Tuesday, 19 November 2013

On Hurled Insults

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you probably know that I like to make sweeping generalisations. Or, to put it another way, I never do anything other than make sweeping generalisations all of the time. With that in mind: 

I just cannot stand the way my children are so consistently negative about everything, always. 

Is this really true? I don't know, but it feels true. I remember reading something once -  I can't remember where I read it, but it said something like* negative feedback makes ten times as much of an impression on your brain as positive feedback. The idea is that you aren't supposed to say anything negative to someone until you've said at least ten positive things. I'm pretty sure that my children did not get that memo. Instead: 

On being asked to set the table, one of my children cries and said Why do I have to ALWAYS set the table for ALL of the days? as if I'm running some kind of table-setting child-labour sweatshop. All day, it's Yuck, I hate soup / I don't like that place / I don't like these people / You are telling me off! **/ I do'nt like to do that / I don't want to read / DO IT FASTER!/ She is hitting me / He is biting me /I hate potatoes /  I do not love you / You forgot the cups, Mummy / I hate bread / and so on. (And on and on and on).***

One of my children hisses like a snake when they are angry; the other screeches like a cat , and right now it's like living in a zoo. Nothing I can do is right, and it's is getting me down. It feels like there is a lot of drama in our house at the moment, a lot of drama and anger radiating at me from approximately the level of my elbows. Often it's anger about things I have no control over (the weather; how long it takes the laptop to fire up) and I feel battered and bruised. 

It drives me crazy, and my job, of course, is to do the opposite of be crazy. Instead: 

That's very good hopping / I can see you running / What fast running! / You are so gentle with the cat / I love to listen to you sing / You are growing every day / Well done for being kind to your sister.  So much positive feedback. It's everything short of I love the way you breathe, honey.  (And I do love the way they breathe, especially when they are asleep). There are so many lovely things about them. There are so many positive things to say. 

The problem is that they are going through a stage of often not being very nice****.  
we have no idea what she is talking about! We are freaking adorable!

I was making their breakfast this morning and Blue was losing his little tiny mind at me about something trivial. He was hissing at me (okay, he's the snake) and I felt this massive surge of anger well up within me.  How dare you I thought. You want me to be kind to you and I've just got nothing left. You've used it all up. You've sucked it all away. You're awful to me - you insult me, you hit me, you yell at me, you bite me and you still need me to love you. You hurl insults at me, and expect kindness in return. 

And then I realised exactly what I'd unconsciously quoted - When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. (That's the apostle Peter, talking about Jesus in 1 Peter 2). What I was really thinking, when I was angry with my son, was stop expecting me to act like Jesus. 

I am not very good at being like Jesus. 

Here's why I don't always like being a mother very much: they need me to be like Jesus, for all of the days. I cant' do it, of course - I need grace upon grace upon grace. Fortunately, I know a person who's giving that out for free*****. 

One good thing about this parenting gig - it sure does keep you humble. 

Next episode will be cute pictures, I promise.

*Pretty sure that's the standard format for references now. It's 2013, people!  

**I wasn't.

***If I had a dollar for every time I've said Let's try that again with respect!,  a la Karyn Purvis,  I'd have, well, an awful lot of money - although it turns out it's pretty hard to direct a child to say 'I don't love you' with respect. 

***** I love them to the moon and back, obviously, but surely I'm not the only one who feels this way about my kids sometimes? 

*****That's Jesus again, in case you were wondering. 


  1. Buy "your four year old - wild and wonderful". I thought I had a reprobate on my hands; a lot of it is just "four".

    That said, it hurts me so much too. This afternoon after the worse day EVER (even worse than failed IVF), I walk in and say "hello babies!" and I get a nice "hello Mummy" from one (guess who!) and a rude stare (with VENOM) from the other one. I said "we say hello nicely in this house" and I started 1, 2, 3 ing. Oh dear!

  2. It grinds you down doesn't it. I constantly get 'Mummy you did it wrong'. As a bit of a perfectionist it makes me want to scream - so all too often I do... Yes please to the cute pictures :)

  3. I did feel like every day until they were all past the age of 5 was like this. Now it's just some of the days. Most of the days are very Purvy (as in Karen Purvis, not in pervy/perverted). Some day it will sink in and your sweeping generalizations will be that all of the days are better than most of the days right now. :) Love to you

  4. You probably know this one: http://www.reasonsmysoniscrying.com/
    And I have found a behavior chart helps, for me. I have "Mommy's Annoying Things Don't Have to Annoy Me" points and I get a point when a kid does something objectively annoying and I don't show annoyance. At the top of the chart I will get a prize.

  5. I just wanted to stop in and say that I'm reading and enjoying your posts, even if I don't comment all the time. :)

  6. isn't that lovely? I heard all the time about how kids will imitate the parent. If you speak nicely, they won't learn any other way. Well, then my kids are some kind of language savants, because they invented thru and thru negativity all by themselves. Amazing!

  7. Just...wow..yes...I am SO TIRED of having to be the bigger person. Sometimes I'm not. And then I feel like crap, because how can I expect them to keep their tiny little tempers if I can't keep my great big one? I will say that 80% of the negativity is cross-kid rather than aimed at me, but that is wearing and depressing in its own special way, of course. And when it's aimed at my husband, than I REALLY have trouble remembering how Karyn Purvis would respond.

  8. It is so good that there are do-overs for all of us! Some days Mommy's do-overs are more frequent than my kids! It can be so hard when it seems that they are just plain angry over stuff that is unimportant (eg bananas instead of apples for a snack! Quote my little one with tears - I hate bananas. Really you just had one yesterday and you loved it - was my response which was met with more tears) but somewhere in their brain this is important. Sometimes I am blessed with moments of grace which are so wonderful and I can actually not react with anger and get down to their level and hug them even when they say they don't want hugs and just tell them that I love them. Unfortunately I need those moments of grace multiple times a day!

  9. You suck is hard to rephrase I have found. Yes to all of this.

  10. Yes. Yes. Yes.

    I am now - with a 6 year old - able to say, you are being mean and Mommy is going to cry. Of course, last night, the little turkey looked at me and said "then cry." Apparently, she wanted an excuse to hug me.

    We called them the effing fours.

  11. Thank you for posting this! I have felt a lot like this lately. (LOL- I thought my daughter was the only one to tell me that she never gets to or always have to do X for ALL THE DAYS). You are so right (Darn it...) I am frustrated because I don't want to be like Jesus to my kids all the time. Yep- humbled.

  12. This is normal for age four, but it doesn't make it any easier! I have made speeches (speeches! as if anyone were listening!) about being more positive and "if you don't have something nice to say, just don't open your mouth" and eventually some things sunk in, but it's still tough, and when you're working on attachment stuff, even tougher. Just keep watching them breathe while they sleep; it really does help. At least for a moment they are not talking and are instead looking sweet and innocent, like little lambs. You know, instead of vipers, ready to strike.

    Wait, I probably shouldn't end my comment with talk of vipers. Sweet little lambs! Stick with that visual! Sweet, sleeping lambs. Aw, adorable.

  13. I agree it is age related, but I find that my kids cycle through being awesome playmates and family members, and then crashing and burning for awhile before they get on track again. When they are stuck in a rut acting like life is one big conflict, it is really grating. I find that the more I keep my cool, and let the consequences stay consistent, the sooner they get back to normal. That said, I let them know how their poor behavior affects me, and they lose privileges when they are being nasty. It's hard! And it's temporary. They'll be lovable again soon!


Over to you!