I want to be a better mother

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I am a mother of three children under six. I am not happy with the way I behave or treat my children. I get angry very quickly with them, I shout all the time and I verbally abuse them by saying horrible things to them and by going overboard with them.

For example I could be in the midde of a brain storm, just thinking about things, or working something out in my head, and one of the children could be shouting or fighting each other,. I would then shout at them “f-ing shut up” “Shut up or I will smack you”. I then et even more angry and shout at them again because I am angry with myself for the way I shouted at them.!

Sometimes, if they ontinue i will pull them to me by the scruff of their clothes, or sometimes I will clench a fist at them to show them i am angry, and will say “shut up” as a warning to them. I some times smack them, but I do not physicaly abuse them as I rarely smack them, but when I do it is hard, usually on the bottom.

I hate myself so much for behaving in this way to my children whom I do love so very dearly. I know my behaviour is wrong, and I fear they will hate me as I hate my mother. I know how I should behave with them, but I cant seem to control the way I react to their bad behaviour.

I know I am a bad mother because I am copying the way my mother behaved towards me, but also because I am largely on my own,I do not have a babysitter, and have not had a break from my children since they were born, except the odd shopping trip. Although married, my hsband does not take my children out to give me a break from them, which I think every mother needs.

Also I do not discipline my children appropriately,I allow my children to express themselves, so when they are naughty, they are so for quiet some time before i explode.

I blame my mother for my bad mothering, my mother is uncapable of love and is a very controlling and greedy woman. She was very violent towards me as a child, and would belittle me and embarrass me in front of her friends or mine.

My mother can be very nasty. When I was a child my mother would always hit me and herself in the face. She would also say very nasty things to me. She always treated me as though I was a little child, and still does. My mother made me feel as though I cannot live independetly, so I never left home until I was 26 years old.

My mother still is very abusive and nasty to me. for example when i was arranging for my daughter to be baptised, my mother did not approve of my choice of godparent so she got very abusive and came within my personal space whilst I had my baby in my arms and threatened me.

She looked after my children whilst I worked, to which I paid her. My mother rarely has my children unless I pay her, she rarely visits them on school holidays or weekends.

I want to break the cycle but i dont know how to, I cant go to my Doctor for counselling because I am afraid of what they will write in my notes, or if they will try to interferr with my children.

My children aren’t at risk, I would never hurt them, I wouldn,t punch or pull their hair like my mum did me.

I wake up most mornings and I tell myself “stay calm today, relax, don’t shout today”. But I always do end up shouting, and I hate myself for it, i love my children, and I hate what i am doing to them.

How can i stop the cycle of abuse, I know what I should be doing, but I can’t control my behaviour or my reaction. Something just seems to snap in me quickly, and before I know it I am shouting and verbally abusing my childrem. I say things like, your a spoilt brat, or “you selfish cow” How can a mother full of love say things like that to her children?, thankfully I rarely say horrible things to them.

Please can you help and give me some advice.

A: Thank you for writing. You’re right. This has got to stop. Even though you didn’t get enough love yourself; even though you learned how to be abusive by being abused, you can learn how to be the kind of parent who copes with her own feelings and deals with her kids’ challenging behaviors without name calling and smacking. You have the motivation. Now you need some lessons and some support.

You are not alone in this. There are many, many parents who don’t feel adequately prepared to give their children the loving support they themselves never had. In the UK, there is an organization called Parentline that was set up to help. Here’s a quote from their website:

“We are all parents, and many of us are volunteers. Our services are confidential and free. We listen, we help you work out what could work for you and your family and we don’t judge. We know that parents love their children and want the best for them.”

For more information, go to their website at http://www.parentlineplus.org.uk/ or give them a call at
Parentline: 0808 800 2222. It’s free. It’s confidential. There are people there 24/7 to help you talk it through when you feel like you are going to lose your temper. They also run groups to help parents learn new skills.

Please don’t put off getting the help you need. You – and your children- deserve so much better.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 8 Sep 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). I want to be a better mother. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/09/08/i-want-to-be-a-better-mother/