By Dr. Noel Swanson
Q. “I am a single mother with three children; Caitlin 7, Tom 9, and Liam 11. While Cait is fine, the two boys are causing me problems. Tom behaves well in school, but has learning difficulties. After school though, he turns into a monster, and throws temper tantrums. Liam is rude, not affectionate and just generally hates me. His dad never visits, and Tom’s dad died when he was a baby. I’m going crazy and want to know what I’m doing wrong.”
A. I’m so sorry you’re having a hard time. We all expect parenting to be mostly fun.
First of all, blaming yourself will get you nowhere. Like the rest of us, you have probably made loads of bad decisions in the past. So what? The question is where do you go from here to make the best of what you have at present.
Remember too that your daughter is fine, so your mothering skills must be on the right track.
It is also good news that your younger son is doing well at school. If he is able to settle down and work, even though he has learning difficulties, that is very encouraging. However, you might want to check with the school about how much he is struggling there, as it may be that he is bringing his frustrations home.
It’s most likely that both boys miss having their dads around. This is a hard problem to tackle. The youngest probably finds life easier since “a dead dad is better than a non-caring one”. That’s because he isn’t actually being rejected. You can’t do anything about the other dad except to be honest with your son. It isn’t a good idea to either defend or criticize him. If you make excuses for him your boy will take it as you being on the dad’s side. If you say negative things about him then the child will want to defend him, since he is his dad.
Remember that you cannot change the children. You can only change yourself. So, in what ways could you be different that would make life more peaceful for yourself? Surprisingly, if you can find ways to be more positive yourself, it will probably result in the kids also being more positive. Conversely, if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.
Above all, believe in yourself and your children. Look to the future instead of the past, and decide how you want to be. Think only of the positive, rather than of what you don’t want. Instead of worrying, think about the happy outcomes to come. You won’t get there in a day, but watch those baby steps. They will add up and take you to your destination. Improvement will take some effort, but so does your present life. You will get there if you remain determined.
About the Author:
Dr. Noel Swanson, Consultant Child Psychiatrist and author of The GOOD CHILD Guide, specializes in children's behavioural difficulties and writes a free newsletter for parents. He can be contacted through his website on Expert Parenting Advice.