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Painful situation with dh, 4yo dd, and discipline (long)

post #1 of 63
Thread Starter 
Hi mamas,

I have been wanting to post about this for a while, but it is so difficult to write about, and I have been putting it off, but I am at my wit's end and really need some advice/ help. I have 2 kids--4 yo dd and 2 yo ds. DD is a wonderful girl, but has always been high maintenance and very sensitive. She is also very athletic, extremely bright, precocious, probably gifted. In particular she is very precocious verbally--she speaks very clearly and has a tremendous vocabulary. She is also and always has been very tall and lean. When she was 2, people easily thought she was 4. She is also very independent, willful, and "spirited." Dh and I have always argued about the best way to handle her. Dh has always expressed a concern that she will be a brat, get herself hurt, manipulate us, etc. if not handled with a firm hand. I always wanted to be more gd, but that just didn't work for me. In order to keep peace (and also because I was worn out) I tried things more dh's way--the year she was 3, I moved away from redirection and natural consequences toward a different style of parenting--punishment/ reward, spanking. DD always responded to that kind of parenting with intense screams and crying--not so much from physical pain, but from what she perceived as the injustice of it. She'd scream things like "you shouldn't doooo that! You shouldn't ever dooooo that!" I was always ambivalent about parenting that way and as she turned 4 and began to calm down a little, I decided I wouldn't do it anymore. We talk a lot about unconditional love, and she is intrigued by the concept and asks lots of questions. She loves to be helpful and asks me again and again to recount true stories that feature her as the hero (for example, recently she and her brother were at the gym daycare, and she took him to potty. She was so proud of herself!). She tells me all the time that she loves me, particularly when I have demonstrated patience, understanding, or unconditional love. For example, when she wet the bed and felt bad about it, I went in and changed the sheets, saying nothing more than, "that's okay. It happens" and continued changing the sheets, she said, "I love you mom." I think she is very sensitive and perceptive to looks of approval or disapproval, etc.

Well, my dh has reached no such understanding with her, and they are at it constantly. Dh has never figured out a way to effectively discipline her, or relate to her, I think. Because I won't allow spanking or threatening, he just does nothing and eventually has an outburst, doing something that I think crosses the line. Some examples:

1. When she was 19 months old and I was very sick and trying to nightwean her, she was crying so much and for so long that eventually dh closed her in a closet.

2. When she was 2 and crying, screaming for a ball and would not take no for an answer, dh finally said "here" and threw the ball at her face, hitting her with it. She screamed and cried in response.

3. Once in a store parking lot, 3.5 year old dd was tantruming because she wanted me to put her in her carseat, not him. She kept screaming "put me down! Put me down!" Dh said "ok" and let go. She fell on the pavement, and screamed and cried, "why did you do that??!!!" Dh says he thought she was going to put her feet down and land standing up.

4. He never actually spanks her, but often threatens her and has made clear to her that he really wants to.

5. Tonight, she opened a can of Coca Cola even though we told her not to. She started sipping it and dh decided to make her drink the whole thing to teach her a lesson. I allowed it because last night we got into this huge argument with him saying I "de-man" him by intervening between him and dd and not letting him discipline her. In this same argument, he had told me that he doesn't want to dislike his own daughter.

And really, I think that's what it comes down to. Because dd can be difficult and disobedient, dh has a hard time hiding dislike for her. I've even had talks with dd about why she disobeys her dad so much. She has told me "Because he gets too frustrated and he doesn't like me." When I asked her what could he do, then, to make her do what he says, she said "He should do what you do." She defined this as "do things with me and watch movies with me and cuddle me."

This is beginning to cause problems for dh and me. I feel as though he acts immaturely and often bullies her. It hurts me and it's unattractive. Yes, dd can be challenging, but she's so fun and smart and loving. She loves to draw--at one point she'd draw about 50 pictures a day, half of them flowers the other half of them pictures of me with "mom" or "I love you" written on them. I wish she felt she could show such love toward her daddy.

Both I and my husband grew up without fathers, so the realm of fatherhood and what that means is largely uncharted territory for us. We both come from a traditional seen-and-not-heard, respect your parents or you'll get your @ss beat kind of culture. The difference is, I was never really spanked, and he was beaten by his mother. He's always pointing to dd's behavior and saying what his mom would have done had he done that. I try to remind him that he is probably remembering being 7 or 8 not 2, 3, or 4.

I want to make clear that dh is not a monster. He has been a wonderful husband to me, and has usually been patient and kind. He doesn't scream--rather he is very lowkey and sometimes comes across as cold or unemotional. Whe he was a child, his mother heaped a lot of responsibility on him I think (leaving him home alone at 8 yo while she worked a nightshift, letting him drive at 10; they never did trick or treat for halloween, trees for christmas, birthday parties, etc.) and he seems rather disconnected from childhood and what that means. He is much better with our 2 yo son who has a more laid-back personality, and seems much more baby-like than dd did at this age, largely because he does not talk much. It just saddens me that he seems willing and able to see the negative in dd much more than the positive.

I don't want things to get anymore out of control than they already are. It's as though she is a different child with him and with me. She has told me that she will never do what dh says because he is mean and rude and big. This is breaking my heart and I don't know what to do Thanks for reading this long post. I would appreciate any advice or words of wisdom. Thanks.
post #2 of 63
I think in all of the examples you gave, your dh behaved completely inappropriately (and I think a lot of otherwise well-meaning and loving parents have at some point reached a breaking point and either been tempted to do things like that that, or let go and did it). But it seems like he knows that and doesn't like the way he feels towards your daughter. That is so sad. His "discipline" seems like it's coming directly from what he learned as a child.

I think your daughter may be playing on the tension she sees between the two of you, whether it's conscious on her part or not. Your dh probably does see this as validation of his fear that she's becoming manipulative.

Don't wait until you have a situation where you feel you have to intervene again. Sit down with him (away from the children), and hash out a plan to work together. Physical lashing out needs to go out the window. But so do the characters of Big Bad Dad and Savior Mommy. Work with him to figure out disciplinary actions that you *can* stand behind him with, and talk about when they need to be applied, and how. After that's completely settled between the two of you, both of you sit down with your daughter about how things are going to be changing and how all three of you are going to work together because she and her dad need to get practice loving and respecting each other. Then both you and your dh need to be committed to live out what you agreed to, him to control his anger and you to stand with him on an agreed upon consequence.
post #3 of 63
I can relate to a lot of the dynamics in your family. It sounds like, as in our case, your dd and dh are very much alike, and are butting heads because they are so similar--intense, stubborn, persistent, passionate, etc. That isn't so uncommon, I don't think (intense kids come from intense parents!). But, your dh's behaviors, as you've described them here, are completely unacceptable.

Does he see that he has crossed a line? Will he admit that after the fact? If so, then maybe some anger management counseling would help. He needs to learn to remove himself from the situation and take a breather before he loses it.

If he does not see that he's crossed a line by closing a toddler in a closet (closing her in her room for a couple minutes while he gets a breather is ok, but the closet is NOT), or by dropping a tantruming child (lowering her and walking away is ok, dropping is NOT), or by hitting a child in the face with a ball (!!!!!), then that is a bigger problem. I wouldn't stay with a man who thought that was ok .
post #4 of 63
Quote:
saying I "de-man" him by intervening between him and dd and not letting him discipline her.
Except "being a man" isn't about bullying a 4 yr old into drinking an entire can of coke, locking her in a closet (!!!!!!!), and throwing a ball at her face.

I'm sorry Mama but those behaviors are completely never ever acceptable and your DH being "usually" patient and kind simply can not make up for the instances when he is mean and aggressive and physical with your dd.

I would have a sit down now, this very instant and explain that this kind of stuff can't happen ever again. You need to step up and protect your little girl. Have you and your dh considered a parenting class? While there are some scary ones out there, I know my local UU church has a wonderful program for families.
post #5 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by cappuccinosmom View Post
Work with him to figure out disciplinary actions that you *can* stand behind him with, and talk about when they need to be applied, and how.
This is really important. You can't just say "don't do this". You also have to fill his toolbox with what he can do. He may naturally have a more authoritative parenting approach than you, and that is ok! But he needs the skills to parent authoritatively without losing his temper and reacting abusively.
post #6 of 63
Yes, figure out discipline techniques that are acceptable to both of you. It sounds like he just doesn't know what to do, so if he gets to the end of his rope, he just does the first thing that comes to his already angry/distraught mind. That's not the way anyone should discipline, he should at least have some tools he can pull out at that time to try. Brainstorm with him when you are both calm and explain to him the things you do already. And you don't have to discipline exactly the same ways either, but you should both be ok with what the other person is doing.

And I do think him making an effort to connect with her one-on-one when they are both in good moods will help their relationship a lot. Does he do this now? I would definitely encourage it and try to set aside a special time for just the two of them with you not around.
post #7 of 63
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the responses, especially Cappucino'smom. We have definitely fallen into a pattern of "your way" vs. "my way" but it seems that neither of us are willing to budge. I think it is clear to him that my way of lots and lots of love aand reassurance, spending time together, unconditional love, infrequent punishment and no threatening has been working really well...for me. He does not think it works for him. I think I am just a lot more effusive in my love for dd, and she really responds to that.

I really appreciate the responses (including those that validate my feelings that dh's behavior in the instances I mentioned is completely inappropriate!) but I know how these threads can go sometimes, and I want to make clear that I am not some blind wife and mother allowing my dd to be tormented by an abusive father and doing nothing to save her. I have had many conversations, sit downs, and arguments with my dh over this. And I do think a lot of it has to do with upbringing. He is very into this idea of "teaching her lessons" and I think this is what is so frustrating to me. Dh and I have actually had conversations about how he is more compassionate than I am, in general. It just seems that with dd, he feels that we need to handle her differently because she is more stubborn and intense, When I have pointed out to him that he expects too much of her and would never do/ say things to ds that he did/ said to dd at that age, he responds, "of course not. If children are different with different personalities, it makes sense to parent differently." I even tried to find "middle ground" strategies like 1-2-3 magic. It worked for me, but not for him. She has really decided not to listen to him. She won't even do what he says if it's something she wants to do. I have told him I think he needs to try to connect more with her. I don't think he knows how to do that.
post #8 of 63
This sort of thing would bring me to family therapy. I think it's time for some outside perspective. Your dh has some definite bad reactions when he's overly frustrated or overwhelmed, and he needs some new strategies to use. You're also definitely not on the same page, which has got to be hard for everyone involved. So, I'm not recommending therapy because your husband is an evil guy, but because he sounds like a guy who got short changed in his own childhood and needs to do some work to become a better parent.

It also sounds like he's got some real fears for your daughter. You might want to ask him what he's afraid will happen if he doesn't punish dd. Don't try to argue with him about how punishment is 'bad', but listen to what his fears are.

Also, I think given his background, he probably has no idea what's developmentally appropriate. My own father was like this. Because of his own father's illness, my dad was running the family farm at 12. This left him with very few resources to draw on in terms of understanding different paths of development.

Finally, if he'll do reading at all, I'd recommend the following books:
Kids, Parents & Power Struggles by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
The Challenging Child by Stanley Greenspan

I think both would give him some insight into his reactions and how to build up a solid relationship with his daughter.
post #9 of 63
It sounds to me like crying or screaming really bothers your DH, and he loses his cool and then he just reacts instead of thinking through how he is going to handle it. Does your DH realize what is setting him off?

I think that a really good approach to discipline is to set goals for what you want - for instance, a gentle, honest child who is considerate of others. Then work together to figure out ways to meet that goal.

I also think that since the screaming sets DH off, it would be good to have a very specific approach to yelling - in our house we have a bench that we bring the kids to where they sit - sometimes we hold them while they sit, sometimes we sit across from them on the couch arm, sometimes (if we are having a hard time handling our own frustration) we leave for a minute or two and come back. We wait until they are ready to calm down, and then when they are calm we talk about things. My DD is very sensitive and this seems to work very well with her. My DS is younger and more "spirited", and so far it also seems to be good for him.

I think having a few specific tools you both agree on for how to deal with behavior that is inappropriate would be very helpful.


Tjej
post #10 of 63
Oh, mama, that sounds so hard.

DH and I both have had struggles with our feelings of intense rage (and DS is a low-key kid!).

It's helped us both to identify what triggers the rage. It often comes from screaming (for DH) and being patient, patient, patient until all of a sudden I snap. In other words, for me, it's not clearly expressing my emotions, but bottling them up until they explode.

Talking to your DH and listening to him too (about what he's afraid of, and how exactly he thinks his "lessons" will help her) might really ease things.
What sets him off? How does he propose to handle it? Offer some solutions. Offer a "safe word"-- when your DH is feeling overwhelmed with your DD, he says the word and you step in and take over, and he takes a breather.

I also think family counseling is a really good idea.

FWIW, while I don't think the examples you gave of your DH are abuse, they are certainly the sign of an angry, frustrated parent who does not have the tools to cope with these situations, and I can totally relate to him. It takes a lot of time, and work, to overcome behaviors learned in childhood.

Good luck!!!!
post #11 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by brownmama View Post
She has really decided not to listen to him. She won't even do what he says if it's something she wants to do. I have told him I think he needs to try to connect more with her. I don't think he knows how to do that.
Do they have time alone together, just the two of them? Maybe there is something really fun she'd like to do that she only does with your dh? (mini golfing, chuck-e-cheese...that kind of thing. My dh and dd used to go to Barnes and Noble and get a snack and play UNO at the Cafe together).

Family counseling is a great idea. We ended up in family counseling for different reasons when dd was 6-7, and it did help us find a "happier medium" in our parenting styles. I tightened up a bit, so that there were fewer of the behaviors that frustrated dh...and dh loosened up a bit, so that dd no longer felt he was always the "No!" person. It's been a good thing for us.

I understand that you are appropriately alarmed by his behavior, but I'm bothered that you didn't stand up for your dd (against your better judgment) when he forced her to drink a can of soda. In retrospect, does he think that was an ok thing to do? Or does he regret it? If he regrets it, would he agree to a "safe word" that you could use as a code for "you are going too far....take a breather and let me tag in"?
post #12 of 63
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sunnmama View Post

I understand that you are appropriately alarmed by his behavior, but I'm bothered that you didn't stand up for your dd (against your better judgment) when he forced her to drink a can of soda. In retrospect, does he think that was an ok thing to do? Or does he regret it? If he regrets it, would he agree to a "safe word" that you could use as a code for "you are going too far....take a breather and let me tag in"?
I hear that you are bothered, and that's fine. But to be completely honest, it's difficult to convey all of the happpenings and dynamics of a particular incident. I allowed the soda-drinking in an attempt to "do things his way" which he says I never do--this is the day after the "de-manning" comment. That is not my parenting style, and I think that's too much, but I have been trying to find a way to give a little bit when I think I can; I am also trying to avoid the constant dynamic of mommy coming in to save the day. He wasn't sitting on her and forcing it down her throat. He was calmly waiting for her to finish it--most of the time, she thought it was a game. And no, he does not think there is anything wrong with his methods. That's why we have a problem, and I am seeking help and advice.

The specific suggestions (counseling, dd and dh doing things together, asking dh what he is afraid will happen) are very helpful. Comments like " I would not stay with a man who..." not so much.

The problem with dd and dh is more than these incidents I mentioned. I think it would go a long way for dh and dd to spend more regular daddy/ daughter time together. Dh has made some attempts here and there but nothing sustained.....I will talk to him about that.
post #13 of 63
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post

Also, I think given his background, he probably has no idea what's developmentally appropriate. My own father was like this. Because of his own father's illness, my dad was running the family farm at 12. This left him with very few resources to draw on in terms of understanding different paths of development.

Finally, if he'll do reading at all, I'd recommend the following books:
Kids, Parents & Power Struggles by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
The Challenging Child by Stanley Greenspan

I think both would give him some insight into his reactions and how to build up a solid relationship with his daughter.
I think this is true for dh. Thing is, it's hard for him to see it; he sees nothing wrong with his upbringing or the amount of responsibility his mother placed on him. I will look into the books you mentioned. I get frustrated that he will spend time reading junky stuff but not something that could help our family. I believe he thinks there is nothing he can learn from books. Hopefully he feels differently about therapy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tjej View Post

I think that a really good approach to discipline is to set goals for what you want - for instance, a gentle, honest child who is considerate of others. Then work together to figure out ways to meet that goal.

Tjej
Thank you. That sounds like a great approach.
post #14 of 63
Hugs to you for dealing with this, we aren't quite there with the intensity of the reactions AND I struggle with my dd as much as dh. Sometimes I think it would be easier if I just did all the disipline so dh and dd could have an all good relationship but then I get tired or sick and the house explodes. Maybe in your situation that would be ok until they are on the mend (daddy daughter dates would be great, one they would BOTH enjoy and developmentally appropriate and early enough when your dd is well fed.)

Things I have noticed about my dd is that she is tired like half of the day. I am going to try to push her bedtime back to six to get her an extra hour. It is so early but six to seven is always unpleasent anyway.

No real advice as I am struggling myself but thanks for writing, it helps....
post #15 of 63
Thread Starter 
So after having a long talk with dh in the middle of the night, I really want to proceed with counseling. Even though he says it won't work. He says it's a fundamental difference and it would be just like putting a pro-choice and pro-life person in a room together and expecting a therapist to solve their argument. He's just so stubborn! When I talked to him about his relationship with dd, he thinks I'm just being overly sensitive, and since she's only 4 it is not our responsibility to make sure that she is always happy and always likes us. When I point out to him how some of his "discipline" crosses the line, his reply is "what line? not my line." He thinks we need to employ these tactics with her because she doesn't understand the concept of "do unto others." Is there an irony smilie? And he also says he doesn't want her to end up being totally narcisistic like his mother. I think so much of this is a product of his own sh***y parenting and upbringing! And when I mention that to him, he just calmly makes the point that we are all influenced by our upbringing and it is my upbringing that is making me so sensitive to this. It is so frustrating! Add to it that he is by nature a very calm, controlled, and collected person, with a psychology degree. And for those of you who asked the question does he regret the times he acted inappropriately...the answer is no. He even told me that none of the instances I mentioned (the ball, the dropping, etc.) were him losing his temper. They were all calculated decisions intended to teach her a lesson. I am so, so sad. I just can't imagine what world he lives in where he thinks this is ok.
post #16 of 63


Yes, please do pursue counseling. I hope it helps you find some acceptable middle ground. A neutral, professional 3rd party should be able to help define "the line" your dh is not seeing.

Some people will stubbornly defend their actions when they feel ashamed to save face. Could that be what is going on?

It is interesting that he brings up the word narcissistic, because some of his behaviors toward your dd could be described as narcissistic (lack of empathy, for example).

I'm sorry if I offended you earlier in the thread. I am hoping for the best outcome for your and your family
post #17 of 63
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sunnmama View Post


Yes, please do pursue counseling. I hope it helps you find some acceptable middle ground. A neutral, professional 3rd party should be able to help define "the line" your dh is not seeing.

Some people will stubbornly defend their actions when they feel ashamed to save face. Could that be what is going on?

It is interesting that he brings up the word narcissistic, because some of his behaviors toward your dd could be described as narcissistic (lack of empathy, for example).

I'm sorry if I offended you earlier in the thread. I am hoping for the best outcome for your and your family
Thank you, Sunnmama. I am not sure about the saving face thing. He just has a really hard time acknowledging that anything he ever does could be wrong. Relativism works for him. He acts as though I haven't evolved as far as he has because I believe that some things are just wrong. Period. Or that I just get overly sensitive and emotional about things. I swear, it's like being married to a Vulcan. This whole thing just makes me very tired.
post #18 of 63
Oh wow, my dh is SO similar to yours! He treats our (older) kids that way, is very emotionally detached from them, refuses to admit mistakes, doesn't know really how to relate to them at ALL. I can see him doing the same kinds of things with them if they were younger - the dropping her onto the pavement sounds JUST like something he would do. I have wondered if he has narcissistic personality disorder many times. And he is totally not remorseful at all.

We have been to counseling and it did absolutely no good because all he did was come away with everything *I* needed to do and didn't hear a thing about himself.

Sorry I can't really offer any advice, but I do feel your pain.
post #19 of 63
I think a counselor would caution him that the incidents you describe are "reportable" to DFS. If your child were in school, and told someone that Daddy locked her in a closet, dropped her on the ground, threw a ballin her face, etc... a report *would* be filed. Whether these actions cross "his line" or not -- there are societal lines that he has clearly crossed. A therapist can spell this out to him, and enforce a minimal degree of accountability.

That said, it seems that the two of you are polarized in your approach to discipline, and he is resorting to nasty passive aggressive actions that are not "spanking" -- but are still punative and painful. I am wondering if some middle of the road approach that you both adhered to consistantly would be best for all involved, including the kids. Maybe love and logic, 1-2-3 Magic, or something of the sort. Even just hashing out a list of consequences that are tolerable to you (if not ideal) that he can resort to.
post #20 of 63
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BedHead View Post
Oh wow, my dh is SO similar to yours! He treats our (older) kids that way, is very emotionally detached from them, refuses to admit mistakes, doesn't know really how to relate to them at ALL. I can see him doing the same kinds of things with them if they were younger - the dropping her onto the pavement sounds JUST like something he would do. I have wondered if he has narcissistic personality disorder many times. And he is totally not remorseful at all.

We have been to counseling and it did absolutely no good because all he did was come away with everything *I* needed to do and didn't hear a thing about himself.

Sorry I can't really offer any advice, but I do feel your pain.
Thanks, Bedhead. If you don't mind me asking, how are your kids relationships with your dh now? I try to explain to my dh that things are not going to magically get better between them just because time passes and she gets older.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mamaduck View Post
I think a counselor would caution him that the incidents you describe are "reportable" to DFS. If your child were in school, and told someone that Daddy locked her in a closet, dropped her on the ground, threw a ballin her face, etc... a report *would* be filed. Whether these actions cross "his line" or not -- there are societal lines that he has clearly crossed. A therapist can spell this out to him, and enforce a minimal degree of accountability.

That said, it seems that the two of you are polarized in your approach to discipline, and he is resorting to nasty passive aggressive actions that are not "spanking" -- but are still punative and painful. I am wondering if some middle of the road approach that you both adhered to consistantly would be best for all involved, including the kids. Maybe love and logic, 1-2-3 Magic, or something of the sort. Even just hashing out a list of consequences that are tolerable to you (if not ideal) that he can resort to.
The language in your first paragraph is tough and hard to swallow, but I think you are absolutely right, and I have thought about this, so thank you. He actually said to me that the reason these lessons don't work is that my immediate reaction validates her feelings that what he has done is unjust. Really?????

I mentioned earlier in the thread that we had tried 1-2-3 magic--he claimed it did not work for him, but I don't think he tried hard enough. I know a lot of gd mamas might not be fans of it, but it really helped me remain calm, get out of spanking and get me through that 3 yo year. Mabe I could get dh to try again... This whole thing just makes me so sad
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