An African Woman mother working from home stay-at-home mother and her son sitting on her lap working together on a laptop computer and smartphone in a domestic room indoors Strand Cape Town South Africa

It’s been a confusing journey for me as a parent, facing emotions I never thought I’d feel. My oldest son, who’s six now, used to be my joy. His laughter filled our home, and his curiosity made every day brighter. But as he’s grown, things have changed.

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Simple tasks like getting dressed in the morning have turned into battles. Even though I lay out his clothes neatly, he fights me every step of the way. Meanwhile, his three-year-old brother tries to dress himself, starting with his underwear and shirt, only asking for help when he needs it. The difference between them frustrates me deeply.

My son isn’t intentionally disobedient. He’s just stubborn and wants to do things his way, which I know can be good qualities. But in everyday life, it means he ignores what I ask him to do, tests boundaries, and argues with me over everything. What used to be a simple request to put on socks turns into a shouting match, leaving us both tired and upset.

I’ve started using discipline methods I never thought I would. When words don’t work, I’ve even raised my hand in anger, not realizing until later how scared and hurt he looks. The guilt is overwhelming. I promised myself I’d never be the kind of parent who hits, but here I am, struggling to control my feelings and failing.

I feel lost. All I want is to protect and care for my children, but my actions aren’t showing that. It hurts me to see him upset because of me. How did I become this person? How did I get so far from the patient, loving parent I used to be?

The guilt keeps me awake at night, replaying our arguments over and over. Every time I lose my temper, I promise myself it won’t happen again. I promise to be better and to find kinder ways to teach him. But when I’m upset, all those promises fall apart, and I go back to old habits that hurt both of us.

I know this isn’t the parent I want to be. I want to be calm and steady for him, to guide him through life with love. Instead, I’m causing him fear and confusion. He doesn’t understand why I react this way, and neither do I. It’s like something takes over me in those moments, making me forget reason and kindness.

I’ve asked friends and family for advice, but their suggestions just make me feel worse. Some say I should be stricter, others say I should be more lenient. But neither feels right to me. I don’t want to be too harsh or too soft. I want to set boundaries with love and teach him through kindness, not fear.

I’m reaching out to you because I need a different perspective. How do I stop this cycle of anger and regret? How do I rebuild trust with my son and help him understand my love for him, even when I act in ways that don’t show it?

I long for the days when we laughed together in the morning, when getting dressed was fun instead of a fight. I want to enjoy being a parent again and to see him proud of his accomplishments. But most of all, I need to forgive myself for the times I’ve failed him and find the strength to be the parent he deserves.

Please, help me find my way back to being the loving, patient parent I once was.