All parents struggle with parenting from time to time, but what about parents who really struggle, those who actually regret having their kids? Is it okay to say ‘I hate my toddler’? If not, what should parents do who feel this way in spite of it?
Parents who say ‘I hate my toddler’ need urgent help, not with their toddler but with parenting. From needing a new attitude to modifying their parenting practices, the onus is on parents who feel this way to change, because their parenting problems won’t just go away, but will instead exacerbate.
As a mom of four former toddlers, it’s easy for me to see how parents can fall into the trap of resenting their children. But, it’s not excusable.
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I’m happy to share what I’ve learned about having toddlers; tips for dealing with the most stubborn and rambunctious ones; and how to combat resenting your own offspring to the point of saying, ‘I hate my toddler!’
Is It Normal To Hate Your Toddler?
One of the first worries for new parents, and recurring concerns for veteran parents, is whether or not what they’re feeling is normal. Is it normal, after all, to say you hate your toddler?
It’s normal to feel resentment or to hate your toddler now and then. It’s not normal for this feeling to last. Parenting toddlers is frustrating; it’s called the terrible twos for a reason! So negative feelings can surface periodically, but if it seems more than that, then parents need help asap.
The best advice I can give parents of toddlers (and beyond) for pre-empting and handling misbehavior is to firmly set limits and boundaries with clear consequences and consistent follow through. This is effective parenting 101 and it’s backed up by research and experts over and over.
A book that is in line with this is called, aptly enough, Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child: Eliminating Conflict by Establishing Clear, Firm, and Respectful Boundaries by Robert J. MacKenzie, Ed.D and it’s available for free on Amazon with an Audible trial membership by the way.
And it’s vital to keep in mind what research tells us about toddler development too, and how it impacts ‘the terrible twos’ when you’re feeling frustrated. For instance, research tells us that one reason for the ‘terrible twos’ is the lack of language ability or the language barrier in toddlers.
I remember when Lexi, our daughter was a toddler, she threw a fit just about every time we had to go somewhere and she needed to wear shoes. She’d cry and fuss, and have big crocodile tears, making the process of getting out the door quite annoying…as well as time-consuming. Well, eventually, after many episodes of tantrums, she was finally able to explain, “I can’t wiggle my toes!” So finally, at long last, we realized her tantrums were because her feet were uncomfortable in her shoes. We were able to try on many different shoe styles and let her show us which ones felt the best. From then on, leaving the house was no longer a toddler temper tantrum experience!
If parents consider this, it makes sense why your toddler is so upset when you give him or her apple juice instead of the orange they wanted; or when he or she throws a tantrum from not being able to verbalize what cartoon they want to watch.
By focusing on the context of the frustration, then, parents can sometimes mitigate the problem and calm their toddler.
But resenting, or ‘hating’, your toddler for their frustrating or disrupting behavior isn’t going to actually fix the problem and bring about resolution.
So yes, it’s normal for parents to get overloaded and to the point where they might feel inside ‘I hate this kid!’ but for most parents, this is as far as it ever goes.
You don’t really hate your toddler because of their temper tantrums, right? You just hate the behavior and the way it affects your day.
More Ninja Parenting articles on toddlers similar to this one:
- Is Toddler Head Butting Normal? (Mom Explained)
- Dealing With Toddler Thin Hair? (Mom’s Advice)
- How To Get A Sick Toddler To Drink (Revealed)
But what if the feeling isn’t out of momentary frustration, and seems to linger long after the disruptive episode? What if you are having extremely negative feelings about your toddler regardless of his or her behavior?
Parents who truly start to resent their children to the point where the feeling lingers even during moments of peace have a real problem. This isn’t normal.
Parents in this situation shouldn’t be ashamed, but instead, need to be commended for recognizing their feelings and willingness to consider the abnormality of them, and by extension, correct them.
If at anytime you feel you may harm your child (or believe someone else may harm their child), you should get a trusted adult immediately to supervise the child and to assist you in getting support. The most important thing is for your child to be safe! Here’s a link for more information: ChildHelp.
If you find yourself in this type of situation where negative feelings are lingering, or know someone close to you who might be experiencing it (such as a spouse or other family member), I urge you to take it very seriously! Here are some steps to take.
- Talk to your spouse/partner. Don’t be afraid to voice your feelings, but also share that you realize you need help with this, most likely outside expert support.
- Seek counseling, either alone, together, or both. If Catholic like us, then I suggest starting with your priest for support. Often religious centers have support groups or networks you can trust. If not religious, then you should be able to find help via your medical provider, doctor, or pediatrician.
- Be proactive and do your own research too. Just like the references I’ve already provided, there is a lot of support available for parents that’s supportive rather than accusatory.
What If You Think Something Is Wrong With Your Toddler?
Some parents start to wonder if there’s actually something wrong with their child because he or she is out of control or ‘much worse’ than other toddlers. So what should they do?
Parents may think there’s something wrong with their toddler if his or her behavior is out of the norm in comparison to other toddlers. In cases like this, the first step is the pediatrician. There may actually be a problem, but it’s likely a parenting issue, and doctors can help with that too.
One of the first things your toddler’s pediatrician will probably screen for is autism. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all toddlers aged 18 months to 2 years old be checked for autism upon concerns of parents or other close care providers.
The autism screening process may identify or flag concerns about developmental delays or autism behavioral concerns in your toddler.
However, even if no medical flags are raised, your child’s doctor can be a wealth of information to help you with toddler behavior problems. Your doctor will probably be able to offer suggestions about rules and expectations, for instance, and help you with your parenting practices.
Some Very Normal (i.e. common) Toddler Behaviors:
- Tantrums that include kicking, screaming, or throwing things
- Biting or hitting others
- Moodiness especially upon waking or right before naptime or mealtime
- Opposition/Defiance as he or she tries to do things for him or herself like putting on shoes; brushing own hair; and not holding hands with you.
Some Signs Of ‘Not-So-Normal’ Toddler Behavior:
- Tantrums persist longer than half an hour at a time
- Tantrum behavior continues after language barrier decreases
- Toddler doesn’t make or hold eye contact
- Toddler hurts him or herself frequently
- Toddler acts withdrawn
- Toddler regresses in milestones, or has significant delays in meeting milestones
As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, I can tell you it can be daunting for parents to learn this. Our son certainly had times of extreme frustration, i.e. ‘tantrums’, of headbanging, spitting, pushing, and so on. All of this was due to his autism and triggers not being known and settled. Once we were able to figure out what set off alarms for him, we were able to mitigate and pre-empt situations. All of this made parenting him much easier, and helped him live a better, more peaceful life (and still does).
Is It Okay To Say Toddlers Are Awful?
If you’ve ever watched a single episode of Supernanny, you have witnessed what’s considered, ‘awful children’. And this first starts when they become willful toddlers. But is it okay to actually say this?
It’s okay to say toddlers (or children) are awful when they’re behaving awfully. However, you should focus on the behavior, and not the child. Out of frustration it’s natural to blame toddlers (or kids) but the blame should be on parents because they’re the grown ups and the ones in charge.
It’s not terrible toddlers; it’s terrible parents.
Often people will focus on the terrible two-year-old who’s kicking, screaming, crying, and acting reprehensible and think, ‘kids are awful.’ But in reality, the kid doing this is testing boundaries and doing exactly what’s normal for kids. It’s the parents who need to step up.
Parents of toddlers acting awful must assert their role as the authority figure in the household. This might mean taking away treats or toys; using time-out; having brief discussions; even spanking if that’s part of your discipline protocol. It also means not giving in to the tantrum!
There are many ways to be effective parents of your toddlers. You can ascribe to the practices of ‘Supernanny Jo Frost’, which seem reliable; you can utilize the boundaries expectations as referred to from the MacKenzie book in the previous section; or do some other way or combination of methods.
The main thing is to be the parent in charge. This means:
- Be consistent.
- Be clear.
- Be firm in your expectations.
- Follow through with logical consequences.
And when all is said and done, you love your child. You let your child know that you want what’s best for him or her and that’s why you parent the way you’re parenting.
Is It Normal To Hate Being A Parent?
Being a parent is the hardest job in the world. It’s also the most important. So of course, you’re going to hate it from time to time.
It is normal to hate being a parent now and then, especially for parents of toddlers and teens. During the most turbulent time in development, your child will test boundaries; rebel; and be disrespectful. But your negative feelings are normal, as long as they don’t impact parenting.
As newish parents, it’s a shock to your senses when your cute baby suddenly turns to a toddler monster. It seems your whole world has turned upside down and because of his or her misbehaving ways, you’re also likely to feel isolated and alone, not being able to socialize or take the family out to restaurants, movies, or even church!
Then again, as your child becomes a teenager, you experience a lot of the same frustration.
Just when you thought as a veteran parent you have it under control, your easygoing kiddo turns into a hormonal, surly pre-adult! Sometimes their rudeness and disrespect is so blatant and cutting that you’re embarrassed to even have them around friends and extended family.
So what do you do? Just give up on parenting altogether?
In both situations, parents need to stand firm; be consistent; set those boundaries; and follow through with consequences. And don’t give in and relent!
In both cases, these strong parenting practices are effective and will result in a healthy and peaceful family home. I promise!
As parents of two adult children, and two more ‘almost adults’, we’ve been there…and done that!
The Takeaway for Hating My Toddler
So here we are, at the ‘takeaway’ part. What does this all boil down to, then?
The main thing to takeaway from this article, Ninja Parents, is that while it’s normal to have moments in which you ‘hate your toddler’ because of his or her behavior, it’s not normal for you to really hate your toddler.
It’s not normal for you to harbor negative feelings about your children long term, period. And this is especially true for children as young as toddlers because they aren’t in control of their behavior or actions at this age. You are!
So when your toddler exhibits bad behavior, and he or she will, focus on your parenting practices. It’s your fault if their behavior continues to be ‘bad’, not theirs.
For more Ninja Parenting articles on toddlers, I recommend these: