Partenting problems w/ husband — The Bump
Pre-School

Partenting problems w/ husband

Not sure which board/group best to post to - hope I get responses here.

I have a 4 and 2 year old, this post is about my 4 year old who is beautiful, super smart, kind, loving, caring, and stubborn.  As she ages she becomes more bossy, more stubborn and not a great listener.  She IS responsive to time out in the short term but the behvaior(s) continue in the long term. To be honest, she has been acting like a brat and very fresh.  This has progressively been getting worse since about 3.5 years old.

She will tell me straight up "NO" for not wanting to wear something, not wanting to eat something, or having to brush her teeth.  It is in a very fresh tone beyond a simple "no" and lets see how mom reacts. She says it as if her "No" IS the answer or way we will operate.  She is overly emotional too and every bump or bruise ends in an over-the-top tamtrum of how hurt she is. She doesn't deal with change well either. If I change her night time routine at all she melts down. She tries to tell me how long I need to lay with her in bed, that I need to close my eyes, and need to give her X number of hugs...a bit OCD with her nighttime routine.

I wil say I haven't stuck to my guns as much as I should but my husband put pressure on me to follow through with time out, not rewarding after a certain behavior etc. I struggle with how much of her toddler behvaior should be ignored and understood as being a toddler and how much we should respond to and provide a consequence to.

This evening my daughter didn't want to eat her dinner (she finally did after a consequence was given - no play after dinner); then she didn't want to come inside after my husband instructed her too over and over.  Then after bath she wanted to dress herself - I popped my head in to check on her and she very nasty said "don't look at me". Then she stubbed her toe and hand a total meltdown.

My husband went in her room and told her to get into bed that Mommy wasn't putting her to sleep and he didn't care if she threw up - she was satying in  that room and she was to no longer act this way and that the "party was over" - LIKE SHE KNEW WHAT THAT MEANT???

I am very mad at my husband for how he handled it although I did not go into her room because he said I had to stand firm with him...although I disagree w/ his approach I think it is more confusing for kids when dad's say one thing and mom says the other.

So point it - do you have problems with your spouse on not seeing eye-to-eye on responses to such behavior?

Have you experienced such behavior and how have you positively dealth with it?

Re: Partenting problems w/ husband

  • Whew -- you've got a lot going on there.  I'm sorry you're in such a rough spot, but I have a few things that might help you.

    A great book you might want to read is Parenting with Love and Logic.  It's a gimmick-free, common sense approach that might really help your particular situation.

    Until then, here are my thoughts:

    --Know that it's pretty normal for 4 year old kids (especially younger 4s, as your daughter is, if I'm reading your ticker correctly) to still be testing your authority.  A hallmark of 4 year old behavior is to blast you with their angry and aggressive feelings if they feel they're not getting what they want.  A 2 year old just freaks out.  A 4 year old knows how to use angry displays to manipulate you.

    --Based on what you've said (and what you haven't said) in your post, I suspect you're reacting to her too often and too strongly.  Honestly, there are plenty of parenting situations that sort themselves out if you just wait and do nothing.  An example of this is when she won't get dressed or brush her teeth.  Don't get into a big showdown that results in a time out or a consequence.  Don't make it a situation that involves confrontation or punishment.  Do an end run around all that by starting off by telling her "When you're dressed and your teeth are brushed, come out to the kitchen and I'll make breakfast."  Don't say it as a threat; just let her know that no fun will be had and no food will be eaten until she's done what you want her to do.  If she tests you, stay calm and let her fight herself over what to do.  If you have somewhere to be, tell her that she's got X minutes to do these things, otherwise she goes in the car in her pjs with a ziploc bag of cheerios. 

    --Your husband spoke in anger to your child because he's angry.  Instead of making the whole thing more intense by being angry at him now, cut him some slack for reacting in anger.  He's probably been cutting you slack for what he sees as "not standing firm with him" for a while.  You've both made mistakes.  This is okay!  No parent is perfect, and no two parents are always going to agree on how to handle things.  At a calm time, sit down with him and talk about how to deal with some of the recurrent problems like bedtime, mealtimes, getting dressed, getting out of the bath, etc.

    --It seems like you are giving your DD too much control in some areas and not enough control over others. And some of your consequences for her behavior don't make sense. For example, I'd let her have control over whether she eats dinner or not.  Some parents make meals a huge battle, as if eating a good dinner is a moral issue.  It's not.  If you keep putting healthy foods in front of her, she'll eventually eat them.  If she doesn't eat, there's no need for a punishment.  The natural consequence of not eating is being a little hungry until the next meal. (In my house I tempered this arrangement by telling my kids they could have a banana or some other small, healthy snack, but no junk or treats for people who didn't eat a healthy meal!)  

    On the other hand, it seems you're giving her WAY too much control over the bedtime routine.  Why should she get to dictate whether your eyes are open or closed? How many hugs you give her? Whether you lie down with her or not?  I would simply say, "Look, our bedtime routine is not working. It's too stressful and long. It makes me sad when we argue at bedtime.  Here's what we're going to do: I'm going to lay down in bed with you to read you a story, then I'm going to get up and give you a hug and tuck your covers around you, then I'm going to say one more goodnight at your door. That way you get a nice tuck-in and there's no more arguing." Again, don't present this to her as a problem.  Present it like it's a solution.  Then stick with the plan.  The first night, she'll probably resist and try to manipulate you.  Stay calm and remind her that things are different now.  If she winds up to a tantrum, firmly tell her, "You have 2 choices: We can do bedtime in this new way or I can just say goodnight and leave.  It's up to you."  Then let her choose.  If she tells you to leave, go.  She'll probably cry and freak out.  Stay calm and remind her that it was her choice.

    --Above all, be consistent but calm.  Doing so will help your H believe that you can be firm and stand up to her.  And it will help your DD feel that there are appropriate limits around her.   When you and your H don't react to everything she does, you'll probably find that your DD is calmer as well.

    --Just in case there's more going on with her, keep an eye on her.  If you feel that you've changed your parenting to be more calm, low-key, and logical, and she's still as inflexible and emotional as ever, or if it takes more than 2 or 3 months to see improvement, it could mean that you're dealing with some sort of mild issue like ADHD.  My guess is that this is not the case, though.  Just keep it in the back of your mind.

    Good luck!
    High School English teacher and mom of 2 kids:

    DD, born 9/06/00 -- 12th grade
    DS, born 8/25/04 -- 7th grade
    ChiccoBeanzbeStillbeBrightDisneyIsabelleChappy_jr
  • We have a 2 and a 4 year old and my husband and I are trying to get on the same page about things, too, so I sympathize.  My DH uses phrases that I am sure my 4 year old does not understand - DH says he doesn't want to talk down to the boy, but I can't get him to understand that there is a way to phrase things simply without sounding condescending.  I think he also expects too much of our 4 year old.  

    I am finding the hardest thing to do is keep my cool when both of my boys are acting up and being rambunctious.  I find myself expecting the 4 year old to know better, but when I stop myself for a minute to think, I realize he is only a kid, too, and expecting him to behave perfectly when his 2 year old brother is running around like a wild man and laughing his head off is unrealistic.

    We have worked on setting up some basic rules, some actions punishable and some rewarded.  Like, if the 4 year old picks up all of his toys before bed without a fuss, he gets a reward.  If he brushes his teeth and gets on his pj's by himself, he gets an extra bedtime story.  If he hits his brother, he gets time out; and if he does it again, he gets 5 sit-ups.  If he screams and has a tantrum, he has to cool off in his room, then he gets some kind of "chore" (this time of year, it has been picking up twigs in the yard for about 20 minutes or so).  Our rules and rewards are fluid and we've changed things a few times - he used to lose a toy each time he hit his brother, but that didn't seem to be a deterrent for him so we are trying something else. 

    I have also found that being *very* consistent about the bedtime routine helps.  My son knows it is potty - toothbrushing - pjs - story (or two if he is being rewarded) - hugs& kisses - lights out.  He isn't always perfect about it, but I really try not to deviate.  And I try to keep the bedtime within the same 30 minutes every night, even on weekends.  We still have the occasional nights where he fusses, but it is getting better. 

    I also have started just walking away or calmly sending him to his room to calm down when he really starts screaming and throwing a tantrum.  I have a hard time not responding to the yelling, but I also feel terribly guilty afterwards if I do yell.  I am trying to get into the habit of just telling him that I will talk to him when he is calm and removing myself until he stops.  Sometimes, he comes back almost immediately, claiming he is calm, but he breaks into the screaming after a minute or so and I have to end it again.  It is working, but it takes time.

    I think the most important thing is for you and your husband to sit down together one day or evening and discuss some basic rules and punishments/rewards.  What actions should be punished and what should be ignored?  What behavior should be rewarded and in what way?  What are some things you will do with your kids regardless of their behavior?  Although we always sort of knew it in our heads, it is really just becoming so much more important that we be on the same page for our kids' sake.  There are some things I am adamant about, and some that he is, but I also recognize when my wishes are not deal breakers and I am willing to compromise to come up with a plan we both endorse.

    Everything right now is a work in progress for us, but it is getting better.  Good luck!


    Son #1 is already 2! Not too much longer until Son No.2 arrives! Lilypie Maternity tickers
  • One thing to add for bedtime. We gave DS1, who is 4, a pass. It has his name on it and we covered it with packing tape. He can use it once after we say goodnight for something specific (use bathroom, get a drink, extra hug), but he only has one. It gives him some control and means he isn't coming in and out all night. 
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