Confessions of an Imperfect Mom: My Son Took a Toy From His Sister and I Broke Down

Below is the story of Susan, who describes her reaction when her 3-year-old son takes a toy out of his sister’s hands again. 

By considering her behavior from a place of compassion and curiosity instead of judgment and shame, Susan learns how to have more confidence in herself as an (inevitably) imperfect parent.

My Confession:

I’m Susan, mom of Max who’s 3. Max is the sweetest kid in the world — when he’s getting what he wants.

When he doesn’t get what he wants, Max throws the loudest, longest tantrums. Recently Max started grabbing toys from his little sister. When Sheila is holding something Max wants, he simply takes it.

If I tell Max not to take the toy, he becomes inconsolably upset. If I tell Sheila that Max will give her the toy back, she starts to cry. (Besides, I don’t want to teach her to put up with Max’s behavior.)

I feel like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The other day when Max took something from his sister for the third time in one morning, I lost it. I was so frustrated! I was alone with the kids, but I ran out of the room and locked myself in the bathroom. The kids were both crying. I could hear my daughter saying “Mama, mama,” but I stayed in that bathroom for 5 whole minutes.

Even Max wasn’t happy that he was holding the toy he wanted in his hands.

I feel like an awful mother.

I feel bad because…

My kids need me and I’m not giving them what they need. I don’t know how to get Max to stop taking from his sister. Even worse, I just didn’t have it in me to comfort my kids when they were upset. I feel like I am selfish and wasn’t there for them when they needed me.

When I change my thoughts from a judgmental “Why did I DO that?” to a curious “Why DID I do that?” I realize that…

I locked myself in the bathroom because I felt helpless and burnt out. I feel like everything I do is wrong, and that either one or both of my children end up unhappy no matter how I respond.

I’m tired. My kids need me all the time and I feel like I have nothing left to give.

The reason I did what I did is because…

I didn’t know what else to do. I don’t know how to handle Max’s behavior in a way that is respectful to both of my children.

Parenting them is exhausting me.

My solution for doing something different in the future is…

Since I feel like I don’t know what else to do, I need to find some tools for handling Max’s behavior. I don’t want him to snatch from his sister, but I also don’t want him to react so strongly when I ask him to stop doing something he’s not supposed to do.

I know I need to find time for myself. Right now, that just doesn’t seem realistic. In the meantime, I still need to do something different. Based on what actually caused my behavior, I will work on (and search for tools) so that I can stay calm even when my kids have strong emotions.


Susan’s response to her son’s behavior sounds exactly like what many of us would do (or have done). Of course she would to lock herself in the bathroom! She didn’t feel like she had any other options.  

It is possible to learn to stop letting our children’s emotions control our emotions. So often our energy is spent worrying about our children’s emotions and behaviors that we deplete ourselves. But we can be in the presence of children’s emotions and without jumping onto their emotional roller coaster ride.

Feel free to contact me for a free consultation to learn this skill or any other that will help you feel more confident in your ability to raise great kids.

Parenting is about doing better and feeling better…

not about being perfect.

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