Step-father's criticism tears down the child - Mothering Forums
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Blended and Step Family Parenting > Step-father's criticism tears down the child
Yaelita's Avatar Yaelita 01:51 PM 11-22-2006
I don't know what to do, I am desperate for any advice you can give me.
I have been married for almost 4 yrs to my 2nd DH; my daughter from the previous marriage is 6.5 yrs old now. He also has a daughter of the same age. And we have two children together, DD 2.5 and DS 10 m.o.

DH constantly puts down my DD 6. It takes different forms, like critical remarks, open insults, snide remarks, attacks on her school or her biofather or my genes about how bad her education is, or even good-natured jokes, all with the same message: "You are stupid". DH constatnly compares his DD 6 to mine, finding mine lacking in everything the other one has. He does it in front of both of them, in front of our little children, even in front of our occasional guests.

I thought, when my DD was 2.5 (when we first married) that she would grow out of her tantrums and he would leave her alone. She did, but he didn't; he just finds other faults with her. I don't see the end of it - I can just see myself in those headlines "WIFE KILLS HUSBAND IN A FIT OF RAGE" - becasue every time he says something abusive to my daughter, I feel like strangling him.

FYI, in many other respects this is a good and functional marriage; but his criticism of my DD 6 kills me little by little.

I mentioned counseling or a seminar for blended families advertised in our community - he refuses even to hear of such things. All the smart self-help books tell you that you cannot change another person, only yourself. I feel that I have changed in 4 yrs, unfortunately, not for the better, - I have become as critical of my DD 6 as he is!
Help!

earthie_mama's Avatar earthie_mama 01:59 PM 11-22-2006
You are the parent of your DD, he is NOT. I personally feel that step-parents have no right to try to parent their step-children, much less degrade them. Tell him he needs to stop, or he can go, he could be doing permanent damage to your DD.
Yaelita's Avatar Yaelita 02:11 PM 11-22-2006
Brie, thanks!
I tried telling him many times, in many ways, he doesn't stop.
And I don't want another divorce, even though that possibility appeals to me during the darkest moments and I threatened him with it - to no effect (except escalating arguments and such).
earthie_mama's Avatar earthie_mama 03:03 PM 11-22-2006
Well, if you are going to keep him in the house, and he is not going to change, then really your option is to learn how to cope with it. Do you make a special point of telling your DD how wonderful and great and special she is? When he says nasty things, do you stand up for her?

I understand not wanting a divorce, as me and my DH have our issues as well, and it does cross my mind, but I will NOT do it, at least not yet....

Wish I could help you more s

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yaelita View Post
Brie, thanks!
I tried telling him many times, in many ways, he doesn't stop.
And I don't want another divorce, even though that possibility appeals to me during the darkest moments and I threatened him with it - to no effect (except escalating arguments and such).

Shenjall's Avatar Shenjall 03:12 PM 11-22-2006
You could go to therapy/support group on your own. That might clue him in on how important this is. And it will help you as well. (which in turn help your dd)

Quote:
I feel that I have changed in 4 yrs, unfortunately, not for the better, - I have become as critical of my DD 6 as he is!

TinkerBelle's Avatar TinkerBelle 03:15 PM 11-22-2006
You might not want another divorce, and I certainly am not going to tell you to get one, but he is abusing your child. I would think that she be the one who you would be most concerned about.

What is she going to think when she is older and you have allowed this to happen to her?

He would have to get help and change, or it would be the deal breaker for me.
Tapioca's Avatar Tapioca 03:19 PM 11-22-2006
She will remember that he treated her this way and you let him. You need to protect her. I understand you not wanting another divorce, but this would be a huge dealbreaker for me.

Another possibility: could she live with her biodad? It just breaks my heart to think of a 6 year old being torn down like that and humiliated.
Jster's Avatar Jster 06:41 PM 11-22-2006
I have an aunt who stayed married to her dh even though he constantly belittled their younger daughter, always putting up the first daughter. They finally divorced when the youngest daughter was 16, and by then so much damage is done, she has pretty much no relationship with her mom. And her mom knew all those years what damage it was doing, and you are so right about how the dh's negative attitude became the mom's as well...she found millions of things wrong with her really wonderful child, who my sister and I have always said was our favorite cousin for how sweet and loving and wonderful she is! Her own family didn't see it, though.

I agree with the pp, think of it not just from YOUR point of view, but from your daughters. When your blood boils in rage...who are you really mad at...him for acting like he always does, or in some small way, are you angry at yourself for still allowing it? Like you said, you can't change other people... I know my aunt really, REALLY regrets not acting sooner to protect her daughter...but the damage is done and their relationship is pretty much over. Would it be worth losing your daughter over?

And also, if he's insultin gher because she's got your genes, he's also insulting YOU and your OTHER children as well...how much respect does he have for ANYONE really, or does he just have oodles of self-love and love for those connected to him?
Laggie's Avatar Laggie 07:48 PM 11-22-2006
Have you spoken directly to DH about this? It sounds from your post as if you have not, only suggesting a course indirectly.

I would have a very clear conversation telling him that this is unacceptable to you. I would use the word unacceptable a LOT during this conversation. It sounds like some of these put-downs are insults directed at you, which is horrible. If my DH said something like that, I would tell him it was inappropriate, take my daughter, and leave the room. Every time. (*edit* actually, I think I would take *both* daughters - this shouldn't be about one side against the other, it should be about establishing what is an acceptable way for family members to speak to each other and what is not)

If you're not sticking up for your daughter and for yourself, you're teaching her that you agree with these comments. And your other daughter is learning that insulting people is a way to make yourself look good, which isn't going to do her any favours in life either.

Sorry for being so blunt, but I'm shocked that a parent would act this way. I was mostly raised by my stepdad and ONCE he made a negative comment about me being "just like my father" and, although that was one comment, it was horribly hurtful to me. It was during a heated argument so I know he didn't mean to say that to me... (And, to the pp who said step-parents shouldn't parent: what a sad little girl I would have been if my step-dad had not accepted me as his own and cared for me the same as his bio-daughter)
oliversmum2000's Avatar oliversmum2000 07:52 PM 11-22-2006
i cant imagine how your dd must be hurting inside, this is her only childhood. i am sorry for yo both but she has no choices in all this, please protect her.

earthie_mama's Avatar earthie_mama 08:37 PM 11-22-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by Laggie View Post
(And, to the pp who said step-parents shouldn't parent: what a sad little girl I would have been if my step-dad had not accepted me as his own and cared for me the same as his bio-daughter)
I'm glad your experience was better than mine, I felt my mom's husband had NO right telling ME what to do, I was her daughter, he was the guy f*&^ing my mom. He did adopt me even, but I personally feel that a step paretns role to the child is that of a friend and not of authority. Even though I never met my bio dad, and do consier my step dad to be my father. In my view he came into me and my mom's house, stole my mom, gave me rules, then had children with her so she wouldn't need me anymore. That was how I felt, and how I still feel as a matter of fact,
sehbub's Avatar sehbub 08:46 PM 11-22-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by Laggie View Post
(And, to the pp who said step-parents shouldn't parent: what a sad little girl I would have been if my step-dad had not accepted me as his own and cared for me the same as his bio-daughter)
I agree. I think that's a fairly harsh blanket statement that makes it difficult for a family to function. Just because I didn't give birth to my oldest two children does not mean that I have no right to parent them. It is next to impossible to defer to the biological parent on all counts, and even if it were possible, what would be the point of even being a member of the family? I am a third parent, as accepted by my DH, my DH's ex, and most importantly, my children. Should adoptive parents not be parents either simply for a lack of biology? Or is it okay for them because they signed a piece of paper? I understand this comment may have been made in the heat of the moment and with no malice behind it, which is why I am being very careful not to flame the pp. This comment felt like a slap in the face though, as my oldest two daughters were in my life for three years before their baby sister came along, and I would die for them just as I would for my biological child(ren). It saddens me to think someone may feel that I have no right to parent them.

I do, however, wholeheartedly agree that NO parent should ever degrade a child, biological or otherwise. That is simply wrong.

I realize we cross-posted. I am so sorry you had such a negative experience with your own step-father, earthie-mama, and I'm sorry it was such a bad experience as to negatively effect your view of all blended family relationships.
earthie_mama's Avatar earthie_mama 09:00 PM 11-22-2006
Perhaps I should rephrase to make it more clear exactly what I meant. I don't think any step-parent should think they have the RIGHT to parent their step-children. I know there are a great many of wonderful step-parents out there, but I don't think marrying someone gives you the right to parent their children, especially if the children already don't accept you. I know my step-dad loves me, and I know he would die for me as well, but the fact of the matter is that I was not consulted before my mom married him, nor was I asked whether I even wanted a father. I had deep hatred for YEARS, and this man is a good man, he is a good dad.

If all parties agree, that is one thing, but many many times IME, that's not the case. I think many children are forced to accept step-parents, and THAT is what is unhealthy, not blended families in general.

Sorry for any confusion.
sehbub's Avatar sehbub 09:09 PM 11-22-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by earthie_mama View Post
If all parties agree, that is one thing, but many many times IME, that's not the case. I think many children are forced to accept step-parents, and THAT is what is unhealthy, not blended families in general.

Sorry for any confusion.
ITA with you on that point. Absolutely.

We were infinitely lucky in that my girls really wanted me in their life, and DH got permission from them before proposing to me. They actively helped us plan our wedding (as much as a 2 and 4 year old can ) and have been actively involved in every single decision we have ever made as a family. And like I said, DH's x has been unbelievably accepting of me, mostly because both she and my DH knew that their marriage was over from the beginning, and were both happy to see the other move on and become happy.

So yes, I agree that telling a child they are forced to accept a step-parent as a "new" parent, or even as "another" parent is wrong. Children are more than capable of making up their minds about who should and should not be in their lives, and in what capacity.

Like I said, I know how lucky we are that we all fit so well together. As my oldest said to me on Mother's Day, "I'm so glad you're my 'nother mommy. We're all perfect for each other." :
truelife's Avatar truelife 09:15 PM 11-22-2006
PLEASE do all that you can to stop this behavior! I know that is so much easier said then done, but my stepfather was verbally abusive and I'm still trying to sort through all of his "jokes". My mom would get into fights with him over what he would say and do but it didn't matter - what he said stuck. My mom divorced him after 7 years of being together. The damage was done. I don't have a relationship with my mom b/c of her willingness to stay with a man that treated her daughter so poorly.
Shenjall's Avatar Shenjall 09:48 PM 11-22-2006
earthie, how old were you when your mom got married? Does she know your feelings on this?
earthie_mama's Avatar earthie_mama 10:00 PM 11-22-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shenjall View Post
earthie, how old were you when your mom got married? Does she know your feelings on this?
I was 5 when she married, 3 1/2 when she started dating him. Yes, she knows my feelings, she thinks they're ridiculous. She still thinks its absurd to "ask your children permission" to get married.
broodymama's Avatar broodymama 10:19 PM 11-22-2006
I'm glad you are looking for ways to help your family and protect your DD.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tapioca View Post
She will remember that he treated her this way and you let him. You need to protect her.
I agree with this, my stepfather repeatedly said some very mean things to me (in the guise of being "helpful", of course) when I was 12-14, until I finally moved in with my dad and stepmom. I can still remember the hurt those statements caused and how angry I was that my mom didn't stand up for me.
Jster's Avatar Jster 11:03 PM 11-22-2006
Not to be off on a tangent, but earthie mama, I just don't understand. I can see my kids coming to me some day and saying "Why in the world did you marry our dad?" who is now my ex, but NO ONE gets to pick their parents. Period. Nor do older children get to choose whether their parents have more kids or not...it's just something you kind of have to accept. Not that I won't involve my children in the decision if I do get remarried...but I think a lot of single parents (including my own mother) go too far and give their children veto power, and frankly I resent that my mom did that! It was way too much responsibility for me to have as a child...

Maybe we just both need some healing of our inner children off to the therapist
sehbub's Avatar sehbub 11:16 PM 11-22-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jster View Post
Not to be off on a tangent, but earthie mama, I just don't understand. I can see my kids coming to me some day and saying "Why in the world did you marry our dad?" who is now my ex, but NO ONE gets to pick their parents. Period. Nor do older children get to choose whether their parents have more kids or not...it's just something you kind of have to accept. Not that I won't involve my children in the decision if I do get remarried...but I think a lot of single parents (including my own mother) go too far and give their children veto power, and frankly I resent that my mom did that! It was way too much responsibility for me to have as a child...

Maybe we just both need some healing of our inner children off to the therapist
While we don't get to pick our parents, step-parents ARE chosen, usually specifically because they have qualities that the bioparent feels were lacking in their former partner. I don't know that children should have veto power, per say, but I do feel that children should be actively involved, and closely informed, when a bioparent makes the decision to remarry. Yes, it is our decision as adults who we marry, but I think we owe our children the respect of at least listening to concerns they may have about the person we are about to commit our lives to. After all, bps are essentially bringing a stranger in to the family, and it is important to the harmony of all blended families (IMO) that everyone be on the same page.

So, veto power, no. But a voice? Absolutely. And I'm sorry you felt so much pressure from your mom. That's rough. I can't imagine being told, as a child that it would be my choice who my parent married.

This whole world of blended families is so sticky.
simone-n's Avatar simone-n 11:20 PM 11-22-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yaelita View Post
I feel that I have changed in 4 yrs, unfortunately, not for the better, - I have become as critical of my DD 6 as he is!
Help!
I understand your negative feelings about your DD. When someone is constantly pointing out all the bad things a child does you start to only see the bad. Plus as mothers we sometimes see all the faults in our DD because we usually have the same faults and we naturally want to change them. What you need to do is spend alone time with her and find something that she could be good at and that you will appreciate. Then just focus on this one this until you find another. Your husband could possibly start doing the same; it should be something he enjoys as well. I know this is a simplistic approach but it’s worth a try. I think you do need to start working on how you feel towards your daughter first. Part of the problem I see is that you think there might be some truth to your DH criticisms and this might be one reason you have yet to really be able to stop what he’s doing. He needs to see your appreciation for her and the role she plays in your family. Every child has something special to offer. Our job as parents is to find out what that something special is and nurtures it.

Also many parents have negative feeling about there DC/DSC they just never voice them. It's good that you came to this forum and are brave enough to let people help in any way they can. I wish you all the best.
Amylcd's Avatar Amylcd 11:48 PM 11-22-2006
If my husband was being verbally abusive to my children - he would be gone. I love him with all my heart, but it is my "job" to protect my children, no matter what it costs.

A child never deserves to be treated like that.
sphinxie's Avatar sphinxie 12:08 AM 11-23-2006
I have several friends who are survivors of abuse and such. And I concluded awhile ago that those who were abused (by someone outside the family), yet had healthy family lives, recovered pretty well. For others it seemed like what, in a way, had actually harmed them the most were the constant messages of low-self-value, and the dysfunctional relationships, and any other weird messages that they grew up with. And these can affect people who weren't overtly abused or attacked either (although nowadays it's often considered emotional/verbal abuse).

I think there's a huge amount of happiness at stake for your DD here.

I agree with the PPs who suggested counseling for yourself. It might help you to get oriented.
Yaelita's Avatar Yaelita 12:15 AM 11-23-2006
Thank you, ladies. All your responses are very helpful. I did have a serious talk with DH today, and even managed to keep calm through the entire conversation (it was over the phone which is always easier for me). It helped to have had your input, and just seeing my own words on "paper" made me think more clearly, so I was clear in what I found unacceptable in his behavior. DH promised to give my DD a break - and so far (today), he has.

I also wrote a letter to a person who is both his friend and a rabbi, and happens to be very wise and knowledgeable and has a happy family. He lives in a different city, so we don't have much contact with him, but DH respects him and values his opinion. I essentially told him the same thing, asking for advice. He's known my DH since they were kids. Maybe, if he chooses to, he might have a conversation with my DH and DH might listen to him. But even the fact of telling it to him made me realize that I am not alone, I have someone to turn to.

Wow, this is one eventful day for me. After agonizing for years about telling anyone "my dirty little secret", here I am, talking with you ladies on this forum, and this is just great. Thanks, and I mean it!

Yaelita

BTW, to reply to some of the posts, I do step in every time to defend my daughter, and that usually doesn't help, just escalates the arguments in the house; and I do try to let her know (when we are alone) that I love her and do not agree with whatever was said by her step-father.
Treasuremapper's Avatar Treasuremapper 12:41 AM 11-23-2006
OMG. this is horrible, heart wrenching, and it must stop. Find a way to make it stop, even if you have to leave your "functional" marriage.

s:
earthie_mama's Avatar earthie_mama 01:29 AM 11-23-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yaelita View Post
BTW, to reply to some of the posts, I do step in every time to defend my daughter, and that usually doesn't help, just escalates the arguments in the house; and I do try to let her know (when we are alone) that I love her and do not agree with whatever was said by her step-father.

I hate to say it, but if you are doing all you can, and it's not enough, then it's simply not enough is it....?
elsasmommy's Avatar elsasmommy 01:55 PM 11-23-2006
You say this is your "dirty little secret". Does that mean that your dh can control himself around others and doesn't criticize your dd except in the privacy of your own home? If so, then he has no excuse! (Not that there is any excuse for child abuse anyway, but...) If he can act like the "good guy" around others, then he KNOWS what he's doing to your dd is wrong, and he DOES have self-control. He just CHOOSES to use her as his whipping boy. It's all about choice; you can't make excuses for a grown man.

Maybe your marriage isn't as "functional" as it seems. If you and dh both stopped picking on your dd, maybe you'd have to come to terms with whatever is driving the anger behind this behavior, and I'm willing to bet it has nothing to do with an innocent six-year-old. It sounds like your dh has issues, and maybe you are critical of your dd because you just want her to somehow "be perfect" so you can stay in your marriage. But it's not the kid's fault that your marriage is problematic, that your husband is abusive.

The other posters are right: your dd is going to end up with serious problems if this continues, and in the end, she will probably blame you, not your dh. I think you know this is wrong but your childhood experiences are telling you to accept as normal what is NOT normal. Don't feel ashamed about divorce, if that's how it all ends. Think of it as a learning experience. I don't think anyone has the right to judge the choices a person makes as they strive to make a good, healthy life for themselves.
simone-n's Avatar simone-n 02:29 PM 11-23-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yaelita View Post
I also wrote a letter to a person who is both his friend and a rabbi, and happens to be very wise and knowledgeable and has a happy family. He lives in a different city, so we don't have much contact with him, but DH respects him and values his opinion. I essentially told him the same thing, asking for advice. He's known my DH since they were kids. Maybe, if he chooses to, he might have a conversation with my DH and DH might listen to him. But even the fact of telling it to him made me realize that I am not alone, I have someone to turn to.
This is great. I just wanted to say that I'm happy you let everyone here try and help. As mothers we cary a lot of guilt over the things we do or don't do and it's always good to seek help when we need it. Whatever happens take care of yourself and your dc, especially your little girl.
Shenjall's Avatar Shenjall 04:27 PM 11-23-2006
thats awesome that you're finding some help for your dh, but what are you doing for yourself? Your feelings towards your dd need some help too.
sdm1024's Avatar sdm1024 06:49 PM 11-27-2006
My DH and I have had similar struggles..his DD's are 7 and 5, visit EOWE, so he doesn't get to see the everyday tantrums, whininess...etc, meaning that he doesn't have a full picture of what his biological daughters do on a day to day basis.

Now, my DD...he lives with and is sees/expirices her good moments and her bad, DAILY. There is some comparing there. I *try* to gently remind him that comparisons are futile and do more damage than good. Or sometimes, I say (and this is prolly counterproductive) something like "Yeah, I remeber when OSD was going thru that stage last year....." to remind him that his DD's are NOT perfect.

Or maybe you have to just have a "if you have nothing nice to say...." policy
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