The Vicious, And I Mean Wicked Vicious, Cycle

421 days of loving more!

Originally posted on July 22, 2012
166 days without yelling, 199 days of loving more to go!

Dear #1,

You and I are caught in a battle that needs to end. We’re both in bad moods and we’re bringing each other down. We are spiraling downwards fast as fast can be and we are starting to affect everyone around us. I am writing this post as my way of reminding myself about my commitment to parent with more warmth and composure, two words that I would not exactly use to describe me lately. Sure, I haven’t been yelling at you. But I have not been the mom I know I can be either, the mom that I know YOU NEED in order to help you out of your bad mood. When I see you today after camp I am going to swoop you up and give you a big hug and tell you I love you a thousand times. I am going to hold you until you feel settled. Until you feel safe that we won’t be in a car accident again. Until you feel secure that you aren’t dying anytime soon. Until you feel comfort knowing that even if the babysitter is leaving, mommy isn’t going anywhere. Until you feel more love than you have felt from me these last few days. Because I love you. And you deserve my love, not my wrath…

big hugs and kisses,
mommy orange rhino


It’s a vicious cycle that my son and I get stuck in. When we are BOTH stressed and anxious, sometimes for the same reasons, sometimes not, we quickly get stuck being impatient, rude and quite frankly, annoying towards each other. My son starts acting out: hitting ME more, yelling at ME more, crying more, listening less, smiling less. I start acting out too: snapping more, saying no more, listening less, engaging less, smiling less. In the beginning of the vicious cycle, I try my hardest to stay calm, patient, loving and understanding. I try not to take his actions personally. I try to help him in the ways I have learned how. But the problem is, my stress counteracts all my efforts. Because my stress scares him. It makes him worry even more.

And I can’t hide my stress. According to my husband, I’ve always had a bad poker face. This week has been no different. In fact, it’s been exceptionally bad.

I can’t hide my fear that I too will die and leave my kids without a mom. I can’t hide my anger that I had to fire the babysitter at the worst possible time. I can’t hide my frustration that with everything going on I also have to deal with a car accident AND with three angry and sad kids that daddy went back to work after an extended vacation.

And I can’t hide my frustration with my son that his meltdowns are back, tenfold.

I am trying. I am really, really trying. Trust me, I am. Because I know that all my fears and frustrations are written on my face and THAT is actually making my son feel worse. It is making him more anxious, more stressed. My behavior is making him act out more.

Which of course adds a whole new level of stress to my day. Because when he acts out from stress and fear, it is HARD to stop. The meltdowns are enormous. They are physical. And sometimes they are scary. And when they get this bad, my son needs me to be calm, and patient, and loving. He needs me to be all the things I am incapable of being at that moment because I have my own issues.

And because his behavior is making me feel worse. Because like my behavior is stressing him out, his behavior is stressing me out.

So we play this little game. Who can drive the other person nuts faster? We each keep acting stressed and making each other worse. And worse. And worse. It ain’t pretty.

And it’s a pain in the a*s. Because it is exhausting, physically and mentally. Why can’t he pull it together? Why can’t I pull it together? Darnit, I didn’t sleep again last night. Darnit, he didn’t sleep either. Crap, now we are both tired and even MORE overwhelmed and persnickety.

Last Thursday I FINALLY snapped out of it. I finally put an end to the game.

I was REALLY close to yelling at him. Really really close. I had had it with the screaming and the kicking and the throwing pillows. I had had it with feeling like I was the only parent to have a child act like this. I had had it with feeling embarrassed by his behavior. I had had enough of ALL OF IT. I had had it with my week. With the stress. I had had it with him. I was done being patient. I was done being The Orange Rhino.

I walked away as a toy was thrown at me and went to seek solace in The Orange Rhino facebook page.

I looked at the computer screen. And I saw 44, no 45, no 48, no 60 new people had found my page and started following along. I was immediately reminded of my promise to my boys, to all of you and I stopped dead in my tracks. Seriously.

I looked at him and said, “#1, what is wrong? Why are you so angry? Why are you throwing things at me?”

He burst into tears.

“I am angry that the babysitter is leaving. Why doesn’t she love me?”

I held him in my arms so tight and rocked his almost 6 year old body like a baby. He crumpled into my lap and arms and sat and cried and cried and cried. Those tears kicked me in the ass. Those tears reminded me that when in a vicious cycle with him, he NEEDS ME. I AM THE ONE RESPONSIBLE FOR ENDING the cycle. I am the adult. I am the one who, no matter how hard it is, needs to find the strength and patience to give my son what he needs to “snap out of it.” I am the one who needs to stop and ask, what is going on?

When my son is in a bad mood, rightfully or wrongfully, I need to keep on loving him. When my son is struggling, I need to be an Orange Rhino. I need to find warmth and composure. I need to be patient and calm. I need to be understanding.

When my son and I are in a vicisious cycle of bringing each other down, I have two choices: make it worse or make it better. I finally made it better. It took me days to realize this, it took me days to GROW UP and realize my son needed me. But at least I finally did. And not just because it kept me from yelling, but because it allowed me to love my son more. And really, that is all he needed. To be loved more.

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29 thoughts on “The Vicious, And I Mean Wicked Vicious, Cycle

  1. I found you not long ago through Huffington Post and since the day I read your article I have tried to stop yelling. I have almost succeeded and I’m getting close to being completely yell-free but I have that one child who always gets me to the point you talk about in this post. I’m almost there and our days are so much better without me yelling. I can’t thank you enough.

  2. I can see myself and my daughter go thru thee exact same thing, including an accident. ….. I’m so grateful of your honest posts and stories….. I’m embarrassed to share some of our issues but I guess I’m not the only one with a child that’s anxious and freaks out …… I mean, monkey see monkey do…..right? I’ve got much better with not yelling and not being so angry, especially since her father & I split. So I realize I need to do the best I can. No ones perfect.
    Thanks again 🙂

  3. I also wanted to share that I took my son to the doctor’s today because he’s been getting a pain above his heart about once a day for the last week. The doctor found a heart murmur last year, so it concerned me. The EKG came out alright and they’re going to watch it, but I also had to ask for a referral from her so he could see a therapist about the sexual abuse and Burger King. She said she was required to report it to CPS, and she did, so now I have to wait for them to contact me. I just hope they don’t make it worse for him. I’ve seen these government organizations that are supposed to protect the public, in this case, children, too many times, take things too far or not handle them correctly and end up actually making things worse for the people they are supposed to protect. But, I was going to call them anyway, because I can’t just let this other little boy continue to go through what I’m sure he’s going through.

    I also wanted to share an excerpt from the book I mentioned “Hold On To Your Children,” as I thought it might help some of you as it did me:

    “Insight is key. One needs to get past the problem behavior to see what the child is reacting to. How we see the problem will ultimately determine what we do about it. If what we perceive is that a child is being willful, we are inclined to focus narrowly on trying to fix his behavior, which we dislike and resent. If instead, we recognized that a child is simply getting carried away by his impulses, we would be more apt to alter the situation that evoked those impulses in the first place. If all we see is that a child is throwing a tantrum or is striking out at someone, we are likely to focus on the aggression. If, on the other hand, we recognized that a child is unable to handle the frustration he is experiencing, we would try to change the circumstances that frustrate him. If what we see is a child defying our demands to stay in his room at bedtime, we might treat it as a case of disobedience. But if we perceive, instead, a young child overcome by fears of separation or of darkness, we would do what we could to make bedtime less threatening. If we see a child resisting doing what he is told, we want to root out the noncompliance. If, instead, we see that a child’s counterwill buttons are being pushed by the pressure he feels, we would reduce the pressure we are applying. We might confront a child about his “bad” manners if we see him simply as being rude to an adult in refusing to communicate If we recognized that only the child’s inherent shyness inhibits him from interacting with people he doesn’t know, we would do what we could to put him at ease. If we see a child as a liar, we are likely to confront his untruths in a judgmental and stern manner; if we had the wisdom to know that a child conceals the truth only because he is too insecure in our love to risk our wrath or disappointment, we would do everything in our power to restore his sense of absolute security.”


  4. Thank you. I needed this especially today. It felt like sometimes the more I yell less the more my #1 acted defiantly, pushing my buttons and being downright mean to me and everyone else. I know he needs more one on one time and I know he needs me to engage him more. Hearing all of your struggles helps me feel like I can do it. One step at a time. I will not give up.

  5. I so needed to read this today. My 6 year old is the one that got to me today. He decided he didn’t like me I guess. He wasn’t listening and turned his back on me when I went to kiss him. I started yelling and told him that was enough. I felt bad after. I was doing so good for 9 days and blew it tonight. Time to start over. I think part of it was my fault for not paying more attention to him when he got home from school. I thank you for this site and everyones encouraging words. We all have it in us to be better, we just take it one day at a time.

  6. It’s hard because #1 isn’t mine. and there is so much resentment between us. loving him is hard on days that I’m frustrated because of his behavior. It is a daily struggle to see beyond the tantrums and defiance and see he just needs a mom because his real mom is a flake. I yell because its exhausting asking for things 8 times. and I’m not clever enough to think of different ways to get it done.

    • Alicia, I just wanted to let you know that you aren’t alone! My #1 isn’t “mine” either (although as far as I’m concerned he is) and it gets so hard trying to make up for someone else’s choices, while trying to instill good things in him. I know it gets hard and I don’t know how long you’ve been at it, but it does get better. We have to be extra-patient, but it will make a difference.

  7. Thank you for this. My oldest son is also my biggest trigger and me his. If I’m in a bad mood his outbursts are ten times worse, which only results in me getting more angry and then him. It never seems to end and this week has been horrible for us too. I need to realize that no matter how self-centered I may be feeling about it, I’m still the adult and need to be the one to break out of it to help him. We have a long way to go, but I’m trying.

  8. Thanks for posting this. My #1 is a 6 year-old boy as well, and man do we know this game by heart! I haven’t been doing so well this week with controlling my anger and being the compassionate parent. And I ate a tube of cookie dough for lunch yesterday, which for some reason didn’t help me feel better…go figure! Thank you for being so candid and sharing 🙂

  9. Thanks for this post. I feel comfort know I am not the only mom with a very similar situation. My son does the same stuff and he is 11. This has been going on for years. He is a sweet, sensitive boy when things are good. He gets very anxious and acts out. He knows how to push my buttons. I don’t want to yell anymore. So glad I found this site. Thank you.

  10. Thank you so much for posting this! I felt like I was reading about my own child and situation. I have felt every single one of those emotions. It really does help to know that I am not alone. I have read some self-help parenting books and all they did was make me feel bad about myself as a parent. You are inspiring people to make positive changes. Thanks again!

  11. This blog post was very helpful -it was running through my head this morning while my 6 y/o son was melting down. He had worked so hard on a Lego vehicle for 3 days, reading through 50 pages of instructions! Some how parts of it had come apart, and he was having trouble fixing it. His continuos attempts were keeping him from getting ready for school. I tried to help him as his frustration was mounting. When I finally and firmly directed him to set it aside to get ready, he became so upset. He went into the upstairs bathroom and huddled on the corner, his bottom jaw quivered as he cried, “Help!” and said that I didn’t love him or care about the things he builds. I spoke positive things to counteract his statements. He wasn’t calming down. I went back downstairs to help get my 8 y/o daughter on the bus and knew I had to see that my son would calm down before I could drive him to school.
    When he realized he missed the bus, he was worked up even more.
    Some how he finally became quiet enough for me to pray after I showed him the clock and explained that he still had enough time to make it to school without being late. “Let’s pray” I said, and I asked Jesus to surround him with peace and comfort like a loving hug. He was soon able to laugh about things like his baby sister missing one of her socks. He got to school on time in a pleasant mood. Your article helped me recognize when my own stress was worsening the situation and reminded me to remain calm and love him through this morning’s struggle. Thank you for posting, I am so grateful a friend shared your site with me!

    • I hope this doesn’t sound mean, but it makes me feel so good to hear about the meltdowns other kids are having. I feel like it’s not just me or my 6yo son. He’s been on a “no one loves me” kick for a little over a week now. He even said an elderly friend of ours is just being nice because she’s pretending she loves him. Anyway, he flipped out yesterday and starting throwing things at me an kicking me and hitting me and saying he wants to die because no one loves him. I had to hold his arms and legs because he was hurting me and destroying the house. I kept telling him I DO love him, but it did no good. I think he finally just wore himself out. I hadn’t had much sleep the night before, and so this was extra exhausting. I’m still waiting for a pyschologist I used to work with before I moved here, to get back to me. I feel like I need some help with this situation.

  12. First off let me say how grateful I am to have found your page! It’s only been a few days but the information and real life issues have been so extremely helpful! I really felt connected to this particular log because I have the same struggles with my son, who’s 3. I have had so many embarrassing moments of full blown tantrums out in public with him I didn’t even want to take him anywhere anymore… And that is really sad to me. This blog made me see things in a different light! I love my son with all my being , but there have been times where I just broke down and cried because I felt so defeated, as if I was not adequate enough to be a mother! I see him and I in this blog. I understand now that my reactions to his tantrums only made things worse and escalated. Now I can take this new found perspective and apply it the next time I’m beginning to feel defeated! Thank you so much!

  13. I have literally just stumbled across Orange Rhino on Pinterest. I have only read two of your posts so far and in particular the ‘vicious cycle’ blog is like looking in the mirror at my life. THANK YOU. Thank you for being a real mum, telling the honest truth about the good, the bad and the ugly times. Your statement about not yelling at the kids in front of other people because you wanted them to think you were the perfect loving mother struck a cord with me like never before. I heard back all the horrible things that I have said to my children when no one is around, in the heat of a flustered, tired, stressful, angry moment. Things that I would never say to others and I am so very ashamed. So THANK YOU most of all for inspiring me to be a better mum, wife, friend, sister, human being. Today, 12 April 2013, I accept the Orange Rhino Challenge. Here’s to no more yelling, better communication, more precious moments and to taking the first steps in the journey to great relationships with both my children

  14. Wow!!! It’s like you know me. It’s like you know my son. This is exactly what my home is like right now. And, it breaks my heart. I’m so glad to have found you. Thank you.

  15. This is my daughter. My 7 year old struggling and haunted by anxiety and fears. Her inability to control her angry outbursts towards me and my inability to react like a mature adult. This is us right now. I am so glad I found this post. She does need me even when I interpret her behavior as not liking me at all. I am definitely taking the challenge!

  16. Clearly you have started up a powerful ministry. I just ran across your blog and am tearing up at the comments and how much your articles are resonating with so many people – not just me.
    I completely understand this vicious cycle I share mostly with my hypersensitive #1 child who would really do best as an only child rather than the oldest of 4.
    Thank you for starting this, and especially for the 100 ideas of how not to yell as the standard ones have never worked for me in the past. Looking forward to giving this a try.

    • E-I just wanted to say my #1 is also hypersensitive and I often think he would do best as an only child rather than the oldest of 4. It stinks, but it’s so comforting to know there are other moms out there with the same type of child, similar struggles and having the same thoughts. Hang in there, you’re not alone!

  17. Thank you for posting this. I too have 4 boys though they are spaced a little farther apart than yours. I just wanted to say that you needn’t feel like you are the only one parenting a child like your #1. My #1 is 8 and he is the same way. A lot of my yelling is directed at him. And we get into that same vicious cycle. It’s awful and it often reduces me to tears and feelings of hopelessness. I’m right here with you. And I’m reading through your blog in preparation to start the challenge of no more yelling. I do not like the mean mommy I am when I yell. My boys deserve better.

  18. This was a great post. I actually had a bit of a chuckle toward the end. I found it funny how when you first wrote the word ass you replaced one of the “s”s with an asterisk. The second time you didn’t. It does follow along with the tale. All your true feelings suppressed at that point of the story. When the flood gates opened there was no room for asterisks. 😉

  19. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s like you are in my house today. I hope that someday I will get an answer besides “I don’t know” after one of my son’s meltdowns…but in the meantime, I need to remember that more love is what he needs after they happen, not less. It is so comforting to know that there are other families working on the same thing as we are.

  20. I appreciate how you put it all out there! Your writing mimics my thought many times. I took the pledge to stop yelling because of you. I’ve been doing very well for a couple months. Then the snapping and other things started creeping in. Now it’s not so easy any more and I get the urge to yell and slip up here and there more easily, but not quite falling back into the same crazy rage as before the oath. I know it’s coming though if I don’t stop and regroup. This is exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you! You are not alone.

  21. This is me and my son exactly. It is so hard. I am finding it hard because when i try an step back, connect more and get my son or daughter through then I also have to deal with my husbands responses. So much of the time he just wants me to stop the tantrum or the screaming or the fighting. Like i have some kind of magic wand. If I am staying calm and taking the time to help, he perceives it that I’m not dealing with it. That i need to ‘discipline’. Then it is MY fault that they are behaving the way they are. Like if i only handled it differently/better then it would all work out.
    I feel so tired of it all! But I know I need to get back to loving more and yelling less because when I did I know in my heart that it worked.

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