Four yo daughter misunderstood by husband? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 10-29-2003, 03:12 AM - Thread Starter
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I am having a problem with my 4-1/2 yo daughter, or my husband and how he handles her, or both... I'm not sure. But here is an example:

She grabbed a huge handful of candy corn out of his candy bag. I said "That is too many Alex." My husband said very sternly "Alex, you put all but a couple of those back." So, she put a couple back. (Not ALL BUT a couple). Then, since she "disobeyed" him, he jumped all over her case and tried to take them all and was prying the candies out of her hand. I jumped in and said "I don't think she understood you clearly." And, this kind of thing happens all the time, so he knew that I dissaproved of the way he was handling it and he backed down a little. He became less "forceful" and stern, and he gave her 6, but took the rest away. But he said to me, "I think she understood exactly what I said. She was just trying to get away with whatever she could." Then she ran and hid behind me.

Situations like this happen constantly. I would have negotiated with her to get her down to a reasonable amount of candy and then hidden the rest (my husband keeps leaving it out). He gives her an order and when she doesn't follow it immediately, he jumps all over her case with time out threats and stuff without explaining the situation to her and giving her a chance. I told him tonight that she did not understand his wording and that she would have cooperated if he gave her a chance to. He's considering what I said. Maybe he will agree, maybe not. But his first reaction to every situation is to be too harsh and he seems to assume that she is always just being "manipulative" and "underhanded" for some bizarre reason. I want to scream at him "SHE'S FOUR, YOU IDIOT!"

Also, she is going through a phase where she seems to be very demanding... Or very touchy... I'm not sure which. Sometimes, when she doesn't get what she wants, she just immediately breaks down and cries. Is she a brat? Is she just sensitive? Is she throwing a tantrum? I don't know... I can always talk to her about it when it is happening and we can come to some kind of resolution. I think it's just a phase of some kind. But, I also think that my husband has been making it worse by screwing up everything he handles....

I really am beginning to wonder if I need to have a very serious talk with him. He's got 5 kids from his first marriage. I would have thought that he understood children and the way their brain develops. I do tell him when I disagree with the way he handles things. But, I'm beginning to wonder if he has a clue at all how to handle any type of discipline situation well. And if not, I need to figure out how to change his mindset, or he is going to "ruin" our wonderful cooperative, gentle discipline relationship we have with the girls with his hard ass approach.

Am I over reacting? Is he normal? Is she just going through a phase? What should I do?
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#2 of 10 Old 10-29-2003, 03:32 AM
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Oy... did I write this post? Hhmmm.. could have. I'm not sure how to get through... I often fail. I can sometimes get somewhere by asking my husband to slow down a little. I have made some headway with him about saying definitive things without thinking. "If you don't put that down RIGHT NOW we are not going to the park!" Great.. so now you two are sulky and we are all stuck in the house because you issued an ultimatum at the drop of a hat. Friggin beautiful!

I think we who are with them almost constantly have a better idea of their communication skills. I find my DH seems to always expect things of her in terms of understanding and communication that she is incapable of. I work on this a lot. I try to be pro-active. I tell him little stories about big misunderstandings she and I have.. ones where she didn't get her way by virtue of being unable to tell me what she wanted... so he sees that it isn't something she does just to get her way. I try to pay enough attention to their interactions that I catch them before it goes off the rails. It wears me out that I have to, but for now I do it.
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#3 of 10 Old 10-29-2003, 10:25 AM
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Sympathy here too. I can't tell you how often I say, "she's only 3" or "he is just 2 years old!" I know he just doesn't understand things like I do, and he wants to make sure the kids aren't "brats".

I find a lot depends on his stress level from work too, so I try to (and not to sound all June Cleaver, 50s mom here), but when I know he is stressed I do not expect much child care from him, and when he calls from work and I know things are going bad, I try to have the house all cleaned up before he gets home, and I keep the kids right with me for the evening, so I take care of the discipline. It's kind of gentle parenting him, trying to set him up for success with the kids. I try to model how to handle them best, and try very hard to talk to him out of the situation, later on.

I also make a point to praise him when he is gentle and kind with a hard situation.

The only advice I have is to talk to him about it, and see if you can work something out together, let him know that you want to be sure he ends up with a happy/trusting/loving relationship with your dd.

:Patty :fireman Catholic, intactalactivist, co-sleeping, GDing, HSing, no-vax Mama to .........................:..........hale:
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#4 of 10 Old 10-29-2003, 10:42 AM
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I know it is frustating, and you are really venting here, but this
I think it's just a phase of some kind. But, I also think that my husband has been making it worse by screwing up everything he handles....
really concerned me..

YOu don't HONESTLY think that i am sure. . And to a point your husband is right.. 4 yr olds ARE a bit manipulative.. All kids are.. Remember being a kid, and trying to think of a way to get even more from a situation? I do.. It's what kids do.. And where as it's not the best deal for adults, it's what kids do..

He handles discipline different than the way you do.. You don't think it's the best way to deal with a situation, but he may think the same thing about how you handle things, but he isn't second guessing you..

I know as mothers we are ULTRA protective of our little ones, however.. I have had to work to NOT do this around my DH who really does love them, and is doing what he feels is right in regards to him as well..

It seems to me that when you say something to him infront of your dd you are undermining his parenting of her.. I am sure that isn't your intent, but from what you posted that seems to be the outcome..

Your dd hid behind you bc you made your dh into the "bad parent"... She ran behind your safety because when you repromanded your husband in front of her you may have sent the message that daddy is unsafe..Again.. I am SURE this wasn't your intent.. But that is what it appeared to me to be from your post..

I often times DO NOT agree with my husband on how he choses to dicipline our children, but i talk to him about it when our boys are NOT around so that i am NOT undermining this role as parent..

Sorry for the book.. I just felt very moved to respond to you.. Fathers do not parent exactly as mothers do, but that doesn't make it wrong either..

Warm Squishy Feelings...


It's lonely being the only XX in a house of XYs.
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#5 of 10 Old 10-29-2003, 10:49 AM
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Hmm, I wonder if he has already raised 5 kids "the old fashioned way," he isn't rather more stuck in that mindset than a new dad would be?

Sure, it is accepted knowledge out there that young kids, even babies, are manipulative, as if they were little scheming adults. Ridiculous, but all too common idea.

I found this book invaluable: How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. It is clear and full of real ideas for communicating, not just theories. It even uses comic strips to explain things simply for busy parents. Read it yourself. The ideas in it don't just work on kids, but are for everyone you come into contact with.

I put one list of simple ideas from this book up on my fridge. I also would leave the book where dh might see it, say in the bathroom reading basket. Or I would read parts of it out loud to hm while he was showering! He was open to better ways of communicating. He and I both had to unlearn bad stuff from our childhood, he was spanked and I was dissed by our dads.
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#6 of 10 Old 10-29-2003, 01:08 PM
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I do my dandiest not to correct or argue over parenting issues in front of my children. They learn manipulation points. My dh and I both step in but we have learn to watch how we do it, neither of us are perfect.

Stop and think before you talk. If you think she miss understood something ask your husband like you are confused yourself. It points out the flaw with out making him the bad guy. See in this situation I would of calmly said something like “Dear did you say put a couple back or all but a couple?” When he would respond “All but a couple” I would of said “Oh, I thought you said put a couple back.” Then I would of looked at the child and said put all but a couple back, that means you need to keep 2 or 3 and put the rest back. This way you are standing by dad and helping your child to listen and question something that is not clear.

Or if he is already on a triad ask him why, she put a couple back. “When he said because I told her to put all but a couple back.” Act stupid say “OHHHHH, I thought you said --.” Then give your child more clear instructions but say "Your Dad wants you to ----" That way you are backing your husband's authority/decission"***.

DH and I had our issues with this. Luckily my dh was easier to convince that he needed to watch how he worded things (I should say my second husband was, first one is a different story). He figured out that kids could be manipulative and if you are not exact it can really blow up in your face. One day my dh told my son to pick up the toys. My son did and put them all on the couch. My son did exactly what he was told. After my dh stop laughing he helped my son put them up.

I agree on the book How to Talk so Kids will listen. To put it bluntly, that book opened my eyes to how I affected my first marriage. How my communication skills sucked and were part of the problem. It did not help my ex was and is still a total insensitive jerk.

***I don't like the word authority in an dictatoral since. But I think you need to show a united front even if you disagree or can sympathise with your child's misunderstanding. I bet you 10-1 his parents talked to him this way. My second husband's mom did/does. He sees now how much confussion is can cause.

I also think that my husband has been making it worse by screwing up everything he handles....
Something I had to learn myself, because your husband does not do it your way does not make it wrong. Sometimes this might mean biting your tongue and instincts and keeping your mouth shut. I know with my first husband I did have a tendency to have this attitude and it did affect his relationship/bonding with his child. Your husband will not have the same relationship with your daughter, as you will. Some times we just have to learn to be less critical and realize because it is not our way does not necessary make it the wrong way.

On another note you don’t have to respond to me just ask yourself: Has your husband ever dealt with the issues that caused his first divorce? Does he blame her all? Can he see what his faults were? After my first divorce I took a good look at myself and saw what I did to contribute to are problems and I learned from them. Many people do not do this.

Also try to take an objective look at how he parented his other kids. My mom talks about my step-dad’s ( R ) ex-wife always stepping in and not allowing R parent. Well after some time my husband made a very accurate observation. R has a tendency to jump off the handle and discipline wrong and be verbally smart. R’s ex-wife always jumped in to protect and manage the situation better. Unfortunately she might of at out habit carried it to far and created a bigger wedge than why R was doing himself. My husband and I have discussed this greatly. We work on having are parental disagreements not in front of the children. When we do feel the need to step in we still back each other’s decision, even if we don’t like it, just help defuse the situation.
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#7 of 10 Old 10-29-2003, 01:43 PM
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My ex was a lot like this. He would make demands that our child do something, the kid would do it wrong--I'd have to say to ex "well, I'm an adult and I didn't even understand what you meant. You need to be more clear." He would for a little while(that day) but he seems incapable of staying that way. We are all somehow supposed to know what he wants even before he does.

And yes, I got to the point where I would confront the ex in front of the kids. They were scared and confused, he was yelling at them for being so stupid when it was all his fault for expecting them to read his mind. The kids needed to know that I was there for them. If I waited til later to discuss it with ex in private, I would be giving my tacit consent to his behavior in their eyes. To them I was backing up dad because I didn't say anything. KWIM?

So if it seems dad is verging on (or IS) being verbally abusive or scary, confront it then and there. If not, sure it can wait til later.
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#8 of 10 Old 10-29-2003, 04:00 PM
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Its really hard to be consistant between two parents. One thing that my husband and I did that helped a lot was to take a parenting class together. It was a "positive parenting" class, so it was very close to exactly the type of discipline that I wanted to make sure we followed. This gave us a common starting point, and a non-threatening way to talk about what we both wanted to change or work on together. Of course, you want to be careful about the type of approach a class will be modeling (taking an Ezzo class, for example, is probably not what you want to do), but if you can find a class that is compatible with what you want, it could be a great way of "getting on the same page".
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#9 of 10 Old 10-29-2003, 04:12 PM
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Okay... but here is another thing... on understanding the developemental age of the child. "Put back all but a few" is a complex direction involving subtractive theory , the deciphering of a parenthetical phrase and the fine motor skills to do as directed. I'm not sure it was a fair request. My DDis only three. I would not give her a direction like that. I would ask her put them all back and then tell her how many she may take.
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#10 of 10 Old 10-30-2003, 03:29 PM
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Originally posted by kama'aina mama
Okay... but here is another thing... on understanding the developemental age of the child.
Put much more succinctly than I could have, I totally agree. "Your Child's Self-Esteem" is a good book for illustrating what they are capable of, and what is happening to them. It really helped us adjust our expectations. Dh is not a reader, so I've read almost the whole thing aloud to him.

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