from getting to that point.

We'd all be naked without our cloaks of guilt. :) But...my girls' step-dad has skillfully and diplomatically reminded me that what drives me up the wall about my kids are some of the things that drive him nuts about me. If you're like me, your kid can push your buttons like no other because she's a part of you...and that's why you love her more than anything!

As for Monday mornings, my 9 year old (who can be just as stubborn as your 2 year old!) finally asked me to wake up earlier so I wouldn't be so rushed and grouchy in the morning. And the stinker was right. Regardless, getting out the door without something to feel bad about is rare no matter what. I second the notion that apologizing to your kid is vital. I also feel it's important to identify to them the emotions you felt, what was or was not an appropriate way for either of you to express that emotion and then ask for ideas to improve! I think it's empowering for everyone to admit mistakes. And there's nothing like a four year old telling you in true 'Olivia' fashion, 'it's OK mama, I love you anyway' with a big gooey make-up hug.

A final note - there's all those things you can do the night before to make your morning easier, but no one is that disciplined all the time, right? My girls happen to love a TRUE story of me when I was little, and when I throw it back to them at key moments, even just the story/hidden threat helps. Apparently when I was about 4, my own (brilliant) urban single Mama needed to coral my siblings and me into the car to get to the grocery. Not only did I refuse, but I also took all my clothes off so she couldn't take me. Well, the story goes she scooped me up - buck naked - tossed me in the car (with a hidden stash of clothes) and drove off. Once at the store she invited me to get dressed and by that time - after screaming the whole way - I obliged. And I apparently never did anything like THAT again. My brother and sister love to tell it (they're older) so not only did it work back in the day, but the story still works as a threat now! Use the story or the tactic; thank me later. ;)

I love you all for being so real. I can't count how many times that I have lost it with my 20 month old little boy lately. I keep thinking "If that incessant wining would just stop then maybe I could calm myself down". Fat chance mom.

A couple of weeks ago I was going through some sort of mental breakdown and I felt like I just couldn't deal with it...so I joined the gym (again). I love it. I feel so much better now. I can drop him off in the gym daycare & work out for an hour. Then THE BEST THING OF ALL...I can take a shower, get dressed, do my hair, & makeup. The entire time I don't have to deal with him putting his hands in the toilet or crawling up my leg or digging through the trash, while wining the entire time. I can actually start my morning out with a feeling of C-A-L-M. which makes for a much better day all the way around. Its amazing how a little time taking care of myself improves my skills at being a mom.

That being said, my Monday mornings still suck - I think everyone is just a little off on Mondays. 2 or 32...it doesn't matter.

Of course, everyone has had mornings like this (and afternoons, evenings and 3 a.m.s) and anyone who says otherwise is lying or heavily medicated. I have had many discussions with mama friends about the agony of the moments that you love your child, but you just don't like them very much. That feeling is sure to come up in the seconds after being slapped or screamed at. Sometimes, I manage my stern mom voice and very evenly instruct my daugter to "take a seat", but first thing in the morning or late in the evening I am tired and weak and I too often find myself not being the adult in the situation and definitely not setting a good example. For the mornings, anything that can be is done the night before (clothes picked out, hair brushed and braided, lunch packed etc.) My husband and I tag-team showers and dressing of us with feeding and dressing of her and neither one of us is above bribery.

I happen to work with toddlers, so to the person who was asking about how to handle the hitting with their 17 month old, my personal and professional experience with this is that young toddlers generally hit because they are curious about the reaction it gets, whereas preschool aged children hit because they are actually angry and are still learning how to control their impulses and "use their words". The most effective way to teach toddlers not to hit is to redirect. React calmly and consistantly everytime, tell them "no" firmly, but not angrily, and either remove the child from the situation (if they are hitting another child, for example) or remove yourself if they are hitting you. Toddlers long for interaction and attention and a negative reaction is still a reaction. Eventually the message gets across that there is no reward in hitting and they move on to the next pushable boundary, i.e. jumping off furniture.

Just a shout out to all the 17-month-old mothers. Having spent the past month or two getting slapped and sometimes bitten, I'd like to say that the times I really need advice are the times that I can't walk away - in the line at passport control, walking through the metal detector at the airport, or coming to the tail end of the shopping pattern at IKEA, when carts are swooping down from every direction - and no one is expecting to swerve for a toddler.

It's easy when you can remove yourself. I need advice for when it's hard. My current improvisation for these particular situations - turning her upside down, so she can't hit me in the face - delights her just a little too much, I'm afraid.

Overall, I'm certain that she is hitting me when I've told her no or when I'm preventing her from doing something, like running into passport control's "forbidden zone." She's not simply trying to get a reaction from me - she's reacting to being controlled.

Public places are way trickier. Obviously, that professional experience I mentioned is in a safe, controlled environment, not in traffic or going through airport security. When my not almost four daughter was "naughty" in public, I quickly learned that the best thing I could do was to make sure she knew the rules out of the house were the same as the rules in the house and carried the same consequences. I would pull her aside for a time-out no matter where we were (in the gate at the airport, on the curb adjacent to Saturday Market, etc.) and if we were in a place that noise was frowned upon (library, waiting room, etc) I would take her outside or to the car. When simple time-outs weren't cutting it, she was relagated to the stroller with the explanation that if she wanted to walk around free like a big girl, she had to stay close and be a good listener like a big girl. And going home to bed was the all-else-fails consequence. There were quite a few restaurant bills that got paid before the food arrived and carts full of frozen foods left mid-aisle in the grocery store, but she got the message that going home "right this minute" was not an idle threat. The biggest thing was not letting myself get bothered by public opinion.

This morning was so crazy at my house that I offered my 5 year old $5 to help get his sister dressed. It ended up being so funny and cute that I stopped what I was doing to watch. My response to their hitting/biting/kicking is, "I don't hit/bite/kick you, so it's not OK for you to do it to me". I'm a firm believer in letting the kids know I am human and need to be considered and cared for as we do for them.

Okay mamas. I'm about to say the corniest thing ever, but it really does work! (When I remember to do it) Laugh. When you want to scream/hit/walk out/whatever, laugh. It is very hard to stay mad when you're laughing like a maniac and it is pretty much impossible for a kid not to crack up when they see their mom being a total nut ball. Laughing relieves stress, doesn't make you feel guilty, and quite often can help get you out the door without needing to apologize later.

Good luck ladies! We all need it.

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