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I Want To Control My Anger Around My Highly Sensitive Child

This feels a little scary, but I am going to try to share my story here. I have two girls, almost 5 and almost 2, who I love more than anything in this world. I have a great, fulfilling job that is sometimes demanding and stressful but flexible, and allows me a lot of time with the kids.

I have a loving and supporting husband who is also a great friend. We are doing fine financially, I usually have enough time to exercise and occasionally do things for myself (like go get a massage or go to a yoga class, or go out with a friend to dinner).

But, occasionally, not all the time, not even every week, but still, my anger boils over.

My 2 daughters are very different. The oldest is extremely loving, bright, curious, cautious, and very, very sensitive. The younger one is very emotionally stable (we can already tell with her), a bit of a daredevil, loving but pretty mischievous.

We struggled a lot with the older one, who this post is about, when she was 2-3, and though those struggles have improved, she still melts down occasionally, and when she does, it is very difficult to help her figure out how to self-regulate.

When she was 2-3, she would have at least 1 major meltdown a day, and they would last (in total) anywhere from 15 minutes to well over an hour (though almost never at school, only at home). Just about every day.

We struggled hard to manage and prevent the triggers, but there were so many things that would trigger her that we were just often left trying to cope/manage.

Now that she is more verbal and has a better understanding of time, it's a lot better, but even still, we have to put a lot of energy into preparing her for new situations and coping with crying fits that still last a long time. I fear that my reserve for coping with these continued fits is finite and waning.

Tonight she was so helpful, from the time I picked her up at school until bedtime; sweet, cooperative, talkative, although tired. She was great up until bedtime, when I didn't lay the blanket on her precisely the way she wanted, and when I suggested that it was fine the way it was, she started melting down.

I think she gets more upset thinking that we (me in particular) are upset with her, which causes her to meltdown further, so I try to be cognizant of that and reassure her that we aren't mad. Only tonight, after a few attempts of doing that, my reserve wore thin and I just lost it.

I told her I needed to leave the room to calm down (which was good), but after a few minutes of listening to her wail, I went in to try to soothe her again, which only made me more angry. In those moments she is always asking me to take deep breaths with her, or asks me to sing "Kumbaya," which doesn't really slow down the meltdown but I know she finds comfort that I am trying to soothe her.

The situation escalated to the point where I was hugging her too tightly, furiously whispering in her ear to "STOP CRYING." Finally, my husband came to check on us and "tapped me out," which was helpful. I went and took a shower and calmed down and then finally finished bedtime successfully.

Reading what I just wrote makes me feel a couple of ways... firstly, why did I get SO MAD at her? What did she do that was so awful? I let bedtime linger on, and it was late, and I just wanted a smooth transition out so I could get some work done, and so I clearly resented her meltdown for that reason.

How selfish, short-sighted, and immature of me. Secondly, I resorted to squeezing her and telling her to stop crying in such an insensitive way... how awful of me and how scary for her. I am supposed to be the person she feels safest with, and that is how I treat her?

Thirdly, although these moments don't happen all the time, they do occasionally, and I NEVER want them to happen. I don't want to be physically rough with her in any way, and I want to avoid yelling at all costs. The one thing I have been very successful at is minding my actual words, but the rough-handling and yelling I have a long way to go on. How much damage have I already caused?

I am blessed with a highly sensitive child who genuinely cares about me and just about everyone else in this world, who already gives to the world her huge, filled heart. I don't want to be the one that tramples that great, big heart of hers.

But the crying over what sometimes seems like every little thing, just gets to be too much. It is so hard not to internalize it sometimes.

Bedtime is generally the time that is most wrought with potential problems - she can be fine all the way until the end and then act out, I think, as a way for keeping me there, getting my attention. I would appreciate any ideas you have. And, I hate to admit this, I would like some reassurance that my child will be okay, and that yes, I can break the cycle, somehow, some way.

Thank you for posting this service!

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Mar 04, 2017
To the author of "Please Help Me..."
by: Dr. DeFoore

Hi - Thanks for telling your story here. You are a good person, and that's why you are so upset by your anger and how it's coming out toward your children.

It just happens that the response I wrote in the comment below is exactly what I would recommend to you.

Please read my comment on this page called, "Steps You Can Take..." You will find guidance and links to the help you need there.

Believe in the goodness of your heart. You are naturally a kind and gentle person, but you desperately need to heal your emotional wounds from the past. Follow the guidelines above, and you will find the healing you need.

I'm pulling for you...

Dr. DeFoore

Mar 03, 2017
Please Help Me So That I Don't Hurt My Two Children
by: Anonymous

I have two extremely spirited daughters. One is 3 and one is 1. They are only 19 months apart.

I am a very high strung, type A person by nature. I did not have a great childhood and I was never sure I wanted children…then I was married and had two in rapid succession.

My oldest does not sleep for more than a few hours at a time. Never has. I have not slept a full night in over three years, and I have not slept more than a 2-3 hour stretch. I am exhausted and angry.

I love my children more than anything in the world but I feel like a pot that is boiling over. My parents were very volatile, constantly fought, occasionally hit. I was hit up until my teen years. It wasn’t all the time, it was mostly yelling, but it happened and a few times got out of hand.

I went to foster care. I was a complete mess. This was when I developed some problems controlling my temper. My husband is kind and gentle and I somehow thought this would balance me out.

My children are both very sensitive, very temperamental and very high maintenance. This combined with no sleep is killing me. I frequently yell. I have never hit them but I have found myself getting too rough--putting them down too roughly or pulling too hard. This doesn't happen often but when it does I am horrified and ashamed.

I try so hard to be kind and gentle but my temper is always under the surface. I cannot calm down. I am so afraid of changing who they are meant to be because I am not the role model they should have. I'm scared.

Jul 07, 2015
Steps You Can Take To Keep From Hurting Your Children
by: Dr. DeFoore

Hello, and thanks for submitting your story here. This is an important step toward your goal, and I encourage you to keep going until you have achieved what you're looking for.

It is very clear that you want to be a good mother, and that your anger is getting in your way. I respect your integrity in taking responsibility for your actions and emotions. That will help you to make the necessary changes.

I will recommend a couple of things to help you (in addition to the audio program - see image above). I also want you to consider that you may need some counseling to get to the bottom of your issues. That's how it sounds to me, upon reading your story.

1) Before interacting with your daughter, use these exercises to mentally rehearse the kind of responses you want to have.

2) Use these steps to understand and heal your anger.

After taking a look at those pages, give the exercises a try. If you feel like you can go through these processes on your own, keep going.

If you feel that you need more guidance and support, please contact me for counseling (I offer phone/Skype for clients out of the area), or contact a counselor in your area.

You can do this. Your child will be okay, especially if you stay committed to your own healing process. And yes, you can break the cycle. I've helped many people break this type of cycle over the years, and you can do it too.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

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