Dh told dd she is "hopeless" - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 06-14-2005, 02:06 PM - Thread Starter
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My husband is the stay at home parent in our family; and he does a marvelous job. He is much more patient than I am, more thoughtful, and is generally a calm, loving parent. Perhaps it is his European upbringing, but he can be very blunt in his use of words. He has hurt my feelings many times by using harsh words to describe my actions, appearance, etc and I have learned to just shrug it off. But when he does it to our girls, I cannot tolerate it.

For example, our 2.5 year old daughter has been having trouble making it to the potty in time. This is a relatively new development - she has been very good using the potty for several months and lately she waits too long before deciding to go in there and as a result she pees in her pants or on them while she is pulling them down. The last time she did this, I overheard my husband tell her (in Dutch) that she is "hopeless". As soon as I heard him say that, when he was some distance away from our toddler, I said to him, "Don't tell her she is hopeless. Those words hurt. They cut." He looked suitably remorseful - but maybe he was just sorry that I 'caught' him. Since he was speaking to her in Dutch he may have thought I didn't understand - but I can understand a LOT - I just can't speak it.

Anyway, I'm worred this problem is going to get worse, not better. He has said things about my daughter (from my previous marriage) like that she is "lazy" and "stupid" (not TO her, but to me about her when she wasn't around). I told him that it hurts me very much when he uses those words and that I would prefer he use less harsh language. This last instance, however, was the first time I've heard him say harsh words right to the child's face.

Does anyone else have similar issues? Any helpful tips on how to handle this?
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#2 of 11 Old 06-14-2005, 02:32 PM
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I'm sorry to hear your dh is telling your dd that she is hopeless. She will grow up thinking that she really is if this continues. Perhaps you should seek counseling as a couple so that he can learn how much his words truly hurt and how to curb his verbal abuse. I know from experience that the verbal abuse often hurts worse than the physical.

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#3 of 11 Old 06-14-2005, 04:49 PM
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I, too, am married to a Dutchman, although we live in the Netherlands (I'm American). I think the Dutch, more than almost any other Europeans or other nationalities I've come across (I've also spent a lot of time in Portugal, Brazil, England, Israel, and many South and Central American countries) value what they term "directness" and "saying what you mean" Many times I've had to tell DH that I don't like the way in which he's said something (we usually speak English together, though he speaks Dutch with DS so I've given him the benefit of the doubt for messing up when speaking in another language) and he doesn't seem to "get" that it was hurtful and offensive.

I think this is part of Dutch culture, honestly. I call it plain rudeness, but they simply don't see it that way. I hear Dutch parents say all sorts of things to their kids that I would never say to DS! For instance, I hear other parents on the playground tell their kids they're "clumsy" "slow" "not very good at X,Y,X" the list goes on. I used to get offended when people would comment about how small DS is for his age, but I realized they didn't mean it in anything other than a matter - of - fact way. This, of course, didn't stop me from wanting to comment how ugly their kids were, but I never did! I was raised right! LOL! Now I just give a big grin and say he is perfect to us. They look confused. hee hee.

Anyway, it is good you can talk to DH and tell him how hurtful these things are to kids. Whatever the cultural context he comes from, you're creating your own cultural context within your family!

Good luck!
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#4 of 11 Old 06-14-2005, 06:04 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you so much for replying to my post (I see it was your first post here at MDC - Welcome!). I am honored that you would reply to my post as your first time here.

I found your words extremely reassuring and made me feel so much better because I realize you are right. I have been to visit my husband's family in the Netherlands (one brother lives in the Hague and the other in Warmond) and they absolutely do value directness. I have heard them say things that I would consider hurtful and it doesn't bother them or their teenage kids at all.

I also agree with you that I need to let him know that those kind of words hurt. They hurt me, at least, and my American raised daughter. I can't say for sure if they hurt the feelings of our toddler and new baby, but I can't imagine how it wouldn't hurt to hear your parent refer to you as 'hopeless'. So I will continue making him aware.

Again, thank you. :
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#5 of 11 Old 06-14-2005, 06:24 PM
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While I can see the cultural differences, I think that with a subject as important as potty learning, using those types of words is a BAAAAAD idea. She needs encouragement, NOT discouragement. I bet she feels bad enough about having accidents without anyone else adding to it.

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#6 of 11 Old 06-15-2005, 12:46 AM
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If this is a Dutch thing, it explains a lot about my father's family.

Dad was Dutch and oh dear the way they talked to each other. I grew to dislike my grandmother intensely because of it.

When my dad quit drinking, his mom's response was: "I wish he'd quit smoking instead."

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#7 of 11 Old 06-15-2005, 12:53 AM
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Wow. I'm so sorry.

As someone who had both a stepdad and a dad who, although otherwise loving, delivered some harsh words on occasion, let me just say that it needs to stop. It's enough to cause lifelong damage.

My ex grew up with a dad who used to say things like that to him. He's a great guy - intelligent, great sense of humor, so much to offer... and he'll never really see it because of what his dad's comments did to him. He has terribly low self-esteem. It has devastated him.

He started saying things to ds when he was younger - about being disappointed in him, etc. We had a number of very serious talks about it. Fortunately, he got it.. mostly, anyway. If he hadn't, I would have insisted that we go to counseling until he did and successfully changed his behavior. It's that important.
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#8 of 11 Old 06-15-2005, 12:54 AM
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My 27 month old doesn't even think of using the potty... would this be acceptable to him? 2.5 is still a baby (almost, kinda, yah!) and the potty is quite new. He needs to ease up.
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#9 of 11 Old 06-15-2005, 02:00 AM
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There are ways to be honest and direct about the behavior without being negative about the whole person. That's where your dh has to work. It might be a cultural thing but I don't know, I think we have a similar cultural thing in the US! I have defintely heard parents call their children "lazy" when they really meant "unwilling to practice piano when the sun is shining outside."

Instead of saying the child is lazy or stupid, it's better to say "I don't like it that dd won't pick up her toys" or "It worries me that dd isn't reading yet" or even "Why does she look at me like that? I am being perfectly clear!" Still direct and honest and not sugar coating, but not making the whole kid a problem or hopeless or something.

I think it's too easy for us to just revert back to what our own parents did. They might have been great parents, but it was not great to have them tag us as "the messy one" or "the pretty one" or whatever.

Divorced mom of one awesome boy born 2-3-2003.
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#10 of 11 Old 06-15-2005, 01:04 PM
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One other thing to consider, what is his tone when he says these things? Is it matter of fact or is it with intent to hurt? If it's the former then it does make it a little easier to deal with it as a cultural thing. If it's intent to hurt tone then it's another problem altogether.

I'm not Dutch but my family is Lebanese. You never, ever compliment a child by telling them they're pretty or cute or amazing b/c you might attract the evil the eye. None of my family ever complimented me growing up. I'm pretty sure it's pan-Arab. Also, mothers will threaten to cut their children's hands off if they insist on continuining to touch something they shouldn't or beat the bottom of their feet if they don't stand still, etc., etc. Things, as a 3rd generation I could never say to my child but are perfectly normal for them.

So if his is a cultural thing it would probably help you a lot to understand why and where it comes from to give you the ability to effectively communicate why it bothers you. The Dutch may be that way b/c they don't want their children to get a big head or b/c they view life as a "matter of fact" endeavor or they hold a great belief in not exagerrating or lying about things. None of this excuses it if it makes you uncomfortable but at least understanding why he does it might prevent hurt feelings and enable you to stop him from doing it.
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#11 of 11 Old 06-15-2005, 01:14 PM
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