The Bully Too Close to Home

“Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.”  –Brene Brown

“Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.”
–Brene Brown

During the two years of my overly distracted life, I communicated more to a screen than to the people in my family. My schedule was so tightly packed that I constantly found myself saying, “We don’t have time for that.” And because there wasn’t a minute to spare, that meant no time to relax, be silly, or marvel at interesting wonders along our path. I was so focused on my “agenda” that I lost sight of what really mattered.

Calling all the shots was a mean voice in my head. My internal drill sergeant was continually pushing me to make everything sound better, look better, and taste better. My body, my house, and my achievements were never good enough. Holding myself to such unattainable standards weighed heavily on my soul and my inner turmoil eventually spilled out at people I loved the most.

Sadly, there was one person in particular who bore the brunt of my discontent: my first-born daughter.

She could not make mess without me shaking my head in disappointment.

She could not forget her homework, her jacket, or her lunchbox without me making a big deal about it.

She could not spill,
stain,
break,
or misplace
without being made to feel like she’d made the worst mistake in the world.

Although it pains me to write this, I remember sighing heavily in annoyance when she fell down and hurt herself because it threw me off my “master schedule.” My daughter was not allowed to be a child who learned by trying and yes, sometimes failing.

The truth hurts, but the truth heals … and brings me closer to the person and parent I want to be.

Every time I came down hard on my daughter, I justified my behavior by telling myself I was doing it to help her—help her become more responsible, capable, efficient, and prepare for the real world.

I told myself I was building her up.

But in reality, I was tearing her down.

I vividly remember the day my mother was visiting from out-of-town. The children were playing alone in the basement. My younger daughter began crying hysterically. I ran downstairs fearing she was seriously hurt.

The first question out of my mouth was directed at my older daughter. “What did you do?” I asked angrily.

My child didn’t bother to explain that her little sister had slipped on the library book that was sitting on the bottom step. There really was no point. My beautiful child with humongous brown eyes that once held so much optimism looked defeated. Silent tears of a broken spirit slid down her face. My daughter knew it didn’t matter what she said, she’d still be wrong; it would still be her fault.

And there was my mother standing beside her, a silent witness to the whole ugly scene.

As my older daughter ran off to the sanctity of her bedroom, an unexpected question came out of my mouth. “You think I am too hard on her, don’t you?” I snapped.

My mom, who’d experienced her own difficult parenting moments and struggles, held no judgment in her eyes, only sadness. Her simple response of “yes” only confirmed what I knew in my heart.

I mustered up the courage to find the words that needed to be said. Apologizing didn’t come easily for someone who strived to make everything look perfect all the time, but I knew what needed to be said.

I found my child crumpled up like a dejected rag doll on top of her bed—her face puffy and red from crying.

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled.

My daughter didn’t move.

I sat down on the edge of her bed and began saying things I’d never said to another human being—not even myself. “I feel mad inside a lot. I often speak badly about myself in my head. I bully myself. And when I bully myself, it makes me unhappy and then I treat others badly—especially you. It is not right, and I am going to stop. I am not sure how, but I will stop. I am so very sorry,” I vowed trying not to cry.

My daughter looked unsure as to what to do with this confession, this unusual offering from her mother who rarely admitted any wrongdoing. I didn’t blame her for the skeptical look she gave me. I understood why she didn’t say anything back, but somewhere in those eyes I saw hope—hope that things could be different.

I desperately wanted things to be different too. It was time to stop being so hard on my child; it was time to stop being so hard on myself. I prayed I could stand up to the inner bully. I knew I needed an easy first step. I decided to use one simple word: STOP.

Within the hour, I had a chance to try it. The first critical thought that popped into my head arose as I was preparing to leave the house. I looked at my reflection and thought, “You look fat. You can’t go out looking like that.”

Stop!” I assertively thought to myself, shutting down any further criticisms. Then I quickly turned away from the mirror and recited these words: “Only love today. Only love today.”

I used the same strategy when interacting with my child a few minutes later. Before any harsh words came out of my mouth about the way she was sloppily packing her bag of things, I cut off my inner critic by saying, “Stop! Only love today.” Then I swallowed the hurtful words and relaxed my disapproving face.

Within mere days of using the “stop” technique, I noticed a change. With a more positive thought process, it was easier to let go of the need to control, dictate, and criticize. In response, my daughter began taking more chances and began revealing her true passions. She started movie making and website design on the computer. She made doll furniture and clothing to sell in the neighborhood. She began baking new recipes without any help. Nothing she did was perfect. Nor was it mess-free or mistake-free, but the moment I said something positive, I saw her blossom a little more. That is when I began to clearly see beyond the mistakes and messes to what was truly important.

I began noticing my child’s inner beauty rather than looking for perfection on the outside.

I began paying more attention to the person she was rather than the successes she achieved.

I began letting her be who she was meant to be instead of some idealistic version I had in my head.

When I stopped being a bully to my child and myself opportunities for growth and connection opened up. Over time, significant progress was made. In a little less than two years on my journey to let go of perfection and distraction, I received the confirmation I never thought I would receive.

My daughter was outside before school tending to a garden she created smack dab in the middle of the yard. I watched from the kitchen window as she lovingly tended to her miniature plot. I was captivated by the utter joy on her face. She was clearly at peace.

N's garden #handsfreemama

Since my dad loves to garden and had taught my daughter a few things, I took a picture and sent my parents. Nothing could have prepared me for the gift I would receive in return.

My parents wrote: “Thank for this precious picture of our beautiful granddaughter. Over the last two years, we have seen a tremendous change in her. We no longer see a scared look in her eyes; she is less fearful about you being upset or impatient with her. She is much happier and more relaxed. She is thriving and growing into a content, creative, and nurturing person. We know for a fact the changes we see in her coincide with the changes we have also seen in you.”

My friends, I have the following message to offer anyone who wants to believe today can be different than yesterday:

If you think that criticizing, belittling, or critiquing yourself will make you smarter, fitter, or more valuable, please reconsider.

If you think badgering, bullying, or constantly correcting your child will make him or her more likable, more confident, or more successful, please reconsider.

Because the truth is this:

It’s hard to love yourself with a bully breathing down your neck.

It’s hard to love yourself when the one person who’s supposed love you unconditionally doesn’t.

It’s hard to become the person you’re supposed to be when you aren’t allowed to fall down and get back up.

If we want our children to become who they’re meant to be, let’s ease up. “Nobody’s perfect” can be two of the most empowering, healing words when said to oneself or to another human being.

Let’s stop the ridicule. Let’s stop the relentless pressure. Let’s stop the impossible pursuit of perfection.

Only love today, my friends. Only love today.

Because love is always a good place to start a new beginning.

love is a new beginning #handsfree

 

*********************

In case you haven’t heard, I’ve written a book that describes exactly how I transformed my distracted, perfectionistic, hurried life into one of meaningful connection, inner peace, and gratitude. Hands Free Mama answers the question many people ask after visiting my site such as, “What steps do I take?” and “What strategies can I use to let go of my distractions?” My book is currently available for pre-order and will hit bookshelves on Jan. 7th.  I recently got my copy in the mail from my publisher. It feels surreal to hold my lifelong dream in my hands. I cannot wait to share it with my community of supporters!

 Hands Free Mama book releases on 1-7-14!

Friends of The Hands Free Revolution, I am so grateful for your on-going encouragement to keep writing and sharing my difficult truths. I am touched that many of you are giving the Hands Free bracelets, vintage t-shirts, and letterpress pledges as holiday gifts so everyone you love can Live Hands Free in 2014 too! THANK YOU!

Please share your own stories and revelations about bullying yourself and/or your loved ones. We can learn so much from each other.

*Update: I have received hundreds of messages from people who want to respond more peacefully and more positively to their children and loved ones. As I read the heartfelt and often painful stories offered to me, I desperately wanted to provide people with some concrete ideas to promote change. I reached out to Andrea Nair, a brilliant author who specializes in the connection between parents and children. Andrea immediately wrote a post that describes a practical and powerful strategy that we can all start implementing today, right now. I am grateful to everyone who has expressed their desire to chose a more peaceful response. There is hope. Here is a way to begin: Seven Steps to Being Less Harsh on Our Kids.

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Comments

    • 2

      Erin Fallat says

      I found this blog post on Facebook and I am so glad that I did. I read this post thinking to myself and crying all that the same time that this is what I needed to hear. I am constant bully to myself and it is taken out on my oldest daughter, just like your blog. I am frightened that I have quelched her spirit and it is so reassuring to read how happy your daughter is. I am a mother of 4 Madelynn (8), Olivia (3) and Mason and Patrick (1). I am constantly putting so much pressure on myself to do everything right. As a result, when things don’t go as I may have planned, I loose my cool. Unfortunately, the oldest gets the brunt of my frustrations. I, like you, have constantly said that I am trying to prepare her for the world by making her be responsible, etc. I have not been allowing my oldest to be herself. Madelynn is a gifted child, Olivia is a precocious child and the boys are sweet hearts and I don’t want to take away their beautiful spirits.

      I am excited to keep reading your blog posts and plan on buying your book. Going forward, I am taking your advice to “Stop” and act in love and not negativity.

      THANK YOU so so much for writing this blog.

      • 3

        Casey M says

        I am in a very similar boat as well. I have 2 kids, an older daughter who is 10 and extremely gifted as well as a 2 year old son. I push my daughter and find myself snapping at her regularly. I am hoping this “stop” advice will work for us too, first step for us is to work on it with regards to dance classes and practice.

          • 6

            Gromm says

            And, I ask…

            What do *you* do for a living?

            My guess is that you have a gift for whatever it is, and you worked at making it better until someone thought you were good enough to be a professional at it.

            For me, that gift is “using a computer”. I’ve never been able to grasp why anyone would think it was hard (even in my youth, when it *was* hard), exclaiming at times “but it’s just a bunch of reading and following directions!”. I’ve had friends who are artists, who have exclaimed “but it’s just a bunch of lines!”, and one guy who was once a professional clown who couldn’t grasp what made juggling so hard. Others wonder why anyone could be too unfit to play sports.

            Today, I’m a Linux systems administrator, which is the actual marketable skill that grew out of *my* gift.

            Everyone is gifted at something. It’s just a matter of applying that to the real world with practice and hard work.

          • 8

            rebecca says

            Respectfully, and with love, I disagree. Everyone’s kids are not extremely gifted. Everyone does not score genius levels on an IQ test. Some kids are just average, and that’s ok. It’s actually better than ok, actually. Some kids are smarter than others. some more athletic, and they deserve to shine in that way and not have it belittled by saying everyone is gifted, because they’re not. I think it’s actually more important to note that the average kids can still be awesome, and bright lights and perfectly lovely without falling into the “everyone is gifted” category. Every kid does not need, deserve or get a trophy. Every kid doesn’t make the team. Every kid is what they are, and it doesn’t have to be spectacular, it can just be. Not even everyone has a gift. And that’s ok, too.

          • 9

            Heather E says

            This has gotten a bit off track, but I’m with you. I am so tired of this “gifted” label. When and why did we officially redefine gifted to mean “genius levels on an IQ test”?! Wait a sec… I just looked it up and gifted actually means, to have “a natural ability or talent”. It does not have anything to do with test scores!

            (I say this as someone who was labelled as gifted as a child, aced every class, graduated #1, but left high school without cultivating any interests or passions of my own. I floundered through college and finally gained some direction by enlisting in the military. Turns out the “gift” of testing well is not a useful life skill. We should be trying to figure out a way to cater to the unique abilities of every child, not just the few whose talents can be identified through a standardized test.

            Okay… stepping off soapbox now. Great post, BTW… sorry to derail.

        • 11

          Jennifer says

          I’m not understanding the snarkiness against your gifted comment, especially when this posting is about loving and respecting yourself and others. The term gifted is applied in the school system to a certain subset of children, with one of the criteria being a higher IQ. So no, not every child is “gifted” in the way that you are presenting. I also have a gifted daughter. It is hard because I, too, come down hard on her when I need to ease up. It’s one thing to prepare her for her future, and to help her reach her full potential. It’s quite another to have ridiculous expectations out of her simply because “she should know better” and due to my own perfectionist tendencies.

      • 13

        Helen Hough says

        I am so glad you have seen this with your children so young. My mum was a bully to me, constantly wanting attention and demanding my time, I am a bully to myself and to my eldest (even though I have indulged her wants and passions I have pushed her to do the best she possibly can). My mother saw it but I resented it because she was so demanding of my time and affection even when I wanted to do something else. I am now under therapy to see how and what I can do to change, most of the time I am a door mat coz its easier. I am now trying to learn not to be the slave/servant that those that supposedly love me seem to want me to be. Please learn the stop word its a wonderful word and I am getting used to it. It may stop your behaviour OR make you think about the others are treating you. good luck and best wishes

      • 14

        Heather Negron says

        I too found myself crying to this because I can relate .. the thing that botgers me more is I have been doing this longer than 2 yrs. Try like 12 … I needed to read this … thank you for sharing and making me realize this

      • 15

        says

        I could have written the same thing… I often am so critical of my oldest, my daughter! Thank you for sharing and inspiring me – I have wondered how to change also, and I’m going to try what you tried!

      • 16

        Clair says

        Hi Helen,

        I trust you’ll make a great change on the way you treat your kids, and that you won’t break their spirits. The greatest step you have already taken, by admitting that you need to change! And also by seeing that something isn’t going so right with your eldest. And who am I to know that? I’m an adult who have had her spirit broken as a child. My mother couldn’t say she was wrong, she would even come to the point of twisting the truth in order to still be right. I, on the other hand, would constantly doubt myself, thinking that she knew better for being an adult.
        I’m trying really hard to let go of her voice in my head now. I know I rebelled in the past to hurt her on purpose, until the day I decided that I was also hurting myself and everyone around me…repeating the same pattern. That day I woke up to something that would change my world view forever: I’ve been living under my mother’ shadow this whole time, thinking about what were the things she would despise, so I could go there and do it. But once you go down that kind of path, it’s hard to change and I’m owning up to it now and seeing that I can’t put myself in the role of the victim forever. I know I was hurt in the past, but it is only my choice to either hold the anger in my gut or to let it go. And I’m definitely choosing to let it go for good!

      • 17

        Kelly Pickard says

        I am like Clair. I too have two older daughters 6, 3 and twin boys 2. It is so challenging to work full time, take care of a house, four children, activities, homework etc. And my poor oldest daughter who is also the most reactive, bears the brunt of it. I am so glad I read this for though I feel ashamed, I feel hopeful too.

      • 18

        says

        Wow! This post was amazing and I too found it in my Facebook news feed. The biggest gift I gave myself was seeing a professional on how to change those thoughts in my head which are directly related to how you react to situations. We really do need to give ourselves a break because being a mom is difficult and raising children in today’s world is beyond challenging. Thank you for writing this. I am definitely going to check out your book.

      • 19

        Sarah Schmidt says

        I too am sitting here in tears as I see myself in this article. I teach special ed students, and I find myself to be so much tougher on my own kids, especially my oldest, my daughter. She has even pointed it out to myself. “Mom your nicer to your students then to me.” And that’s when I knew I needed to change because she was right. This is something that I am working on, and struggle with everyday.
        For some reason, I hold her to such a higher level. I want the best for her and to be her cheering squad but at the same time I am the one who cuts her off at the knees by getting after her when she makes a mistake. I am her “bully”. And that really pains me to say. Here is this child that I hoped for all my life, dreamed about, is a part of me, and I am knocking her down, not building her up. Someone who is sooooo much like me. How can I be so critical?
        She will point out to me when we haven’t argued in awhile, and we will both laugh and make jokes. And I know that I am getting better because my daughter, who rarely hugs me, has come up and given me hugs (and I squeeze her as tight as I can when she does because that is the greatest feeling in the world!) Yes I have bad days, but boy am I trying.
        Guess what I am trying to say is THANK YOU for writing this, and again pointing out how I feel and what I am doing. You can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge, and I acknowledge that I have work to do.

      • 20

        says

        I loved what you shared. I could so identify with everything you talked about.I honestly never could figure out what exactly my problem was. I have overreacted and have been way too intense sometimes all in the name of trying to prepare my kids for the real world. I’ve seen that look of dejected discouragement not only in my children’s eyes but in my poor husbands as well. I plan to get your book and learn all I can . I will start today by telling my son what a great job he did getting something like 27 assignments turned in in 1 week after being sick and missing 4 days of school. I honestly told him yesterday “You’ve only got one more day to finish all your missed work or your not coming to the movies with us over the break”. This after his teacher’s told him he could turn stuff in on the Monday after the holiday break.He looked right at me and said, “mom you never see how hard I try.Nothing is ever good enough for you.” I felt a twinge of regret but I honestly wasn’t sure how to respond. After reading your post I know exactly what I need to do Today is a great day to STOP bulling myself and my wonderful family.Thank you so so much for sharing!

    • 23

      Salina D says

      I know it took a lot of guts and courage to write this, and admit it about yourself, but I’m glad you did. It was a real eye-opener. Just earlier today, I had to talk to my daughter about why she fears me. Then reading this, I thought OMG, no wonder, my daughter fears me. I feel like I have to be perfect, and everything else should be perfect, and when it doesn’t, I lose my mind. I am too a bully to myself, always telling myself that no matter what I do, it’s not good enough. I’m going to use this method, and hope that my house can turn back into a loving home! Thank you very, very, very, VERY much for writing this eye-opening piece.

    • 24

      Colleen says

      “wow” I wish this was written a long time ago when my kids were little now I have one more child too go and I see it different in a total new out look… now too get my husband to read this!!
      Thank You!!!

    • 25

      says

      this story has brought much tears…my mom was similar and yet much worse..she never changed or stopped her constant verbal and physical barrage against me..i ran away the first time at ten..at 14 i was removed from the home and put in fostor care..i grew up in 4 fostor homes and 2 boys homes..i was incarcerated at 25..i was diagnosed with bi polar in 1994..i was in the boy scouts and the school band and yet it seems i was always in trouble..my mom called me to her home one day crying and apologizing for slapping me as a young boy..i don’t even remember it..my uncle tried to talk my mom into letting him adopt me they were so concerned..this was when very young before i began running away..to put it bluntly, my whole life has been ruined..i accept my responsibility in my part of it…i began abusing drugs which led to my incarcerations..i never thought of my mom as an abuser but did believe myself to be a “BAD”person and unloved and unlovable..my dad left when i was nine..i was removed from home for fistfighting with stepdad at 14..he and my mom would both gang up on me..not for serious infractions but just for being me..i was never good enough for them and they were both alcoholics..now, after many years in prison for non violent drug and property crimes i am mentally disabled and alone..i worked many jobs and paid in 8,000 to soc. sec.for all you haters..but i take meds each day and struggle with suicidal thoughts and depression and anxiety and panic attacks..my mom was all i had growing up and i could never please her in any way..i am a semi well known artist and photographer and have a website and on ,many online galleries..i try to help support myself and be some kind of success..i quit the drugs many years ago but now when questioned about my mom i find myself breaking out in tears..my stepdad and mom have both developed alzheimers and he died after 8 years of nursing homes and hospitals and just laying there with his mouth open and on life support..my cousin has been given custody of my moms finances after her 3rd husband has been found guilty of extorting her for 160,000 dollars and he has been abusing her..we are still in court…she has been hospitalized with injuries that he could not explain..i do love her but seems what goes around comes around..i feel like a failure because i have not been able to protect her…he still provides alcohol for her..i am 54 and my life pretty much over really…trust me out there moms …how you raise and love your children will effect their lives and their futures..and verbal abuse is very real..and if you tell a young child enough times that he is a bad person and a loser he will come to feel this is his reality..and it will effect all his future decisions…if you are unable to love your children and treat them so you need to adopt them out and give them a chance at life..my whole life as a child my mom was my greatest enemy and bully…and when they grow old enough they will begin defending themselves from your attacks..and running away ..me and my mom didn’t see each other for 20 years..i hated her for 20 years…believe me, you cannot function in this world when you hate your mother…and feel hated by her in return..you only have one chance in raising your children..do not fail them or you will regret it…trauma is very real and does lead to mental illness…and broken homes and ruined lives…and guilt and regret..and dysfunction…”suffer not the little children to come unto me for such is the kingdom of God”..”whosoever offendeth one of these little ones that believe in me, it would be better a millstone was tied around they’re neck and cast into the sea”…be careful how you treat a little child for you will be held accountable..before losing her ability to communicate my mom admitted to me she did not want me and regretted her pregnancy with me..and now we have all paid a terrible price…and alcohol is a mind altering drug as most of the worst abuse i suffered was done while she was intoxicated..this was a family secret and i do not revel in sharing it or speaking ill about my mom…but if it helps one person to change their behavior it will be worth it…LOVE your children….for one day you will need their LOVE…

      • 26

        deedee odden says

        ballpointman, you did it! I praise you for your courage to share all those painful memories, emotion and insight. With all that has been dealt to you in life, you say you are an artist, which means you have been able to curb your anger to create something beautiful.
        I cried as I read your response, but I also cheered you on! For, in sharing your personal experiences, you are releasing the pain and hurt it caused. And be able to empathize , console , to try to help others.
        No, I am not a therapist or psychiatrist. I am a 53 year old mother of 7 wonderful young adults. I have been through most of what you written, but found solace in writing poetry. Music and writing kept me sane( semi-sane? lol). I would like to share this short poem with you….
        I came into this world
        misunderstood
        eyes aware of nothing good
        My parents in their own
        childhood
        She gave me a bottle
        and drank of her own
        teetering on a see-saw
        I have grown
        Balancing between tears
        and fears
        all alone
        D.D

    • 27

      Tanya says

      This hurt to read, it reminded me of my own Mother (who did NOT by any means reach the insight you did) But it was gratifying to read how hard you worked to change your attitude.

      I struggle a little at times, in backlash from my abusive Mother (verbal abuse is abuse, I also suffered physical), It’s hard to know how to handle things at times. But I am learning more every day. Keep showing love Mama’s, it’s ok to get extra help if you need it, just keep going forward.

      • 28

        Mama says

        I am so grateful to have been led to this blog post. For too long I have been struggling with how I often negatively interact with my beautiful first-born daughter. I have known that she deserves better, and I have made conscious decisions on multiple occasions to be better; yet, I’ve failed her so many times. Reconciling that my harsh criticisms are meant to be guidance toward a successful future has helped me ignore my own issues.

        I grew up, the oldest girl of three children, in a loving family, but with a perfectionist mother who judged and evaluated me constantly…all in an attempt to “better” me. I remember her tearing apart my appearance, my weight, my friends, the way I did anything. I remember her flipping her lid and unloading all of her anger onto me. I remember hating every second of it and promising to never do that to my kids.

        So, I have become that kind of parent that destroyed my sense of value and gave me enough insecurity to last a billion lifetimes. I broke that promise to myself, and I have begun the process of creating an environment where my own daughter will live with the lack of self-worth that has haunted me for much of my life. I get frustrated and obsessed with how things aren’t in perfect order in my house, in my reflection in the mirror, in the things my kids do or how they look, in my marriage…and I blame everyone but myself, and it is my oldest daughter who becomes my verbal punching bag. For that, I hate myself. I know that it is so unfair. It is so wrong. And, the thing is, there is no one to blame for things not being perfect. Perfection is arbitrary. It isn’t even real. How can I be a a bully to my child for not being able to achieve something that isn’t even attainable in the first place.

        Fortunately, knowing that it is a problem, I have CONSTANTLY pondered why I am like this. I have fretted over how to be a good mama. I have been heart-broken with worry over the idea that I would never have a happy relationship with my oldest daughter. I have been terrified over the future that could be hers if I continue being the way I have been, knowing what I know from how I was raised.

        Crazily, or not, yesterday (before I saw a link for this amazing blog), I was considering my daughter and myself…I had just had a mini-you-better-clean-your-bathroom-before-the-neighbors-see-how-messy-you-are session (never mind the fact that her little brother can barely reach the sink in their bathroom, and it was probably his mess)…and this voice in my head told me that I shouldn’t care what I think. Then, I thought that didn’t even make any sense. I shouldn’t care what the neighbors think, right? No, I shouldn’t care what I think, because I am the most critical. Most likely, they don’t care, and if they do, then they shouldn’t be in my home. Still, I couldn’t connect the dots back to my girl.

        Reading this post about the bully closest to home helped me so much. Tears poured out of my eyes this morning as I read it. It was as if my heart was searching for something like this. I have felt very alone in these struggles, very ashamed, and in desperate need of some way to change. Immediately, I called my daughter into my bedroom and apologized. I acknowledged my massive failures to her and told her that I’d work on being better. When you wrote about seeing hope in your daughter’s eyes, I was moved. My daughter has epilepsy; when she is tired or stressed or has had a seizure, her pupils are enormous. This morning, her big blue eyes were almost covered by her pupils…not from a seizure, but a busy social schedule, and, I’m sure, stress from living with a mother who could decide to complain about an imperfection at any moment. After my admission to her, her own eyes filled with happy tears, and I saw more blue than black, and I realized just how important change is. She deserves so much more.

        Thank you.

    • 30

      Nicole says

      I normally don’t leave comments, but this article is a reflection of my relationship with me daughter. My mother bullied me and I ended up doing what I vowed I would never do, bully my daughter. I thank you so much for sharing and I don’t know if you realize how much you have blessed others by writing this article. The tears kept coming as I read your article.

    • 31

      Varena T. says

      Thank you for sharing Rachel. Blessings on your head. I think you are a gifted thinker and writer….and mom. I have an only child, an amazing son, who is now nearly 18. I was 40 when he was born and as prepared as I thought I was –having been the second of my mother’s twelve– I was humbled to have to come face to face with the realities of the me I saw reflected in my child’s eyes. How grateful I am for the healing power of Christ’s atonement. The wounds we ignorantly/negligently/selfishly inflict (on ourselves or others) need not have eternal scars. I will make great use of your “Stop” and “Only love today” therapy! And I will pass it on. I hope to get my own copy of your book someday to add to my lending library.

  1. 32

    says

    Hi Rachel- I’ve just started reading Hands Free Mama. I have a two-year-old daughter who I love more than life itself. I have followed attatchment parenting and love Aha! parenting and Gentle Parenting. I’ve had to relearn so much and undo so much damage in my own head. My daughter is a very happy girl and my husband and I shower her with love and affection.
    But in my own head, I’m my own worst enemy. In challenging moments there is a mean voice in my head bullying me – I can relate to all you wrote here in terms of being hard on yourself. I grew up with a verbally abusive mother so being a mom myself I’ve had to not only reprogram how to be a good, loving, patient and kind mother without a positive model to emulate (and so much of the love does blessedly come naturally) but I’ve had to reprogram how to parent myself. You write of your parents and that your mom had some unloving moments when you were younger- was there any kind of verbal negativity in your upbringing? Otherwise I wonder where you’d get those unloving self-belittling word tracks in your own head? Those are scripts that were read to us at an early age. I hope I don’t bring up any bad memories but I’m curious because I only want to see if it was the same for you as it was for me.
    Hugs and best wishes!
    Rachel

    • 33

      says

      Hi Rachel, thank you for sharing your story. It sounds like you are really doing some good work to break the cycle and be loving, kind, and supportive to yourself and your children. I commend you for that. To answer your question, I was not verbally abused. I was raised in a very loving, supportive home with realistic expectations. But for as long as I can remember, I have been a people pleaser. I have looked for affirmations from the outside rather than the inside. I never wanted to let anyone down so I pushed myself beyond my limits and expected a lot from myself. When I began becoming overwhelmed by my digital distractions, I got very critical and guilt began weighing me down. There were many components in my life that caused my inner bully to get very vocal and I could never address them all in a blog post, which is why the book is so important. My book looks at the problem as a whole–both the internal and external distractions that were keeping me from grasping what really mattered in life.

      I wish you all the best and continued healing on your journey, Rachel!

      • 34

        Mary says

        Hi Rachel. I’ve never heard of bullying yourself. That is a very interesting concept of the internal scripting we sometimes do. I love what you have written. Thank you for sharing this!

        • 35

          says

          The concept of bullying yourself is also known as self-attack. Stefan Molyneux speaks about this often in his philosophy podcasts with callers to the show by tracing back the reasons that we have developed this inner voice. It turns out, it’s a defense mechanism that we use.

          Dane Maxewell also speaks to this and the idea of reversing limiting beliefs… tracing those same ideas back to the origin and determining if they are rational or not.

      • 36

        Leasa says

        Hi Rachel! Reading your post and then your response to the other Rachel really struck a chord with me. Your response to her is exactly the way I would respond about myself. Im so grateful to read your honesty about your faults and therefore be more mindful of mine, since I feel so similar in nature to you. My son has developmental delays- nothing serious and certainly will outgrow- but I’ve been working hard to stop seeing everything he can and cant do with a critical eye. He’s only 2 and I dont put him down but I know I get sad/worried/frustrated/concerned and I turn that on myself. I beat myself up and strive to be perfect maybe to make up for his imperfections. Really I need to accept both our imperfections and get on with just enjoying. This is the first time I have visited your blog and learned of you, but I will be looking for your book in Jan. Congrats and thanks :)

        Leasa

    • 37

      says

      I am heart-broken reading this. I have been since I saw it this morning. This morning, it was chapel day in the fussy-pants school that we send our youngest to – not because we are fussy pants, but because Pittsburgh schools are wildly not ok, if you want you child to emerge in one piece.

      Anyway, it was chapel day and there is a uniform for that day. Beige pants and a blue logo polo shirt. I had sent them up on hangars on Sunday and here it was Wednesday and the pants were missing. Why? Well, obviously because she had worn them and not gotten them back to me to clean.

      So my little Rachel, nine years old, spent the morning having mom bitch at her about her pants. It’s not the only thing. I am on her about her room, the way she likes to eat late at night and the fact that she lies. Well, obviously she lies because she is afraid of telling me the truth.

      I need to let up on her. Her older brother is “perfect”. Really, he’s past the age where he gets into trouble and her middle brother is severely autistic. We do just about everything — give him the world — just to keep him from melting down. I have only recently realized that we are being manipulated by meltdowns on his part.

      Now I feel like I am killing my daughter’s childhood. Damn.

      • 38

        Joette says

        Hi Jan, I am sending you a hug…we all need them. Only love today, as Rachel says; maybe forgiveness too. Tomorrow is another day.

        From another mom who does her best.

        • 39

          Cathy says

          I would echo what Joette commented…I saw some unpleasant truths about myself in this article, but my kids are now teenagers and I have less time to try to change my ways. Your children are still young and if you realize you want to do things differently that is more than half the battle. Tomorrow is another day and your kids love you!

      • 40

        Nicole says

        Jan, Sometimes the first response to a revelation like this blog post is to say, “crap! I’m blowing it here!” and that is a good step. But realizing, as others have commented, that there is always a chance to change for the better, and it’s never too late! is the key to having that moment Rachel got to have later, where her parents expressed their joy that her changes have really been making a difference, not only for her daughter, but for Rachel as well. One day at a time, let’s make a change!

        • 41

          Pete Peters says

          This story is so awesome and all of the comments are breath taking,I want to say that I really messed up when my little girls were very young. I had a drinking and drug problem and I lost them to adoption. In the past few years we have reunited and working on a relationship. I love my Daughters with my whole being and I wish I could change time but we all know that will never happen. So for now we talk 0n Skype and we are planning a small reunion next summer.I truly feel blessed that my second daughter found me and since then 2 of the othersw have been in touch with me on a regular basis.there was a long time that I never thought I would ever see them again.

      • 42

        Mel says

        This broke my heart. I do the same thing to my 6 year old brown-eyed older daughter. I bug her about brushing her hair, spilling her drink, finishing her homework. Everything. And she is perfect just as she is. Thank you for putting this out into the world. I work like a maniac but that isn’t her fault and her younger sister who is a total handful always gets attention and little blame for everything. I feel like picking my daughter up from school early, hugging her and telling her that I am so, so sorry. And then throwing my phone, tablet and laptop at a wall. I am so sick of being beholden to work!

      • 43

        Lisa says

        Jan, I know how you feel. My little guy is also Autistic. My daughter is 7 and my son is 4. There are days where I can be very hard on her. My son demands a lot of attention and can be very hard on our patience. We can be very critical of her when she does the slightest thing wrong and afterwards, I know it breaks her heart. I try to apologize, but it often seems like no use anymore. She seems to be losing the spark in her blue eyes.
        I have always bullied myself and never looked at it as bullying her as well. I am so glad I read this article and I will definitely use the STOP rule right away. I don’t want the little lady to sink into a depression.

    • 44

      Bess says

      Dear Rachel – The Commenter,

      “being a mom myself I’ve had to not only reprogram how to be a good, loving, patient and kind mother without a positive model to emulate (and so much of the love does blessedly come naturally) but I’ve had to reprogram how to parent myself. ”

      I cried when I read this. Because, YES, I HEAR YOU. ME, TOO. Based on what you said I believe we parent differently, but I think both beautifully, maybe because of how we were raised? I find, though, that I am absolutely incapable of trusting my own instincts because of my upbringing. But my daughter, like yours, is happy, healthy and showered with love. So I have to believe that I’m “doing it right.”

      And Dear Rachel – The Author,

      How can I say thank you enough for your words? I know you’ve had some violently negative backlash from this article and all I wish for you is to know is that it may have its place, but it’s MEANINGLESS in light of how your words have given hope to so many people. Especially me.

      ONLY LOVE TODAY.

  2. 46

    Meredith Covert says

    Hi Rachel
    I read your post with tear filled eyes. I am the same way your were with your daughter to my first born son. I always point out things he is doing wrong. I am trying to stop and my husband said I need to pause before I say something. I love the sentence -Stop-Only Love Today is Awesome! I am going to use your tips and techniques as I try to continue to break the cycle from my own critical childhood. Thanks for a sharing your real mom stories! XXOO

  3. 47

    Jenny says

    Dear Rachel,
    Good morning, and thank you for your lovely blog. It inspires me daily. Ten minutes before I sat down with my coffee to read your post, my 9 year old daughter (oldest of 3 children), had a meltdown because her English Muffin wasn’t separating properly, and she “needed” me to do it. I realized that I created that in her, and it breaks my heart. Thinking of your messages, I took her into my lap, and told her that no one and nothing is perfect, and that is wonderful. She looked at me as if I had ten heads and said through her teary blue eyes, “What? Why?”. We have a lot of work to do in our home, but thank you for continuing to share your journey, experiences and lessons. Have a wonderful day!

  4. 48

    says

    Rachel, this made me cry as I see myself, not always, but often reflected in the busy bully you describe so well.
    Thank you for reminding me to Stop and Love.
    Much love to you and yours this holiday season.

  5. 49

    Donna says

    Thank you for this. We can have an “inner bully” about any number of things beyond parenting as well; it’s still a bully and needs to be treated as such.
    Thank you for your timely and thoughtful posts; I am encouraged every time.

  6. 50

    Me says

    Thank you for sharing. I am the bully to myself but I do all that I can not to do it to my daughter as it was done to me. I never thought for a second to stop bulling myself but I commit to STOP right now.

    Thank you

  7. 52

    Ray Wells says

    Rachel, your openness and honesty blesses us. We hear a lot about bullying these days…in schools, etc., but it’s just as damaging (perhaps more so) in the sacredness of the home. I had a little eye problem reading this as I thought of the precious children who live(d) it (maybe my own), and also the spouses who take the brunt of it often. Thank you for blessing us with your heaven-sent messages.

  8. 53

    Jennifer says

    I just needed to thank you for this article. I needed this. Last night I realized I have been doing the same thing to my son and I have to stop. This post helped me see just exactly what I am doing to him. I have a younger daughter too (she’s two in February) and don’t want to walk the same path with her. So, thank you. I’m trying. Your posts help with that.

  9. 55

    says

    I’ve always been my biggest bully. The voice inside my head was full of self loathing and it felt like a sickness of the soul. My “stop” mantra was “I accept myself unconditionally right now ” (thanks Hungry for Change). It was so powerful, it reminded me to step back and realize that no matter what I could possibly do, I still deserved to be loved in that very moment. I knew something had to change. If I planed to teach my son that I would always love him unconditionally, first I had to do that for myself. I’m so happy to say that I no longer bully myself. I’m even happier to update you Rachel and tell you that my hands free journey is looking very bright these days. When I first found your blog I would cry with despair not knowing how and if I’d ever attain my goals, and although I’m not yet where I want to be I feel like I’ve reached the peak of the mountain and all that’s left is to enjoy the view for a while and then climb down. The uphill battle is over. Thank you for sharing your story Rachel. Thank you a million times.

    • 56

      says

      WOW! This is so inspiring to me, Kat, and I am sure to those who read it. Changing old habits is not easy–it takes time and baby steps … but it is possible. Your progress is very encouraging. You have blessed me today by sharing this. Thank you.

  10. 57

    Stephie says

    Hi Rachel – I found your blog last week, and it truly touched and inspired me. I spent all day reading your entries and reflecting on my own life. It was like I was reading something someone wrote about me. I immediately decided that I was going to join the Hands Free Revolution – I even ordered the bracelet, should be arriving today!! It was as if I was meant to find your blog at this point in my life. The point where I have was ready to give up on finding “the meaning” and “what I was meant to do”. I have been searching for answers for a little over a year now. After reading your blog last week, it was like something just clicked. In the past few days I have seen my kids, my husband and my life in a completely different perspective. My kids are 7 and 5, and this post really hit home for me, because, although embarrassed to admit, I treated my oldest son the same way you use to treat your oldest daughter. Now when I am in my “perfectionist” mode, I catch myself before I snap or yell, or get upset. But I am also finding myself less and less in that perfectionist mode, which is great, I feel so much less stressed and rushed. Seriously, you are a life saver! And you write so beautifully! Congratulations on your book! I cannot wait for it to come out so I can learn more techniques on how to live this awesome new lifestyle you have been so gracious to share with others!

  11. 58

    says

    OMG!!! The tears are flowing! There are so many parts of this that are me, NOW. I bully myself and take it out on my almost 5-year-old daughter and it MUST STOP. The guilt I carry around on a daily basis is ridiculous… Thank you for your honesty and for sharing this post. Only love today. And STOP those critical comments. Today I’ll start to make these changes. ❤️

    • 59

      Michelle says

      Ditto this exactly. I read this post this morning in floods of tears and have already spent today telling myself “only love today” It has had a massive effect on how I deal with my children, myself and (I’m VERY pleased to say) my relationship with my eldest son. That’s in one day!! I am looking forward to the future. Thank you so much for sharing. xx

  12. 61

    says

    I am guilty of bulling my boys sometimes and, here’s the hard part, it always come from my own disappointment in my self. This morning one of my sons wouldn’t eat his breakfast because his lips were badly chapped. I told him that if he would only use the Chapstick that was IN HIS POCKET more often he wouldn’t have this problem. He whispered: “I’m trying”, which I know he is. I was angry, but, at what? Because they were off school today for a snow day and I am not going to be able to do the things I had planned.

    We are headed to the sledding hill now… Thanks, Rachel. “Because love is always a good place to start a new beginning.” Yes, yes it is.

    • 62

      Amy Green says

      I hope you had fun sledding!! It happens so often I’m feeling stressed and overwhelmed and I don’t want to do some fun thing my daughter’s asking me to do… then I go and do it and I feel so great afterward! You’d think I’d learn my lesson.

      Also – just a note about the chapped lips… We live in the cold north… and many lip balms can actually make it worse. What works wonderfully is Aquaphor. Put it on their lips before they go out. Put it on chapped lips at bedtime to heal them almost overnight. (Also, this worked wonders for diaper rash when my daughter was a baby… far better than any other diaper cream.)
      http://www.americanownews.com/story/16144387/does-lip-balm-dry-out-your-lips

      • 63

        Jen says

        Snow days! So much fun for kids! So much to-do list rearranging & postponing for moms…..

        I second the Aquafor….I put it or coconut oil on my kids’ lips after they fall asleep at night. After a few nights of doing this, they look great, no matter how chapped they were to begin with. The key is to remember to keep doing it all winter, even when they don’t “look” chapped, so as to prevent them from getting that way again. I also rub Aquafor or coconut oil on their hands after they fall asleep, and then try to remember to do my own lips & hands before falling asleep, too.

    • 64

      Dee says

      I read your post and a few things struck me; that Chapstick (if you meant the brand name) has petroleum as a main ingredient, and petroleum products are absorbed into the body – this is bad because they contain estrogen mimickers and endocrine disruptors. You can find this out from a couple of different books, one such is called There’s Lead in Your Lipstick”, http://www.gilldeacon.ca/projects-lipstick.php
      I would recommend a natural type lipbalm to soothe chapped lips such as Burt’s Bees or my personal favourite is another one which uses a common herb, Lemon Balm and other natural ingredients: INGREDIENTS:
      Melissa Officinalis, White Beeswax, Cocoa Butter, Peppermint Oil, Camphor Oil, Oleic Gel, Super Sterol Ester (CID-30 Cholesterol/Kanosterol Ester).
      It is made by a Canadian company and marketed as: DermaMed Cold Sore Lip Balm – while I do not have cold sores, it is FANTASTIC for chapped lips, if I remember to put it on before bed, my lips are better in the morning! You can find it here: http://www.dermamed.com/product_details/specialty_products/coldsorelipbalm/default.asp

      The other thing is that dehydration is the underlying cause of chapped lips, so drinking lots of water helps more than anything else for chapped lips. My favourite way to (try, since I seem to not ingest enough water, hence my chapped lips too) get enough water into me is as a hot drink, hot water, lemon and honey – not only is it hydrating, it is good for you too by utilizing the healing effects of the lemon and honey.

      Good luck and be kind to yourself…after YEARS of being uptight, I am only now learning to relax, alas my daughter is now 17 going on 18 and we still have some work to do to learn to communicate more respectfully.

  13. 65

    Laurie says

    Rachel,

    Every time I read one your posts, I immediately break down. I see so much of your past self in me, and it hurts to look inward. I can’t wait to read your book. Thank you for being brave enough to share your experiences. You are going to change more lives than you can ever imagine. You have already made a huge impact on mine.

    Laurie

  14. 67

    Pamela Kelley says

    I can relate to what you wrote as a recovering perfectionist and know that although I am hardest on myself it spills over as I have seen melt downs over what appeared to me to be trivial things. Change is necessary and I know a lifetime of trying to live up to high expectations has set the pattern. Never too late though ;)

  15. 68

    Carolyn says

    Thank you for this. I do suffer from the inner bully. I also had an ex husband who bullied as well (he was controlling and mentally/emotionally abusive). I was always told by him that I was to ugly, to fat, to stupid, to lazy, etc. I left him in February 2011. Our daughters now 13 & 10 have totally opposite personalities. My oldest knew how her father treated me and would worry and voice those worried to my mother and sister. Once I left him she has totally blossomed. She’s become much more outgoing, happy, silly, etc. My youngest hardly changed at all. I’ve now come to realize that his behavior towards me affected my daughters more than I ever imagined. I left because I couldn’t handle it anymore but I also left because I didn’t want my daughters to grow up thinking that is how women are to be treated.

    I’m trying to stomp out the inner bully I have, but after years of being bullied it’s a hard thing to do. Thank you for your blog. It is comforting to know that others understand.

    Thank you.

  16. 70

    Rebekah H says

    Wow, when I first started reading this I thought oh this doesn’t apply to me. I am not a busy person we always make time to be silly and have fun and relax. But as I kept going i just started to cry. I am a bully to myself and that does come out at my kids a lot and that is just not fair! They don’t deserve any of it! Thank you for posting.

  17. 71

    Kyra Ann says

    I live this way each and everyday, a bully to myself and to my husband and child. When things are not going my way I explode on them. I’m going to try and stop and love instead. I can’t wait to read your book.

  18. 72

    says

    Thank you for being a strong enough woman to share your shortcomings. You help, encourage, and heal so many people. You are such a gift and blessing to those who know of your work. Again, I only wish the world knew of you! I took away some good information today–I thank you for that. God Bless you and I wish you and your family the happiest of holidays.

    • 73

      says

      Thank you, Kristin. What a kind and loving thing to say. My readers are so wonderful and in this community’s hands, my messages can reach places I never thought possible. Each time one of my posts is shared, one more person knows about the joy in living Hands Free. I wish you a blessed holiday too. I cherish your comments.

  19. 74

    Whitney says

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am embarrassed and saddened to realize how much this resembles my relationship with my own daughter. I am hopeful that I can be strong enough to just STOP and share Only Love Today > I am certainly going to try!

  20. 75

    Kimberly says

    Wow! Just wow! I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason. I needed to read this. Right now. My daughter used to be such a happy, free spirit. But I always blame her and make a big deal out of the smallest things. Forgotten things, messes, breaking crayons, her little sister crying… you name it, it’s her fault. I see the change in her. She’s only 5 years old; she should be allowed to make mistakes. I love that little girl and my 2 year old more than anything in the world, so I vow right NOW to make a change. She deserves nothing but love, not the anger that comes from within myself. I thank you, Rachel, for being open and honest and wanting to make changes for the good. You are a true angel! <3

  21. 76

    says

    Rachel, what a lovely piece, as always so honest and encouraging.

    This part though.. “It’s hard to love yourself when the one person who’s supposed love you unconditionally doesn’t. It’s hard to become the person you’re supposed to be when you aren’t allowed to fall down and get back up.”

    so incredibly important.

  22. 77

    Danielle says

    Bullying myself has come naturally for as long as I can remember. Love is harder. 2 major depressive crashes, one that nearly led to be taking my own life, anti-depressants, lots of therapy and a lot of hard work late, now I see what effect that has on me and everyone around me. I want to be a different kind of person, I want to be a different kind of role model for my nephews. They get enough parental bullying from their dad. I want them to have an aunt who sees the world differently, who understands what delightful creatures they are, even at their so-called worst. I love to see the curiosity in their eyes. I love the cute “what you doing auntie” as only a 2.5 year old can say, I even will take the wrestling which leads to a fat lip and sore nose (for me, not them) as it expresses so much of who they are. I’m not perfect, but I really try and I succeed most of the time.

  23. 78

    Selma Birks says

    Rachel:

    I can’t begin to tell you how much of this describes me. As I was reading the introduction that was shared by a friend on FB (don’t have the book yet), but will most definitely will purchase it brought me to tears. Ones that I have no control over. I’m a wife and mother of four: 16, 10, 8, 6 …much of my time is spent alone with rearing our children mentally, physically, and spiritually. My husband is a truck driver and is gone from morning to night…our kids are in bed by the time he is home from work. My life is consumed with an OCD of perfection and wanting my children to exhume the attributes I had growing up. My expectations of them are more than what they can give me and what pains me is to know that I am the bully. What have I done? My eldest will be graduating in another year and I look back at what my actions have contributed to her upbringing. I bullied myself in achieving the stars and perfection…. Much to do with not having the stable home life environment growing up. I didn’t have a mother, a father, or grandparent to read to me, help me with my math facts, do art projects, or to make my lunch. My fault lies within me and wanting that perfection with my children…. To give them what I didn’t have, but at the cost of being bitter and anger. I did it independently growing up and learning it on my own… My perfection was noticeable in the 3rd grade. Perfect homework assignments, perfect handwriting skills, perfect reader, perfect speller, perfect art projects, a perfect report card with all 100′s and E’s to garner the attention of those outside the home. I can breathe a little better now… Knowing that I don’t stand alone…thank you! I look forward to the book!!!

  24. 79

    t. says

    This is me. It breaks my heart that I am so hard on my son; he is only 3. I don’t think I could have read this at a more “right” time. Thank you for sharing your struggles in order to help those of us who are going through something similar.

  25. 80

    Shannon says

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I do the same thing with my first-born son. He is brilliant and learned everything very early. He and I both struggle with ADHD and due to our impulse control issues, we struggle with anger, esp. towards each other. I hate that he flinches when I get angry. It makes me feel physically ill. We’re working on it together. My own diagnosis didn’t come until just recently, though I struggled with the symptoms from a very early age. I’m also one of my biggest critics and my inner bully constantly goes at me. His came last school year when he was in Kindergarten. I think, because he’s so bright and independent, that I expect way too much from him. My younger child, 18 months younger than his brother, was a difficult delivery and he has always been much more clingy and dependent on me. I find I expect much less from him. I am working on changing all of this before it’s too late. My older is almost 7 and I don’t want him to hate me. We’re getting there, and it is only getting better. Again, thanks for writing this and for sharing your humanity.

    • 81

      Jodi says

      Shannon- my first-born son is also gifted and has always spoke well beyond his years. On the first day of kindergarten, the principal called me about halfway through the day. The first thought that came to my mind was that he already got in trouble for talking too much. She informed me that she had been observing him and they had decided to test him for gifted. We are very proud but we have come to expect a lot out of him. I really struggle internally because, even though he is very smart, he is also immature. He and I also found out a few years ago that we both have moderate to severe ADD. Might explain some of our struggles.

      I grew up in a verbally abusive family. My whole childhood I heard “we can’t do that! What would people think?!” I have always worried about what other people thought of me, so when my son started getting acne at an early age I started nitpicking at everything he did or didn’t do -clean your face better, comb your hair, your clothes do not match so go change, you can’t go out in public looking like that! He could care less about his appearance and I often hear him say “we are going to the store, not a fashion show. Why does it matter what I look like?” Well, because people might think that we are horrible parents allowing you to go out in public like that! I have started to ask myself why I force these issues. Why do I want him growing up with the same “what would people think” fear? Why not just let him be the person he wants to be and who he is comfortable being? I am lucky that he hasn’t completely pushed me away yet. Although he is now in 6th grade, he still shares stories with me and still wants hugs and love from his mama! I still have a lot of work to do.

  26. 82

    Amber says

    I struggle with this with my oldest daughter too. She is very smart & has talked like an adult since she was one. I forget, sometimes, she is not grown & needs a chance to be a child too. A chance to make mistakes & have grace. I WILL try harder. Thank you so much for putting your experiences out there so that I can hopefully change too. Only love today. Starting now.

  27. 83

    Maria Davis says

    I don’t even know how to begin to say thank you for this post. This is ME…and my daughter age 7…I’m an angry upset mama for so many reasons that have ZERO to do with her…yet I am so hard on her. I keep telling myself I will do better as soon as I take care of “x” but I realize that I can’t wait…and healing our relationship needs to begin now.

  28. 84

    Stephanie says

    The timing of this post is perfect. Today is my birthday and this is just the gift I needed. Your story reminds me so much of my oldest daughter and I, and it makes me so sad :( Reading this gives me hope that things can change. Thank you so much for your beautiful words and this encouraging story. I can’t wait to read your book.

  29. 86

    says

    Thank you so much for this. I bully myself constantly, and although I was bullied as a child, I don’t want to use that as an excuse to bully my daughter. I’ve noticed how my relationship with my children improves when I accept myself just as I am. I have so much to improve! Thank you for your beautiful words. I’ll come back for more.
    Congrats on your book too!

  30. 87

    Annette says

    Rachel, A friend on Facebook posted a link to this article and I clicked while sitting here at my desk during a quiet moment. I have tears streaming down my face uncontrollably… Thank you for sharing your struggles so openly and vulnerably. I suffered for years at the hands of bullies, then became one myself. I never considered that I bully myself or my daughter, but as I read, my heart broke with the truth. My initial response to the acknowledgement was to beat myself up about it. I need to make sure that stops NOW. I don’t want my daughter to resent me the way I have resented my mother. I want her to grow up strong, confident, passionate and eager to pursue her dreams. I want to build her up, teach her, model GOOD behavoir and perhaps most importantly, give her LOVE that she can receive with an open heart. I hadn’t heard of your book, but you can bet that I’ll be looking for it now! Thank you so much for opening my eyes… I am humbled.

  31. 88

    Kurlikew says

    Thank you for sharing this story. I’m curious though – if your book doesn’t come out until Jan 7, how have some people already read it? I look forward to reading it as well.

  32. 90

    Steph says

    I have been following your blog for a while now and I would like you to know that you truly inspire me to be better. I struggle with everything you talk about, and every post describes me exactly. Well, not exactly, I’m not near as far into becoming the better me as you are. :( But since finding your blog I’m for sure better each day. It’s so strange that the people you love the most are the ones you can treat the worst, which is clearly something that needs to be changed within me. It’s a work in progress, but I’m fully committed to making that change. Thank you for your blog, and I cannot wait for your book! Stephanie

  33. 91

    Cathy says

    Rachel, you so deeply touched my heart and soul in this piece about your daughter and you–you made me cry! I am a new mom to a one year old and my prayer to God as I read this reflection is please help me not to ever crush his spirit. I grew up having a very critical parent and I too battle that inner bully on a daily basis. I am so taking these words of yours to heart today for my own sake as well as my precious baby boy–only love today, only love. Thank you for this gift today–words from God I believe!

  34. 92

    Staci Speerhas says

    This book deccribes my grandmother, mother, myself, and my oldest daughter. It really breaks my heart, yet gives me so many answers. Thank you for that!

  35. 93

    says

    I just loved reading this. I haven’t been a regular reader here, maybe only read four or five posts, but boy are you sucking me in. I am trying to live more in the present and am thankful for your model. Blessings to you.

  36. 94

    CJ's mom says

    I’m attempting to type this while the tears stream down my face…this doesn’t describe my relationship with my 2.5 year old son but it describes how I treat my dear husband. I have been a perfectionist all of my life and if he doesn’t meet my so-called “standards” then everything falls apart. He stops interacting with me and helping with our son. I can’t blame him. Why continue to help when you just get criticized for it? And the sad thing is, I know he is trying. But lately, it’s as if we have just both forgotten how to interact without the eye rolling, head shaking, and unkind words to one another. Today will be all about love. Baby steps. I need to find the balance of love, affection, and patience between being a mom and being a wife. I can’t just save it up for my toddler. My husband needs it and deserves it as well. Thank you for sharing this.

      • 96

        Marie says

        thank you cj’s mom & rachel! i have a 14 month old son, read some mom blogs occasionally, but have never left a comment. sitting here with tears streaming down my face as well (with burned dinner still on the stove, ugh!), i have been thinking the exact same thing! this is not only about my first and only child….but bullying my poor husband as well!. i know it’s the truth, but it’s been so hard to face in my desperation for the perfect little life in a big city, and a clean, organized, never-a-crumb-on-the-floor house. there are no excuses, although i like to try to justify it in my head (to husband: is it that hard to put away your clothes? could you ever help with dinner? could you even try to pay a bill? how about the grocery store? ever want to fill up the gas?). these “asks” seem totally reasonable for a mid-30′s successful husband, when i also work full-time and just need a little help. but, it’s still not right or fair that i (perhaps?) bully the way i do. sipping my wine, here’s to tomorrow being all about love. thank you, more than you know. xo

    • 97

      Amy Green says

      CJ… I was totally like that with my husband for the first few years of our marriage, and he pointed out to me that it was exactly the way my mom treats my dad–always critical, nitpicky, shrewish, never satisfied. It was a HUGE struggle for me to break out of that behavior that I had learned by observation (they say you learn how to be a spouse by observing your own same-gender parent). A book that helped me soooo much with this is “For Women Only.” The other book that really helped both of us is “The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work.” I read “The Surrendered Wife” too, to try to deal with this issue, but I don’t recommend it. Here’s my review on it (which also has links to the above-mentioned books): http://www.amazon.com/review/RNICL1BUEX7MW/ref=cm_srch_res_rtr_alt_4

    • 98

      K says

      You are so incredibly not alone. In trying so hard not to do this with my son, I turn my aggravation, frustration, and criticism on my husband. I read Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly last year and it brought me to my knees in tears over this revelation. I have tried to work through this, and keep trying, but some days I need a quiet reminder just like this post. And I need to go home and apologize.

      Thank you all.

    • 99

      Shelly says

      Reading this was difficult but eye-opening. The person who gets the brunt of my “bullying” is my husband. It wasn’t always that way, and I’m scared that I will treat my sons like this, as well, as they get older. My sense of self-worth has been all wrapped up in trying to please other people, and I fail every time. Reading this today is so timely in my life. I really need to make some changes to build my self-esteem and starting treating my loved ones with the love and respect they deserve and also treating myself with the love and respect that I deserve from me! I’m trying hard not to beat myself up over realizing what I’ve been doing, but instead trying to move forward with a positive attitude.

  37. 100

    Mary says

    Thank you for hands free, I love the no bullying message. It resonates I am struggling with the same and always looking for ways to start over. I love and value my children and worry they seldom get to actually be kids! So many expectations are already set for them, I will work in the stop bullying method and focus on love and light! Thank you.

  38. 101

    tonia says

    Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful story. This is what I need to change how I am but didn’t know how.

  39. 103

    says

    Rachel, I can’t get enough of your writing. You write what most of us struggle to admit, even silently to ourselves.

    I remember about a dozen years ago I went to give my daughter a hug and I saw her cringe. It was in the moment I realized I had inherited (by example) the explosive rage from my dad. I went back to grad school to study counseling, in order to help others, fell apart, dealt with all my junk, and all my anxiety and depression dissipated. My rage, too. went out the door. I’m so grateful for the close relationship I have with my young adult children.

  40. 104

    Nora says

    i too was crying as i read this. My daughter is 22 and after going through a variety of personal issues, she is a thriving wonderful young woman about to graduate from college. I know there are so many things I wish I could have done different and just your message of STOP, only love today, will help with our journey and that of my two sons and my husband. You have summarized much of my similar experience here and although painful to admit, allows for recognition and change to occur. Thank you and I too look forward to your book and watching your continued growth. Love and light!

  41. 106

    Wanda says

    As a daughter who grew up with a harsh, demanding mother, it’s her voice I hear daily, hourly, constantly in my head. ‘It’s not good enough…’ ‘I should have…’ And it makes me hurt others. I’m hyper critical of others and their performances which has hurt me at work, socially and in relationships. My relationship with my mother makes me scared to have children, especially a daughter of my own. At 34, I’m afraid to tell my mother when I’ve made a mistake – I lie, deceive and avoid conversations. Reading this, I recognize myself and I’m choosing to change this pattern. Thank you for writing this.

  42. 107

    Ami says

    This is exactly what I have been struggling with and my heart aches for my firstborn daughter. I often expect too much from her and don’t allow her to be a kid. Thank you for this beautiful reminder to “stop and just love”

  43. 109

    Lisa says

    Your post is beautifully written to express your journey toward self-love that allows you to truly open up and love others. I know because my journey sounds so familiar to yours. I see your light and love and offer you a greeting: Namaste.

    I hope more and more awaken to realize the difference they can make. Turn off autopilot and move back into the love vibration.

  44. 110

    erin says

    This is exactly me. Tears are streaming down my face as I read this. My oldest child is 5 and I’m his bully. Everyday I try to make him proud of who he is and how can he when I make him feel awful.. all I know is God is an absolute shocker. Everyday he surprises me. I go to bed asking for anwers and today I found one. I just need to say thank you.

  45. 112

    Shannon says

    Your story is so inspiring! I have struggled with this situation (to the letter) for many years now. I was raised by a single mother who taught me do be the best, do the best and be independent. Anything i did was always very good, but “there’s always room for improvement” she said. I love her dearly for giving me what I needed to be a go getter of sorts. But that same mentality has been a stumbling block in my life far too many times. I set goals so high for myself that there is never a chance that I could let anyone else down….or so I thought. My daughter is ten now (struggles academically) and I’ve just about relented that it’s too late to change things. I’ve tried in the past but in reading your story, it made look back to see that I was never really committed to changing myself, I simply wanted her to act/be better so the situation would change. “If only she would be better” I would say to myself, then I could easily juggle my schedule. I vowed that if I ever had another child, I wouldn’t make the same mistakes I made with her. My son is now three and find myself able to do exactly that. I’ve been so confused for so long because I don’t understand why I can do it with him and it is just so very hard to do with her. I am so thankful for a friend’s post that lead me to your story and I cannot wait to read your book! Congratulations on the heart change that you have been able to genuinely embrace. I pray that the Lord will bless you and your family and that your story will change lives.

  46. 113

    Laura S. says

    I saw the link to your article on my facebook wall this morning and I read through it. Thank you for posting this. I struggle to think anything positive or good about myself. My inner Bully is a monster but I realize now I don’t have to put up with it and I can change. Today is my birthday and this is such a wonderful present. Thank you for being so honest and able to articulate so well what I have struggled with for a long time! Blessing and hope for a positive future!

  47. 114

    Anonymous says

    Thank you so much for putting your heart out there and writing this. This was exactly how I have feel and what I needed to hear. With tears, I realized how much I do this to my oldest daughter too. Her expectations from me have always been high, too high. I have to stop and remind myself she is just a child. I know it doesn’t make it better, but it was so good to know I am not the only mom out there that also struggles with this. I will try to stop always criticizing and only love today.

  48. 115

    Annie says

    Thank you. As I read this, with tears, I see myself. I had never seen myself as a bully. Now I do. Thank you for always pouring your heart out with honesty. Today is a new day. Stop! Only Love Today is my new motto.

  49. 116

    Patti says

    You have no idea how this ministered to me today. I have an adopted daughter that has been struggling with so many things with her self esteem and I feel like I have been the mom you described!!!

    Thank you.. thank you.. thank you

  50. 117

    Tahsha says

    Thank so much for posting this. It’s exactly what I needed to hear today, with my daughter and especially with my step=daughter.

  51. 118

    Carrie says

    I am where you were two years ago. I see the look in my 4year olds face when I tear home down. I hate myself and have been hating myself for the last year and yet have not changed. Your words and stories (I have been reading the last two days) have really touched me. I hope I can use your stories and examples to change the way I interact with my son. Thanks for being so open and sharing your life and your change.

  52. 119

    Lynn says

    Thank you so much for the vulnerable honesty with which you wrote this. I had never assigned the title “bully” to my behavior, but it certainly fits. I am so grateful that through my relationship with Jesus Christ, I found the love, acceptance, and forgiveness I needed to be able to change on the inside, thus changing the outward behavior., as well. I deeply regret those years of bully-parenting, and I see the long-range effects of it in my now-grown children. But there is grace, even for that. Thanks again.

  53. 120

    Christine says

    I loved that blog. My mother and I are rebuilding our relationship. I’m going to share this with her. I also have a 15 month old daughter. We just want to do things good. Thank You for sharing these revelations about your life.

  54. 121

    Kelli Bledsoe says

    Oh my Lord! This was word – for – word ME…how I act, feel & think. I am so thankful that God placed this in front of me. My prayer is that I have not irreparably damaged my children, spouse, loved – ones AND myself. I cannot wait to read your book!

  55. 123

    says

    This was my comment above the link to your post when I shared it on Facebook: Four generations ago, someone bullied her daughter. That daughter grew up and married a wonderful man. She did the best she could to teach and shape them, but she didn’t know any different, so she bullied herself and her daughters as well. Those daughters grew up and, each in her own way, fought that vicious cycle and worked hard to give better to their children. I am one of those children. Now I have children and want to do even better by them than was done by me, but the same blood runs through my veins that started the whole mess. I fight the tendency to belittle and criticize every day, but I fight it. And if I die fighting it, I will be able to look my Savior in the face some day and He will embrace me and open the gate to a life where I don’t have to fight it ever again. Thank you, Rachel, for sharing your journey, and encouraging me on mine.

  56. 124

    Maggie says

    Hi there. I think what you are doing here is amazing. Wonderful. Life changing. And the best possible thing you could do for your daughter and many many other kids out there who are parented by bullies.

    I feel that I can speak to this because I WAS the daughter of a bullying mom. She did the best she could, but love and affection and praise and unconditional support were not part of our relationship. And I suffered for it. I struggle with anxiety and constant feelings of intrinsic unworthiness. I have trouble building relationships with people, and I worry constantly that when I have kids I will do the same thing to them that my mom did to me. I am working with a counselor to overcome my issues, but it is a daily struggle and takes a lot of effort.

    You are changing lives with your blog and your book. Making the world a better place one mom at a time. I wish someone like you could have been there for my mom. And for me. Keep fighting, keep trying, keep getting your words out there.

  57. 125

    Jordan says

    I am not a parent but these posts hit very close to home for me in other ways. I see so much criticism of parenting these days in contrast to how children were raised in previous generations. Concern about children’s self esteem and their feelings is mocked and ridiculed by so many which I think that is a terrible shame.

    An amazing thing, though that it seems this generation’s parents have more than previous generations is a self awareness of how behaviors toward their children like berating, shaming and taking out their own unhappiness, issues and frustrations on their children affects them. And further a willingness to examine why they might be doing these things and to commit to stopping these harmful behaviors.

    As I said, I am not a parent but I can imagine that this type of self evaluation and subsequent behavior change cannot be easy. But it sounds like it is worth it in how you describe the changes in your children. I think all of you are brave and amazing.

  58. 126

    Jen says

    I am so proud of you. I know I don’t know you, but God has obviously brought darkness into the light in your story, and has already touched so many people. Thank you for the courage to be honest, to be transparent. I pray that your book touches the hearts of many! I am putting it on my list to buy, read and share!

    Jen

  59. 128

    Nathan L. says

    I may be the only guy commenting on this, but this strummed my heartstrings today mostly because my wife and I just had one of our larger marital spats over this very issue. My youngest son just turned two and since his birth I have been perceptibly irritable, short and unhappy. A lot of that unhappiness is internal turmoil spewing out because I refuse to let down anyone else by expressing my weaknesses. I internalize everything and let myself beat myself up about my perpetual failures and shortcomings. I then project that dissatisfaction onto my kids and wife who are otherwise terrific except for their inability to meet my unrealistic expectations.

    For my sake, for my wife’s sake, and for my children’s sake I have to make changes, and I was lost as to where to start until I read this blog. A simple, four-word phrase has inspired me to let go and relax and let my kids be who they are without projecting my perceptions and insecurities on them.

    Thank you.

  60. 130

    I'm Trying says

    I subscribed to your blog some time ago. I don’t always read the posts as soon as I get the email, but it never fails that when I do take the time to read them that they convict me of some truth or ugliness deep within. It feels as I could have written many of your words (if I had your talent, of course) I cannot thank you deeply enough for sharing your experiences and your painful truths. They slap me in the face, make me reflect, and most importantly give me hope.

  61. 132

    Michelle Bredine says

    Rachel,
    This is perfect timing for this post. I have been so angry lately which tends to get aimed at my two girls. I tend to yell at them for the littlest things. But, I’ve noticed over the years how my anger and yelling at them has broken their spirits, especially that of my oldest as she’s had to bare the brunt of it longer than her little sister. I have thought of you and your mission often during the course of the last year as I try to better my interactions and time spent with my girls. We’re getting better, but I have my moments when I fall off the wagon. Recently, I’ve started trying to look at myself with more love. Like you, I realized that maybe if I started with that, it would trickle out to those I hold most dear.
    Thank you for sharing with us your struggles and I can’t wait to get my copy of your book!
    Congratulations on the new book and happy holidays to your and your family.

  62. 133

    Erin says

    Thank you so much! this was exactly what I needed to hear today. I keep falling into this same rut with my oldest daughter (4) and I HATE it, and I keep vowing to change but I just don’t know how. My husband pointed out to me last night that he noticed she has been making a conscious effort to behave and obey, but I know that I need to change my attitude around her and toward her too. My husband and I tend to feed off of each other too, and then she ends up with both of us picking on her. I know I don’t treat her sister with the same frustration as I do her. I tell my husband all the time that he forgets that they are only children (he treats them older sometimes because they are so smart for their ages… 4 &2) but I am just as guilty. I think I am going to be reading and re-reading this post many times over the next little while.

  63. 134

    Beth says

    I would love to know at what point in my life I learned that if I treat myself like sh*t enough it will motivate me to want to do better. I think I do know because I watched my Dad do it and I watch him to this day beat himself up in the hopes that it will inspire positive change. It is just so backwards and bizarre and of course it doesn’t work. I try hard to not do this and I notice that in times of stress I revert back so easily. I know the antidote is to offer compassion in these moments to myself and I find myself offering my Dad compassion when he harshly judges himself and I can see the relief he feels. He learned that too from someone close to him and I know I don’t want my kids to learn, “if you tell yourself you suck 9 times, the 10th time you will magically be inspired to do your best.” Crazy logic that has so invaded my life but I know the awareness now will ease the future tendency to do this. It is so healing to hear you verbalize such similar patterns. Thanks for this wonderful post. The picture of your daughter and her garden is magical:)

  64. 135

    Terra says

    Yet again you have written the exact post that I needed to read at exactly the right time. I had tears running down my face because you have written exactly what has been going through my head. I am aware that changes need to be made but don’t know how to get there, but today you have given me the first step. Stop. Only love today. My behavior hasn’t developed overnight and I won’t be able to change it overnight but if I take it one step at a time I will get there eventually. Thank you so much for sharing. I am looking forward to your book and making 2014 my year to live hands free.

  65. 136

    Brian says

    This short caption hit me hard and made me cry no saw so many similarities in me and my daughter. I read it sitting at a counseling session for her stress. Unfortunately, she is 18 in two days and I pray I didn’t read this too late! She is my world!
    Brian

  66. 138

    Karyn says

    Thank you for having the courage to post this. I am like the others…reading this with tears in my eyes. This self bully tendency is often passed down…as we know…from parent to child, etc etc. I’m 50….my 72 yr old mom just called me the other day. In the course of that conversation, she finally apologized to me. I had no idea I was waiting so long to hear it. Years and years of bullying….of her crushing my spirit. I am the older daughter…i was that daughter in your story.

    When i was older and could decide for myself, I spent more years without her in it…pursuing my own path of healing. Trying. Now that we’re connected again, we’re talking more often but of nothing really very deep. So this day, I almost brushed it aside ( used to empty apologies and also knee jerk not wanting to upset her)…until she said it again. I decided to be quiet and let her talk…knowing it was for her as much as me. It was amazing. Very healing. For both. I feel a peace I’ve not felt in ages. Validation. Permission to be ME! :)

    I know I bullied my 2 precious kiddos when they were younger. In my quest of self-love, it’s included them….and we’re all healing and loving…again, trying! And now and then we have open conversations about that. Open because i know this tendency is a part of them. Only with awareness can they choose differently. Choose to speak to themselves differently and choose to parent differently when the time comes.

    Part of me wishes I’d read this years ago….part of me knows I wouldn’t have been ready to absorb it :)

    THANK YOU again for the courage to write it. Love to those reading and raising young ones. xoxo

    Wishing you “only love today”,
    KH

  67. 140

    Al says

    As I’m sitting here bawling after reading your blog I’m also wishing this had been written two months ago. Maybe it would have opened my eyes, but chances are it wouldn’t have. I’m currently in a battle for my son (my oldest) who decided to leave me to go live with his dad. Now I see why. I didn’t even realize what I had been doing. I’m sharing this because even if it’s too late for me and my son, maybe someone else reading your blog and this comment will have their eyes opened in enough time to fix things.

    • 141

      says

      I am so sorry, Al. I do hope maybe it’s not too late for you and your son to have a loving relationship. I commend you for taking a difficult look inward–from that place, there is healing and there is hope. I will be thinking of you and hoping for the best.

  68. 142

    Lisa says

    I love this story and see so much truth in it. However, I have a question. And it is not a criticism, just a question that I’m wondering if anyone has the answer to. When do we stop encouraging and bring the harsh reality of life into the picture? While a part of me wants to answer never, I am facing a situation I don’t know how to handle. I have an 18 year old son. He is about to graduate high school and either enter community college or the work force. There, he will be expected to know that sloppy work is not OK, that sometimes being goofy and affectionate is considered sexual harassment, that not doing the work right or the way you are told gets you fired. How are we to do both? How do we encourage, nuture, love and so on and still prepare them to function in the adult world? I’m not advocating bullying yourself or your child into perfection. God knows how I have failed to love myself and how that has impacted my children. Yet, now that I have learned to love myself, I still find myself with this question. If I had daughters, I would want them to one day fall in love with men who could hold a job and pay the bills and support their families (not that the daughters shouldn’t be capable of independence). How do you lovingly raise sons who can do that?

    • 143

      says

      Thanks, Lisa. I definitely think there is a difference in setting realistic expectations for the way our children act and criticizing them in a manner that demeans or shames them. I taught boys with behavior issues for 9 years. I set expectations for the way they treated me and the way they treated each other. Offering boundaries to children is a loving thing to do. And setting realistic expectations show children you believe they CAN succeed. My story is about expecting unrealistic results or perfection from my child and not allowing her to make mistakes. I am talking about stepping back and allowing her to be who she is–this is not about condoning bad/poor behavior. This is about allowing children to freely live and learn.

    • 144

      Amy Green says

      I think you have to differentiate between mistakes/accidents, and laziness. If your children are trying their hardest, and learning through mistakes, or if they just can’t do something well because of their age, that’s OK. But if they are just being lazy, that has to be addressed as not being OK. If there is something our 5yo daughter is capable of doing well and she doesn’t do it well, we talk to her about it. She also knows that working is what allows us to have a house, food, clothing, and fun things; we are trying to teach her the importance of work and money and will not be giving her a ‘free’ allowance when the time comes; she will have to earn it.

      There is an appropriate time to be goofy/affectionate, and there is a time when it’s not appropriate (like, while listening to the teacher at school, for example). There is a balance to be struck between an ‘anything goes’ mentality and a militant disciplinarian mentality. No parent is perfect and we’re always adjusting to try to stay close to that balance!

  69. 145

    Jacks says

    Thank you so much for sharing. Your words resonated with so much of my own experience and they have reminded me to slow down, calm down and go easier on my kids…..

  70. 146

    Judy says

    Echoing the many comments before me, I too read today’s post with tear filled eyes. Too often that harsh bully is me too. My second youngest daughter is my “first” on-hands parenting experience (she came to us just before she turned two. My husband’s older children were at least five years older and not really my parenting responsibility). This daughter came with potential “danger” labels as much was unknown about her pre-natal exposure to drugs and/or alcohol – many problems that can arise, do not often present until age five or older. It was only after our youngest daughter was born that I started noticing things. We had some turbulent times here. I thought I was a poor parent. I watched and educated myself as best as I could. She was tested often but never once was there a conclusive diagnosis given. It was frustrating. There were behavior issues that neither my husband nor I were sure how to deal with. My husband is somewhat “old school” and thought that strictness would help. I was not always in agreement but knew that sometimes love was also not enough. Nothing seemed to work. We were frustrated. The school was frustrated. Our household was frustrated. After the first time I read one of your posts, a light came on. (I openly wept at that time). Maybe it wasn’t HER. Maybe it was ME. I had overwhelmed myself with education on the potential what-ifs, how-do-I-deal-with-this, how-to-work-around-whatever-she-might-have. I bullied myself to find answers. I struggled with what parenting techniques work or not. I never thought to STOP and ONLY LOVE TODAY. ( I love the way you have coined this). But after reading about “hands free” and being at a point of not knowing what else I could do, I did something similar and tried it. I stopped pursuing man’s answers to the enigma of the daughter God gave me. I prayed even more fervently than ever before. I then started to really SEE her. When she made a mistake, I noticed that she too had “that look” of fear and resignation into her eyes. It really hurt once I realized that I did that to her. My self-bullying and frustrations had spilled over to her. She didn’t need a diagnosis, she needed more unconditional love from me. She needed me to notice her. To play with her. To recognize her unique talents and abilities and what she CAN do rather than what she could not yet do. She needed me to realize that in a school designed for square shaped individuals, her swirling s-shape did not always fit in just right. She needed me to learn how to teach and reach HER in a way she could understand. To teach her teachers how to teach her. She needed me to let go of what I thought “might be” and allow her to “just be” who and what she is. By going hands free myself, I have found a better relationship with not only this special daughter, but with my whole family. This special child who bore the brunt of my learning mistakes is now flourishing. She is making wise choices and decisions. She is not afraid to make a mistake and when she does, she often sees it herself and comes to me to ask how we can work together to make it right. Wow. She laughs more. She dances freely. She giggles again. We all laugh and dance more. Last week, she came home with the best report card we have ever seen in this house. I can hardly wait to speak with her teachers tonight. This is the first time I’ll be going without having spoken to any of them extensively on the phone for weeks already! This special daughter of mine is flourishing and growing and shining. Yes, she may have some challenges yet to face. Don’t we all? I am confident we will get through each one stronger than before. She is now a role model to her younger sister. She is truly amazing. She is my living example and reminder of how important it is to STOP and ONLY LOVE TODAY. Your post today put those words together perfectly. It also showed me how far we have come. Bless you for sharing and helping us along in this journey.

  71. 147

    katharine corp says

    Thank you Rachel for being you,and then putting that beautiful you out here for us,to learn from,laugh with,and grow from…<3 Growth does not HAVE to be painful…..:-) You are a gift and i look forward to reading your book…thanks again <3

  72. 148

    Amy Green says

    I love reading your posts… they are always so moving and honest, and often bring a tear to my eye. I used to bully myself, though I never thought about it that way. But before I was married or had kids, with the help of some close friends, I started to be consciously aware of all the negative things I constantly said to myself, and recognize them as ‘tapes’ I was playing from messages I received in childhood. My parents were very loving and nurturing, but I was extremely sensitive (I’m an introverted artist). My mom used to call me “dummy” a lot and she thought of it more as endearing/teasing than mean. She was also a perfectionist and tended to be critical. I think we can also internalize negative messages from childhood (or even adult) peers. I practiced stopping each thought as it came up (including “I’m such a dummy”), just as you did, and after a while I didn’t have those thoughts anymore! Because of how my mom’s perfectionism affected me, I try to be very gentle with my 5yo daughter when accidents happen. She has inherited the perfectionist gene and one day she said to me, “I just want to do everything right all the time!” I saw this even when she was a baby; she didn’t want to try to walk until she knew she could do it without falling down. We’ve been trying to teach her that mistakes are normal, part of being human, and necessary for us to learn things. But of course sometimes we still get impatient and critical and have to really watch that!

  73. 149

    says

    Hi,
    My story is very similar to yours, especially with my first born, who is only 4 years old: harsh words, choosing e-mail over story time, being impatient. Some time ago, after reading one of your posts, you motivated me to go and apologize to my daughter for being harsh with her one day. I said “I’m sorry I yelled at you, I was mad, but it was not your fault, sometimes I say mean things, and I don’t want to do that anymore.” Although she’s only 4, she’s very wise, and next time she saw I was starting to get tense, and was about to say something mean, she looked at me and said “mommy, are you getting mad but it’s not my fault?” Almost brought me to my knees! I hugged her, and loved on her, and just laughed, and then thanked her for being so smart and sweet. Thank you for sharing from your heart.

    • 150

      Amy Green says

      Your story reminded me of one of my most regrettable parenting moments, when my daughter was 3. She wanted to hold one of my OOAK collectible dolls, and I let her. A moment later the beaded headband on the doll broke and tiny beads went all over the floor, because she had tried to take it off. I got more mad at her than I have ever been before, and yelled a lot, and I didn’t calm down for about an hour. She was of course very upset and frightened. When I came back to my senses, it occurred to me that 1) she is more important than a material item, 2) I should have supervised her or not let her hold it, and 3) I can get the headband recreated. I apologized to her, but it took her a little while to recover. I still cringe when I think about that. I need to work on another of Rachel’s reminders about forgiving ourselves!

  74. 152

    Katrina Brower says

    I was very pleased to have found this and read this today, of all days. I have been having a rough time, being too hard on myself and i know i take it out on others, especially my 7 children. Reading this has made me realize that i am a bully too. I hope that i can change and b as positive as you and have only love today. I am trying so hard, but i feel myself falling apart. Thank u so much for sharing ur story, it truly does help.

  75. 155

    says

    I’ve subscribed to your blog for awhile. I preordered the book a month ago (at least) but I have never been so moved to leave a comment before today. I feel like I could be reading about myself with my oldest. I felt the weight of the words bully. I might have thought it about myself at times but never uttered it aloud. And today I make a conscious decision to love and let the rest go…my pressure, my expectation, my irritation and my misunderstanding. Today I choose to live love…and come January 7th our book club/bible study has our next read.

  76. 157

    Connie says

    Thanks again Rachel! Have been working to be Hands Free for about 9 months now. Some days are great….some are not. Christmas has been REALLY hard! My perfectionist wants to come out and play all the time….but I am doing everything I can to enjoy the season and my daughter….even if the house is still dusty and I found cobwebs while putting up the decorations.

    I needed this one today- which is of course the point of your writing. Thank you and keep writing!

    ps: already ordered my book and another to give away!!! :)

  77. 158

    KHQ says

    I rarely comment on blog posts but this one really spoke to me… thank you. I know I am too hard on myself but never realized how it impacts my expectations for my son. I plan to take this post and your advice to heart.

  78. 159

    says

    I wish I did not know exactly what you are talking about.
    However, I know this situation very well. Too well.
    I have some of the same issues. I am often fighting myself and feel so frustrated when I don’t live up to what I think I can be. I feel like crap when I wonder if I ever will reach my potential. My accomplishments are not enough. I also can be hard on others and have similarly high expectations.
    I really enjoyed this piece. It is a true success story where everyone has won.

  79. 160

    Libby says

    Simply beautiful… it means so much to hear your perspective and to know I’m not alone.
    You’re giving all moms such a gift! Thank you ~

    I’ve learned that every time I open one of your posts, I must have tissues next to me… every single time!

  80. 161

    says

    This was such a difficult post to read as I identify with it so much. It is so helpful to know I’m not alone in this judging from the comments on this post. My daughter is struggling with self-esteem issues and I definitely am harder on her than her younger brother. Everyday I tell myself I will respond and not react, but I often fail at this. It is hard to remember all of the good stuff I do when I am beating myself up for the bad stuff. I love that quote “We can only love others as much as we love ourselves.” Today I will say STOP. Only love.

  81. 162

    says

    This is beautiful and perfect timing for me. My daughter just turned 1 and I’m realizing the journey of raising her with loving (and imperfect) hands has just begun. Thank you for sharing….Only Love Today – beautiful!

  82. 163

    Christi says

    I SO needed to hear this today. This is day 5 of being stranded in the house thanks to the bad weather. My patience seems to be skating on the same thin ice that surrounds our house! Thanks for the reminder and fresh perspective!

  83. 164

    says

    I can relate all too closely to what you share in this post (and many others). Thank you for being a constant source of inspiration and motivation to focus on what really matters. You are an angel to me. Can’t wait to read your book and share it with others.

  84. 165

    says

    Ahh, Rachel. Thank you for returning to your epiphany once again, for finding new and creative ways to drive the same message home week after week, for the immense capacity you teach us all to reflect on our errors and to be a force for positive change in our own lives.

    I´ve been Hands Free now for a few months and I´m loving it. I love too how your message grows with each post and I applaud your decision to include your parents and their opinions of you in this post, that must have been especially hard. Keep shining that bright light of yours, you are a true beacon and the very best of the holiday spirit to you and yours.

  85. 166

    Amy says

    This would have made me sob if I had read it a month ago. Thankfully I have begun the journey of loving my son after years of bullying him. I have seen changes very quickly! Your phrase “Stop. Only love today.” is similar to what I said about a month ago… I wanted to tattoo this on my hand to always remember it: “STOP. Just love him.” Thanks for being honest with where you were at and for sharing how you have changed. I am on the journey too.

  86. 167

    Tracie says

    Sad to say, but this is my life……You described it perfectly. The part that really makes me look in the mirror was your story about your daughter hurting herself and you getting upset that it threw you off your schedule. That very same thing happened to me the other day as I was trying to get my youngest out the door to pick up my eldest from school. She fell on the stairs and instead of comforting her, I immediately started to stress out about being late. Instead of holding her and wiping away her tears, I got mad and blamed her for not paying attention to what she was doing. Instead of consoling her, I rushed her out the door and into her car seat and then I continued to get upset as she cried. Thank you for sharing your stories. I am constantly reminding myself to take the clock off from around my neck. I live in hope that I can change like you have.

    • 168

      Erica says

      That part really hit home for me too. And what you just described about the events that happened while trying to get out the door to pick up your eldest from school…..you just took a page right out of my life, lots of pages, actually….that has happened here, word-for-word, so many times!! Thank you for sharing your story. Let’s both work really hard on changing our stories! :)

  87. 169

    Heidi says

    Thank you so much f or this post. I desperately needed it today. I have felt so overwhelme d as a mother lately and am noticing that my own inner bully is becoming more present esp. With my kids. Thank you for reminding me to stop and reconsider.

  88. 170

    Jen says

    It’s very sad to read so many posts all saying how much they relate to this article. I, just like the others, read this with tears in my eyes. I have battled with my oldest daughter (middle child) since she was 4, she’s now 9. She is complicated and can be tough, but now looking back I know that by not addressing her “behavior” with more loving patience or interest that I have perpetuated it all. This realization leave me with great guilt and worry for the next coming years. “If she’s this tough at 9 (and I feel such a mess) what’s age 13 going to be like (for both of us)”. I feel overwhelmed and ill equipped to make changes because there’s seems to be so much that needs change. I have come to realize that this stems from being too hard on myself and the need to make or keep a good impression. I am too concerned with what others think or feel. At times I feel my confidence, although outwardly admirable, internally feels false. I’ve gotten too good at faking it and it’s left me unsatisfied and unfulfilled. This of course is exhausting. As another Mom said because she’s so hard on herself she becomes overly critical of others and it negatively effects her relationships; it’s very true. Another sad truth is that most Moms don’t share these secrets with other Moms, or if we do it’s jokingly, because we’re all too concern with being perfect. So unfortunately I have become very good at pushing those feelings away or numbing them out, literally, which of course only makes it all that much harder. I am glad to have read this post today. I will get your book because I am hungry for strategies, steps, or practices to give me some re-enforcement that it’s not so overwhelming. Thank you!

  89. 171

    Karina says

    Thank you very much for writing this! It is something I have felt about myself for a long time but have not had the courage to acknowledge it or fix it. I think back to the parenting I was raised with and compare myself to that and reassure myself that at least I’m not as hard on my kids as my parents were on us. However, it took me into adulthood to learn how to love myself for who I am. I don’t want mine to suffer that way. I want to break the cycle and teach my kids how to love themselves always! I appreciate this and I am looking forward to reading your book.

  90. 172

    Tanya F says

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You are an inspiration and your posts help me strive to be a better parent and I know the challenges I face everyday I am not facing alone.

    Thank you!

  91. 173

    Pat says

    I feel like you pulled my story out of my heart. Thank you for putting it into words and giving me a hopeful path towards change.

  92. 174

    says

    Thank you so much for sharing this brave and beautiful story. Every time I catch myself being a bully to my daughter (or myself!) I am going to repeat your mantra. “Stop! Only love today!”

  93. 175

    LD says

    I desperately need help with this. I struggle on a daily basis finding the line between teaching my kids responsibility and “making them better people” and making them feel like they are not good enough. I especially struggle in the areas of making them keep up with school work and picking up after themselves. I have turned into a nag and I know they don’t enjoy being around me sometimes because I am constantly on them. How do you find the line and know when you cross over into making them feel like they are not good enough, instead of just wanting them to grow into responsible people. I have seen the some parents who are unbalanced the other way, constantly the cheerleader while their kids show no responsibility or ability to do their best work because the parents don’t want to hurt their self esteem. I look forward to getting your book and hope it is not too late for me to learn how to not put so much pressure and expectations on my kids who are already young teens. Thank you for your very important and inspiring work.

    • 176

      Amy Green says

      Rachel mentioned ‘boundaries’ in an earlier reply to someone’s comment who had a similar question. Before my daughter was born, my husband and I both read the book “Boundaries with Children.” It addresses that very issue. In a nutshell, there are consequences for misbehavior, such as time outs, taking away toys or privileges, and so on… which means that instead of nagging or yelling (which just makes the child get angry/resentful at the parent), the parent can calmly set and enforce the consequence… preferably a consequence that is related to the behavior somehow (and not too harsh or too light). It’s really a wonderful book which has been invaluable to our parenting! We personally use a responsibility chart with our daughter, which also rewards good behavior, since if she gets enough stickers she gets some kind of reward at the end of the week… and of course praising her for things she does well.

      • 178

        LD says

        Thank you Amy. I used to do a lot of charts when they were younger. I sort of dropped off now that they are older in doing a reward system. I stayed home with them when they were young and I think I was a lot more patient then. When I started back to “work outside the home” when they all got in school, I notice I have had a harder time with my expectations of them and lack of patience, because we are all so busy and rushed and overextended. Thank you for your non-judgmental response. I will get the book. Thanks.

      • 179

        Sophie says

        Another wonderful, amazing book by the same author is “Changes That Heal.” I recommend this highly as a companion book for your own inner battles, as it addresses bonding and separating, boundaries, sorting out good and bad, and becoming a true adult. We have to put on our own oxygen masks first…. I just wish I took these concepts more seriously when my daughter was growing up. Now she’s 20, and I regret all of the stress that occurred it our home during her young years, and the distance it created. No one person is responsible for this, but as the adult we are called to set the tone.

  94. 180

    Amber says

    I feel I somehow supernaturally wrote the first 1/2 of your blog (except replace “daughter” with “son”). This describes my life, in detail, right down to my mothers opinion. In fact, I told my husband this morning that something has to give. We are both so impatient with our 6 year old son, who happens to be ADHD and until 9 weeks ago was an only child. Now, his behavior has gone downhill and I feel like, more than ever, all we do is stay on him about what he is doing wrong. I’m about at my wits end and I don’t have a clue how to “stop” with the constant frustration and aggravation I feel towards him everyday. I really hope to get your book. Maybe it will help and give me some kind of idea where to start. Thank you for writing this because I felt like I must be the most horrible, unworthy parent on earth. I’m glad to know other people go through the same things!

  95. 181

    Samantha Retzlaff says

    Rachel, I very much needed to read this as it has my name written all over it! My heart hurts that I am so hard on my stepson who is 13. I have been with his father since he was 6 years old and I struggle EVERY day to find the strength to overcome the same challenges you have overcome. While my situation has a few differences with my son being my step son, I also struggle with the support I truly long for and need from my husband too!
    Thank you for sharing this as it is so good to know that there are other mothers in the world with the same struggles I have. I am very much anticipating reading your book once it comes in. God Bless you!
    -Samantha

  96. 182

    says

    You never cease to amaze me. Wonderful post!! It made me think of a time I was with my oldest daughter who is now a mother herself. We were in a grocery store and there was a big container of oversized inflated balls they were selling. She backed into it by accident and the balls started rolling all over the store. For a split second she was startled and then she looked at me with a hint of apprehension until I started laughing out loud. We had a great time picking up all the balls. There was a little test there and I feel good to think I passed it.

  97. 183

    Heather says

    Wow…all I can say is wow. It’s like holding up a mirror, and I cried at what I saw…I’ve been doing the same behavior, and this made it crystal clear. Only love, what a fantastic concept and I hope to successfully stop this cycle, and I’m going to begin today. Thank you!

  98. 184

    Misti J says

    Wow, I sat here crying uncontrollably… its like you were telling my very own story! I have a lot to change. As I look into my little boys eyes, I see this amazing little guy and then a mom with a horrible temper and no patience. I am waisting a lot of time yelling and no not enough time loving! Thank you, I can’t wait to get your book!

  99. 185

    Chrissy says

    Hi Rachel! Every time you write, my eyes fill with tears as it is as though you are writing about me. This post was the closet yet. I feel I have lost the understanding of what my eldest ‘stands for’ and struggle with all the challenges you wrote about. When I lost my job in 2012 I took the opportunity to do a 1 year teaching degree, which is incredibly intense here in the UK. I chose this to be able to spend quality time with my family during school holidays rather than pack them off to holiday clubs. But right now, I am only adding to my ‘should monsters’. I should be studying more, I should be supporting my boys more, I should be… On top of this I have always expected too much of my eldest as he is so mature for his years. Reading your post is like taking time to regroup. I promise to use your mantra: Only love today. I take faith in your story that it is possible. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for your strength. You are truly incredible. Bless you xx

  100. 186

    Marcia says

    Thank you!! This comes at a perfect timing in my life. Last couple of years I was taught that by letting my kids misbehave (kids acting lime kids, now I call it), I wasn’t helping them thrive and grow to be the men they needed to become, and that made me a bully of a mom, expecting perfection coming from them, when I, myself was failing at the most basic mom responsibilities… To bring up happy kids. This will help me reconsider how I encourage my kids, and how I let them grow in their own personal way.

  101. 187

    A.Smith says

    Wow, this is the most powerful post I’ve read in a long time. Bless you for humbling yourself in front of the world… you have indeed made it a better place to live.

  102. 188

    Chrysti says

    Hi Rachel. Reading your story felt like i was reading about myself. My first born girl is awesome but for some reason she can neva do rite by me. I always hear myself putting down, critisizing, blaming her if i hear my boys crying. I see the pain in her eyes and it hurts me. I feel like i cant stop. I am going to try your technique and hoping it works :) wish me luck :)

  103. 189

    Adriana says

    Touched my heart! Your very brave to open yourself and through your touching words I have seen myself many times. I will do better! Thank you, Adriana

  104. 190

    Michelle says

    I love the simplicity of the reminder to STOP! Only love today… I just made 5 reminders throughout my home in key places to help me stay on track with not bulling myself, my husband or my daughter. I am guilty of all of these. I just found your blog and look forward to following you and reading your book in January!

  105. 191

    Mom says

    Wow. I just read your post on Facebook and had the exact same situation occur about 30 minutes before reading this. My two daughters were playing in the basement and my youngest started to cry hysterically. I ran down and looked at my oldest and said “What did you do’? It turns out that she just tripped over an empty box on the floor but I jumped to a conclusion and immediately blamed my oldest daughter. After reading your story I realized how much I blame, correct, criticize, and complain about things they do. I need to focus on the positive and point out the little things they do well each day. Thank you for the wonderful advice.

  106. 193

    Heather says

    Beautiful. Just what I needed to read as I am way too hard on myself and my 7 year old daughter in turn. I just started trying to slow down and build her up the past couple weeks, and this really hit home. Thank you, and congrats to you for fixing your situation.

  107. 194

    says

    Wow Rachel, I am truly deeply touched reading this post and just reading into it I really wanted to check out the book at amazon right away. Thank you for making yourself vulnerable and sharing this. I feel sometimes, that there a so many moms that are not disciplined and organized, but I started to see that my perfectionism is in the way of so many moments of happiness and laughter with my family. I am sure God is trying to teach me this right now and I am so thankful I saw this posted on facebook by a friend. I’m glad I interrupted my schedule for a while to look into it and I just wanted you to know that. Thank you.

  108. 195

    Jill says

    Rachel…I am so impressed and inspired by your honesty. It takes real courage to write about what you were experiencing and what a blessing that you had the awareness and insight to see what was going on inside of you. I am a mother as well and Lord knows I have made plenty of very human errors and I believe it is shame that keeps us so sick and preventing us from healing. I would like to share that I raised my son (now 18 years old and in college) as a pet project often times and raised him as the wounded child I was and still am. I was overprotective, overly doting, coddled him and went over the top in my pursuit of his safety. He doesn’t seem too affected by it but I don’t know what his perspective on his childhood will be as he grows into the man he is becoming. He is an amazing young man and has an incredible role model of a father and I am so grateful for that. Thank you for sharing, for your honesty and integrity…God Bless!!!

  109. 197

    Sherri says

    I came across this blog post because a friend shared it on Facebook! Thanks for your honest words. Even though my only child is grown with a family of her own, I, too, have a bully breathing down my neck, and am going to start using “Stop, only love today!”

  110. 199

    Farina says

    I see myself in your post but with a difference.. The difference is I bully my husband. My anger at my self is also directed him. He is a sweet, kind man and I’m grateful he never left me for my critical, acerbic tongue. My father planted the seed of doubt in my mind when he asked my mom, “What’s going to become of her, she’s not good looking like her sister.” He didn’t know I was right outside the room and heard it all. Of course he beat everyone in the house except for me. Me, he called a whore. I never felt so ashamed and degraded. I was just a kid. I never planned for a single thing. I never saw a future. I didn’t even realize it till I was grown and someone asked me When you were a kid, what did you want to be when grew up?” I never even thought about it. Plans? An occupation? Marriage? I didn’t get married until I was almost forty. (I believed every man was like my father, an abusive serial cheater. ) I never thought about the next day. I was busy trying to destroy myself in every conceivable way. I’ve spent my whole life telling myself I can’t do it. Whatever it is I become interested in right away the voice inside my head dispels any idea that I can do it or be good at it. It’s paralyzing. I’m old enough to know there are things I have potential to be good at but I haven’t pursued them.. My husband has so much faith in me and encourages me. My biggest fear is that I will die without fulfilling what I’m here to do. I’m afraid I will fail or be judged a failure so I never finish what I start to do. I am trying to control my thinking and what I say to myself and you’ve given me another tool to use. Thank you for your openness and humility. It takes a lot to say what you have and include a name and a face with it. Thank you for sharing with us.

    • 200

      Liz says

      To Farina; I have a similar past story, but even when I was the top in career and had grown into my own beauty, my parents still were never pleased, there would always be something wrong with me. Sadly I married someone like my father.
      I am so glad the author of this article by the grace of God has been able to see what she was doing wrong, and has the courage to humble herself to set things right and continue that good path. When a child grows up to be an adult with no sense of that hope she has now, the chance of her marrying an abusive spouse is pretty high. Blessings.

  111. 201

    says

    Oh yes, I have been here. With both my husband and my son, and I don’t feel good about it. But I can tell you that every story you tell sticks with me, and I think about ways I can be better. Love to you!

  112. 202

    Kristie says

    Thank you for this! I’ll buy your book. I am a 31 yr old mom of 4. I don’t work, only stay home with my girls and am stressed often. Although they are young they are evolved in everything. I often take my stress and control issues out most on my oldest like you said, although she’s only 5. She doesn’t deserve it, but it’s easier said then done to just stop and let go. I’m excited that this book might help me take a different approach to raising them with accidents being okay …before they grow up too much and start acting just like me. Yikes. Thank You!

  113. 203

    Angela says

    Thank you so much for this. It brought me to tears because I realized that my childhood was that of the exact mother you were describing, followed by a marriage that frighteningly mimics that of my childhood. I am since remarried and have an 8 month old son. Thank you for bringing this to my attention as I am confident that I would do the same to my son. This article has done more for me than many years of therapy. I can begin to express my gratitude.

  114. 204

    Jael Barrios says

    Hi Rachel,

    I just found your blog and my discovery could not have come at a more perfect time in my life. It is so reassuring to read your story, and that you had the courage to put pen to paper (or rather keys to computer!) And share your struggles and overcoming these demons with the world!

    I thank you so profusely for it as I am fighting these exact demons in my life right now with myself and my daughter (she is my eldest child too).

    I have started a journey myself, but it is the hardest thing to ocercome when you have so much anger inside against yourself. I write this with tears flowing down my face as your writings have struck such an emotional cord in my heart I cannot even begin to explain it.

    My only hope and dream is to see my daughter blossom and flourish the way yours has. It breaks my heart to see the fear of me in her eyes.

    Overcoming my inner bully will be a long journey, but I am hoping with reading your book that it will guide me down the right path.

    Thank you again for your courage and this emotional journey you share.

    Xoxo Jael

  115. 205

    says

    I have tears streaming down my face. My eldest is home today. You described your relationship with your daughter exactly as I would describe mine with my son. And the bully in my head is extremely hard on me, too.

    Thank you. Thank you for sharing. For reminding me I’m human and that tomorrow- no, EVEN TODAY- could be better, if we make a choice to love today.

    -Angel (themommytsunami)

  116. 206

    Kelly says

    Thank you for this. I needed to hear this today. I actually needed to hear this yesterday and the day before that and so on. You have really opened my eyes and made me think about my relationship with my children and how it has been affected by my inner bully. Especially my oldest.

  117. 207

    says

    This is the first time I have visited your blog and this article really spoke to me.
    I have a 2.5 year old daughter and 1 year old son who are both on the receiving end of my quest for perfection. They are babies figuring out the world and I am basically forcing them to be mini-adults. Yikes.
    Your post has really made me think and reconsider how I am parenting them. Thank you for sharing your story.

  118. 208

    George Ontiveros says

    Thank you! With tears in my eyes I want to thank you!!! I have a 14 yr old who I have torn down to nothing….I hope it is not too late, but I am going to try and let only love today and every day from this point on.

  119. 209

    Lisa says

    I am inspired by what you have done in your life and the life of your daughter…I look forward to reading your book, in hopes to change my controlling/critical ways toward my own daughter…I just hope it is not too late as she is already 14.

  120. 211

    George Ontiveros says

    With tears in my eyes, I want to thank you. I think deep down inside I have known for awhile that I am a bully to my 14 yr old son. However, I never looked at the fact that I am bullying myself. After I read your entry I immediately called my son to the room. He walked in and I asked him to close the door. When I told him to have a seat on the bed he sat as far away from me as he could. I immediately broke down and apologized to him for being a bully. I explained to him that I would do my best to change. I could see in his body language a sense of security…it absolutely broke my heart! Have I forced my son to go all this time without feeling secure around his own dad!? I assured him that things would change…. Thank you again! I hope I do not screw this up. I don’t want him thinking he can’t trust my word.

    • 212

      says

      Thank you, George! This is so powerful! To read that you have already taken major steps to ask for forgiveness and start the process to change is truly inspiring! I really appreciate you taking the time to share your actions. Let us all follow your lead.

  121. 213

    Tiffany says

    Wow! Your experiences bring me to tears every time I read them. Thank you for being so genuine and transparent!!!!! I felt as though you were describing me to a t. Thank you! Can’t wait to read your book!

  122. 214

    says

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful post Rachel. Reading this post reminded me of how I was before I started making changes in my own life and becoming a more loving parent and person, letting go of perfectionism and learning to love myself so that I could love others more. Love heals all things.
    Love the photo of you with your book, Congratulations! This must be exciting for you.

  123. 215

    Renee Blauch says

    I too came to this realization just about a week ago with my oldest son and I am making changes to be the kind of mom he needs and I want to be. Thank you for sharing your experience. It always helps to know you’re not the only one. I hope that the changes I make will make a difference in my sons life…ONLY LOVE

  124. 216

    Sach says

    I’m crying as I read this! Thank you for sharing…I didn’t realise this was me but it is. I’m working so hard to try and get life on track so we can have more family time together that I forget to enjoy and nuture what I have.

  125. 217

    Sharyn Friedman says

    I am a “yeller” and I remember my therapist telling me that yelling can bring down the self esteem of whomever you are yelling at. Well I have yelled at my husband, children, dog, cat, friends. I hate when I do that. The most recent time that Iwent off was during a holiday. I had gone upstairs to take a quick shower before the family came over. When I was just finishing up, I smelled something burning. I had asked my 16 year old son, who loves to cook, to take the roast out of the oven for me. Well apparently when he did, the gravy had spilled over and gotten all over the oven and there was HUGE mess. Now, my house was filled with all the family (my parents, in laws, etc) and I was told that it really wasn’t his fault, that the pan was flimsy. I disregarded that comment as if it was never heard and I proceeded to go off on my son. I told him that the dinner was ruined because of him (which is was NOT), that I had asked him to do ONE thing for me and he couldn’t even do that. I berated this poor child, the son that I love more than life itself, in front of everyone. It was terrible. I apologized to him pretty quickly, but he was so sad. He had tears in his eyes. He said that he was sorry he ruined dinner (which he hadn’t) and that he had messed up. I could not take back anything I said and worst thing was I had done this in front of the entire family. How humiliating for HIM. That was about 3 months ago. I still find myself crying over what I did to him and I am still apologizing to him. He has forgiven me but I have not forgiven myself. This post hit home for me. I am probably the biggest bully I know! I berate myself all the time (I am too fat, I am not good enough, etc). I find myself trying to find ways to make sure that I am liked by everyone. I am the ultimate people pleaser. Aside from hurting myself, I hurt my kids and they mean everything in the world to me. I think it’s time to refrain from yelling (and the nasty sarcastic comments I make as well) and from getting myself so bent out of shape over things. I think I need to order your book! Thank you for sharing something so important!

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    Jessica says

    We truly are our own worst enemies. As much as it pained me to read your article, it pained me even more to reflect on myself as a parent. I just came out of a two day training seminar for my Jr. high students on how to be ambassadors against bullying, and never once did it cross my mind of how my “bullying” actions may affect my children. They are a piece of me, they loves of my life, and our future leaders; however, they are going to learn by example, and we need to reflect on the example that we are creating for them. I have too often blamed my oldest when my youngest is in tears. And for what? For the chance not to seek out the truth, survey the surroundings, or accept that accidents happen? Earlier today I vowed to let the calendar on my phone become my best friend, but I’ve added a new resolution that I will not wait until January to put into effect… I will be a better mom. Better than the mom that I have been, the best mom that my kids deserve. Thank you for shedding light on this taboo topic. Brave of you.

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    Dera Scott says

    Omg, THANK YOU. I happened across your story by accident and am I ever glad I did. As I sat here reading it I couldn’t contain the tears spilling from my eyes. I have been living as “the bully” to my own two boys. We get so caught up in getting to the next place, doing the next “thing”, withought considering what we need, all we need is right in front of us. So thank you again, for making me look at myself through your story.

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    Shauna says

    Beautiful thoughts, Rachel. Thanks for sharing your ugly – it’s the ugly of so many of us…including me. “Only love today.” Got it. Good stuff.

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    Jean says

    Thank you, Rachel. I was able to write my son this letter after reading your post. I so desperately hope that I can stop this nonsense I keep repeating with my son and to myself.
    ______________
    My child, I’m sorry to have made you feel like a complete failure for school and as a student, when the only mistake you made was to forget to go to concert support. You have forgotten to do many things over the semester, such as to do or turn in your homework, etc., but that does not make you unfit for school – I was wrong. That is WHY you NEED school and the time to learn from your many mistakes (today and tomorrow and on and on), so that you can better cope with and deal with your mistakes but also to experience the little joy and confidence that can come from overcoming an obstacle or achieving a challenge one at a time, one by one. We all make mistakes from time to time, and I especially forget to do a lot of things many times. The important thing is to try to not make the same mistake over and over again. Feeling bad about ourselves and fearing that everything is over – that we have to quit school, or quit being a parent, or quit working – just because of a small mistake is being too hard on ourselves. In trying to be “perfect”, we can discourage ourselves down to destruction, because NOBODY IS PERFECT.

    So I am sorry that I was wrong, AGAIN. The penalty system was a mistake. It was my perfectionism gone wrong again. I admit and accept my mistake and will try not to repeat this mistake again. I will stop trying to be perfect, and requiring perfection from you, too. Instead of judging you or criticizing you for missing your school work or forgetting your schedules, etc., I will help you more to keep your schedules and to learn to become a more responsible student. You are, by far, more responsible than me, I know. You do so well at keeping your daily schedule of going to school, doing squash and clarinet, and doing your homework, etc. I realize I am in no position to judge you for forgetting, because I am the most forgetful person I know arond me. kk

    So let’s stop the impossible pursuit of perfection. Forget the penalty system. You are too precious, so deserving, and so full of so much love, compassion, strength, talent and potential to waste your energy on worrying about the impossible! I will be a better supporter for you to spend your positive and bright energy on what you should do as a student, and what you want to do and should do as a teenager – which is to fool around with your friends from time to time! YOU are what you make of your life! A perfect life is not what I want from you nor from myself. A positive life and outlook with belief in ourselves that we can overcome mistakes, hardships, obstacles, challenges, discouragements, sadness, loss, bad grades, etc. – that is what I want for you, for me and for everyone I love.

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      says

      WOW! Jean, thank you for sharing the letter you wrote to your son! You have given us all a tool that we might use to articulate similar healing and empowering thoughts to our precious loved ones. I am truly grateful for your courage in sharing what had to be incredibly hard to write. I call what you done here as “stepping into the light of realness.” I cannot thank you enough for stepping there with me–together we are not alone. There is hope.

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    says

    Thank you. I struggle with this too. I guess I always had this idea of how my kids would be, and my oldest is completely opposite. I have noticed it a lot since we started formally homeschooling, and I try, but I think your method may help too. Sometimes it is so hard to remember how little they really are!

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    says

    I have thought of this same topic so many times: I have a couple of things that I try to remember. There is a famous Broadway song called “Children Will Listen” It’s a cautionary song to parents. One of the lines is this, “What do you leave to your child when you’re dead? Only whatever you put in it’s head” This is so true both in a negative and positive way. The other is a quote that says, ” You are building your child’s inner voice 1 word at a time.”

    Thank you for this GREAT post!.
    Katie Knight

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    Melissa W says

    Thank you for this article. Like many others, I read it with tears in my eyes as I recognized myself as the bully mother and my 7 year old as the daughter. Just today I found myself getting annoyed and sighing as were were getting ready for school. I yelled and actually saw her eyes well up and she was flinching as I was yelling. I remembered thinking to myself ” why would I treat someone I love more that life itself like this?” I would never talk to a patient at work like this so why is it acceptable to treat my daughter like this. I am guilty of bullying myself to have the perfect house, family, and life but at what cost. I want to be a different mother so I’m making a pledge here for all to see that I will start at this moment to take a breath before I speak when annoyed or angry. I vow to only let my children see love in my eyes. I do not want my children’s (especially my oldest daughters) memories only to be the Mom who is constantly yelling, hurrying them, or cutting them down. Thank you for having the courage to post this because it was just the spark I needed!!!

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    Michelle says

    Wow. This hit so close to home. I feel like I could have written it about myself and my first born son. I’m working so hard on it. He deserves so much better. Can’t wait for your book to come out.

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    Holli says

    I can barely type through my tears……my heart breaks for what I have been doing to my 5 year old daughter and I want to change, I just don’t know where to begin. I am an only child to a very critical mother and I don’t want to be her to my girls. Please pray for me.

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    Julie says

    Thank you so much for sharing this. As I was reading, I recognized myself in your words. I would never have thought about it as bullying myself. I find myself being very hard on my oldest child. My sweet, sweet boy. Tomorrow (because my two are in bed) I will tell my self to STOP! before I say anything to them or to myself. I have just recently started reading HFM and I am so thankful to have found your blog. Thank you for sharing your journey and for helping me to start mine.

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    Kate says

    Thank you so very much for this. You have so eloquently and brilliantly called out my soul. Thank you for giving a voice to my inner voice and helping me see that I need to stand up to myself if I ever hope to stand up for the ones I love. Blessings to you.

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      says

      Thank you, Kate. This is beautifully stated: ” Thank you for giving a voice to my inner voice and helping me see that I need to stand up to myself if I ever hope to stand up for the ones I love.”

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    Kimberly Williams says

    Thank you so much for your courage and truthfulness in your story. Reading it brought tears to my eyes! I felt like I was reading my own story, I have gone through something similar with my oldest daughter and realized it about a year ago. I love my daughter so much and our relationship has improved so much over the last few months….I’m so glad to know I’m not alone…..

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    Meme says

    Thank you!! I struggle with this, only it’s my oldest son who I’m working to repair how I’ve “bullied” him. I didn’t even make it through the first paragraph and tears were steaming down my face. I’ll be ordering your book. Everything you said is true, I bully myself 100 times a day at least. Thank you, I’m not alone!

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    Toina says

    Thank you. I just saw me in this message from years of having my own mother bullying me and me trying so hard not be like her and I’m afraid I am. My beautiful two year old doesn’t deserve it. Thank you.

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    mom2girls says

    I am literally crying my eyes out right now ! You were talking to me !! I cry every night about something I did or said to my oldest and vow every night to do better tomorrow and I somehow do good for a while but then the comments fly again and I constantly beat myself up :( its a vicious cycle and I feel like I’m drowning ! I would love love your book !!!

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    Cassie says

    Thank you! I can very much relate to these struggles, and it gives me hope and encouragement to read about your change and how it blessed your family.

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    says

    Wow this hit home! I was a teacher for 9 years before quitting to stay home with my son. I am now a stay at home mom who runs an in home day care. Since I have been home I am a bully to myself! I let myself believe I am not enough. My son (4) is an absolute joy who I adore but I snap too much. I love my husband (together for 19 years, married for 12) but we are in a rough place right now. I am going to stop and have only love today! Thank you! Can’t wait for your book.

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    Kristin says

    This was exactly what I needed to hear today. My oldest child and I currently have a very strained relationship because I am constantly doing and saying things that I know in the back of my mind aren’t right. Reading this has inspired me to do everything I can to change my attitude and our relationship. Thank you!

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    says

    Such a beautiful post! We are often so wrapped up in being busy that we forget that there needs to be room for mistakes, messes, growth and most of all love and acceptance!

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    Heather says

    This touched me beyond words. I am angry all the time and I don’t know why. My oldest, 5, gets the brunt of that anger. I’m always yelling, always frustrated.. and I am guilty of bullying him. He has emotional problems and I know that it’s a reflection of me. My heart hurts knowing I am breaking his heart. My anger is deep and years of self bullying. I don’t know how to cool the rage or feeling of disappointment in myself. I don’t want my son to grow up thinking he’s broken when it’s his mother. He’s the love of my life along with his baby brother. I hope I can make the changes to be the mother my son needs and deserves and to stop beating myself up about it. Thank you for letting me know I’m not alone in my struggle.

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    Michelle says

    Thank you so much for this. With tears streaming down my face, I have not been able to put into words how the relationship between my 7 yo daughter and myself has gone awry. I thank you for opening my eyes to how I can change to make it better. You hit the nail right on the head, and I’m so glad there is hope!

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    Denise says

    This is me. Thank you for sharing your personal journey. I don’t know why but I hadn’t realized that the bullying I was doing to myself would lead to that treatment of my children. Thank you and I am sure my children thank you too.

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    Morgan says

    This post spoke to me in so many ways. I’ve realized that I do the same thing with my oldest daughter and I’m just hoping it’s not too late to change. I have tears in my eyes and just want to go wake her up to give her a hug. She is the most sweetest, caring and compassionate child I have ever met, yet I am so hard on her. I’m much harder on her than I am my youngest. We are always so busy running here and there and trying to be perfect. This has definitely changed my thoughts and opened my eyes to what’s most important. Thank you so much for sharing.

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    Natalia says

    Hi. I’m a child in this story, not a parent. The beginning of the story is the story of my childhood. It took years of my adult life to figure out that it was not my fault that I was treated this way and I did nothing to deserve it. I have never done it to my kid as I know exactly how it feels, but I am still struggling trying to bring my own self-esteem to the point where it’s supposed to be, even though I have done a tremendous reconstruction of my thoughts already. I feel for every child I see being broken by their parents and I wish I could help them all. You found the mental and emotional strength to understand your mistakes and correct them. You literally saved your daughter and you are saving other people’s kids by writing this. Thank you ! What you are doing is huge. Don’t ask me how I know.

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      says

      Thank you, Natalia. Your message is stronger and more eye-opening than anything I could ever write. I am listening to what you have to say and I know others will be too. You have helped many with your share. May you find inner peace and healing, dear one.

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    Jessica says

    Hi, thank you so much for sharing your story. I currently am where you were with your child. I hate it and that I’ve made things this way. I feel like and know I need to change but I’m conflicted as I run a home daycare and I can’t seem to balance things between work and family life. I’ve become such a bully over the past few years. I can see the change in my husband and son. I feel so horrible and just want to change. Thank you for your inspiration.

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    Noelle Cooper says

    Beautiful. Sat crying as I was reading it. Have a 3yr old, a 23mth old and a 6 mth old, all boys :). I try not to be too hard on our eldest, but I sometimes find myself having to apologise, too. Good to know it’s not just me, and that it can be overcome (even if it takes a lot of hard work and time). Thanks for the post.

    Noelle

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    Kelly says

    Thank you thank you. You have reminded me that perfection is not key. When things don’t go my way or fast enough for me I get anxious. And it comes out as criticism and bullying my kids and husband. I am not proud of it and try to stop but forget. I will remember your little mantra ” Only love today”

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    Krisi says

    I just saw my life through your words. Stop will be my new favorite word starting as soon much as my eyes open in the morning. And I will be getting your book in January. Thank you!

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    Noelle Cooper says

    Loved this.

    I love our eldest boy (he’s 3, we have three boys) more than I could possibly say, as most mums would tell you. He is especially special for us though, as we’d been unable to have children for the whole 10 years we’d been married, until he decided to come join our family…

    Still, this does not stop me from knowing that I am sometimes too harsh in my reactions. Sometimes I have to go apologise to him, which makes me unspeakably sad. No-one could EVER say I am abusive, in ANY way, yet I sometimes wince at the thought that a neighbour might have heard me react without thinking at something that has happened. Which then makes me wonder how to react differently.

    Articles like this one show me that it’s just a matter of being persistently kinder, not reacting but choosing how to act in any given situation, and just letting some things be. Not having to constantly be better than he is, or I am, but just be.

    Thanks for the reminder, Noelle :)

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    Sherelle says

    I am so glad I found your post. I can now fully understand my own mother and myself. I am the oldest of 5 siblings. Growing up was good but heart breaking at the same time. In my teen years my mother was going through a bad start to Clinical Depression. I’m sure her inner self was the hardest for her to deal with. I was the second stop on her inner voice’s journey through our home. Those years were tough, but not as tough as realizing that I am just passing on the pain I had to my own daughter. I also have depression but have worked really hard to control it. I am constantly catching myself after the fact in bullying my own precious ones. Our medical history is only one piece of the healing puzzle. I need to be more willing to let my little ones be truly themselves and allow the same privilege to myself. I would never wish away the things I have learned about myself and my mother in the last few years with depression. My mother and I have a better relationship now with our shared understanding of how our own minds work. But pain caused by a loved ones harsh words can take years even decades to heal. We are both still healing. Reading your post reminded me to work harder at breaking that cycle. THANK YOU!

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    Changing Mama says

    A friend of mine shared this on her FB and I was glad I opened it up. First, I feel relieved that I wasn’t alone on this. I think you have just given me the chance and courage to change myself, so THANK YOU!

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      says

      This is very uplifting to me! I am so touched by the response of this post and by the heartfelt admissions people are sharing here in the comments. There is hope for us all. Please keep me posted on your progress!

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    says

    This seems in line with truths already known. Thanks for confirming them. AND, for sticking up for them! It’s often easier not to. Bullying starts further off.
    ——
    Just for today, do not anger
    Just for today, do not judge
    Show gratitude to every living thing.
    ——
    xo

  158. 263

    Victoria says

    Dear Mrs. Rachel,

    I just wanted to say thank you so much for your inspirational words. They came to me – through grace – at time when I really needed them most. Reading back through a few of your entries here on your site, I feel the strong encouragement to KEEP ON TRYING, even when days seems to be going all wrong. My kid is worth it- I knew it already, but you reminded me of that. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

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    Cassie says

    I read this article, and it made me cry. I’m not a mother, but I have one. In all honesty, she was the bully in my life. I’m now married and have moved away but when she comes to visit I fear her. The criticizing and what I can do to make life better, when am I going to have a child of my own, etc. seems to never end. Nothing ever seems to be good enough for her. My college graduation ended up on her anniversary and she got mad at me for “ruining her day with dad”. So my graduation was not a happy occasion. The only day she seemed happy was my wedding day. Your daughter got so lucky. I just pray that when I become a mother, that I don’t make those same mistakes that my mother made with me.

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    Steph says

    As I read that, I smiled and nodded, then cried and shrunk. You write beautifully and I cannot wait to get my hands on your book. I have transformed over the past 6 months, and not for the good. After reading this blog, I have realized, that I have become the bully in my own home. My 7year old “needs” to be perfect every day in every way, and I have seen him slipping away from me before my very eyes. The spills, stains, carelessness – I’ve put so much pressure on him because of the pressure I have put upon myself. With now knowing what is happening, I vow to make it better and to fix me, first.
    Thank you SO much for the eye opener! :)

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    Veron says

    Thank you for this post. It really got me thinking why my little angel is frequently asking me whether I am angry just by my body language.

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    Terri says

    Just read this and it was too close to home. I wondered if the author is an adult child of an alcoholic. I am and saw so many of the same traits of her admitted behavior as was in mine. I said once, I have learned the hard way to be nice and let go. Live and let live. I lost a wonderful marriage due to bullying and constant need for control. I controlled my children to the point my daughter was unable to pick out her own clothes. I tried to control my other daughter, but she being headstrong resisted and it permanently damaged our relationship. She is now 40, I am 63, Both of my daughters broke the cycle and are wonderful mothers and always pick their battles, which are few. Their kids are happy and self confident. As hard as I have tried and expressed my guilt in my past behavior to her, a child does not forget as they grow into adulthood. My daughter always tells me “Mom it is all OK”, but it was, and is not alright. I live with it everyday and am ashamed of what I was. What I was and am is an adult child of an OK. Those behaviors are long gone and I try hard to make it up with my wonderful grandchildren. Too bad I couldn’t figure it out for thirty some years. Once you identify it, own it, then and only then are you truly able to be your true self. I do not and have never used alcohol.

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    Kaylee says

    I am so beyond humbled right now. I found your blog for a reason. I am also going to buy your book. My dad has been like this since I can remember, I feel it almost ruined me and I see it ruining my much younger siblings also. I am the oldest daughter and I COULD not mess up. Luckily my mom was very much the opposite. I still see a lot of my dad come out in my own parenting, specifically with my oldest daughter. It breaks my heart when I raise my voice at her and break her sweet little spirit. I have noticed it over the last month and know I do not want to be that parent to her ever. She is still very young, as am I. I have been beating myself up about it a lot terrified of becoming my dad, which only makes it worse. Reading your blog post has taken me back to reality and reminded me of my goals as a parent. Thank you so much. I am so grateful to be reminded of the kind of parent I am and will continue to strive to become.

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    says

    Wow. I am not a parent, nor will I ever be-but I can most certainly relate to this. I find myself bullying myself every day of my life. Thank you for bringing this concept to light. It has certainly made a difference in my day today.

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    Emily says

    Wow. Reading this was like looking inside myself and reading what I have been trying to ignore all this time. I have already been working towards treating my oldest child better. I already know that I have never let him be a child. But I never wanted to look at any of the causes so that I could truly remedy the problem. I am a bully in my home. Thank you. I also very much relate to your response to Rachel. Thank you for your words.

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    Ace33 says

    Thank you so for posting this; for writing a book about it. I was one of those kids that felt like I needed to be perfect to please my parents. I had a very mean and angry older sister and when I was a preteen my dad would “josh” me about carrying around about 5-7 pounds too much. He meant well, but I hated myself. I didn’t feel good enough and I felt like an embarrassment. To that end, I have tried to be a better parent for my daughter. I am not perfect, but I work hard at it. Bless you and yours.

  167. 272

    says

    Thank you for this post. I really needed to hear this. *tears* This post could have easily been written by me.

    I am the mama of 3 kids (3.5 girl, 1.5 boy and 7 month girl). I really struggle with my eldest and am always critical of her, pushing her to be better, and well…perfect. What I expect her to be. I needed to hear this. I really want to get your book because I need to read it and work harder to be the mama God made me and she needs me to be.

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    RuthAnne Snell says

    My name is RuthAnne, and for years i worked myself into the ground trying to be what my mother told me to be. One day i finally said no more, she can hate me, degrade me, try to break me down but no more. I know she is a broken person, i choose to keep my distance and try to be nice. Im almost thirty and have lived through terrible things. Today i was in walmart, just letting my son play, taking our time when a woman walked up to me, and said ” Congratulations on being able to enjoy your child and being such a good mom”. A perfect stranger, who i had never met before. I have tears in my eyes writing this. No one can be perfect, but with patient understanding, love and care, maybe i can be the better woman and treat my kids the way i wish i had been. My stepdaughter tells her counselor that i am the only good mom she has ever had. I had tears in my eyes. My little girl and husband went through hell for yrs before finding me and my family unit. I have three little boys and one of the first dates we went on with the kids one of my boys put my now husband on the spot and asked him when he was going to marry his mom. We have been together for over two years now. Everyday is one more success, every hug one more step up, every outburst lets me know we are coming together as a family.

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    Brittany says

    Thank you so much for this. I sobbed reading it and I know it was meant just for me. I know I am too hard on my oldest, my little four year old boy and it kills me to admit it out loud. But this has changed me. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you.

  170. 276

    Marnie says

    In those first few paragraphs, you described me and my second born (a boy). I often say that we don’t get along. I have the same impulses to blame him for everything that goes wrong, poor boy…I am working on it. Thank you for sharing your experience, it has made me want to be a better Mom!

  171. 278

    Goldie Pierce says

    Wow, wow, wow, wow, WOW!!!!!!!! This is the best thing I have read in SUCH a long time!!!!! Absolutely brilliant & heart warming. Through reading this, I felt like you were a best friend talking to me face to face. I feel like I know you, because I can SOOOO relate. So much. I have never heard of you before, but I am so glad I ran across your blog tonight. I see that you are selling a book that you wrote. Can’t WAIT to read it. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being an inspirational angel to so many!!!! :)

  172. 279

    Late says

    Thank you for your brutal honesty. I see myself in the bully you describe and I hate myself for it. I see my son losing self esteem and becoming more sad and withdrawn. My mom always tells me I’m too hard on him, and I expect too much. It’s only because I want the best for him, and I know his potential. But like you, I have gone about nurturing him in the wrong ways. I am going to use your motto. In fact, I’m going to post it around the house and in the car. It’s hard to look in the mirror and admit YOU are your own child’s worst enemy. It’s better to identify that though and own it so you can change it. ONLY LOVE TODAY!!!

  173. 280

    says

    Thanks for this, it’s a powerful reminder. I find that while I will never look in the mirror and totally dig what I see, I am used to that feeling and it almost doesn’t bother me anymore. It’s my expectation. But the idea that I could pass that feeling on to my daughters is too horrifying to imagine. And that’s exactly what I’ll do if I don’t show myself a little bit more kindness.

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    Jean says

    I believe I was supposed to read this today. I say things to myself that I would never say to my kids. I don’t even want them to know what I believe about myself, because I am afraid they would start thinking the same thing about themselves. I had the revelation that I need to parent myself the way I parent them, and say the same things to myself that I say to them. When I tell them they’re beautiful, I’m sincere. It’s time to give that gift to myself, so that I can keep giving it to them. The old tapes are hard to stop. Thanks for the means, and affirmation, to do so.

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    Sandra says

    Hi, I just wanted to say THANK YOU for sharing this. I am totally speechless right and very emotional right now. I have been searching the internet for anything to help me improve my young daughter’s Self Esteem and Confidence. Thankfully I came across yours tonight! I really hate that I am responsible for tearing her down by my negative and hurtful words. I promised myself when I learned I was going to have a baby 4 years ago that I would make sure I had a better and closer relationship with my daughter than what I had. I feel so guilty beyond words that I haven’t been able to keep that promise to myself and my daughter. I have so much to work on within myself in order to be a better mother to my children especially my daughter. Thank you so much again for giving me hope that my relationship with my precious daughter can be rebuilt over time and she will one day be the young girl she was meant to be if it weren’t for my bullying. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Take Care!

    Only LOVE today : )

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    Megan says

    Rachel,
    I have been reading your blog for almost a year now, but I have never taken the time to comment. Your post today, however, felt like it was written just for me. I wanted to take a minute to thank you for having the courage to write about your journey. Your constant reminder that “The truth hurts, but the truth heals” has gotten me through some of my hardest days this year as I try to sort through my childhood baggage, accept who I am, and make changes to become the person I want to be. Have you ever read anything by Brene Brown? Her books are incredible, and she talks a lot about how and why we bully ourselves. As a child, I was not brought up to believe that I was ok and worthy and lovable for who I am. To the contrary, I was led to believe that it was how I behaved and what I could accomplish that made me worthy. I consequently became a perfectionist… and I have spent my whole life running as fast as I can… constantly trying to feel “good enough.” I am working hard in therapy to undo these patterns. It’s much easier for me to change how I treat my kids than it is to change how I treat myself (although both are difficult). The scary part is that kids almost always unconsciously emulate their parents. So if I don’t model self compassion for my kids, I know they will grow up without this extremely important skill. And I also know from personal experience that it is a LOT harder to learn self compassion as an adult than it is as a child. Thank you for being brave enough to face down your demons. Your children are truly blessed to have your example in their life. And thank you for sharing your example so that others like myself can follow your lead. You give me hope for a better tomorrow. I am anxiously awaiting your book in January…
    Blessings, Megan

  177. 285

    Mary says

    I read you’re post and if it didn’t touch base with me! I have a Beautiful daughter in which I did the same too, and now that she is 42 years old I’m still trying to make up with her even through we are best friends now . Everyday I’m afraid that she’ll stop loving me because how I had treated her because of me feeling bullied by my own self esteem. I love her but I needed to push her to be better but in stead I made her resent me. When I apologized to her at the age of 16 while brushing her hair I cried because I was afraid she wouldn’t understand that my strong exterior wasn’t what my interior was! I can’t blame my life I need to blame me for treating the one person I loved in the world. I was bullied by my mother and sadly I did it to my daughter. I decide to read this when I seen my daughters post saying this is so close to home. Thank you

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    says

    Woah. This could have been a letter I wrote to myself. Thank you. You describe the state of my relationship with my 4 year old son. I’m working on it, and have been, but this puts it into perfect context: The work begins within. I hadn’t totally connected my inner voice with the one that is hurting my relationship with my child. It’s reassuring to know that working on being kinder to myself will also make me kinder to him, which is most important. Thank you. I cannot wait to read your book. Are you on Facebook?

  179. 288

    says

    You have no idea how much your change means to your daughter!! I admire you for having the strength and humility to overcome that bully inside your head!! :) You are an inspiration to all! I really hope my mom sees this one day. (To understand why, take a glance at my blog about how I’ve been overcoming child abuse.) Thank you for your words!!

  180. 289

    Paola says

    You moved me to tears with this. Thank you for your honesty and for sharing this beautiful part of your life. You can not even imagine how much I can relate to this. THANK YOU for sharing it.

  181. 290

    Nisha says

    I cried reading this story. This is amazing and I can relate to it so much. I keep thinking once I’ve done this (cleaning, cooking, reading, working) I can relax and be a good mum but I think I need to stop now and be a good mum now. Thank you for this post.

  182. 291

    tara says

    this reminds me of a saying i just read recently So often children are punished for being human. Children are not allowed to have grumpy moods bad days disrespectful tones or bad attitudes. Yet we adults have them all the time. None of us are perfect and we must stop holding our children to a higher standard of perfection than we can attain ourselves. Rebecca Eanes.

    It also made me think when we say kind things to ourselves and love ourselves despite our perceived flaws it is easier to be kind and loving to those around us.

    what a good post. It is through our humanness we connect. not perfection.

  183. 294

    marie says

    Thank you so much for bringing to light something so many parents,grandparents, friends, teachers, other family members, etc need to stop doing, including myself.

  184. 295

    says

    WOW!!!
    I write this with a heavy heart and a conscience that has just imploded! I’ve lived with a monster inside of me for many years but had never seen it until I read your blog. You described me so well I didn’t need a mirror to know that “IT” had been found out, it has a name and it looks just like my daughter’s mother…ME!!! I only wish I could turn back time to 20 yrs ago so I could undo the harm I have inflicted on my daughter who is 26 now. I’ve seen her experience anxiety attacks, low self esteem, depression, etc… and never felt I was capable of helping her for fear of doing more harm than good. The only good I could do was telling her she needed to see someone – a professional – that would help her find the key she needed to unlock her inner self, though I didn’t do anything to get her that help. She went through some counseling 2 yrs ago, and underwent a noticeable change from the very first session! I have lived with guilt & shame as my shadows, feeling guilty I had failed her in ways to have damaged her very core, and shame for all the years I’ve taken and wasted by not getting the help “WE” needed.
    Your description of the things you did to your daughter when reacting to something she did / didn’t do, caused the implosion I felt right before I understood what I had just read…The UGLY NASTY TRUTH!!
    My bully self had me believing my daughter had to be perfect and she should know how to do everything I do because I’m her mother! Like through osmosis or something. I rarely thought twice of embarrassing her. I never felt I had to defend or rationalize my behavior because who would call me on any of it?? Just the opposite. Because my daughter’s true nature shines on its own accord, people who know her compliment me by saying she is a reflection of my being such a good mother. My first thought has always been…If they only knew!! So I feel like I’d be lying if I said…I NEVER KNEW!!
    But now that I do know the monster for what it is; I feel I can take the first step towards healing our relationship…My most valuable treasure! Thank you so very much for sharing and for allowing me to ramble. Excited to read your book!

  185. 296

    Annmarie Kenny says

    U cud be writing about me. I am a mum of five and my eldest Bo has too much responsibility for a ten year old. Thank u thank u thanku i hope i change. Ann marie (ireland).

  186. 297

    says

    Ermagerd. I can’t believe you made me cry at 4am! That was beautiful. This is the first time I’ve read your blog, and it was absolutely inspiring and motivating. Thanks for this!

  187. 299

    emily turnbull says

    I’m sorry but reading all these comments breaks my heart. How dare anyone bully their child and feel they have an excuse for it!! There is no excuse! Especially since its happened to most of you. …if you have nothing nice to say keep your mouth shut. I grew up in a very strict home and vowed I would never treat my kids that way. If you can’t break the cycle on your own, then get help….writing ‘I need help’ on someones blog is not going to help you. Wow…so very sad, I didn’t realize how many mom’s were like this. And then you wonder why their kids start lying and hiding things! Because at that point all you are is the person that gave birth to them, and a bully. Why should they confide in you and tell you their secrets when you have judged everything they do. Its very disturbing. If I knew I broke my child’s spirit by the words spoken from my own mouth, It would be a sad day in the world…
    I really hope you all find peace. Or a cork if you can’t.

    • 300

      Holli says

      Emily,
      I think you need to follow your own advice “if you have nothing nice to say, keep your mouth shut”……we are all sinners who make human mistakes, we all need a Savior, none of us a perfect, even you.

    • 301

      LD says

      This blog is usually a supportive place where people feel free and safe to finally be honest and admit their failings and shortcomings because of Rachel’s brave honesty. Everyone knows, admitting you need help is the first step to changing behavior. So while it may not seem worthwhile to you for people to admit their failings on a blog, to many it is the first step to healing. Judgmental and harsh attitudes contribute and perpetuates this need for all of us imperfect people to keep the mask on and keep striving for never-ending and unattainable perfection so that we are not berated and ridiculed when we finally try to be real with others. I feel your words have somewhat ruined a typically safe and loving environment here and you have reminded me once again not to be vulnerable even online for fear of being judged. Sometimes Rachel’s words “Stop… only love today” can also be applied to online posts.

    • 303

      says

      Wow!!! As I read this article I finally felt like i wasn’t alone in my struggles with raising children. We all have battles within us and sharing them is sometimes the best way to see the light to change. How you can criticize anyone for this is beyond me. I would take your own advice and say nothingnif you have nothing supportive or nice to say.

    • 304

      Ariel says

      Your comment is ridiculous, everyone commenting here KNOWS they are wrong and most of us are just thankful to find others struggling and the words of encouragement in this post, you are not God, you are not perfect and I guarantee you make mistakes with your children. Nobody should be ashamed to say they have messed up and need help and YES , a blog post like this one CAN help people get better and see through clearer eyes, what they are doing. So how about you stop trying to shame people out of admitting their problems, all you’re doing is making people not want to admit they’ve done anything wrong and thus, never get help. Think about what you say before you say it, because the way you talk to strangers can be a good clue as to how you act in your personal relationships, would you tell your kids not to admit their faults too?

  188. 305

    Renee says

    This is me! I am currently seeing a counsellor to help me deal with this. I find it so hard to be a parent in today’s world. There is just so much pressure to be a better parent. Like what we’re doing isn’t enough? I cancelled my ‘Parenting’ magazine subscriptions as they were full of ‘how to do this better, that better…’ too much pressure.

    My kids get the worst of me every night when they don’t follow directions. It’s such a helpless feeling to not be in control of the simple things!

  189. 307

    D says

    Thank you for writing this. I’m not so much a perfectionist as I am a controlling person. I find myself being ridiculous about my almost 3 year old spilling things and making messes. Also, I don’t have any patience with her not listening to me. I know a lot of it is her age. It’s not her fault. I really need to find a way to quit trying to control things with my kid and husband and this may help. I need to work on being nice to myself too. I will work on implementing the stop idea you’re talking about.

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    Shelley says

    This is exactly what I needed this morning. I have watched my daughter slipping away from our relationship, which has always been fraught with my perfectionism. She’s 7, and I know if I don’t change soon, our relationship will become permanently damaged. Thank you for telling your story and revealing to me that the root of my criticism of my daughter is really my own insecurity. Also, thank you for the STOP method. I’m desperate to try it and see if something can finally release me from the bondage I’ve dealt with practically since becoming a mother.

  191. 310

    says

    What a powerful article. I think if we all take a look, there’s a bully in all of us. We’re so critical of ourselves. If you’re a parent or not, this article is a must read. I’ve shared it on my Facebook Timeline. Thanks for being so open and honest. We need more people like you. First time I’ve read your blog and I’m not even sure how I got here but I’m glad I did.

    • 311

      says

      I appreciate the supportive words, Phyllis. I feel so hopeful by what is being shared here in the comment section. Thank you for sharing the message! It has reached almost a million people in 1 day thanks to people like you. Let there be hope & healing & love, only love, in 2014.

      • 312

        Doris says

        My daughter posted this on FB this morning and I was so very touched by your article, and it answered a question that has been carried deep within my heart and soul for so many years. I am the product of a bulling mom and unfortunately was one and passed it on to my children with out realizing the Bully was in control . Some time ago I came to the realization that I see my bulling ways come alive in my children, hard to swallow when you see it in action in some one else :( My children are all grown with families of their own, and so I may not be able to erase the damage I have caused , I vow today, to STOP ! AND ONLY LOVE TODAY and put it in to practice daily in my life!!!! I have sat here for the past three hours reading comments from people logging on to your Blog, and you dear Rachel are a BLESSING and a beginning of CHANGE to so many !!! Though I am not much of a reader, when your book comes out in January I will be buying a copy to help guide me in being a better me and BULLY FREE !!! I will continue to follow your Blog and waiting for new nuggets to apply to my life :) THANK YOU FOR YOUR TRANSPARENTCY !!!!!

  192. 314

    Kristi Wilson says

    Thanks you for this eye opener……. I loved reading your article and I am about to order your book.
    Thanks you again…..:)

  193. 315

    Erika says

    This really spoke to me. I am guilty of doing everything you listed with my oldest. I love the mantra too and I will definitely be using it. And picking up your book.

  194. 316

    Natalie Lundquist says

    I just came across your post on Facebook as it was shared by a friend of mine. I usually skip by articles on my newsfeed but for some reason clicked on this one. I feel like I am reading about myself….right here and right now. We recently moved out of the country with our four children to start a new business and have a new “adventure”. Our children are in french school (without knowing a lick of french) and my husband and I are struggling to make our new business thrive in a new culture, a new country with a language only one us understands. Time is not in our favor and the stress levels for everyone are out the roof. I could go on an on but I get from this post you understand exactly where I am coming from. My oldest daughter is just like yours and my relationship right now is exactly how you describe. If I could buy your book right here and right now I would sit down and not move until I was finished reading every last word. I guess I want to say Thank-You for this post because for me it’s exactly what I needed to hear.

  195. 317

    Shannon Martin says

    A friend posted your blog on her Facebook and I felt drawn to read it. Boy did I need it. I had just reacted harshly to my one and only child and made her cry cause I scared her by being upset over something which was so stupid and minor. It was like a gift that I saw this blog. Thank you for sharing and being so honest. Will try your mantra as I need to make some changes to have a happier home. Thank you!

  196. 318

    Sheryl says

    God has reached me through your words. I really needed to hear them today. As a product of a broken home with no family nearby, I often have felt I don’t know how to be a good parent. Consequently, I try to overcompensate, to overly dictate to my oldest daughter in particular what to do, how to say it, how to do it, etc. When I tell myself to relax, the guilt of being a working mom sets in, and I once again feel I have to try harder to control her behavior–because I’m not around her most of the day. This post reminds me that, yes, I’m not where I want to be (home with her) and I may never be able to be a stay-at-home mom, but I can use the time I do have with her to be more loving, gentle, and positive–letting her be the girl she needs to be and become the woman God created her to be. Thank you. Only love today–and always.

  197. 320

    says

    This is something I struggle with everyday. I keep telling myself I am going to change but, but it isn’t an easy thing to do. I applause your honesty ans willingness to change yourself for you and those you love. I so needed to read this today. It lit a fire in me to do better. Thank you!!!!!

  198. 321

    Faye says

    You have opened my eyes. This is me, totally me. I bully myself and in turn bully my kids. I will now give myself a motto ‘Stop, only love’. Thank you for this post, for your honesty, it has helped me so much today.

  199. 322

    Diana Liford says

    I’m forwarding this to my own daughter, now 25, with a 5 year old and 18 month old twins, who, because I see so much of myself in the mom in this story, I see the child she was and the mom she became, because of me. Wish I’d seen this “me story” years ago. I might have been able to help my own granddaughter, and my daughter, too. I have to lean on the saying of, “It’s never too late to change. ” Thank you for this.

  200. 323

    Julie says

    I am sitting at my desk crying while reading this. As a single parent, I struggle to be perfect in my life and do/be/have perfect everything. I’ve recently begun counseling to try and stop bullying myself after a lifetime of it, but I recognize now that I’m bullying my children too. My oldest daughter is messy, forgetful, emotional and I’ve unintentionally created a perfectionist in her. She is afraid to try new things and everything has to be “just so”. She is a smart, beautiful, creative, loving and sweet soul and I need to give her credit for those wonderful things she is, instead of always being frustrated/angry about the little things. Thanks for the reminder!

  201. 324

    says

    This is exactly the medicine I needed to take today! I come from a long line of ‘perfectionists’ which has turned out a long line of neurotic self-loathing women. Thank you for holding up the mirror in front of my face and reminding me that all the negative self-talk unwillingly flows out onto my kids.
    I too feel the hurry up, do it the right way conversation in my head instead of the calming, enjoy the moment vibes that I want to show my daughters. Thank you!

  202. 325

    Tamra says

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I instantly started to cry while reading this because I realized that I do the same thing to my twin daughters, and to myself. Why are we so hard on ourselves, and in turn, our children? It helps to know that I am not alone in this struggle. Thank you again.

  203. 326

    Hannah says

    Thank you for this! I had to do some self reflection after reading this. I have 3 boys and one girl and I am this way with my daughter but not my boys. I guess I am just so unhappy with my life as a whole (other than my children. They are AMAZING) that I thought by pushing her in ways I was never pushed, she wouldn’t end up like me…but then I also grew up in the, now cliche, house of abuse and neglect. My constantly trying to NOT be like my mother, means I tell her all the time she is pretty, smart, can do anything she sets her mind to etc…lots of hugs and time together….but then any of the things I keep telling her she can do, are never done right in my eyes…I have some HUGE changes to make.

  204. 327

    spring says

    Thank you for such an inspiring article, you are so brave to have put yourself out there and realized that surely there are other mothers out there just like this. Again thank you, sometimes its hard to figure out where the anger hurt and aggravation comes from! Thank you for showing us! Again thank you!

  205. 329

    says

    This story is me. I am in tears reading this and I will buy the book. I want to love more and to be loved back. I want the best for my two little boys. I am going to stop! Right now and try everyday . Thank you

  206. 330

    Tina says

    Thank you! My husband and I have both recently lost our jobs ( same company) we have both been so down and discouraged the past month that we have fought everyday, blaming each other, talking about leaving, leaving. Our children have been put through hell they have changed schools three times in 2 months, been here for all of our fights brought into our fights. They are hurting, we all are hurting. We pray together every night all hoping for things to be good again, to be a loving family once again. Our daughter is 15 and trying to get a job to help out, our son is 13 and is a type 1 diabetic so he feels like the whole world is against him already and he feels that we have abandoned him, it breaks my heart that they have been robbed of being happy, of being kids. I am going to change for them, for us. I’m going to get our family back. I’m going to show them and my husband everyday that we are worth fighting for, that we still are a Loving caring Family. That we are not giving up, we will, Life will get better. Thank you!!

    • 331

      Helen Hough says

      been there in my own way husband made redundant again and me off sick for the last 7 months of last year. It pushes you to your limits. He is now working and I have been able to leave a job that made me very ill and about to start a new life. Drink has been an issue in past and now but its getting better on its own because things are so much better. Stay strong for each other – its worth it. No work puts huge starins on people. Beleive me I have had a hubbie out of work more than once and its never his fault. I have supported us. and your kids – they are kids that need protecting even though it can be soooooo hard at times. XXXXXX

  207. 332

    says

    So candid and brave and beautiful. The times we choose to share what hurts and scares, the things that we hide…that is always when we have the greatest reach isn’t it? I’ve followed for about a year, but never commented. I am inspired by your journey and your transparency. Thanks. :)

  208. 333

    Sheri says

    This made me sad as I see that I am so critical (and always have been) of my middle daughter. She is a beautiful, funny, kind girl but honestly, she is a walking disaster! LOL She is an extreme extrovert who needs friends around all the time, while I need some peace and quiet sometimes. Ever since she was two, she has had to have a house full of friends or she is bored. (She is now a freshman in high school.) She leaves a wake of destruction behind her when she enters a room (bags of uneaten chips, collections of used soda bottles or half-drunk glasses of water everywhere, all of our towels in some sort of wet moldiness on her floor, fruit snack and candy wrappers stuff under the sofa cushions and thrown behind my headboards…), and I am always the one left picking up the pieces. So how do I reconcile my anger and resentment over her sloppiness to see the beautiful lady she is? I’m afraid she’d going to remember me as the -itchy mom, and I am going to remember her as the child who made me nuts – even though we both love each other.

    I guess I’m torn about teaching my children to be self-sufficient and sharing in family responsibiltiies WHILE loving them. How does one do this? Thank you!!

  209. 334

    Camille says

    Absolutely amazing. Thank you for this incredible post. It brought me to tears as I could relate in so many ways.

  210. 335

    Julie says

    I had a few revelations about myself as I read this. #1, I’m not alone. #2, I really am my own bully. #3, I treat my daughter the same way. It hurt to read this. I never thought of any of it in this way. Typically, you can spot a bully miles away but when the bully is in your head it’s not so easy to realize. I will be trying your STOP method and start giving my daughter room to breathe and grow. THANK you.

  211. 339

    techkim says

    This is hard. I am doing this to my 11 yr old son. I did not realize that I was doing the exact same thing, bullying him, that I saw others do that I fought against for him. I feel sick. I worry I can’t undo the damage. He is such an amazing boy and loves me and his younger brothers to death. He would even through hits at me, Mom you blame me for everything, Mom you don’t listen to me, Mom you are the one being rude. My heart is broken now to pick up the pieces and change my son’s life. Pssss wanna bet his attitude will change when I start changing?

  212. 340

    Mom of 3 says

    I came across your blog on facebook this morning while drinking my coffee and all I can say is WoW that is so me. I have 2 boys and one girl and I find my self being really hard on my daughter because I want better for her then I had. I never thought I was bring her down but after reading this you are so right. I must try and make a chance in 2014. This will be every hard for me to do I am sure but I must try and hope it is not to late as she is about to be 15. Thank you so much for telling your story and I so hope I can change the bully inside of me!

  213. 341

    Christina says

    I absolutely love this! I NEEDED this. I like you am very busy, being pulled in a hundred different directions. I want to be perfect, things to be perfect, my kids to be perfect when we know that is not possible. Part of my issue is that I am alone, a single mom who’s ex’s family who thrives when I/we fail. My other issue is that my son is autistic and a lot of my time and energy is on him. He is doing well and thriving more than anyone ever expected. However, my biggest issue is my precious 12 year old girl. She is a delight with a heart of gold and a perfectionist – however that is her down fall. She has always done more for others than herself even if that means she is hurt in the process, takes what people say to heart, even when not true, and will make herself sick physically and emotionally when she messes up. She has had to live in her brothers shadow and even when she is the center she is broken. She has no true friends, just the ones who use her and I see that pain in her eyes and it breaks me. Basically, she is me. I have taken her to counseling and doctors to no avail. I HATE seeing her like this. I know first I have to start at home and let her know that it is ok to mess up, to cry and show emotion and to be herself even if others don’t like it. Please is anyone has any other advice. It scares me to see her so broken, knowing that I had a hand in it. It also makes me mad that others are breaking her spirit as well. What do I do?

  214. 342

    Rachel says

    I just discovered your blog via Facebook, and I have to thank you so much for doing what you did. I know exactly how your daughter feels. I’ve been through a similar situation.

    My brother and I have been yelled at, belittled, torn down and ignored by our father for many years. Like you, he didn’t seem to realize what he was doing, and that he was alienating us. When ever we wanted his approval on something we’d done, we where instead beaten down, told that it wasn’t good enough, whither it be school, sports, or just a picture we’d drawn. Dad has been laid off twice during this recession, and though we are secure now, we haven’t always been. To handle the intense stress of work he would bury himself in his work. He was dead to us, even at home. Any little think would set him off, and he would yell and rage to the point that we where afraid he would hit something. Thank goodness he never did. Very often everything was our fault. He wasn’t there for the most important growing times of our lives. Two years ago, my dad landed a low-stress job, and “woke up” expecting every thing to be as he’d left it. He found a very shaky relationship with his son, and a wife and daughter who’ve built protective walls where we hid our hearts.

    We’re all learning years of hurt a difficult to get past. In the past two years, things have improved. I don’t hide from him any more, but I don’t want him to touch me… I don’t want to talk to him, I don’t want to be in the same room as him. I’m too afraid of getting hurt, and as sad as this sounds, my rejecting him now, feels kind-of good because I finally hold the power. I know this is wrong, and I’m working hard at trying to stop, but it’s so hard when some thing like this happens. Believe me, my dad is trying had to win use back, and has done ok with my younger brother, my mom sort of, but i’m still distant. That’s partially my fault. I’m nearly sixteen now, and I don’t know what the next ten years will hold, but as of now calling him dad tastes wrong one my tongue. I don’t want all the things he’s trying to give me now like affection, go to choir concerts, or some day,walk me down the isle….

    I’m sorry to unload my sob story, but it’s hard to make since without explaining a little. You’re incredible if you’ve read this far! :) I know the circumstances are a bit different, but I think the emotions are much the same. I don’t know exactly how old your daughter was, (eightish?) but I can remember being around her age, going through similar things, sobbing on my bed, wondering what was wrong with me. That’s why I had to write you, to thank you for making that change for your daughter and for your self. My dad’s a lot like how you described yourself; very up tight, always has a master plan, very worried about how others see him. I am so happy you made that change. My dad would be so much happier if he would just learn to except himself and others. As for me, I’m hoping and praying I can turn my situation into a positive, to come off a better, stronger person for the experience. Who knows, hopefully, with God and my family’s help, when it is time for me to walk down the isle, my dad will be beside me.

    Again, thank you so much for not only making a change, but reaching out to others, to help prevent what we’ve gone through. My best wishes to you, and your family. I hope you always have a happy and peaceful life.
    Much love and many thanks,
    A fellow Rachel

    • 343

      Sophie says

      To “A fellow Rachel,”
      You are 16?! I just wanted to comment, what an amazingly articulate young woman you are… thank you for sharing your story. I have a feeling you are going to be OK. :)

  215. 345

    Amanda says

    As I read this, tears streamed down my face. I have, far too many times, been the exact person you describe. I bully myself to be better, to be more focused, to me more perfect. Your words have touched my heart and I will be a better Momma because of it. Too many times, I’ve seen my baby boy’s eyes have a fear that I never wanted to see. Thank you.

  216. 346

    Jessica says

    I cried reading this. I’ve been trying to stop being so terribly hard on my oldest daughter, too.

    They don’t deserve it. They’re just kids. And it’s been so hard for me, at times, to see her as my little child instead of my helper. I hold her to too much responsibility and don’t teach her correctly how to do things before laying in to her when she does things wrong.

    I see myself in her, which is hard… because I see the things I don’t like in myself. I’m so hard on her because I don’t want her to hold the traits that I would change in myself. I have to remind myself that just because I don’t like something in myself, doesn’t mean that I can’t teach her to love EVERYTHING about herself.

    Such a well written post… hit way too close to home. Thank you. :)

  217. 347

    says

    Thank you for your honest post. I think every person reading will relate. It is time for all of us to STOP trying to be perfect and aim for LOVE and GRACE. I am thankful for the GRACE I find in Jesus. Bless you with a successful book launch. If you have a launch team I would live to be on the team.

  218. 348

    J says

    Tomorrow is the 24th anniversary of my mother’s death. I have no human children, by choice, but this article resonated with me in a different way from probably many of your readers. My mother was a perfectionist and a bully. One time, when I was probably seven or eight, she realized she’d gone too far and apologized to me. I felt so loved and safe in that moment. The next day, the yelling and nitpicking started all over again. I’m the oldest, so I probably bore the brunt of her bullying, but my brother and sister got their share. I don’t know if I would have gotten through adolescence if not for my aunt and grandmother, both of whom always let me know they loved me without condition. In fact, my aunt became my best friend later in life until she died several years ago.

    In all of my trying to understand why she treated me the way she did, it honestly never occurred to me that she was bullying herself just much as, if not more than, she did me. So thank you for this.

    While I don’t have children, I have probably been less than nice to others during my life — in the guise of helping them do better, which is what I’m sure my mother told herself and what it sounds like many others who have commented also do.

    Again, thank you.
    JR

  219. 350

    says

    I am ashamed to say that I really needed to read this today. In fact, I am going to bookmark it and read it every day. Maybe right before I leave work, so I can have it fresh in my mind when I pick my kids up from their after-school programs!

    • 351

      jeremie lederman says

      …or get serious and get professional help. there are lots of amazing people who can help you find out what;s going on in you so that you can stop abusing your kids.

      If you can’t get help, then this post really didn’t mean anything

  220. 352

    Nikki McIntosh says

    I am so glad my friend shared this on her facebook page. My oldest who is 10 she was always daddys girl and never did any wrong when she was wrong. She had him so wrapped. That was until we had our 2nd daughter who is now 2. My oldest gets the blame for everything. Just like you said if the youngest cries no matter if the oldest does it or not she still is getting the blame. My husband does this to our oldest and it breaks my heart for her cause she will come crying to me and I just hug her and say im sorry. I have begged and pleaded my husband to stop and he never does. My oldest wakes up with him yelling at her and goes to bed with him yelling at he. she never gets praised by him for good on punshied. I have asked for help from his side of the family and they have tried and nothing. I shared your story on his facebook page in hopes god will help him from your story. Thanks so much for sharing.

  221. 353

    GG says

    I was guilty of this. I still think back on days that I yelled at my daughter for little things when she was small. I remember seeing the tears in her eyes and her little head bowed down. I realized what I was doing when she was about 7 and have actually been very easy on her since. She is now 17 and my husband says I’m too easy on her. I am constantly trying to show her how much I care. I hug her and tell her I love her every time she leaves anywhere or when she goes to bed. She rarely hugs back or tells me she loves me, but I blame that on her just being a teenager. I don’t know how to right the wrong I caused so many years ago and sometimes feel it’s too late.

  222. 354

    Christina says

    Thank you so much for this!!! I absolutely love this! I NEEDED this!!!!!!!!! I like you am very busy, being pulled in a hundred different directions. I want to be perfect, things to be perfect, my kids to be perfect when we know that is not possible. Part of my issue is that I am alone, a single mom who’s ex’s family who thrives when I/we fail. My other issue is that my son is autistic and a lot of my time and energy is on him. He is doing well and thriving more than anyone ever expected. However, my biggest issue is my precious 12 year old girl. She is a delight with a heart of gold and a perfectionist – however that is her down fall. She has always done more for others than herself even if that means she is hurt in the process, takes what people say to heart, even when not true, and will make herself sick physically and emotionally when she messes up. She has had to live in her brothers shadow and even when she is the center she is broken. She has no true friends, just the ones who use her and I see that pain in her eyes and it breaks me. Basically, she is me. I have taken her to counseling and doctors to no avail. I HATE seeing her like this. I know first I have to start at home and let her know that it is ok to mess up, to cry and show emotion and to be herself even if others don’t like it. Please is anyone has any other advice. It scares me to see her so broken, knowing that I had a hand in it. It also makes me mad that others are breaking her spirit as well. What do I do?

    • 355

      says

      Christina,

      First, I am glad you recognize your part in your son’s well-being. You must have worked hard to make that happen on your own. Then you said you see yourself in your daughter, but it sounds like you may have a hard time crediting yourself for helping her grow into the delightful person with a heart of gold that she is, since you blame yourself for contributing to her “broken spirit.” She is also struggling with perfectionism and friend issues which from your comment, “Basically, she is me,” sounds like you are as well. Despite your frustration with the professionals you’ve seen, your request for advice tells me that somehow you know it doesn’t have to be this way.

      Though my older daughter was 4 when I sought help, I know how painful having a “broken” perfectionist child can be. Because of the seemingly magical results I’ve seen and experienced, I would recommend finding a family therapist (not just a counselor) who is also a child-centered play therapist – someone who can work with you and her separately and together, or even better, train you to work with her the way a therapist would. That’s called filial therapy and is the foundation of what I teach in my parenting classes today (20 years later with two thriving unbroken daughters). A good family therapist should also be able to help in changing the dynamics of relationships with friends and ex-family.

      As a parent coach now, I would say that since you feel like the most urgent thing is to start at home and help her bring acceptance to herself, I would tell you to follow your instincts on that, but not give up on the professional world. Something you can start doing right away at home is validating her need to be perfect, because to her it is extremely important if not urgent to be perfect. I know it may sound backwards, but from a perfectionist child’s point of view, being told it is OK to mess up, show emotion and not care what her friends think, is telling her she is wrong to be herself, even if that is not your intention. Then I would also suggest that you apply the same validation approach to yourself because of the instant relief it can bring.

      Here’s why: The normal human reaction to being told you are wrong is to become defensive and prove that you are right. You are proving it to yourself as much as to the person who told you that you were wrong. Though subconsciously driven, even getting sick over messing up can serve as proof, as in “See, I even get sick when I mess up. What else do I need to do to prove that being perfect really is important?!!”

      Acceptance is the missing element in shifting perfectionism. Once she knows it’s OK to be the way she is (whatever that is), she can naturally start to relax about it. Validation can make a big difference fast!

      Validation is not agreement or encouragement. It is understanding that sounds like this, “You really wanted that to be perfect! You tried so hard and still messed up. You are afraid that everything is ruined. No wonder you are upset!”

      As a perfectionist yourself, you have special insight into what she is experiencing. Validation gives her permission to be who she thinks she needs to be, do what she thinks she needs to do, and feel the way she feels. My rules for validation are: no fixing, no judging (good or bad), no teaching, no questions. When you leave those things out, all that’s left is pure understanding and compassionate listening. It’s the key to reconnecting with her and with yourself. I hope it can start you on the path to some much needed relief.

  223. 356

    Planet Schnooks says

    You know I went to a counselor last year because I always thought people hated me and my relationships struggled because of it and the counselor gave me this same technique to use. She said when I started having these thoughts to think of a stop sign and just stop. It did help out a lot and I have not used this in awhile now but reading your post today has made me think I need to start using it again. Thanks.

  224. 359

    Paula says

    Hi Rachel,

    I have been reading your blog for awhile and I always look forward to reading it and the comments to know I am not a lone. As a single mom of a 4 year old and a 2 year old who works full time. I can so relate to what you have written here. I am trying so hard to give my kids a childhood that I didn’t have and in trying so hard to do that, I often miss the opportunities of just being with them. My oldest often gets the brunt of my frustration and I hate it. He is being forced to grow up way to quickly and all I want is for him to stay little. It’s almost comical the polar forces that are at play. I expect so much of him, yet I want so desperately for him to be 4. Today I choose love and today he gets to be 4 and my daughter gets to be 2.

  225. 360

    Kim says

    A friend posted this on Facebook today and it couldnt have been more timely. I hit my point last night when I told my 7 year old I wasnt going to do anything for her ever again. I know it is now time to make a change and this was just the inspiration I needed.

  226. 361

    Fiberguy says

    Thank you and bless you. This was a timely message, one that I really needed to hear, TODAY. I’ve pre-ordered your book. So much of what you write about resonates with me deeply and, like you, I want the very best for our child.

  227. 362

    Hope says

    Thank you for writing this. I am this person. I don’t know how to not be this person, but I’d like to try. It’s funny that I’d read this today – last night everyone at my house had a big blow up argument and I came to work in tears this morning. This was something I needed to see today to help me realize that things can change. Thank you.

  228. 363

    Kim says

    Wow! This hurt my feelings big time. I felt as if I were reading my own story, only insert son for daughter. I had to stop reading to clear my eyes because I couldn’t see through the tears that were flowing, uncontrollably, down my face. Not because this was news to me; I am very aware of how I treat my son, yet I can’t seem to stop my words, looks and actions. I can see the defeat in his beautiful, big brown eyes and it hurts my soul. He is 9 years old and my daughter is 6. If I can’t get this monster under control I am afraid I will lose him to a life of self torment and constant feelings of defeat and unworthiness. I am going to try your strategy of “Stop. Only love today.” Thank you for this post. It helps to know that I am not the only one and your words and actions have truly inspired me to finally tackle the worst bully ever…..myself.

    • 364

      jeremie lederman says

      Kim, you know full well that there is counseling and professional help that you can seek out to stop this. Unless you are still defending your own ego at all cost, you can do this.

  229. 365

    Bob says

    It’s amazing to me after reading the comments how all these self-professed ‘bully’ parents have produced children who are so unruly at the grocery store. People… you’re not babysitters. You’re parents. Act like it. You’re supposed to over correct, it’s the nature of the job. There’s nothing wrong with enacting disciplinary measures comparable to what the situation calls for, but there must be equal amounts of praise, ‘atta boys’, and love to compliment it.

    If you’re belittling your kid, being mean to make yourself feel better, or being mean just to be mean (the essence of what a bully REALLY is) as a manifestation of internal insecurities (as indicated by this article) then the answer is not to ‘ease up’ on the symptoms of your problem (being mean) as much as it is to actually address those internal problems. Correct the problem, not the symptom. You talk briefly about this when you say you’d tell yourself to say ‘stop’ when you’re being mean to yourself, but your argument falters later on when you suggest that a parent who can relate to your story should ‘ease up’ on their kid. They should address and correct the problem. Not the symptom. Consistency in parenting is key if we’re talking relative norms here instead of extremes (abuse physical or verbal, excessive punishments, etc).

    This article is mistitled in my opinion, since I don’t think badgering, constantly correcting, or even (constructively) criticizing your child (when warranted) define a person as a ‘bully’. I’m not even sure they are characteristics of a bully, since the underlying motivation of said behavior is an improved relationship with your child and/or perceived ‘improved’ behavior. In fact, much of what you wrote I don’t think corresponds to being a bully. To me, you exercised poor judgment which was compounded by your own internal insecurities, which again, as a parent, doesn’t lead me to believe that the answer to this is ‘ease up on your kid’ so much as it is to ‘fix your own internal issue and act appropriately given the situation’.

    I’m glad you found your way out though and you and your kid are more comfortable as a result.

  230. 366

    Jessica says

    Just read this. All I can say is WOW. I am that Mom! Time for a change! Thank you for sharing this story. I know I’ve made mistakes…especially with my step-daughter.

  231. 367

    Traci says

    I cannot thank you enough for this post. Honestly, I started bawling!! Your writing reflects me to a great deal right now in life with my three beautiful girls, and especially my oldest. I try so hard to be a good mom, but sometimes I add too much trying to make life perfect for them, that I don’t relax and let them relax and enjoy life and be joyous!! My new mantra for live is going to be your, “Only love today.” Thank you, thank you, thank you. I really hope to get your book , too!

  232. 368

    Tera says

    I discovered you on Facebook from another mom’s link. THANK YOU..it is very hard to admit but I am too a bully and my eldest daughter who is 11 gets the worst of it then myself. She has to take the backseat to my son whom is autistic everyday and it tears me apart. I can’t wait to purchase your book. I will also practice your mantra as well.. again. Thanks..

  233. 369

    Tara says

    Thank you so much for sharing your heart. This momma needed exactly that TODAY. It was the Lord using you to validate exactly what I’ve been feeling and how I need to change. You were a vessel today….thank you so much!

  234. 370

    Tooashamedtowritemyname says

    Thank you for this post. I am a bully to my three year old. I can’t believe it and it is excruciatingly painful to admit, but it’s true. What you’ve written really resonates with me in a lot of bad ways. I have apologized countless times and promised him and myself that it will stop, but I haven’t been able to stop the inner struggle and the “spillage” you speak of. I am going to try harder. I have to. How can I do this to the person I love more than anything who depends on me for everything, most importantly, unconditional love. Thank you. Wish me luck.

  235. 371

    Valerie says

    Today was the perfect time for this blog to be delivered to me. I grew up with a bully and became the same. I have at times been able to snap out of it for a few weeks, but the mistrust I see with my oldest 2 children haunts me daily. Today I will start again. Thank you for your courage to share.

  236. 372

    says

    I am so moved by this. I appreciate your courage to share so openly about your struggle. I struggle with this too. I am so tired of being tired, cranky and agitated with my kids. I know it’s because i’m tired, cranky and tough on myself too. It spills out on them. I hate that and I feel so much guilt about it. It’s good to know I am not alone and that one day at a time I can do better. In small steps, I would love to see the change you did in my own kids. Thank you for sharing your story.
    Dilyn

  237. 373

    Nicole says

    I could have written this about myself and my older child and only daughter. I am trying to stop. It’s so hard.

  238. 375

    Tammy Brady says

    Thank you so much for posting this, iv been feeling the same way and doing the same things to my two youngest daughters, it was such a eye opener and I intend on making a serious change and fast. Thank you again

  239. 376

    Anna says

    Thank you so much for this post. It moved me to tears. I grew up with a very critical “bullying” mother who was also, I now realize, pushing herself to be perfect. I’ve mostly conquered my own inner critic – it was a difficult journey and even now I get discouraged about how everything doesn’t look perfect like it did in my mother’s house when I was growing up. But your description of your daughter before your transformation reminded me so much of myself as a child – it reminded me that a perfect house is less important than happy and confident children. Thank you!

  240. 377

    Rachel says

    Thank you so much for writing this! I have no children of my own yet, but growing up, my mother was very hard on me (and still is) for every little thing. Through this, I had become a bully to myself. Nothing I ever did was good enough for my mom, or for me. My biggest fear has always been that I would end up being a mother like my mom was. I’m determined not to end up like that, though, I would never want my children to feel the same way that I did. I’m even pursuing a career in childcare so that I can provide and safe, judge-free zone for children.

  241. 378

    says

    Thank you so much for having the courage to write this! I was a screamer when my kids were little and I so regret those harsh words and the uncertainty in their eyes. I was so humbled at the instant forgiveness my kids always extended to me. In our quest for perfection and our inability to give grace to ourselves, we end up not giving much grace to others, including those we love the most. Anyway, thanks for sharing this – not only because it is great truth but also to give hope to those who wonder if they can change. Change is possible – my boys are 12 and 15 now and we have a great relationship that very rarely involves a raised voice (unless of course, they are outside and they can’t hear me! ;) )

  242. 381

    Mimi says

    My daughter posted this on facebook. I pray she could see herself in you. She and my granddaughters were recently visiting in my home. As the oldest of four, I could see what was happening to the oldest but could do nothing about it. Any comment I make is taken as criticism. My daughter strives so hard to be a perfect mom, emplyoyee, wife and person. My sweet, nurturing, first granddaughter was being literally shut down by her mom’s actions and her mom’s inaction with the youngest. The youngest was being allowed to bully them both! By screaming, she would get her way. My daughter was giving in to her to just keep her from screaming. My oldest granddaughter was beginning to show signs of resentment towards her younger sibling, a child she has adored since she was born.

    Thank you so very much for sharing your failings so others can hopefully see theirs. One can never be a success without failure.

  243. 382

    Heidi Nutzman says

    I absolutely could have written this myself….including the first born daughter part. You are amazing for posting this with such sincerity and honesty. I am 100% going to try and move forward in a different direction as a parent after having read this. Wonderful WONDERFUL post!

  244. 383

    Kay says

    Clearly you have struck a nerve with many. I am always finding myself criticizing my oldest daughter. Even worse for what she does and for what her brothers do. I always find a way to bring it back to her . sometimes I feel like I just want a reaction from someone and since her brothers reaction is usually laughter at my attempt at discipline I lash out at the person I know I can effect. In those moments I see her disappointment in herself for something that has nothing to do with her perfect little person. And the satisfaction of having someone listen and feel shamed by me does nothing but make me feel more shane for myself. It’s an awful cycle. I tell myself the stress will ease as they get older but naturally it won’t. It’s time to step back more and as you say “stop”. Stop being mean. Stop feeling bad for myself and the busy life that a house full of love brings. Stopping is the best advice there is., thank you for it. It sounds crazy but whenever I find myself at these moments I wonder how to stop and the answer is to simply do it.

  245. 384

    says

    This is one of the most wonderful things I’ve read in a long time. I absolutely ugly cried when I read this because I recognized many of these traits in myself. How could I have been so cruel – to myself and projected that onto my children, my everything’s?! It is so true that how we feel about ourselves, how we perceive ourselves and our situations reflects on those and is projected onto those around us. I congratulate you for your self-awareness and inner reflections and your bravery to make a very difficult change.

  246. 385

    BJ says

    Thank you so much for this article. It was an answer to a prayer-truly! I have never heard of your blog until today but I just this morning promised my husband, who bears the brunt of my bullying, that I would try to stop being so critical of myself because I realize it’s what causes me to be so critical of others. I don’t know how to do it but I know I need to. Can you explain a little more the stop technique you use? Just stop thinking a negative thought when it come? Do you replace it with a positive one or is stopping the thought enough. I just have been crying about this. I can’t believe your timing of this article and can’t help it was meant for me. Thank you and I can’t wait to read your past posts

    • 386

      jeremie lederman says

      point out to your parents that if they were so perfect, then how could they have raised a child with so many flaws. Tell them their less than excellent parenting has interfered with your higher standards for too many years. Tell them that until they get help to be more perfect, they are a distraction and you need to move on to where high quality standards are a norm.

      it’s all sarcasm, but you have to be willing to break off from them until you get healthy.

      I had to leave home at 18, move across country, and struggle to near starvation on my own. It hurts like hell but your long term health and success as a whole adult are at stake.

  247. 387

    says

    Everything you describe is exactly what my parent did. Except mine never had the revelation you had, and they never stopped. To this day they haven’t stopped. I am still not allowed to fail. I’m 26 and even if they weren’t still breathing down my neck (they are -”wouldn’t you like to lose some weight?”, “you should try to date more”, “why don’t you ever go out?”), I’m now doing it to myself.

    I would be curious to hear if you have any suggestions as to what someone in that position ought to do to finally escape the pressure put on them (by others and themselves). You write so beautifully about it.

    • 388

      says

      Thank you for sharing your story and enlightening perspective. This is very helpful to those who are reading and trying to change. I am a big advocate for direct communication. What if you just say, “I’ve thought about this, and I would really appreciate you refraining from offering me advice on how to live my life or take care of my body. I am 26 years old and I feel good about the decisions I am making.” It is up to you whether you address how hurtful those comments are, but you have every right to say enough is enough. I will say that I have heard from hundreds of people who say they were not aware their criticisms were hurting the other person. This also leads me to believe letting someone know is a good thing. Awareness really is key. I wish you all the best, my friend. There are several chapters in my new book that talk about how I learned to silence my inner critic and speak lovingly to myself. I called it, “Hearing the Victory Song of Self Acceptance.” I hope you can hear it too. Wishing you peace.

  248. 389

    Julie says

    I just read this and it’s me. Oh my GOD is this me! I’m a single mama and no excuses, this is me. From today forward, only love toward my son. Thank you for opening my eyes to what I thought I had to be as a “perfect mom”. No one is perfect, not even our children. I will embrace him with love and celebrate his life discoveries with him. I’m in tears thinking about how I was treating him, but I know that I can change and in turn, bring more love into his life.

  249. 390

    says

    I learned to let go of so many things that distracted me and took me from my children… but more so when I was diagnosed with breast cancer 4 years ago. I am still fighting the battle but it has brought me an appreciation for what is truly important in our lives. Each day I remember to say and stay positive. I remember to stop and not react immediately to what the kids are doing…. I have three children and the youngest is my daughter. She is what I should have been like as a child, only my mother and eldest sister bullied me…. and as an adult, I bullied myself. Without that constant bully raging in my head, I am able to pursue my dreams and support my wonderful children every day. Our relationships are loving and kind and rarely do I ever raise my voice…. there is no longer a hurry up to get something done 5 minutes ago. Thank you for your blog.

  250. 391

    Emily says

    I’m a big fan of what you’ve written here, but I do have one question. How do we balance such a supportive and loving atmosphere at home with preparation for the “real world?” I had many bosses, etc who didn’t care about showing me love and support. They were critical of my work, and I was a sensitive person who was frequently hurt by their words (maybe more than I should have been.)

    • 392

      says

      Thanks, Emily. This is just my opinion, but I think there is a huge difference in setting realistic expectations for the way our children act and criticizing them in a manner that demeans or shames them. I taught boys with behavior issues for 9 years. I set expectations for the way they treated me and the way they treated each other. I also set expectations for their work and encouraged them to meet them. Offering boundaries to children is a loving thing to do. And setting realistic expectations show children you believe they CAN succeed. My story was about expecting unrealistic results and/or perfection from my child and not allowing her to make mistakes. Our world changed when I was able to step back and allowed her to be who she is–this is not the same as condoning bad/poor behavior. I think that if there were no expectations, it would be quite a shock in the real world. I believe we can prepare our children in ways that will build them up, not tear them down. Thanks for asking a great question!

  251. 394

    Lost Dad says

    Hi Rachael

    This post hit home for me. I am sitting here at my desk at work crying. I wish I could speak to someone about this and actually get help.

    My eldest daughter receives the brunt of my self-bullying leftovers. I hate myself for it more often than not and am on anti-depression medication for it as well. I think sometimes I don’t even realize that I’m doing it until it’s done.

    I think it’s important to note that your Hands-Free-Mama is also for dads. I am a hands-on-dad and do a lot of the parental work in my house with dinners, feedings, diapers etc. My wife and I argue on a regular basis because of my “attitude” towards our daughter and my overall demeanor in life so much so that it’s hurting us and our loving relationship.

    Anyways, I think this is going to be a LONG journey for me. I also grew up with parents (mom) exactly like me (self-bullying) and it’s engrained in my psyche for some reason. I know I need to let go, I just need to know how. I’ll be ordering your book.

    Sincerely
    Lost Dad

    • 395

      says

      Hello there. I am touched by your heartfelt message and have reached out to a colleague who is skilled in areas I am not. I have asked her to share any tips or advice she might have to help you. She will respond to your comment, I am just sure of it. She has helped many of my readers in similar situations find hope. I wish you peace and healing. Thank you for taking that hard look inward and looking for steps to change.

      • 396

        says

        Thank you Rachel, for inviting me to respond.

        Dear Lost Dad,

        As Rachel pointed out, you have already take the first step. You are “…taking that hard look inward and looking for steps to change.” I don’t know if you are aware of this, but you are even already looking for the point at which you can apply Rachel’s suggestion of telling yourself, “Stop! Only love today.” But it sounds like you think you can’t do it even though you would love to because, as you said, sometimes you don’t realize that you are doing it until it’s done.

        You are right that when you don’t realize what you are doing, you cannot do anything about it. But you said “sometimes” which means that sometimes you do! That gives you a starting point.
        On top of that, you also know that increasing your awareness of what you are doing in the moment is needed, and that you may need help.*

        One way to increase awareness (or any other strength) is by starting from where you are and creating incremental successes. In this case, if you want to train your brain to say, “Stop. Only love today,” you might look for times when you know you can succeed and practice there, perhaps when you are just a little bit annoyed or expect to be. Once you have proof you can do it in the easy moments, try it in tenser moments. Keep building your confidence with success, until “Stop! Only love today,” becomes your natural first response to a stressful moment.

        Whenever you take too big a step or have a bad day here and there, back up and succeed some more with smaller things before trying the next challenge level. This is you retraining your brain. Check in with yourself about each challenge level. Another great phrase to start using with yourself is, “You know what’s right for you,” because you really do.

        If you try this, remember to give yourself a break. You won’t go from 0 to 100% success overnight. While you are practicing on the easy moments, the hard ones will still occur. For the times when you don’t stop yourself as soon as you wished, or don’t realize what you are doing until it is over, you can still do something afterward: go back to your daughter, apologize and reconnect by understanding her perspective as Rachel demonstrates beautifully in this story and many others on her blog.

        Maybe you already go back to reconnect with your daughter, but tell yourself it doesn’t count because you shouldn’t have crossed your own line in the first place. If so, the moment you start to feel guilt practice saying, “Stop! Only love today (for myself),” because thinking the thoughts that make you feel guilty is how you bullying yourself into missing the great thing that you just did!

        Discounting the steps you take to right a wrong perpetuates the self-bullying cycle. Valuing every little thing you do right, helps to reverse it.

        It might also help to remember that children allow do-overs. No kidding. They do it with each other and are happy to do it with us, too. Do-overs have amazing power because they let children (and us) see who we really are – a loving, understanding parent who sometimes forgets themselves when feeling mad. But the loving, understanding one is the real one, and our kids know it. They hate it when we disappear and they can’t reach us (that’s the tears), but they remain surprisingly ready to welcome us back. It’s up to us to take the first step.

        Do-overs really do rebuild connection. Blame and I told you so’s are not part of a do-over. Do-overs are all about seeing the child’s point of view, apologizing for your emotional explosions, and working together to solve the problem that set it off. Even though you would prefer to catch yourself in the moment or stop yourself before you started, do-overs can be your saving grace for now and always.

        Beyond that I teach a simple parenting approach called Language of Listening that actually changes the way you see your child’s behavior so you don’t react negatively in the first place. It goes on to provide you with simple tools for child guidance that keep kids in touch with their greatness. If you are ever interested you can visit my website hot-linked to my name above.

        *However, even though these tips and the Language of Listening can help, as you said in your comment, you need someone to speak to who can give you help. You said you are on anti-depressants and referenced a problematic “overall demeanor” that is affecting your relationships. That is a red flag that should not be ignored! If you have any voice in your head trying to discourage you from seeking professional help, say, “Stop!” There are fabulous family therapists everywhere, and some work on a sliding scale if money is a concern. Find one that feels right for you who can help you fall in love with yourself. That is what will change everything for you because all of the shifts in our relationships with our children (and spouse) start with us looking inward and embracing ourselves… just as Rachel said.

        • 398

          Lost Dad says

          Dear Sandy

          You are absolutely right and thank you for your direct response to my comment. I have been trying the “Stop! Only love today” approach since I left that comment and I am still on my meds. The “Stop!” approach is working so far and I am seeing a difference in my daughter already, although possibly not for the better. I have given out more hugs in the past few days than I have in a while and she seems to be acting out more…

          My wife loves it and see’s a huge improvement in my attitude. I am still being hard on myself in the manor you mentioned when I catch myself after I “lose it” and yell. I only yelled once yesterday which is, embarrassingly, a huge improvement. Luckily in those “sometimes” moments where I do notice the frustration building for no apparent reason, I readily stop myself from going over the top and just say “only love” and give her a hug for being her. She really is an awesome kid.

          So, thank you Sandy (for the direct comment) and Rachael (for being so honest). I wish you both all the best in live and love.

          (Not so Lost?) Dad

          • 399

            says

            This is wonderful news! And believe me, these transformations take time. The fact you are trying and seeing some positives is so promising! My colleague and author Andrea Nair wrote a post when I told her how many people were asking for further information on not being so critical. Here it is: http://www.yummymummyclub.ca/blogs/andrea-nair-button-pushing/20131212/steps-to-being-less-harsh-on-our-kids

            I hope you continue on a path of self-love which touches the people you love the most! Thank you for sharing your hopeful news. I know you have inspired me and countless others!

          • 400

            says

            (Not so lost?) Dad,

            Wow! Moving from feeling lost and unable to control your reactions to “sometimes readily stopping” yourself and providing a hug is a huge step! You inspire me with your commitment to change!

            You said you are seeing more acting out. If you would like to discuss specific situations that frustrate you, feel free to contact me via my website hot-linked to my name. I can give you some quick suggestions that will make a lasting difference.

  252. 401

    says

    Beautifully said and done. You had me crying. I saw my whole family in what you expressed. The cycle continues if somebody doesn’t say STOP like you did. Bravo & well done! God bless you. You provide hope.

  253. 402

    Melanie says

    I thought I was the only one! Really struck a cord when you spoke about instantly responding to your crying younger child by asking your eldest what they had done. This happens multiple times a day for me. So much of my thought process with how I handle my eldest is the same as you describe. Knowing that it can be changed and the interaction fixed for the better gives me hope that I can turn the path we’re on around. Thank you!

  254. 403

    jeremie lederman says

    Thank you for this post.

    I ran the gamut of emotions reading it.

    1. Outrage at your stubbornness… I was hearing my self thinking rather angry comments… “your so called perfectionist S*&T is a complete illusion and you should F&%CK!*G know better”

    2. Outrage at all the over the top introspective justifications for your horrible behavior. Rather than just saying “I’m choosing to be a total self-serving B&^%H of a mother,” it was all of the reasons behind it to minimize the weight of your own personal responsibility

    3. outrage at my willingness to nearly feel hate for your parenting, and by extension YOU for what you were doing to damage this innocent child on behalf of YOUR disfunction’s

    4. outrage at my own judgement and expedient outrage

    5. disappointment at my inner voice, as someone who is in recovery for issues I picked up at the neglect I suffered as a kid, I know that your crappy parenting DID have a root that you DID need to find

    6. Respect for the effort you made to shut yourself up and take ownership of your own crap.

    7. respect for you admitting that at best, your ‘perfectionist’ crap was just fear and projection. it seems to have given you the foundation that was needed to make this a real change.

    8. HOPE that your example will get many other abusive parents to wake the Hell up before they damage their kids.

    I’ll just finish with one last direct comment…

    Adults need to wake up and stop acting like F&*K!*G snowflakes. Stop walking around like you are made of sugar, where one little drop of stress or reality can melt half of you.

    Our kids are NOT responsible for our ANGER issues, blame problems, victim posturing, or fear. They don’t do ANYTHING to deserve the levels of irrational and emotionally misdirected reactions.

    We all need top open our eyes, get real, and get help before our parenting does little more than assure that future generations of recover groups and mental health practitioners have plenty of new clients.

  255. 404

    says

    Oh. So much resonates. I am the mama of five boys (7, 4, 3 and two 20-month-olds), and my oldest is a VERY strong-willed child…which means he has been the brunt of a lot of this. About a year ago, I had an Awakening of my own (much like yours), and I realized that these little people living in my home are not just here to order around but are here to teach me about love and kindness and patience and self-control. I’ve written extensively about my experiences, but that’s not the point.

    I just wondered if you had read the book Unconditional Parenting, by Alfie Kohn (he reinforces, with scientific studies, some of what you’ve said above). I just finished it, and it has been so transformational to my way of thinking about my children. I thought, if you hadn’t read it, you might like to check it out.

    Thanks for all your wisdom!

  256. 406

    Darryl says

    I have a 16 year old daughter that I quite often find myself being really short with. I’m under a lot of stress in my personal life. I’ve been going through a particularly nasty separation and financial issues, pulled in several directions with courses and other obligations, and working long hours which result in a shortage of sleep at least half the week.
    I tend to take it out on her. I get easily annoyed at things that shouldn’t annoy me. I’m aware of it though, and do apologize to her when I catch myself, but I don’t feel like it’s often enough.
    I too get distracted by electronics. My cell phone and laptop specifically.
    I have a 4 year old son who escapes it for the most part, mostly because I’m extra careful with what I say and do around him.
    Any advice on how to correct my actions with my daughter? She’s a beautiful, smart young girl that really takes things to heart. I know my shortness affects her in negative ways and I want to be able to change that habitual behavior.

  257. 407

    Lori says

    I found this blog post on FB and it sure seemed like it was meant just for me. After this morning’s disaster of ruined schedules, yelling and my daughter’s defeated face, I look forward to reading your book. I think it’s time for major changes. Thanks so much!

  258. 408

    says

    I have been trying to define the original concept that was inordinately called LOVE when the Bible was first translated into English. I have only been partially successful until only recently when it occurred to me that the overriding meaning has absolutely nothing to do with MAN’s emotions but is totally GIVEN by God as a GIFT with only the idea of absolute innate and intimate longing for mankind to return that same LOVE back to him.

    Christian Love: “That quality of His being that is manifested toward mankind as a whole that desires a wholesome oneness relationship with every living soul.”

    This concept can then be restated towards it Greek manifestations that were translated from the original Hebrew as:
    Brotherly Love: “That quality of God’s being that is manifested through an individual toward the world as a whole which desires a wholesome oneness relationship with every other living soul.”
    spouse: “That quality of God’s being that is manifested through an individual toward a member of the opposite gender which desires a wholesome intimate oneness relationship with that living soul.”

    While Martial Love has been advanced as part of the separateness expressed in human terms, it is my understanding that this should be considered as part of the “Intimate Oneness Relationship” and that intercourse is a minor, though integral, factor of that oneness.

    WGB

  259. 409

    LizB says

    Thank you so much for this post. I read it while I was waiting for my teacher to come to class and almost started tearing up in public. My parents where not bullies, but they certainly focused on the negative (never the positive) and were very hard on me (expecting me to get everything right on the first try). If I got an strait A’s I didn’t hear a thing, but if I got a C I never heard they end of it. If I won an award for art or poetry they would shove it in a drawer without a word, but a B- in math would definitely get some attention. I got this treatment from both parents, who are very much alike and because of it I grew up with very little confidence in my own abilities. I was blessed with a husband who is my biggest cheerleader and because of his attitude my life and outlook have changed completely. I take more chances and try more things. At the age of 30, I feel like I am finally blossoming as a person. It is so important, not only to not push for perfection and not be a bully, but to encourage and nurture your children in the things that they have are good at and enjoy doing. I love the picture of your daughter gardening. It shows that this girl is loved and encouraged to do what makes her “her”. I wish I had that growing up!

  260. 410

    Karlene says

    Thank you for sharing this. I struggled reading it through the tears, it was all to close to home for me! But it opened my eyes! Thank you again!!

  261. 411

    A mom with open ears... says

    Wow….like many of the other comments, I found myself reading this and crying because it is me…you could have been telling a story from my own household. As a child who was never expected to be perfect, I often wondered how/why I expected my children to be this way. I realized after reading this that I am hard on my daughter and son because I am hard on myself. I feel bad about my self image, my career, my financial status, etc and beat myself up and that anger then transfers to my interactions with my children….Thank you so much for helping to open my eyes and hopefully begin the mending of relationships!

  262. 412

    Catherine says

    Hi Rachel, I read your blog — my husband sent it to me which I loved that it resonated with him as well. We both see that we have a lot to work on and we need to change big time!! We shower the kids with love but we also do manyif not all the things you describe in your blog. We don’t belittle them but we both are quick to yell or to threaten time outs etc or we are constantly telling them to hurry up. There are so many days that my 2 oldest childern (6yrs and 3yrs) just don’t listen, I could ask 6 times pleasantly for them to do something like put on their shoes and they don’t which just gets us frustrated. Our collective thought is to follow your advice to start fresh today and move toward brightening all of our futures with being more postive and stopping bullying ourselves and our kids (we are both reall hard on ourselves too). But one thing I am not sure how to do is how do I get the kids to understand that at times we have to be on a schedule and to have them help. I have sat them both down and calmly explained that if they would help us out or do what we asked the first time we ask it then we wouldn’t get upset. How do I correct behaviors I don’t want to see happen like when they are telling little lies or hitting each other or writing on the wall. I want to allow all of the things you talked about, letting them be kids and be creative and find all the wonder in the world but I also want to balance that with respect for us, each other and yes even schedules because sometimes life has to have a schedule. We truly want to change how we are with them so any scenario tips would be appreciated. I will be immediately incorporating the “stop…just love today” approach. After I get over feeling like I should cry right now. Thanks for posting! Catherine

    • 413

      VB says

      Catherine – I relate to your words as much if not more than the original post…both you and Rachel have well-timed words for me today. I’m curious as well if anyone has any suggestions for what you speak of – I’ll rely on your choice of words to explain, as I don’t think I could explain it better.

      Rock – meet Hard Place…you try to take that step back and say STOP, but that does not change the fact that you HAVE to get out of the house in the morning and to preschool so you can get to work on time so you don’t get fired, and kids need to be fed and dressed with teeth brushed at minimum before that can happen.

  263. 414

    says

    Thank you so much for this post!
    I’ve been reading and learning from you for awhile now, and it has really transformed me and my approach to parenting. I’ve been struggling with my oldest daughter lately, and you simple, but so important “Stop! Only love today!” is exactly the answer. It’s so easy to get caught up and frustrated, but all she needs is love.

  264. 415

    says

    I grew up with a mom like you used to be, except I was the youngest. My sister has Turner’s Syndrome and my brother was the only boy. Any fight I had with my sister was my fault. Anything she took of mine that I got upset about, I was being selfish. Any time I took something of hers without asking I was being dishonest. When I got bad grades, I wasn’t going to amount to anything. If I made a mess, I was lazy and careless. When I succeeded, my mom told all her friends “Look what my daughter can do” instead of “I’m proud of you.” Everything I did was wrong, even when it wasn’t my fault. Sometimes, like with your daughter, I didn’t have to even do anything and she’d get angry with me. Anything below an A wasn’t good enough, any time I didn’t jump right away to do what she asked I was disrespectful and lazy, if I didn’t answer her question fast enough she would yell it at me as loud as she could (she did this in front of my friends several times), she was constantly telling me I was chubby and looked unkempt. We had a horrible relationship until about a year and a half ago. We got in a fight (I was sad about having to give up my cat and she was angry because she felt I was trying to guilt trip her for not wanting to take my cat) and I flat out told her she was a terrible mother and an abusive person. I told her I didn’t hate her, but I didn’t trust her and I knew she didn’t love me. I think it floored her because she didn’t see herself that way. We talked a bit after that and things have gotten a little better, but I’m 30 years old now and my mother is usually one of the people I avoid talking about my problems to. She’s started being more supportive and uplifting, but she falls back on her old ways sometimes. I’m terrified to have children, or even be around them, because I don’t want to treat people the way I was treated.

  265. 416

    says

    Thank you so much for posting this story. It gave me a lot of insight on how I can be a better person and love others more openly and more deeply. Thank you again so much.

  266. 417

    Alisa says

    Thank you for sharing. While I was reading I burst into tears realizing that you were describing my relationship with my eldest daughter perfectly! I have made a vow to be a better Mom starting this minute! Thank you again. You are an angel in disguise pointing out exactly what I needed to change without even knowing I did.

  267. 418

    Ali says

    I too feel that I was meant to read this post at exactly this time. My oldest son, who is 7, told me last night that he feels as if I don’t love him because I am always yelling at him. I told him that I yelled at him BECAUSE I loved him and that I had to teach him how to do his best. Even as I said the words out loud, I felt as if something was wrong. How could yelling at someone make them better? I don’t see how I can make the journey you have made. The battle seems so uphill that I wonder whether I can do it at all. All I can say is that I will try to remember to tell myself to STOP and say something kind instead of something harsh. I hope I will have the strength to achieve the results you have.

  268. 419

    Karsus says

    Being self-critical is valuable. Perhaps not all the time, but high standards do force you to be better.

    … Acting from anger however – rather with more force than intelligence – does often create a mess… That’s really for when things aren’t okay and your don’t know how to handle the situation – not all the time.

    Both the carrot and the stick cause problems when misused.

  269. 420

    says

    Thank you. For making me step back and realize just how much I don’t want the nagging voice to be the one my daughter remembers most when she thinks about me.

    Let love win.

  270. 421

    says

    Wow, this story is one of the most amazingly heart wrenching, helpful, brave and life changing posts I have ever read. Thank you for sharing. I am definitely in need of a way to get more patience with my daughters and I am extremely “busy” and distractible often. I will remember this. You have given me a wonderful tool. Thank you. X

  271. 422

    Patricia says

    I wish my mom could have read this 41 years ago. I think she is unhappy about her life being ruined be getting pregnant with me at 17 and not turning out the way she imagined it, and has taken it out on me. I could never…and still can never do anything that will ever make her happy. I can’t live up to her expectations to this day and by all accounts, I’m doing quite well in my life. I finally had to sever the ties 8 years ago and let the toxicity go because it was destroying me mentally and in my health. I finally realized that the I had taken over being the bully to myself as well as letting her still do it. She is still the same but I have blossomed. It took me until the age of 38 before I finally had the courage to go to college full time to do something I wanted to do with my life not something she wanted me to do, because I had such a fear of failure and disappointing others. It took me forever to chose clothes out of my own closet for fear of it ‘not being right’. I wouldn’t try new things if I didn’t think I could over-achieve doing it. I couldn’t even have kids of my own. I’m so glad I was able to finally wake up and smell the coffee. Honestly, now I look back at the person standing in front of the closet fretting over what to wear and think about how ridiculous I was, even though I do revert from time to time. It truly is something you have to have a conscious perception of but you can do it if you care. Start caring about yourself. :)

  272. 423

    Mel says

    This is absolutely beautiful and hits so close to home. I grew up with being yelled at and fearing if I didn’t do things properly or made my own plans I would get yelled at or they would be mad at me. My mom was always the people pleaser and my dad was the one that one that yelled or had to do things he wanted and if didn’t or you said well I have this planned it wasn’t okay. To this day I am 32 and have a family of my own and it is still that way I am scared to tell my father no we have plans. I am partially my mom the people pleaser however I take so much out on my children and expect so much of them and dealing with my agenda instead of letting them be kids. I am defenitly going to read your book. Thank you so much.

  273. 424

    Kelly says

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!
    Everything you wrote I feel. My desire is to STOP, only love today.
    I am thanking God for your words, they truly spoke to me today.
    So again, THANK YOU!!!
    God Bless you!

  274. 425

    Nickie says

    I needed to read this. I have a 3 week old, a 4 year old, and my oldest is almost 7. They are all beautiful, wonderful amazing girls. I feel like I’m always so busy trying to keep the house clean and organized and get ready for Christmas, and relearn how to handle having a newborn again, and try to make sure my now middle child doesn’t FEEL like a middle child, so on and so forth. My poor 7 year old either gets lost in the shuffle, or gets nagged and nitpicked about her homework, or her messy room, or spilling food all over her shirt, or making a mess in my kitchen (or anywhere), or not cleaning the playroom (even though the mess is mostly from the 4 year old). I’ve only recently realized I’ve been doing it, but I didn’t realize until I read your post that I’ve been doing it to myself too. I put so much on myself and take so much on and stress myself out over every little detail. I often wonder if I’m borderline OCD. And if people are coming over, forget about it, I’m a wreck. I can’t get the house clean enough. I know I need to stop stressing and stop taking it out on my daughter. My husband and I talked about it just yesterday. I just don’t know how. So finding this post seems a bit fated; I’ll be telling myself STOP and “Only Love today” starting NOW. I will definitely be looking for your book this January. THANK YOU!!

  275. 426

    Leslie says

    This hits close to home for sure. Unfortunately, it’s my husband and I both that are too hard on our oldest daughter. I feel like we are always on to her about SOMETHING. I know something needs to change. None of us feel good the way things are, and it’s devastating to see the light, that joy, that confidence drain from your child’s eyes. I am ready to change, and I know she is too!

  276. 427

    RT says

    This is the first comment I have ever posted in my life.
    This was a great, inspiring, much needed blog post. A beautiful way to simplify but communicate efficiently the hurdles of self-loath and self-love. Bravo for being courageous through vulnerability – Bravo for sharing your own story as the narrative to learn from. Thank you for encouraging all of us to see ourselves through a different lens.

  277. 428

    JButler says

    Thank you so much for sharing this. It hurts a lot to read because it’s as if you reached down into the depths of my mind and pulled out all of the things I’ve hidden there. I really needed to read this and I think I also needed to know that I’m not alone so that I could finally have the courage to do something about it. Thank you.

  278. 431

    says

    Wow! Thank you so much for opening up and sharing such a personal and private struggle and shared so we could all learn from this.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  279. 432

    Marcie says

    I have this same issue of trying to keep everything running in some semblance of order and my oldest who is 10 also takes the brunt of it. We have 5 (ages 10,8,8,4 and2). What I feel like I expect to much of her because she is my first and every stage is uncharted territory for me. When she was struggling to write her name in kindergarten I was worried, when her siblings do it I know they will catch up…these sorts of things affect each stage with her. I also feel like I spend so much time trying to get stuff done (cleaning, cooking, laundry…) that I rarely have time to to enjoy the family and often get stressed out and lose my cool when we do take a break and then there is a huge mess after and no one else seems to care (so it takes me nagging to get help to get it done or I have to do it alone feeling resentful). I so much want to be more loving, but how do you do it without having your life fall apart? I feel like I have to control everything or our house just gets so out of control, and I feel like I have to nag or yell or no one (my hubby included) listens or helps and it is just too much for me person. And if I try to relax the house gets so messy and it is hard to live in, we end up late, things get missed or forgotten (like school projects, events to attend). I can’t tell you how many times I have thought that we have too many kids (the baby was a surprise), and I don’t want to regret my children. I don’t know where to start.

  280. 433

    Ariel says

    It must be fate that lead me here today, this morning I caught my son lying and I found myself doing what I always do, angry face, telling him that I can’t trust him anymore because of his lying, letting him know he has nothing to look forward to on the weekend because I’ll be taking away his games. I kept asking why, why did he lie? If he would just tell the truth he wouldn’t get in trouble, I said this, knowing it wasn’t true. I’m guessing he knows by now too and I am his example, I realize now that I am causing his behavior and that horrid, sould-deep, hurt look in his eyes and the inability to just tell the truth and trust in me. Because I am raising him just like my mother raised me, even though I’ve given him much more supervision and materialistic things than my mother gave me, I’m still not giving him the one thing he needs most, trust. Thank you for this article, truly.

  281. 434

    Melody says

    This was like reading my own story. It really hit me one day when my daughter said she loved daddy more than me. I asked her why and I could tell she was afraid to say. I asked if I was too hard on her and mean sometimes and she nodded yes. I know I’m too hard on her because I expect great things from her, but it’s not a good excuse. I can expect great things from her and start building her up instead of tearing her down. Thank you for this reminder. I just need to STOP and practice “Only love today”. Thank you for your honesty. <3

  282. 435

    Sheryl says

    This hits entirely too close to home and yet…I needed to read it. I need to read it often and start my own journey of love. I can’t wait to read your book. Thank you for sharing.

  283. 436

    Ana says

    Thank you for sharing this! This hits home for me, so I’m choosing “only love today” and everyday! You have a lovely blog that I know will help a lot of parents.

  284. 437

    says

    Thank you so much for posting this…it comes at such an opportune time for me and my current path in life. I appreciate that you have opened up so much, because sometimes it feels like I’m struggling in a void.

  285. 438

    Paula says

    I almost didn’t read this. I didn’t think I had the time…but I decided I was too curious to pass it up. I now know why. I was for me. I needed to see myself in your words and realize what I have been doing to my kids and to myself. I will be better, starting right now. Thank you so much!

  286. 439

    Mandy says

    You have no idea how much I needed this today. That look you saw in your ‘s eyes before your change…I’m seeing that now in my three year old daughter’s eyes. I have been extremely discouraged for the past month as her behavior seems to worsen, but your article opened my eyes to the fact it could be because of me. Thank you so much. I cried while reading this because it truly spoke to me. As a single mother if three year old twins, our lives tend to revolve around tight schedules and my “inner bully.” I’m vowing that today starts my “STOP! Only love today” change. Thank you do much!!!

  287. 440

    kris says

    I saw this posted from a friend and read your blog. I am guilty of doing everything you said you have done.
    I have a really smart, talented daughter but I always criticize her when things are not done perfectly like you stated. I yell quickly when I shouldn’t and I know I am killing her spirit at the same time. She is not as happy as she used to be and prefers to be reading in her room. We used to do crafts together and other things. Now, nothing really. Last night, was the first time in a long time I really enjoyed her company. I took her to see Santa, had dinner, ice cream and bought some chocolate. On the way home, we even stopped at a book store and she got 2 new books when I was not planning on spending any more money. I really want to stop what I am doing and will repeat those words to myself as I interact with my daughter. I hope it will work. I have talked myself blue in the face about attitude and no more sarcasm from her. I am so stressed from it and dealing with it from the husband is not helping. Any suggestions would be helpful.

    • 441

      says

      You still have time to turn things around. Go, tell her you realize what you have done, and ask her to forgive you. Her knowing you want to stop, and are asking for her to forgive her will (most likely) let her see you want to change. Maybe there can be a key word for her to use that will remind you that you are being harsh. Something you both come up with, and you promise to her, if she sayes it, you will STOP, walk away, and come back when you can talk reasonably.
      I hope this works for you.
      It was too late for my own daughter.
      But, we are working on it now. Praise Him.

  288. 444

    Holly says

    Thank you so very much for this blog post. Reading it brought tears to my eyes because I see a lot of what your behavior in myself, and it greatly saddens me, but has opened my eyes. It took courage for you to write such a post, yet you did. You found the strength within yourself to face the ugly truth and to change it. Something that you have inspired me to do as well. I love my kids more than anything in the world, yet I realize that I sometimes take them for granted, and don’t let them see the world as I did as a child. This will change. Thank you for this wonderful gift you have given me.. the truth.

  289. 445

    Natalie says

    So much easier said than done….Its easy for me to not to bully my son, but i have been bullying myself for over 30 years, i wish i knew how to turn it off…its crippling

  290. 446

    suzanne m. says

    Thank you for sharing your story. I don’t have children of my own at this point in my life. I’ve worked with children for most of my young adult life. I’m married to a sweet, sweet man. I’ve also struggled with perfectionism my entire life. In this way I can relate to that controlling, belittling drill sergeant you describe and how that inner-bullying spills out. I decided a while ago to work on stopping this voice and keeping its criticism from spilling onto the people I love. Since I started this process, I’ve noticed my relationship with my husband bloom. He’s not afraid of me. He’s better able to support me and comfort me when I’m upset, overwhelmed, scared of things. He’s more willing to tell me what he wants and needs. He’s more comfortable doing things around the apartment without fear of “getting it wrong.” Your words, “Stop. Only love today” succinctly sums up what I’ve been trying to do internally for a long time now. Thank you for this phrase. It will make my daily battle against perfectionism and self-bullying easier for me.

  291. 447

    Priscilla says

    Thank you so much!!! In tears within the first few sentences of reading this. I feel hopeless in making a change in my relationship with my older daughter until I read this. She is still young and Im just so happy that you shared this. I never had looked at things this way. Thank you again and thankful that someone shared this on Faxebook.

  292. 448

    says

    You so described me and my relationship with my middle daughter. I am a perfectionist, type A personality and she has mild autism, ADD and host of other things. I have always found her messiness and general neediness so hard to deal with to the point that I couldn’t see any good things at all about her. I tried so hard to change but couldn’t work out why I couldn’t until one day a voice in my head said ‘you can’t accept her weakness because you can’t accept your own weaknesses and brokenness’. Wow, that was a revelation. As a child I was very good at school and I was teased for that, I learnt to be a people pleaser and I pushed away the things I loved to fit in with the crowd. I realise that I never dealt with that rejection of who I was, and my daughter was bringing back all those feelings, and I have been doing the same to my daughter, trying to groom her so she won’t be rejected instead of accepting her quirks. It’s only as I have begun my own healing process of self acceptance that I am able to start relating to my girl in a healthy way.

  293. 449

    Tami says

    Simply beautiful. I cried as I read this because like so many others here, you described me. For the last few years I have struggled with these same issues. After a year of searching for answers, I found that some of my hormones and as well as my thyroid were low which all began due to stress and trying to do too much. I tell you this in hopes that it may help someone else out there who is struggling with this.
    I have become very aware of my relationship with my oldest daughter, who is actually the 3rd child over the past little while. A lot of my frustrations were being taken out on her as well as our oldest son. I feel so horrible for the things that have happened but realize I can make it different by starting over and making sure things never get that way again. Thank you for your deep honesty and message of hope and love.

  294. 450

    Gloria says

    I will be reading this story to my support group clients (victims of domestic violence.) I hope that they will find wisdom in your words. Most of them have trouble focusing in parenting because they are so busy dealing with their own issues. They usually become their biggest bullies and forget how to love themselves. I also relate to this story as a “career-focused” mom, and I hope it’s not too late to mend some things with my 16 year old son.

  295. 451

    Bridget Dunn says

    Wow! Just Wow! I thought you were writing about me! 8 years ago, I walked away from a high profile corporate career and lots of money. I WAS that same person! Successful professionally. Miserable personally. The busy “master schedule” could not be tampered with. The need for control and perfection was constant. I was always angry. I knew what was happening would ruin my family and my marriage. I walked away from the corporate world and became a yoga instructor. Thank you for the reminder why I did it. Although we are poorer we are much happier! Looking forward to reading your book.

  296. 452

    Anjelica says

    I want to personally thank you for writing this. I found it on facebook. This is totally me and my child. She is 7 and we have a 9 month old. I almost cried because I see the look in her eyes when something does not go right. As of today I will STOP and love only!
    Thank you so much this truly helped me!

  297. 455

    Dee says

    Very brave of you to share. Proud of your growth. I just discovered the same truth this past year, and that’s without a hectic schedule. Change and growth are a perfect couple when married. Smile and Virtual hug for you my dear. Great job.

  298. 456

    Ivy says

    I am 48 years old. A story that happened today:

    The Doctor: How much do you smoke?

    Me: Pack a day.

    Doctor: You need to quit.

    Me: Well, I won’t.

    The Doctor: You weighed in at 204lb.

    Me: Mm hmm.

    The Dr.: You need to lose weight. Low carb, high protein–

    Me: I’ve been on Atkins for 6 weeks. I’ve lost 5 lb.

    Dr.: Well, you need to exercise–

    Me: I have a bad back and knees from exercise bulimia. I can barely get out of bed some days. I worked out 7 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 30 years. I destroyed my metabolism with anorexia and bulimia.

    Dr: You have high blood pressure. I’m going to prescribe you–

    Me: No. I won’t take it.

    Dr (really confused now): You won’t take it??? Don’t you care about your health?

    Me (Looking him in the eye for the first time): No. I don’t.

    Dr: It almost sounds like you you’re giving up. That you just want to die!

    Me: Yeah, it kinda sounds like that, doesn’t it?

    This, right here, should be a nightmare scenario for anyone raising a child. This is what happens 30, 40 years in the future to a child when she is bullied and picked on by the very person who is supposed to protect her from bullying. This is the result of perfectionism.

    I don’t work. I don’t produce. I never had children. I gave up on everything I loved and that brought me joy and purpose because nothing was ever good enough. Because that voice in my head, my mother’s voice, permeated everything I did, every person I met, everything I touched. I’ve been in and out of psychiatric institutions for 30 years. I’ve been on a host of anti-depressants, anti-anxieties, even anti-psychotics. I have seen therapist after therapist after therapist. But nothing helps.

    Don’t let this happen to your children.

    • 457

      says

      Ivy: I read your response and saw many similarities to my own life. But, there is one great difference. I choose to believe in the unbelievable. God. He saved me. He never leaves or forsakes me. He loves me, dirt and all. He only asks that we reach out to Him. He does the rest. He can heal your wounded heart. He can silence the voices that have robbed you of your HOPE in your head. He can give you a new HEART. Yes, He can!
      Psalm 37v3-5: Trust (lean on, rely on and be confident) in the LORD and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and feed surely on His faithfulness, and truly you shall be fed. Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart. Commit your waay to the LORD [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass.”
      This is but a few of the promises He has made us, which He gives us daily. I will pray for you.

  299. 458

    Brianna G. says

    Wow…as I type this with tears streaming down my face, I want to say Thank You! After getting upset with my 10 year old daughter last night and saying today, “Where did I go wrong with her? Why does she act like this?”, I have realized she isn’t the one that’s misbehaving…..

  300. 459

    Linda says

    Great post! I too understand the “bullying” yourself, although I had never thought of it in those terms. After years of hearing my dad’s negativity in my head even though it occurred years ago, it can be hard to shake and not pass on to my own kids. My lovely daughter is graduating this year. We are close and always have been, but I know that at times I have been harder on her than I ever wanted to be. Sometimes I have heard my dad in my own words when talking to her and my son and had to tell myself to “Stop” and apologize. I am not perfect, but everyday I try and be supportive of who they are and their unique, amazing personalities! Everyday is a challenge :)

    • 460

      says

      Linda: I hear the echo of my father’s words in my head everyday. He had been dead for 15 years, and it is still like he is standing behind me, telling me I will never amount to anything. It is very hard to block out that voice, but I commend you for doing it. I have been making strides myself. We have to grow up and be our OWN person. I was a single parent to a daughter also, and she is now a single mother with children.I only pray she is able to block out MY words. We are slowly working our way to a better tomorrow, but with God’s grace, we are on the path.

  301. 461

    Johnboy says

    I’ve never read such utter tosh in all my life.
    Unwilling to accept responsibility and not content with being unable to find another person to blame for her inability to deal with the pressures of daily living, the author has committed the ultimate cop-out and sought to blame her inner-self for being a bully.
    Reminds me of a defence mounted by a death-row inmates in America. Rather accept personal responsibility for their criminal actions, many defendants are blaming their brains for ‘making them do it’.

  302. 462

    Lesley says

    Thank you for the gift that your writing is. This blog hit so close to home for me, I have been struggling with the shame and guilt cycle of the perfection curse I put on my daughter, I see her disappointment, her fear, her fading sparkle and the difference in expectations I have of her and her brother. I have instituted a no yelling policy as of one month ago ( for me) and It has significantly improved our relationship. I see the sparkle returning, the inner light shining, the pride returning. My guilt is fading as I learn to forgive myself. I never thought I would ever parent like this. My daughter is a very old soul and is resilient. I am so proud of her. Wow, a very moving piece, thank you xo

  303. 463

    Jen says

    Wow. Awful. A part of me feels for you but quite frankly, you’re now making money and selling books from your past behavior. Not impressed. See this too much with the quote, unquote, soccer mom that works outside the home. The children suffer for years and the mom says, “well, I was stressed, or I just couldn’t handle the pressure, and look there’s a whole forum of us” and then all is supposed to be forgiven.

    • 464

      says

      Jen: I can almost understand your position. It seems you are upset she might be financially profiting from her mistakes. The whole point of this blog is the honesty found here. She made mistakes, realized it, and now, not only is she in a better place in her own head, so is her daughter. Now, she is trying to give others the opportunity to help others change too. You do realize that no book publisher prints books for free, right? The author is not asking an unreasonable amount for her books and items on sale. If it will save one child’s self esteem, it is worth it.
      Perhaps instead of writing to defeat, maybe you could write to uplift. Just a suggestion.
      I wish you would rethink your stance.

    • 465

      Pam says

      It’s interesting… The feeling I took away from this post was not that all is supposed to be forgiven but that when we acknowledge how are actions affect others, we can make a conscious decision to change our behaviour and begin working towards raising happy, healthy families. I read that we choose to behave this way and that we can choose to stop behaving this way. Why not share our struggles in the hopes that we might help someone else? It’s funny how people can have such different perspectives on the same piece.

  304. 467

    says

    This spoke directly to my heart. Sometimes it’s so easy to allow stress to overwhelm you and turn you into the Cranky McCrankenstein that you keep saying the kiddos are. Here’s to new days and second chances.

  305. 468

    Beth says

    I appreciate this story so very much. Its hard to accept when you see a negative side of yourself. I just did. Thank you.

  306. 470

    Samantha says

    I really hope your daughter can mend. I’m 25 years old and my self confidence is still in terrible shape from my father treating me similarly. I have anger problems, and also bully myself frequently throughout the day.

  307. 471

    Micha says

    My best friend shared this on fb…. Can’t wait for the release. Alot of truth in what you said…Stop is a good start. Thank you

  308. 472

    says

    Rachel, I came upon your article, “The Bully Too Close to Home” on Facebook. I saw myself in your every word. I only wish I’d have had your wisdom 30 years ago when I was raising my children and taking everything out on my oldest child. I often pray I have not caused irreparable harm. He is a nervous and very overweight young man, and I blame myself. I’m thinking about purchasing your book and passing it on to my children.

  309. 473

    Msch says

    A friend put this link on their facebook, and I’m now very pleased to have come across it. I’m a Dad, and I see quiet a bit of myself in your words and actions Rachel. Thank you also for sharing your experience this gives me hope that I will overcome my bad, habits and contribute to a better future for my kids. Thank you for sharing.
    I look forward to your book’s release. Question is there anything about absenteeism guilt in your book? I’m a veteran and if there has been one consternation in my career it has always been my long absences from my kids. I suspect this is one area that contributes to my dad bullying to me and my kids.

  310. 474

    Camara says

    Thank you so much for sharing this. This is such a comfort to know that others are experiencing similar feelings that I am. I could have told this same exact story. What I took away from this is that I CAN change. I don’t have to continue to be this way. I can accept responsibility and I don’t have to always blame someone. I can take the time to praise my children. I need to calm down when things aren’t going as planned. Because you are right, for some reason we try to be this beyond perfect being, and it’s just not necessary. We must always strive for better, but not at the cost of our loved one’s feelings. Thanks again for sharing. I am a better mom because I read this and was reminded of what a blessing my children are to me.

  311. 475

    says

    My goodness. I almost couldn’t finish reading this due to the tears that filled my eyes. I relate so much. I’ve been catching myself traveling down this road recently and is killing me (and my daughters) inside. Thank you for an amazing eye opener and motivation. Time for a 180 turn. Thank you!!!!
    Tonia
    littleheartsbigpurpose.blogspot.com

  312. 476

    Ashley says

    Wow. I bawled reading this entire entry. I felt like it was me describing my daughter and I. I’m breaking her spirit. Thank you so much for sharing. I am going to try to “stop” and let her be from now on.

  313. 477

    A mom says

    I work hard to try to be the parent who let’s my daughters be less than perfect in order to learn. I am not perfect and often remind myself to do or not do something. What I struggle with is being compared to families who still hover parent. The schools are very harsh in judging me as less of a parent because my child isn’t perfect. Any thoughts?

  314. 478

    says

    The bully in my home is me, but the only person I really bully is myself. I have my moments, but I feel that I nurture my children really well. 95% of the time, I save my kindness for those around me and just stick to bullying myself. I could totally relate that inner voice that says, “You’re too fat” or “Who would want to be friends with you?”. Maybe I should tell myself what you told yourself…”Only love today,” but it seems silly when I’m talking about myself. My eyes are totally open to my interactions with my children…they get all the love I didn’t feel growing up.

  315. 480

    noelle glorioso says

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience :) It really hit home! I am going to try hard to take this message to heart and let go! and Just STOP!

  316. 482

    Tiffany Erickson says

    Thank you for this wonderful post Rachel!
    I have been reading Byron Katie’s book, Loving What Is. The same issues within myself were brought to my attention. I have been constantly criticizing them and myself. Katie has you ask yourself four questions when you have a thought so that you can unravel it, in a way. I realized that when I took away my judgement thoughts all I had left when I looked at my children was love. After just two days of practicing this I received a comment from her teacher who had been struggling with her in class “She’s like a whole new kid! Did you have a talk with her or something?” I had tried talking with her in the past but it had never mattered. The only ing I changed was leading with love and not with criticism.
    I look forward to reading your book as well! Thank you! Sincerely, Tiffany

  317. 484

    Rachel says

    Thank you for the courage to write this article and thank you for realizing the need to change for yourself and your sweet daughter. I had a bully mom. She broke my spirit at a very young age. I became a thing that “did”, not a person that “felt”. I married a bad, bad man. I am now divorced, raising our three children on my own because he is unsafe to be around. I had zero love for myself or self esteem when I met him, but I thought he loved me because he wasn’t as mean to me as my mother had been. I didn’t know what love was. But I am 35 years old and learning every day. If God hadn’t picked me up and dusted me off and just loved me, I don’t think I’d still be alive. I don’t have much of a relationship with my mom. I actually moved across the country to get away. And I am happy now. The past 4 years have been the happiest of my life. Life is Beautiful. My children are so precious and bring such great joy. I learned from all the years with her what NOT to do. I used to be terrified of ending up like her. But I am not, and I am grateful. I don’t think she’ll ever admit to the past. I’ve tried to talk to her but she refuses. So thank you for giving your daughter that. You have no idea the hell you have saved her. Make sure you tell her that she’s beautiful. My little girls smile with delight. Tell them that of all the little girls in the world, you would have chosen them because they are so wonderful and precious. My little girls radiate with those words. Remind them that they were created to be wonderful, beautiful, life-giving women through your actions and your words. We can choose to be however we wish. We can be amazing moms, living a beautiful life, and it’s all up to us. Young or old, rich or poor, single or married. We can never, ever take words back, no matter how we wish. Choose your words and your actions wisely. And get help if you feel out of control and you know you are hurting your precious baby. Do counseling yourself, so that she won’t have to meander through that maze and heartache when she grows up. We are BLESSED beyond measure with these babies, time to show them that!

  318. 485

    Kim says

    You made me cry. I feel like I am constantly impatient with my girls because they make a mess, or they’re not quick enough, etc, etc… I am going to try the “Stop…only love!” strategy. While I feel like I encourage them a lot, I also feel like I definitely need to relax a little. I need to give them time to do things and not be so focused on what I need to get done. The dishes can wait, the laundry can wait. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post!

  319. 487

    Dolly says

    The intro was kind of like the alcoholic that killed someone. It makes me happy and disgusted all at the same time.

  320. 488

    says

    Thank you. This was much, much more than a lesson.

    This was a gift.

    Blessings to you, your beautiful and talented daughter, and the rest of your family.

  321. 489

    Peggy says

    I wish I had the guts to spill all that is on my heart tonight. I read this blog this morning and have had it on my mind all day. Thank you for sharing with me and all the other mothers out there. My heart is sad for all those words, actions thoughts when raising my children, now 38 and 36. I find it so hard to forgive myself.

  322. 490

    says

    I am glad I came across this post. What an incredible read. It’s amazing how much one can look in the mirror when reading a post like this. I think I’ve done something along these lines to myself the past few years, but with different circumstances. I’ve broken outa of it as I knew it would eventually fix itself, but it’s something to read your post and think back and realize I may have been doing this to myself and to some friends etc. thanks for sharing. I’ll have to look into your book.

  323. 491

    says

    Thank you so much for sharing this post. I really needed to read this today. Sometimes i feel the pressure to be the mother who will bring the best in her child by always expecting so much from them when truly all it’s doing is keeping them from being who God created them to be.
    God Bless You.
    I wrote a post about some motherhood experience i would like to share with you if you have a moment to read. The title is ‘ The mother i dreamt of being i’m not”
    http://frommomtomoms.com/2013/09/20/the-mother-i-dr/

  324. 492

    says

    Wow. SO brave of you to open up and be so brutally honest. I have to say that I have seen a little of that negative behaviour in myself with my eldest. I have changed over the years and seen my girls grow to respectful and very loving caring young ladies. I have become more positive in a lot of ways and it has benefited our whole family.

  325. 493

    Sarah says

    I would just like to thank you for this article. Your past experience has described my life. I have two daughters 2 and 10 and my oldest gets a lot of grief. I jump at her for everything she does wrong and this is something I have realized over the past few months. I have gotten better but some things need to change still. Thanks again

  326. 494

    Michael French says

    My 92 year old father never learned this lesson, a week before his death my last conversation with him was listening to his belittling, spiteful criticism of 2 of my brother. His death has been like lifting a black cloud from our shoulders. I have 8 brothers, we are not family more like hostage survivors.

  327. 495

    Dee says

    Rachel, I want to thank you for being able to write this and post it online for the world to read, I too experienced this and I would like to share my story with you. I am sitting here crying while I write my story for you to hear, as I know how far I have come, the damage it did and that there is still work to do…

    I have always been hard on myself, a typical over-achiever type A personality – I have that drive to always want to do the best job, excel at no matter what I do and to do it with everything I have. While raising my daughter, (she is now 17 going on 18) I always had a either a full or part-time job outside of the home; we also managed an apartment building for my father-in-law and I was responsible for all the tenant/landlord duties; I volunteered at my daughters school for a variety of committees; and I taught basic computer skills for adults/seniors AND cooking classes for kids in a twice weekly after-school class. I really took the ‘supermom’ moniker seriously!
    If others around me didn’t live up to my perfectionist standards I was disappointed, angry and dismissive. I could not understand why they couldn’t do things “the right way”, which I have come to understand since really means doing thing MY way, rather than whatever gets the job done. I really did get upset, so much so that I would feel anxious and angry if there was chaos or any kind of mess and I really could not relax until it was cleaned up. If my house and surrounding environment were not immaculate (everything in its place) I would freak out and insist that it be cleaned up immediately. I would avoid having people come over because I never felt that my house was ‘up to snuff’ in others eyes as we were always scraping to get by and I was afraid of being judged. I always expected the utmost from myself and did not realize that it was affecting others around me, or indeed how mean I could be with words if things were chaotic and I was stressing out. My daughter’s dad (now my ex) would tell me that he would have helped me with the laundry, dishes etc but he never felt he did it right. I always criticized, and could not understand how folding towels corner to corner, or folding shirts with a crisp fold was so hard to achieve…
    With my daughter, I had a great deal of patience for the attachment style of parenting I chose, my daughter slept in our family bed until she was 7 and decided that she wanted her own room and during her younger years I bought all the craft supplies to fill her art desk so she could create her art projects to her hearts content. For her other toys, as we lived in a 400 sq ft apartment and to make things easier for clean-up and not become overwhelmed, I put all of them into about 12 different Rubbermaid bins which were labelled, of course, (even though she couldn’t yet read), it made it easier to find where to put stuff. My rule was that she could only play with one bin at a time and clean up each mess after she was done with that particular subject before bringing out another one. It worked great during the younger years and did teach her to be respectful of her things and a minimal space we all shared and her own personal space. This hit home for me when the pre-school called me one afternoon at work before I went to pick her up and they said “Your daughter did something so amazing today” I said, “Oh, really, what was that?” “She wanted to play with a chair from the eating area, but we were on the carpeted area, so she dragged the chair over to the carpeted play area and when she was finished she dragged it back and returned it to where it was without being asked” I was sincerely confused by this interchange. I said “Yes, because in our house when you use something you return it back to where you got it from so others can find it, respecting your space and others”. They said it was unusual for a 2-1/2 year old to exhibit this behaviour, I said “I guess, but it is taught and learned behaviour”. If we want our kids to be respectful we have to model that. I thought I was doing a good job of that…EXCEPT I came to understand that I really was also critical and demanding without being conscious of how it was coming across or being received.
    How could I not realise it? Well, I NEVER once told my daughter what she was doing was wrong, or bad or incorrect, we did not spank etc. What I did do however was just as damaging.
    When I became agitated I would often raise my voice and yell or swear. I would verbally correct a mistake, but simply pointing it out, so it doesn’t occur in the future. I now understand that it was not necessarily WHAT I said, but more of how the message was relayed and received. I did not realise it, but what affected my daughter a lot were my facial expressions – she would often say that she was afraid to talk to me because my face looked mad, angry or she was afraid of disappointing me.
    What did it take to wake me up?? Well, when my daughter was 10, her father and I split up. We’d been together, (mostly unhappily) for 12-1/2 years and it was a mutual decision to separate. Within a couple of months he was with someone new, and I was starting a new life with shared custody and visitations every two weeks with my daughter. I did a LOT of soul searching.
    When my daughter was 12, I re-married and then shortly thereafter (6 months later) I became seriously ill with an advanced degenerative condition of the spine. Apparently, over the previous 20 years my spinal cartilage had been degenerating until it is no longer present in my lower spine resulting in a bone-on-bone condition of my lower vertebrae (S1-L4-5). I just woke up in the middle of the night and could not move my legs. After several years of mostly ineffectual therapies, they finally found one that worked without doing spinal fusion surgery. For the past 3 years I have been going every 4-6 months for spinal nerve blocking which allows me to maintain a semblance of my previous life. With some activities, I have to adjust to work with my condition. My GP and all my specialist including my Rhuematologist tell me that it was likely caused by STRESS, (as there is no primary cause, so this is referred to as secondary cause) they explained that the body deals with internalized, unreleased stress by affecting all parts of the body in negative ways, sometimes resulting in illnesses like mine.
    There are many, many things I have learned from my illness and the everlasting effects on my life – and I am not unhappy about learning from them.
    When you cannot walk without excruciating pain, or dress yourself, or carry anything more than a few lbs it necessitates changes in your life immediately. Because I could no longer stand for any length of time, clean my own house, or do any of the other things that used to be ‘normal’. I had to LET GO of what I could no longer control, and I had to be ok with what I could manage to do…some days that was just to get out of bed for a short-time. I had to learn to ACCEPT HELP, (that was a tough one) and to be ok with the help others were willing to offer. I could not afford to be picky about the help offered. Being an otherwise proud person, one who was also fiercely independent beforehand, I had to learn a great deal of humility and understanding of others that they would take time out to help me. Perhaps my biggest realisation came when I had to understand that because I had been critical in the past of help, not being happy with how towels were folded, etc that my husband and daughter were afraid to offer to help me, because I might react the same way – I was left to fend for myself unless I asked as they were not going to offer. I had to understand how my NEED to be perfect drove away those people who loved me and wanted to help, but who were afraid of not measuring up to my expectations. I had to LET GO OF MY EXPECTATIONS and just accept with gratitude their help. And really, in the scheme of things, while it might not be how I would choose to do something, it did not give me the right to invalidate another person’s efforts to do their best in how they accomplish the same task. I had to learn to be grateful for any help offered and received, and hold my tongue if it wasn’t my way. More, I had to learn HOW TO APOLOGIZE to those I love for hurting them and to admit I am not perfect and that I too make mistakes. I came to accept that those ‘little things’, (if they are not life threatening they really are small in the scheme of things), do not REALLY matter in the how it gets done, more that it is all getting done, if a little messier than we might do it! So, what!
    Because I was off work for so long without any compensation (I had to fight for long-term disability and it took over 1-1/2 yrs) and we were struggling financially to make it in the city, we moved to a rural setting, built a 140sq ft cabin on a trailer frame (with 2 lofts) about an hour out of the city – this was ideal as it was much more manageable for me to deal with. My daughter chose to stay in the city with her dad and her friends she grew up with. We connect on FaceBook, email and phone calls – while it is not ideal, I can accept that this is what works for her right now…and she comes out to visit when she isn’t working or otherwise have something going on with her friends.

    Recently, my daughter and I had a text conversation on FB and she got mad at me for correcting her spelling, I apologized (something I would not have done prior to my illness); I am NOT a fan of the current educational system that allows student to guess at spelling or rely on the computer spell check, I prefer how I learned with sounding out phonetically; anyway she reminded me of something happened when she was much younger and how it made her feel about herself.
    One of the other things in her bedroom that I loved as an organizational tool, apparently my daughter hated. I had bought a drawer insert that has little diamond spaces for socks or underwear. I bought one for each drawer…I only found out during this interchange how much my daughter hated this thing; not for its nature, but because of me! She recalled a time when she was younger (7-8yrs old) when she was proud of herself for putting her laundry away on her own, but I came in, saw that it was messy and not folded how I expected it to be so I dumped out the drawer and I refolded it all.
    Wow! I cannot tell you how how crappy I felt in the present to have her tell me how SHE felt about how I had behaved in that time. I apologized for how I behaved and how it seemed to her – that it was nothing about her, or her ability to put things away on her own, rather it had to do with MY perfectionism. I told her that I have learned the error of my ways (in that regard) and I will be more aware of how/what I say so as to not come across as bossy, controlling, demanding, – because that is NOT what I intend and it not what either of us needs.
    When I look back and reflect upon what came before, I now can look back and be a little kinder to myself knowing that we are ALL fallible, none of us are perfect and no amount of trying is going to make us that way. To understand that unlike my parents, I did not use physical abuse, but because I did yell, and was often mean in tone etc it was a form of verbal abuse as I wasn’t always kind…BUT I can still understand that I did the best I knew how to do, and I am working on being a kinder, gentler, more understanding person. I have learned to respect other people’s boundaries (because I have very few) in particular my daughter, when she tells me she is mad at me or upset – I have learned to listen better so we can resolve it amicably instead of trying to get her to ‘be happy’ which really invalidates her feelings of anger…so many lessons and so much still to learn. The important thing is that we continue to try to improve ourselves and recognize out hubris – even if it is late in arriving or caused by a difficult situation as the catalyst, as it was for me. I needed to become sick, in order to realise how and why I needed to slow down and change.
    I completely recommend a workshop my husband and I took called “Free the Heart” which was a source of commiseration, release and hope to the path to become a better person.

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    Michelle Derryberry says

    This just touched my heart. I honestly feel that It was meant for me to read your blog. Thank you for sharing. :)

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    Stephanie E. says

    I wanted to say thank you, this couldn’t have come at a better time. Two nights ago my husband called me on this very thing. I have had issues with hating myself for so long, that it has started to come out at my 13 year old daughter. She is a joy when she is trying to just make me happy. I constantly get on her about not doing her chores or just being lazy (I know teens do this, I remember it well). I have tried the last two days to make a change. I have said it’s not her fault I hate myself, it’s also not her responsibility to do things without being asked. I have apologized to her, and her response was basically she felt it was her fault I got on her all the time. We are working on this, but it will be a long process I know.

    I know I may not make sense, but I do want to say thank you, it made me realize I am not alone in this. It also gave me some idea’s.

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    says

    This was really beautiful, wonderful message, we often get caught up with the little things too much that we forget the big picture. Thank you :)

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    Pam says

    I share the same reaction as many of your readers. I read your post holding back tears, reliving my years on the receiving end of this behaviour and then reminding myself of how my actions affected my own children. It has been about 2 years since I had that moment of clarity when I realized how my actions affected those around me. It has been 2 years of self discovery. I came to understand a great deal about myself but also understanding my father in the process. I found it ironic that it was often my dad who commented on the fact that I was too hard on my daughter- that I needed to relax. I think he might have experienced a little self discovery of his own through my struggles. I am not perfect- far from it. Sometimes I still need to tell myself to STOP! before the words come out but I am finding it less of a conscious action and becoming a little more of who I am. I have to remind myself (often!) that it is okay for my children to make mistakes- it is okay for me to make mistakes. There was a reason I came across this post tonight and I am thankful for the reminder and support it brought. Thank you to everyone who shared their experiences- it reminds us that we are not alone in this and gives us strength and encouragement to keep trying!

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    Ginger says

    I want to thank you for this. It was like looking in a mirror. Sadly, I didn’t catch this until my daughter was already 12. I am not having to correct, and it is SO difficult for me. She cannot trust me and I have trouble trusting her. She became a cutter and all the hurt that we caused each other is part of that. But it started with me.

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      Gina says

      Ginger – my daughter who is 14 has turned to cutting and in reading this post I have realized that it is because of me. I hope that I am not too late to change the kind of person that I am and make better choices when it comes to how I parent whether it is a compliment I give or degrade her like I have in the past. My heart goes out to you – I know what you are going through. Best of luck and many prayers.

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    Maggie says

    You are brave and inspiring with this post. I thank you from the very depth of me…my daughters are your daughter past and tomorrow will be only love and on and on and on…with much gratitude for sharing.

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    Sheila says

    I cried when I read this. My son is an only child who is a wonderful kid and I struggle almost daily. Your words really struck home. My son is a great student, natural athlete and a very nice kid and yet I struggle. Mainly with what I struggle with is something most 11 year old boys do (or don’t do) which is they don’t listen to their mothers. I ask for him to clean his room or do certain chores…days go by and nothing…then I look around and see all the things I asked for him to do (and asked nicely) and I kinda snap and get angry (because I feel defeated and like nobody helps with the housework, etc.–I am now remarried but he does not do much housework) and I snap at him or say things I wish I didn’t, and it has spilled over to my husband also. Then I beat myself up even more over that and feel even worse and get in an even fouler mood and withdraw from everyone. I just need to be more conscious of what is going on before I do it. Your words are so encouraging and I thank you for speaking them!

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    Mollie says

    I just want to say thank you. In your story I see lots of issues I deal with daily within myself. My mother always said to me encouraging words but my inner bully has cut me down so much that I am trying to correct this in me now. I know it will have an effect on my children as well. I can’t wait to read the whole book. Thank you for your courage and humbleness.

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    Rachel says

    Thank you so much for this post. As much as it hurts to admit, I totally do this to my kids. My husband and I were married 2 years ago and he has 3 children from his previous marriage. His first wife passed away a few years ago when the youngest was just a few weeks old. It has been a huge struggle to adjust and blend a family. The kids are 10, 7, and 4, and my husband and I have a baby boy together who is 6 months old. I have the hardest time with the oldest, who is quite disrespectful, defiant, and angry, and I am constantly correcting him and trying to change some bad habits he has developed. We but heads most of the time, but I think I need to relax and not expect perfection and allow them all, not just the oldest, to be kids. I know that I bully myself and have a lot of negative self-talk as well as guilt for not being as good as their biological mom, not loving them as well, and feeling like I’m failing as their stepmom. A lot of these feelings and behavior towards the kids has really hurt mine and my husband’s relationship. We argue quite a bit as he doesn’t know why I can’t see the good in them and that they are trying. As I read your post, I realized that I am unconsciously taking out a lot of these feelings on the kids. I grew up with parents who expected a lot out of me and I am very much a perfectionist. I have fallen into the trap of wanting everything to be perfect and under my control and when it even hints at being out of control or “imperfect”, I turn into a different person. I see it happening and it frustrates me and then I get angry with myself and the cycle continues. I really want to show more love and patience and help these kids blossom rather than fear me and feel like they can’t be themselves. It’s going to be a long process, but I’m praying that I can do it. I love the “Stop. Only love today.” I just hope I can do this. Thanks for your honesty—you have blessed my life today.

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    says

    So very true!
    This was beautiful!
    CSA & self-bullying seem to go hand in hand. I’ve done it for years. I catch myself, even after healing, talking so horribly to myself.
    Thank you for such a brilliant and loving look at loving ourselves and loving those around us. Our issues do flow out of our hearts onto those around us!

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    sandy says

    I really look forward to purchasing your book and reading it!!! Just from reading your story I can already imagine how great its going to be!

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    lew says

    i am a weeping mess after reading your post, I plan to read it again over and over again for at least a couple of days. thank you for writing your reality, it means so very much to know that a parent is feeling the same things i feel

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    says

    Thank you….
    Your words really touched me. I often find myself bullying myself. Since my sons birth I have found that I love myself more than ever. But I wanted to thank you for the added reminder, as I hope to never show this negativity to my son. I loved your post so much that I had to share it with others. I linked back to you, I’m hoping this is ok? After finding this post I am certain to become a follower!

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    Ryn says

    I am not a mother but this article so resonated with me-my career has taken over my life. I come home and that inner bully dictates how I react to my fiancé, my own mother and countless friends. I’ve been told my personality has altered in the past few years . It breaks my heart to know I allowed this to happen. Thankful for a reminder to change.

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    says

    Wow, you are such an inspiration to mothers everywhere. I’m a step parent, so my situation is slightly different, but had to sit back and watch as their Mom went through a similar transformation. She still has a lot of growing, but watching her change and seeing the positive impact on our kids has been amazing.

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    Amy says

    I have to tell you, this blog post is an absolute God send. I have been struggling with this exact thing. Reading this felt like it was coming straight from me..about me. I honestly thought I was the only one and had no clue how to just stop. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. This was the slap in the face that I so desperately needed. I had a conversation with my oldest (7 yrs) after I read this and it was wonderful..like a weight lifted for both of us. Thanks for this. And thanks to God for his always perfect timing.

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    Melanie Oliver says

    I wish I had read this 22 months ago. I wish I had read this 5 maybe even 10 years ago. 22 months ago, my son committed suicide. As I reflect on the guilt and regret that is inevitably part of the grieving process, this “bullying” was exactly my attitude toward him. He was almost never (in my eyes) allowed to just be a KID! He was always messing up, never responsible and yet, it never occurred to me that was what he was SUPPOSED to do! As a mom, you are to enlighten, encourage and admire your child for who he is. I wish I still had the chance to right all the wrongs…..
    -A sad, grieving yet reformed “bully”

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      says

      Melanie, I am so sorry for your loss. I deeply appreciate your willingness to share your story and offer others what you know now that you wish you knew then. Your words are life changing to anyone blessed to read them.

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    Bree says

    I just read your blog and it was like reading about myself and my oldest son. I did many of those same things today. “What did you do” is one of my specialties. I desperately want to change but have been going on this way, I fear it is too late.

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      says

      It is not too late, Bree. I hear from teens and college students every day who say they just want their parents to know them and love them — even if they didn’t in the past — these young people have told me they would do anything for their parents to just try to mend things. I hope you will try. Visit anytime you need for encouragement.

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    Tara says

    I am always so thankful for your posts to pop in my inbox! Even though I am comment #491, I am wondering if you have any suggestions for me. My husband and I are BOTH guilty of how we parent our girls, but unfortunately, I am the only one who sees it that way. We took a “Love & Logic” class about a year ago, and although it did help us with some problem behaviors in our 2.5 year old at the time, it created a real consequence driven versus grace driven atmosphere for my 7 year old. She is now almost 8 and is always apologizing and worried that she’s done something wrong or fearful she’s interrupting me “Mommy, I know you’re busy but…..” comes out of her mouth at least 5 times a day. :( Both my girls have anxiety driven behaviors that break my heart because I don’t know how to change the atmosphere of our home to help them. Reading your posts has definitely help encourage me that it can be done, but it’s hard when the status quo isn’t being changed across the board. You don’t mention your husband a lot, did he struggle with this distracted, critical life too? Or was it your conscience effort and changes that began to create a new reality for your home and he followed suit? I hate to see the look of disappointment and rejection my girls get when they interact with my husband. I am sure they get it from me too, but I am really trying to make it happen less. After one of the most recent incidents, I found myself trying to pick up the pieces and soothing my oldest and her sobs of “he doesn’t care.” I tried to explain that no one is perfect to which she responded in tears “yes you are!” It again broke my heart to think she loves us unconditionally yet gets hurt by those she loves. I’m just wondering how to make these changes with a spouse who doesn’t see the affects of our actions and the need for change. I don’t want to disrespect him and his parenting, but feel I have to follow him around to pick up the pieces and apologize to my girls for his behavior. I would love to learn from your experience while I wait for your book! :)

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      says

      Thanks, Tara. I appreciate your question and thoughtful comment. My husband is mentioned a lot more in the book — he played a significant role in my transformation. Writing a book is much different than a blog post & I was able to delve into new areas and go deeper in the book than I do on the blog. Anyway, that being said, I would strongly recommend calmly (not accusingly) talking to your husband about what you are witnessing. I honestly think a lot of people are not aware of how their behavior is hurting another person. I think awareness is the key in changing. I think being open about your own struggles and what you are trying to work on will go a long way in that discussion. My husband brought some concerns up to me many times before I started my journey. It took time for me to admit he was right, but I believe he helped plant the seed in my mind that I was not living the way I wanted to live. Over time, I began to change for the better and I offered him ways of strengthening his relationship with the children. I was always kind and respectful in my approach. We are now a team–2 people who help each other and support each others efforts on this challenging journey. I wish you all the best!

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    Blessed_with5 says

    This was a wonderful read, and one I can relate to, as this has been an ongoing struggle of mine for several years with my 13-year-old daughter. I just have to say that the only reason I (or any of us, for that matter) have hope, despite our shortcomings, is because of God. He never gives up on us. We can go to great lengths to work on quick fixes, self-control and self-help. We can even “act” right, and it may even work for our favor for a little while. But, true freedom and transformation of the heart can only be found in Jesus.

    Someone simply needed to say this…

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