Since the topic came up, do you feel you were too harsh with your child as a child?


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I don't. I feel like I let him get away with way too much and ignored the signs that there would be real trouble. Since h e was popular and very bright, I refused to focus on the other part of him that was not so loveable.

36 was only spanked once and that was when he got a head start and ran ahead of me and into a busy street. I was so scared that I grabbed him and spanked his diapered butt (he was two). Other than that, if anything, I was in denial that things were that bad.

Do you blame yourself for the way your child turned out?

I really don't. From what I can look back and see, he was born the way he is and I'm a big believer in genetics first. He has a lot to overcome in the genetics department. I do think that if I had demanded more respect and responsibility from him earlier, maybe he would have better control now, but I have no way of knowing that.

I'm not sure anyone is even interested in discussing this, but I will throw it out there and see.


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Yes, in a lot of ways I do blame myself but I believe if anything I was too easy on him. My son is also very bright. I gave him a lot of freedom because I assumed that with his intelligence, he should be given the freedom to explore his world. I also treated him as an adult too early because he talked and acted like one. In looking back I am sure that these things probably led to him feeling groundless and definitely led to a lack of respect. But I don't think that completely explains the complete lack of empathy and connectedness he feels with others, ANY others, not just me. That speaks to some biological or chemical issue to me. And that makes me wonder sometimes if any difference in the way he was raised would have led to a difference in the way he relates. Like you said, it might have made a difference in his control, not necessarily a change in how he views others.


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Hey MWM== haven't chatted with you in awhile...hope you're difficult child is the only child and I gave him most everything...I let him get away with far too much, always took the easy punishment because for at least the last 7-8 years, he's clearly been mentally ill and I felt sorry for him, knew he needed concessions and gave him far too many...I also let him go off his medications at age 16...that was a big mistake but I didn't know what else to do...he had become convinced there was nothing wrong with him and wasn't taking them anyway-- even if he 'took' them in front of us, I'd find them later buried under the couch or we went in and talked to his psychiatrist...turns out that research shows about 60% of kids diagnosed young with bipolar actually don't have that diagnosis as adults-- they grow out of it?...difficult child was taking Lithium at the time and my rationale was that once he left home to go to college (I was still delusional at that point), he would stop taking them so it seemed safer to me to have him stop while he was still home, we could help him monitor any symptoms and he agreed to take medications if he had symptoms...and he did ok for almost a year but then started taking a turn for the worse and refused to take medications...the cycle was beginning again and we were in for a long 3 years...lots of things I'd do over but at the end of the day, I believe I did all I could to help him and give him the tools he needs to cope with his disabilities...I was always there for him, doing my best...I don't blame myself for his situation now but there sure are plenty of things I wish I'd done differently (first and foremost-- never allowed my parents back into our lives about 2 years ago-- big mistake)...


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In many ways I was too harsh.If I had to do over, I would be more reasonable, patient, and less authoritarian. Absolutely, a much calmer demeanor. I always felts so bewildered and frustrated with both my difficult children, but especially with Daughter. I yelled a lot. I was operating from a very emotional place and determination that I was going to, by sheer will, overcome the powerful genetics in both my and husband's family trees.

I know I didn't "cause" it in anyway, but there certainly times when I exacerbated it.

Now, I have a 22 year old young teenager in my home who in no foreseeable future will be living on her own. I'm just not ready to throw her out. Though, I barely know her and what I do know I mostly do not like.

Then there's Son.....just not sure what is going to happen with him. He graduates HS in June. I'm filled with dread rather than happiness. I worry about what is to become of him.

I tried my best with both, but they fought me every stinking inch of the way.


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I was both. It depended on where I was in my emotional life. I recognize the harm I did by parenting from emotions as opposed to being calm and rational. All any of us can do is move forward and do the best we can with what we have learned.

Scent of Cedar *

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No, MWM! I was like, PTA, Brownies and Girl Scout leader, Great Books teacher, Cub Scout Den Mother. Our house was like, the favorite hangout.

I loved being a mom, loved the cooking and the parties and the holidays.
I even loved the ironing.

I was smug and judgmental and thought I was the best mom, with the best family, in the world. I read all the parenting books, took the parenting classes, all that stuff.

I took my identity from being a mother.

That is why I fell apart when my family did.

I failed at my chosen profession.


It took me such a long time to rebuild my self concept. I am still working that one out. That is why I am always posting about that imaginary mom who is so strong, so casual and tough with her kids that she never takes on that mothering role as who she is. I think about what a difference it would have made for my kids, if I had been that way. That is the source of my guilt. That I was so busy being the role that I was a bad mom where it counted ~ in the strictness department.

I'm working really hard on letting that go and just being enough in myself.

Even if I was a crummy mom.


I still FB with the friends of both my son and my daughter. Not the friends they developed once the drug use began (well, except for one or two of daughters), but the friends they had when they were little.

I feel (and husband agrees) that I was nowhere near strict enough. He feels the kids were raised with such a sense of entitlement that they are not strong enough to face continuing challenge.

I don't know what I think. Mostly, I cannot think about my life like that too much. It breaks my heart, to realize everything that is lost.

But I think I am past that part. I decide to create life from here, life as it can be, and as it is becoming.

Still, I miss all those things I thought I would have.

It's the stupidest thing, really. I always thought I would be that mom in the television commercials for FTD florist, you know? I would be setting the table for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and my FTD bouquet would arrive.

Then I would light the candles, and here would come the kids.

I love that imagery.




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Cedar, that was me too. I so relate.

I was the one who drove all the k ids to baseball practice while the other moms were working. They hung at my house. I fed them. They called me mom.

Funny this is, they were more respectful to their parents then 36 was to me a nd my ex, even back then.

Maybe kids respect you less if you make your life about them? I can't say. Just pointing out what happened. Scott also would say disrespectful things such as we needed to manage our money better (this from a nine year old) and that our house wasn't nice enough (hmmmmm...everyone seemed to like it but him) etc. He did not yell at us, but he was disrespectful in other ways. The only one who acted respectful was Julie, and things were harder for her since ex and I divorced while she was still eight and I had to work full time for a few years.

I remember hearing Scott on the phone to his friends. I was in the room next door and he didn't know I could hear him. He said, "My mom is TOO nice." He didn't say it in a complimentary way.

Yet I was pretty much the same after I divorced and my husband I adopted Sonic and Jumper and both of those children grew up to be really wonderful young adults. Is there really any rules that work for all children? Nope.

But there has been talk that maybe we were too hard on our kids. I have a feeling it was the opposite in many cases in our group. Maybe we tried too hard to be good that a bad thing?? I don't know.


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Interesting question! Our place was also the 'hangout' and I was the taxi service. The other moms in the (brand new) neighborhood lived in glass houses and were perfect, I wasn't and never thought myself to be, but I knew I was in the 'trenches' and it's easy to be perfect when your kids are at the neighbor's right? Yes, I parented from emotion also and heard other kids say 'My mom says your mom yells too much.' and things like that. But again, they would be yelling and pulling their hair out if they had 8 kids swimming in their backyard every summer day and in your house or garage the other days. I also work but work from home most days - done by 2:30 when the kids were just getting around or off school so I don't think that had much effect either. My kids were my #1 priority and I had every confidence that I was doing it right. I'm still not sure I didn't though, I have one child who does not have the same problems as her brother. She certainly knows where her bread is buttered. My son, on the other hand, seems to have no clue and has a sense of entitlement that baffles everyone who comes into contact with him.
My husband would become very frustrated and angry with him when he was little, and I do wonder if that had an effect. But then he has always been a handful and I'm not sure any other father that cared about his child could have dealt with it any better. Too harsh? No - probably too lenient and did too much to make his life fun and social. Now it seems he can't be alone for a minute, he actually says his 'soul rots' and he 'burns' when he's at home. He still wants our permission and approval for what he does, he's never been one to 'sneak out' or lie or do things behind our back. He asks for stuff and then gets mad (or violent - in the last year) when we say no. So I take from that that he does value our opinion and that there are parental bonds there, but maybe his mental illness just holds him back from being a functional human being. But there's not much I can do until he seeks treatment...


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We were too harsh and not reasonable at times. And there was a period of pure abuse. There probably was also times when we were too weary to be consistent and tough enough, but I think lack of understanding was more harmful.

For me and husband the gut reaction tended to be give consequences, punish etc. and even when we did know better, it felt backward to reward badly behaving child. And of course when you did that, you got a bad eye from everyone else. Even when we absolutely knew that positive reinforcement was that was giving us some results and handling out consequences was just jamming things worse, it took quite a lot guts to reward screaming, kicking child that spits and claws in public for actually getting to his feet and ignore the unwanted behaviour. When tired it was at times simply too much to take all that pressure from others and not to go to consequencing, yelling or threatening.

And often we lost our faith on progress that was made and felt we simply needed to be harsher, because that just is, what you do when your child misbehaves.

The consequence of being harsh was lack of trust from difficult child's part. He felt we didn't hear him or were not in his side, so he had no reason to confide us. And that was part that ended up hurting him. His biggest current problem is PTSD and all the pesky little issues that brings with it (of course he also has his social skills and neurological issues.) While it is true that the incident that triggered PTSD was probably not preventable by us, it was so humiliating by nature that telling anyone would had been a long shot anyway and he was also sixteen at the time, and being much behind his chronological age in biological age, he was being hight of puberty and everyone knows how pubescent boys are with confiding to parents, so him not telling us about it, and giving us a possibility to try to prevent issues PTSD has caused him; it is also true that he would not probably been so prone to PTSD had he not have previous trauma history and that was something we should had been able to protect him of. If he would had trust enough to tell us anything what was going on in school. Instead we inflicted more trauma to him.

While difficult child has always been very loyal to us, we didn't give him much reason to believe we would be loyal to him. From his point of view we were always taking other people's side against him. Part was of course unavoidable because his perspective was often simply flawed. But even when we maybe were objectively in the right, it was his perspective that determined how much he had reason to trust to us.

To be fair, he was a difficult child and we were desperate. His lack of rule following caused us real anguish. When you are standing on river bank (and not the first, but second time) in endlessly cold and grey day and watching firefighter's diver team drag search that grey water of the river and a police officer brings you a wet coat similar to your child's that has been picked from the river and you just want to deny it could be his, but can't when you see your own handwriting in the tack with your kids initials and everytime when diver comes up, you can't breathe before you see that sign, that nothing was found. And then you wait for the next one. They are long, long hours, believe me. And after experience like that you are kind of ready to do anything to make him stay where he is supposed to be and under adults' watchful eyes. (No, that time he wasn't in the river, not that time, never got a straight story out of him how his coat was there, or where he was.)

That was what got us to try commando parenting. We just needed to have him in the school. Not bolt and run away and be who knows where days after days. We stripped him from every privilege, all the freedom, everything positive in his life. Took all his stuff, door from his room, took him out from sports etc. and everything was depending on staying at school. He got worse. We were 'picking our battles and not loosing those' and upped the ante. And somehow got so caught to this battle of wills and we totally forgot that our son is fiercely over competitive and prone to get stuck and not being able to give up even when he absolutely needs to. And that he can provoke anyone to red hot rage in matter of moments when he puts his mind into it. He got worse, we upped the ante and after few merry go rounds of that our attitude to him was getting increasingly insensitive and competitive and less and less emphatic. And when we had nothing left to up the ante with, we tried spanking. difficult child got more and more provocative and badly behaving and we were way too stuck to 'not letting him win' and our negative thinking of him that all became to full stop to a emergency room waiting room, where husband was sitting and waiting if the hospital social worker would come to talk to him and tell him that they had taken difficult child in for child abuse investigation and called police or would difficult child come out from the examination room and come home with him. difficult child, like any abused child, was fiercely loyal to us, and lied his little black and blue hiney off to the doctor who committed a serious professional misconduct and didn't make a full check up to a child with almost classical abuse injury in his upper arm/shoulder. And she really wouldn't had needed to do more than make difficult child take off his clothes and difficult child and easy child would had been taken into care and husband would had ended to court with child abuse charges. Can you imagine the thoughts and feelings we were going through the next night when husband and I were sitting on the floor both sides of the door of difficult child's room and staring the wall on the other side and listening difficult child to breath in his sleep. I probably don't need to tell you, that that trial of harsher methods in battle to make him stay at school ended then and there.

Not that we got him to stay at school with positive methods either.

We of course paid the price of all that in our relationship with him and his ability to trust us. And that price ended up being way too high.

Surprisingly he still is very loyal to us, and what you Americans would call loving I guess (all right, calling difficult child loving would cause the bigger burst of spontaneous hilarity than difficult child's Fb status from couple a year ago where he told about perfect free Sunday with cuddling with his girlfriend and watching movies; none of his friends was able to imagine the word cuddle and difficult child in same sentence without negation, 'loving' would be even more incomprehensible; but he kind of is ;) He just doesn't do warm and fuzzy.)
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We were stricter with difficult child than we were with our other two children during the preteen/teen years because difficult child was much more strong willed, defiant, rude. He got grounded for being disrespectful a few times. When he was about 17, he was very rude to me in a shoe store. On the way home, I told him he was grounded for the weekend.

He packed a bag, walked out the door and said "I'm not taking this bull**** anymore." He moved in with a friend's family. I called the mom that night and told her we would prefer difficult child be home. She let me know that they thought it would be best for difficult child to stay there for awhile because he had "confided some things" to their oldest daughter. I never asked what those things were. No telling.

Anyway, six weeks later he was back. The family kicked him out for lying to them.

As I often do while posting, I get sidetracked with so many memories.

Short answer: No, we were not strict by most folks' standards - still stricter than with his younger siblings.

One time, when he was about 16, he smart mouthed me in the kitchen. I hit his hand with a wooden spoon. He brought that up for years. You would think it was the most awful thing a mom could do. It was not one of my proudest moments, but it did not leave a bruise. I didn't WHACK him with the wooden spoon--just smacked him. Oh, and one time i slapped him. He was about 13 and talked back. We were attending a festival in our town. Before I knew it, i slapped his cheek. That has always bothered me. My mom slapped me one time and it was so degrading.

Man, i am sounding meaner and meaner. Think I'll stop now, lol.


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I think this thread just goes to show there is no perfect parenting style... and I think addiction can come from all kinds of parenting.

I dont think I was too harsh at all.... I think in many ways I was pretty middle of the road and reasonable although at times I did overreact to things. I dont think I was always consistent and I didnt provide enough structure (which is not my nature). I think in many ways I parented like my mother did and that worked well for me and worked well for my easy child daughter.... but my gut reactions did not always work with my son.... who was much more defiant and pushed all limits all the time.

I do have some real regrets... but mostly it is about missing some things going on... that I just didnt get at the time that I think had a long term impact on my difficult child and maybe I could have prevented some of his later problems if I had seen the initial issue at the time.

In the end though I am with MWM I think most of it is due to his wiring....his personality and temperment has just made things harder for him in so many ways. I think really I was a good parent and I think things could have been worse sooner in some other situation.


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I feel now that I was too harsh on him and I have a lot of guilt over that. It's a huge monkey on my back, that guilt. But my difficult child is really doing so well, so I also think so what? He came into his own in a roundabout way, at least he is thriving, and maybe it's because I was so harsh, he needed that kick in the pants. My other kids are total easy child's and I compare my parenting, I can categorize it at crazy vs. normal. difficult child...crazy mom...easy child's had a normal mom. But in defense of myself, difficult child needed crazy mom to set him on the right track. I am not explaining myself properly. Who wants to be crazy mom? It was such a bad time, I have ptsd and am not over it.
We were harsh with our difficult child, but didn't know how else to be. I was raised by permissive parents who believed in natural consequences; school of hard knocks. I don't agree with their parenting style, either, and always knew I'd give my kids more guidance, more of my time, etc. I was spanked here and there as a kid, but I was a pretty easy kid so I didn't get punished much. I said with confidence while pregnant with difficult child (my oldest) that I wouldn't ever spank him. Boy, did I eat my words. That kid has (and still does) made me angrier than any other person on the planet. Spanking aside, I have hit him with objects and also told him I hated him (after he screamed that he hated me). If you would have asked me early on if I would ever have done those things, I would have laughed in your face and asked what sort of monster do you think I am?

Then we did the other bad thing....we took the easy way. No expectations = no fighting. So we hardly asked him to do anything, let him entertain himself for endless hours in front of the computer, etc. Mind you, he was in and out of doctor's offices for many of those years. He had a different label every couple of years because nothing fit, no techniques worked, no medications helped.

So now he's 22 with a new diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and he's lost and we're lost. He refuses therapy because talking gives him anxiety. He's doing nothing around the house, not working, not in school. The few things we ask of him...he does about 25% of them. He was homeless for a little while this past winter because we had had enough and threw him out, and then took him back in after he admitted himself to a psychiatric hospital. His new medications do seem to help but they are not magic pills. He has to do some work to advance himself in life.

Tonight he asked if he could use my car to go to a friend's house. A group of them get together there every Sunday. I had told him several days ago that if he wasn't going to do any of the things I asked (clean up after himself and look for work), that he could forget about using my car this weekend. He had the nerve to ask anyway, and since I told him no he blocked me on Facebook. I both love him and hate him, and really don't know what to do now. I feel like he's using us, but at the same time I feel like I should give him more time to get a handle on his illness. He's only been on the new medications for two months, and only one Dr. appointment. since then. He has another one next week. ::sigh::


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I agree with 'toughlovin'....every one of us approached it a bit differently yet wound up with difficult children (and some of you also got PCs-- I only had 1 so no one else to count)...what you say, MWM (I pasted below)---just can't be so because many of my friends are the kinds of moms you and Cedar describe-- one is about killing herself because she is intent on being that perfect mom-- she is constantly stressed out and both her kids seem to be pcs-- that might change but her family has no background/dysfunction to the extent of many of ours so maybe not...another has a daughter in medical school, and is a helicopter mom (even of a 22 yo), always gave her daughter everything and did everything for her-- and yet they have a great that's not the answer...I believe so much goes into making the difficult child who they are (genetics, environment, events in their lives) that there's no one way to parent them so they turn out as a easy child...we all did the very best we could and I try to remind myself of that every day....

Maybe kids respect you less if you make your life about them? I can't say. Just pointing out what happened

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I was, briefly, then too lenient for a short time. husband and I got some professional advice on how to parent a "special needs" child and it really helped. Few,if any parent, knows automatically the best way to parent a difficult child.

Cedar, I can relate very much to your post. I never intended to be a full time mom and wanted a career etc. but difficult child was diagnosis'd with a mental illness very early on. This scared me. And my health wasn't ideal.

So, I ralleyed and decided to work PT when I could and dedicate myself to difficult child so that she would have the best shot possible for a normal/healthy/happy life.

I went through elaborate means to help her...Herculean efforts. But, in the end it made little difference.

husband says it did help...if that is true, I shudder to think what would of happened.

Bottom line...I gave up soooo much for little to zero return. I too often feel like a failure at my job, so to speak. Few things have I put so much heart, soul, energy and thought. But, it is what it is. You can't change another person; our daughter's have to want and work for this change on their own.

And by the way, we areremarkable people for working so hard to give them the right foundation and tools for a healthy and happy life.


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I would like to clarify my first post. We weren't harsh before adolescence, but once he started getting in trouble around 13 we were desperate and became very very strict. No phone, no door, no tv, signed contracts galore - even sent him away to work on my sils farm for months with nothing but a pair of work boots and some Wrangler jeans (he used to care a lot about what he wore). Came back and we lightened up and he went downhill again. We'd always give him enough rope and he'd hang himself. Bought him a brand new car for motivation, couldn't even get the gpa to get his license. At least that gave us time to come to our senses and get him something used instead, which lasted only 2 months anyway before he broke that signed contract. This is still going on, and I guess there is not much we can do about it till he's 18, but we are mentally preparing for loving detachment, I only wish I could prepare him...

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Bits, I also have a good friend who is a helicopter mom. We've known and worked with each other since before kids. I always thought her daughter would go 'off the reservation' because of all the meddling and coddling but she is a total easy child, junior in private school, cheerleader, straight A's - the works. Don't get me wrong- I'm totally thrilled she hasn't taken the same path as difficult child, but I'm not sure our parenting has as much influence as we think it does.
difficult child has always been difficult and I would not have that box of books in the attic with titles like 'parenting the strong willed child' if I just had my daughter. I do wish that I had the resources to give my easy child daughter the same opportunities that friends daughter had but that's another post- maybe even another forum!

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My son's father was harsh and his behaviour was unpredictable and scary at times. I was too soft as a way of trying to balance his unacceptable behaviour, but also too compliant with my first husband in an 'anything for a quiet life' sort of way. I should have left with the children when they were young, not waited until they were teenagers. My children also witnessed aggressive and violent behaviour by their father towards me. There's no way that I can say that had no affect on them. It was Mother's Day here yesterday. It was my son's birthday too. I had a really bad day. I couldn't get out of bed, just wept and wanted to shrink to an invisible speck and disappear into oblivion. I'm out of bed today, but my head's not in a good place. It's supposed to be therapeutic to think back over your life and things that have happened and the way things have turned out, but I wish I could just switch it all off sometimes.


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"Fact is we all did the best we could at the time, and I bet all of us made mistakes as all parents do.....and in the end they are adults and at this point their future is up to them not to us."
TL posted this on another thread yesterday (just reading through posts I missed). I'm going try and focus on this today and drag myself out of this pit.


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Bits, you're right. Each child reacts differently to how they are parented. Ever read "A Child Called It?" I cried through the entire book a nd don't know how I finished it, but I did. Then I even read the sequels. Even after the horrible abuse he endured, he grew up to be a responsible man and caring father. So parenting is not like a math problem where there is one answer only.

I do think genetics is a part of it. Partly I feel that way (and it is only because of my own observations) because my children are not genetically related but were raised the same way. 36 is my biological son and the rest were adopted and are not biological siblings. And Scott did not even join our family or come to this country until he was six so his personality was basically formed by then and we were not a good match for his particularly talents and values. 36 was a problem from about one year of age. He was a very good baby until he was let loose on society and his peers. None of the other kids were mean, but he seemed to need to be in charge and to hurt anyone who dared try to even win a game he was playing with another child. Sonic, Jumper and Julie were very sweet from "Gotcha Day" (adoption term for the wonderful day we met and joined hearts). Scott was functional, bright, and aloof.

Bits, there is no one answer to why our children become difficult children. If Dave Pelzer, from "A Child Called It" can grow up to become a responsible husband and loving father, then even excessive abuse does not guarantee the person will become a difficult child. If I actually think about it, it's puzzling that 36 is far less capable than Dave Pelzer. Yet it's not. He was definitely coddled and excuses were made for him until his teen years when his behavior included the bizarre and violent. And still, his father and I felt he needed help and boundaries be damned because he had mental health issues.

I was in a psychiatric hospital for depression. I was actually in three times, two for bad medication reactions, one for severe depression. Suicidal depression. The patients are given VERY STRICT boundaries in a psychiatric hospital and there is definite discipline for breaking the rules. I remember watching two grown patients fight. Both were dismissed from the hospital. Violence was not tolerated. I guess, looking back, if even professionals hold psychiatric patients in a hospital accountable for how they behave, maybe I should have been a little less lenient on 36. Maybe it would have helped him have better boundaries and self-control today. Maybe not.

None of my other kids, including Scott, got either verbally or physically violent. Julie broke a window with her hand once when she was high, but even during her drug days, she refrained from calling us names or threatening us physically. You could always see the sweet girl behind the drugs.

We all did the very, very best we could and knew. I believe our difficult children are just born with differences that can be triggered by almost anything. I do not think any of us on this board ever set out to create a difficult child and I think we all love our difficult children very much.