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Dad is upset by 3 year olds behavior towards him. Help?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
My son is 3 1/2 and he and my husband are having trouble relating to each other. DS is very sensitive and gets upset by so many things DH does. A look, a tone of voice, a request to stop hitting the dog, climbing the fence, will send DS into pitiful crying that it seems only I can stop. He comes running to me (usually begging to nurse too) and tells me what Daddy did that "hurt" him. Usually along the lines of insisting that holding his hand to stop DS from hurting himself or someone else has hurt his hand. DH is extremely upset by what he perceives as accusations of abuse from our son and he's worried that someone will overhear and report him. DH and I generally agree on our parenting choices and avoid physical forms of discipline, although we have had disagreements about how DH uses his tone of voice. He insists I'm the only one who is bothered by his "tone". Our daughter (7yo) is usually unruffled by his tone, so I don't know if I'm being hypersensitive to that.
My own take on this is that DS is trying to express how his -feelings- have been hurt by being corrected or having his play interrupted. DH is deeply upset by DS's reactions though. When DS was younger, DH sometimes complained that I was the only one who could comfort DS (because he always wanted to nurse), but he seemed to understand that it was natural. DS accusing DH of hurting him then.coming to me for comfort has made me feel very put in the middle though. I try very hard to calm DS, and help him reframe what happened with an understanding of DH's positive intentions (ie, keeping everyone safe). But DH is upset enough by this behavior he then gets upset at me too for overlooking DS's behavior. My instinct is that DS is a child and needs comforting no matter why he's upset. But this is also putting a strain on our marriage. DH was upset enough that we are sleeping in seperate beds tonight.
Any advice?
I hope this sleep deprived mama made any sense trying to explain the situation.
post #2 of 10

The things your DS are doing include potentially hurting himself and hurting others (climbing things that aren't safe, hurting an animal, etc.). This basically sounds like VERY reasonable instances of preventative discipline on you DH's part and if I were you, I'd try backing up dad next time. Just because your son is upset, in other words, doesn't mean that his complaint is valid or that an injustice or insensitivity actually did occur. And I fear that your son may be learning that he can play the two of you off each other, instead of you being more of a united front.


For example, maybe next time DS comes to you like this, you can respond with, "I'm sorry it hurt your feelings, but you shouldn't be hitting the dog." (or whatever it is he was doing.) And then consistently re-direct or change the subject.

post #3 of 10

Some kids who are extra-sensitive actually do feel "hurt" by angry or loud voices. My son is like that. A certain level of anger or disapproval from a parent feels threatening and painful to them. So maybe your son is like that.


If your DH needs to grab your son's hand to prevent him hurting himself or another person, perhaps he can work on his tone. Being more firm (yet kind) rather than angry-sounding. Tell your DH that it's not him...it's that your son is more sensitive (and parents just come with a certain amount of built-in all-encompassing-power) , and your DH's messages will get through to him better if the child is not reacting negatively to DH's voice or mannerisms.


I always tell people if you want to communicate, speak to them in their language. For example, would you speak to your English-speaking child in Greek? No. He wouldn't understand you; he wouldn't get the message. Maybe your son's language is "Gentle Voice."  Tell your DH to speak your son's language and your son can hear better those things that DH is trying to communicate.


I know this from experience. When I channeled my own scary-angry-Dad, my son was a BEAST. But when I learned to be gentle-firm Mama (I learned by watching other mothers who were like this; I certainly had no experience to draw from in my family of origin), my son's behavior improved a lot. I had been unknowingly "setting him off" by my manner, and by my failure to see things through his eyes.



post #4 of 10

Another thought would be to give your husband and your son some time together without you. If you're there available to be an intermediary (even if you're not trying to be), they might have a harder time figuring out how to interact with each other. Take your dd for some mom-girl time and have dad do the same with your son. Then the next time, switch it around.


You might also try labeling your son's feelings for him -- "you sound upset Dad told you 'no'" and then when he calms down, reinforce why dad said no.

post #5 of 10
3yo's are also notoriously difficult. My 3yo has been throwing EPIC tantrums lately, and it's not fun. He also tries to say that I hurt his feelings when I prevent him from doing things like hit the cat. Umm no. If he hits the cat he needs to stop, and so I tell him that he hurt the cats feelings when he hit him, and follow through with the consequence.

I think your DH should try not to take it personally though - it's all part of parenting. (you need to back DH up though, and not 'protect' him from dad)
post #6 of 10

My own personal opinion.  If this were happening in our home, I would both distance myself from it so they can work out their own issues, and I would back dad up.


I see this as your son playing one against the other.  This could potentially be hurting their relationship as father and son.  Eventually if you keep fixing this for your son instead of allowing him to be responsible for his actions, your husband is going to back off.  It's nice right now that your son needs you more than he needs daddy, but it stops being cute and endearing very soon.  In a year or two, you are going to be upset because Dad won't discipline or get involved.   


Dad isn't going to try to parent forever if his son is allowed to run to you and tattle on Dad, only to have you snuggle him to make it better.  It makes Dad look and feel like a jerk.  Your son shouldn't be hitting the dog.  Especially at 3 1/2.  

post #7 of 10

Agreed, it does sound like the child is "tattling" on Dad....and Dad is actually, in a way, getting "in trouble". Which will naturally diminish the parenting partnership thing you want to have going on. Also agree that some alone time with dad and son (w/o you as ds's security blanket or mediator) could be a very good idea.

post #8 of 10

I agree with the others - I would absolutely back up dad. I might say something along the lines of, "I understand Daddy has a big booming voice, but you need to listen to him and respect what he tells you. Your daddy loves you and is taking care of you when he tells you no. I think you owe Daddy an apology and a big hug." 


If Dad sees that YOU back him up, he'll be able to take a more active role in resolving these conflicts and he'll have more patience in his voice rather than feeling defeated before he corrects DS. I bet he feels so stressed and frustrated right now and that is probably what causes the tone of his voice to be so angry/resentful/irritated.


It would also be a good idea for Dad to tell DS and DD that when he uses his big booming voice, that he's not angry at them even though he sounds that way. He just has a big booming voice, and some day DS will also have a big booming voice like his dad.


Personally, I was THE hypersensitive child in my family, and I jumped even at the sound of my dad's footsteps. My DD is the same way - just very sound-sensitive and emotionally sensitive, so knowing that, I play a lot with my own tone of voice. Most of the time, I am very calm with her, and use a cheerful animated voice (she's almost 2) when I make requests, such as "Stay where Mommy can see you!", which she will test but I'll say, "Oh? I guess you want to be all done?! Okay!" and then she'll stay within the boundaries I set for her (as long as I'm looking). But sometimes, I'll change it up and use my best big loud voice or a scary voice, almost growling at her, then I yell ARRRRRRRGGGGG!!!!! and chase her with my hands ready to tickle and we both end up giggling. 


I do that because I want her to be confident and stand strong around authority figures, not feel shaky and panicked the way I always have.


So maybe you could suggest your hubby play games like that with the kids, using his big booming voice to chase them around like he's a tickle monster, and when DS does something he shouldn't, DH can shout "Oh! I'm going to get you THIS TIME!" And pounce on him, swing him up into his arms and say "You shouldn't have done that!! Now I have to tickle you for 3 WHOLE MINUTES!!! ARRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!" (just make sure he tickles him really lightly and doesn't restrain him, let him get away every 10 seconds and pounce again). Kids are always going to test the limits, that's their job. We parents need to keep firm consistent boundaries, but nowhere does it say we can't have a little fun doing it. 


My DD tries to get into the trash, and keeps putting things in the toilet, and I just yell "ARRRRRRRGGGH!!! OH NO!!! ACK!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!" in that same loud silly voice, snatch the object gently and put it in the sink. Then I reinforce in a very calm voice, "We don't put things in the potty. Yucky!" shaking my head slowly. If she tries again, I physically block her, then poke her tickle spots until she runs away. Luckily she's extremely ticklish. 


This way she learns I am a formidable opponent to try to disobey, but she feels loved, gets corrected in a positive way, and then our focus is on our fun tickle fight, which usually ends with her being exhausted and throwing her arms around my neck for a big hug. 

post #9 of 10
My younger daughter is generally a very easy child, but she is sensitive, and the other day she was trying to pull the cat's tail, so I grabbed her hand away and gently held it so she couldn't get at the cat's tail. I didn't do it hard enough to hurt her, but she started wailing that I was hurting her and it hurt soooo bad. My husband knows I'd never hurt our kids, so he just told her to stop trying to pull the cat's tail. And, as everyone said, that shows that we are together on this. If he started acting like I'd actually hurt our daughter and that her trying to pull the cat's tail didn't warrant me holding her hand to protect the cat, that would bother me.

So if you trust your dh isn't hurting your ds, and it sounds like you do, you need to just back him up.
post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thank you, mamas, for the feedback!
I may have been unclear in my first post (that was a rough day), but I really am trying to back up DH when this happens. While I have been comforting DS with hugs and trying to calm him when he comes running, I've also been trying to explain to him why I think Daddy was right to stop whatever the problem
Behavior was. I think I'm going to try to pull back a shade with the comforting and be sterner. I'm also going to make a conscious effort to give them more time together overall. Works out nicely that I'm off to a conference for a couple of days and the kids will have some daddy time. So far it sounds like they're doing well.
Thanks again for "listening" ladies!
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