Wife's treatment of children


#1

I have a problem with my wife. She is the product of parents who were not at all affectionate and a grandmother who was out and out abusive to her (verbally).

My relations with her are strained but I am doing my best to love her as Christ loved the church. We are a prayerful family and she is quite religious. I think her problems stem from her upbringing and psychological damage done to her as a child/young adult.

Now, my question - she is very disappointed by our eldest daughter. Evidently she was a very responsible, truthful child, and her mother required her to help out with her other siblings (she was the eldest of 7 children).

My daughter (12 yo) has long hair and it is unkempt. It is extremely thick and always looks greasy and my wife will say things to her like “I can’t stand the way you look.” And complain bitterly about how she can’t look after her hair at 12. She complains that her daughter “disgusts” her because she will not do the dishes/load the dishwasher or do a bad job of it. She also complains that my daughter slinks away whenever there is work to be done, and spends all her time in her room and only comes down when it is meal time.

She is disgusted by the fact that her daughter will not practice her musical instrument or read good books, instead of playing on the computer all day or doing her drawings. She also complains that her daughter will only play by ear and not play challenging music.

My wife was a music teacher and has extremely high standards that even I find it hard to live up to.

We home school so my daughter does not have her immature behaviors checked by her peers.

I would like to know how to handle this. I can’t seem to convince my wife that her behavior is damaging to my daughter. Doing so I get an earful about what her home life was life, and how my daughters peers are all so accomplished, and how deceptive my daughter is. Now pointing out that when I look at my daughters peers and I see even more shyness or immature behavior in them doesn’t seem to help.

I am trying to be very affectionate with my daughter and have special times together with her. Any advice on how to handle this would be appreciated.

Next problem - my wife and my eldest son (11 yo) argue all the time. Mainly they are arguments about fact. For example my son once stated “All the home school boys I know do X” where X was perhaps not read a chapter of a book a day.

Now first off, my son does not mingle much with home-schoolers and the chances of him discussing curriculum with them is nil. But in his head my son believed it. I often catch him believing something which simply is not true. For example he might forget to empty the bathroom trash, but if you ask him if he did, he swears he did and is bewildered to see that he actually did not. I recognize this behavior as I do it myself. I am sometimes asked if I did something and I think I did. There is no intention to deceive.

So my wife and him go to it. I try to tell him privately not to argue with her and just let it go. The battles he has with her are the same form as the ones she has with me, I just don’t quibble on every single inconsequential fact.

My concern is that if my wife chooses to have such an adversarial relationship with her two eldest children it will not be healthy and cannot be resolved into something peaceful. This battle will just persist and get worse.

I should point out that 2 of her siblings are divorced (anger management issues), we have strained relationships with 2 others - mainly because of belligerent/stubborn behaviors which my wife also manifests.

My thoughts are that I must lead as the male parent, and protect my children and ensure that they will be well adjusted children and not carry on this streak into the next generation.

Any advice on handling this situation would be appreciated.

Thanks!


#2

Wow... this thread resonated with me because your wife sounds very similar to how my own mom behaved on so many occassions when I was a child. Now, I wasn't homeschooled though, and I think that was my saving grace by having time away from my mom.
In all honesty, I wish my dad had stepped up and been more proactive... my mom really needed psychological help (which was attempted at times, but apparently never followed through on... it was still always "someone else's problem" that my mom was dealing with, never* her own*.)

So yes... my advice is to pray for the strength to be a STRONG and PROACTIVE father for your children. Defend them. Your wife sounds like she could benefit from seeing a medical psychologist...

Just my opinion... prayers for your situation. :o


#3

Yikes…

My daughter (12 yo) has long hair and it is unkempt. It is extremely thick and always looks greasy and my wife will say things to her like “I can’t stand the way you look.” And complain bitterly about how she can’t look after her hair at 12. She complains that her daughter “disgusts” her because she will not do the dishes/load the dishwasher or do a bad job of it. She also complains that my daughter slinks away whenever there is work to be done, and spends all her time in her room and only comes down when it is meal time.

I don’t blame your daughter for not doing the dishes when she is being treated in this way. Ask yourself this; would any reasonable person do something at work if their manager treated them in this way? Admittedly; yes your Daughter should be doing some chores; but approaching it from this tactless and aggressive style is only going to widen the gap between the child and her mother. Perhaps it would be better if she could have an incentive for doing chores (pocket money etc.) which can then be used to encourage certain behaviours such as doing chores – the carrot is certainly better than the stick…

As for how the daughter chooses to dress and / or wear her hair that is her business – if it is good enough for Saint James the Just never to wash; then it is ok if your daughter does not want to be overly obsessive about appearances. People who obsess over appearences not concentrating on what truly matters; the cases of Martha and Mary come to mind (Luke 10:38-42).

She is disgusted by the fact that her daughter will not practice her musical instrument or read good books, instead of playing on the computer all day or doing her drawings. She also complains that her daughter will only play by ear and not play challenging music.

It would be unwise to allow a child to have too long on a computer; particularily unchecked - however would it not be wise for your Wife to encourage your daughter to concentrate on her creative side through drawing – after all; if your daughter does not want to learn an instrument she will verily abandon it once she moves out; it would be best to concentrate efforts on her creativity through what she enjoys - drawing. Taking myself as an example; I never enjoyed music or drawing; but instead writing and so throughout my childhood my parents supported and encouraged this enough so that I could do it at least in a semi-proffessional standard.

Likewise; if your daughter does not want to read good books then that is her choice; there is no fruit to be gained from making her read them; only more misery on her behalf; and a loathing cultivated for her parents and the books; which will come to be seen as oppressive. Also, what do you mean by good books? What some people regard as good books (ie; Shakespere) are not to the taste of everyone, even literate people (for example Tolstoy loathed Shakespere).

We home school so my daughter does not have her immature behaviors checked by her peers.

She would probably have her behaviour magnified by her peers if she wasn’t homeschooled.

I would like to know how to handle this. I can’t seem to convince my wife that her behavior is damaging to my daughter. Doing so I get an earful about what her home life was life, and how my daughters peers are all so accomplished, and how deceptive my daughter is. Now pointing out that when I look at my daughters peers and I see even more shyness or immature behavior in them doesn’t seem to help.

Almost certainly the perspective of her peers you get is the best; that they put on when guests are there; yet with your daughter you get her behaviour all the time. This is not a fair balance to judge her behaviour on – also, her behaviour should not be judged by that of her peers but by it’s own fruits.

I think it is clear your wife needs to learn that not everyone enjoys an authoritarian upbringing; and that just because she regards it as good does not mean that it is right for everyone. It would be best to allow your Daughter to develop and grow in the areas she is interested in; and help her do that. To give an Example; the famous composer Thomas Arne was schooled to become a Lawyer; but instead wanted to become a musician; it was only after his friend intervened and persuaded his father otherwise that he was able to fully cultivate his talents.

Likewise; in the case of your Daughter; as parents you are obligated to help her grow in the areas she enjoys; it is pointless and cruel to make someone study music who is not musical; especially when they have another creative talent they are trying to cultivate (drawing; in this case) – we should work from our talents and help children to grow as themselves; and not as replicas of ourselves.

Continued…


#4

Let me begin by saying that I am not anti-homeschooling. I homeschooled 2 of our children for several years. Hovwever, in your case I would consider putting your children in a small k-8 Catholic school, even mid year, if you are able to. Why?
1. To shield them some from their mother's negative behavior during these formative years.
2. To help your daughter, if she truly does not have a good work ethic, begin to gain one
3. To teach your son to not aruge with adults
4. To allow you a place to see your children and surround them with praise (while visitng them at school, sporting events, band events. etc.). You can also let the school counselor and priest know, privately, that they are very much in need of affirmation.

My oldest son and I butted head A LOT when he was 11-12. Boys this age tend to challenge women. I was not like your wife, but I did argue back with him. My husband said: "ENOUGH. He is going to school. Homeshcooling is wonderful, but it is not what is needed for him or you right now". For all the fighting, I still wanted him home...but thankfully my quiet kind husband stuck to his guns and put him in parochial school, wisely!

Finally, pray for your wife. She needs to find some joy and happiness and learn to be a mom who uplifts her children. Remember, with homeshcooling also comes the stress of knowing that how they trun out feels as though it is fully 'your fault' or 'your success'.

HTH--
Taben

Edit to Add: Consider taking your daughter out for father/daughter time once a month...a movie, a dinner, a walk, etc. For your son, look into scouting or even better Squires (boys group sponsored by knights of columbus). Boys his age need dad and other groups with boys but it need not be sports.


#5

Next problem - my wife and my eldest son (11 yo) argue all the time. Mainly they are arguments about fact. For example my son once stated “All the home school boys I know do X” where X was perhaps not read a chapter of a book a day.

Now first off, my son does not mingle much with home-schoolers and the chances of him discussing curriculum with them is nil. But in his head my son believed it. I often catch him believing something which simply is not true. For example he might forget to empty the bathroom trash, but if you ask him if he did, he swears he did and is bewildered to see that he actually did not. I recognize this behavior as I do it myself. I am sometimes asked if I did something and I think I did. There is no intention to deceive.

In psychology this is called “confabulation”; where someone spontaneously creates false memories for some reason. I cannot speculate as to what that reason may be; but perhaps at a guess it might be to do with feeling an overbearing pressure to complete a task…

My concern is that if my wife chooses to have such an adversarial relationship with her two eldest children it will not be healthy and cannot be resolved into something peaceful. This battle will just persist and get worse.

I should point out that 2 of her siblings are divorced (anger management issues), we have strained relationships with 2 others - mainly because of belligerent/stubborn behaviors which my wife also manifests.

To be frank; your wife needs to grow up; perhaps even more than your children. It seems her stubborn-ness and inflexibility may be compensating for some percieved imperfection in regards to her opinion that all families must be perfect. She needs to overcome this illusion and embrace the fact that families are flawed; and children are individual if she is to come to terms with family life. Bull-headedness is not the answer to a problem; even if it gets a result it spreads seeds of frustration; powerlessness and authoritarianism that break families apart. For the sake of the family she must just relax; and let a few things go wrong once in a while.

My thoughts are that I must lead as the male parent, and protect my children and ensure that they will be well adjusted children and not carry on this streak into the next generation.

As the male parent you need to reign in discipline and order in the household; and if your wife is being destructive and obstructive of the development of the children and the harmonious growth of the family you need to supportively tackle this problem. It is damaging and dangerous to ignore it – but remember that her behaviours are likely symptoms of some illusion or experience that has caused her to be this way; and so you must be understanding in trying to overcome her problems.


#6

On the basis of a brief description of your family dynamics it's difficult to be certain about such things, but it seems like your wife may need some counselling. Who exactly it is who does the counselling is another matter: it may be you, it may be your priest, it may be a medical professional. How to arrange that it happens may present a problem too, given that your wife will need to be persuaded of its necessity.

And then there's your children. They too sound like they're going to be in need of some counselling, if not now, then in years to come if things go on as they are. I get the feeling that there's a cycle that may be about to be repeated here.

I hesitate to make hard-and-fast suggestions (since this is the sort of area where advice meant with the best of intentions may actually end up causing harm if the full story isn't known) but consider your reactions to your children and your wife. Examine ways in which you can show a good example to all of them - ways in which you can demonstrate your love and care for them that will encourage your wife to be less belligerent and your children to be more responsible, not in a forced way but out of a desire to show care and love to their parents.

May I also make another suggestion? Your children are of an age where it might be beneficial for them to move out of a home-schooled environment. Without denigrating your schooling skills in any way, an environment where absolutely everything is done within the confines of the home may not be conducive to preparing for independent living. Children need to learn, eventually, to stand on their own two feet, and one of the ways of doing this is being in a school. This will then have the added benefit of home becoming a place of refuge and relaxation, peace and security where parents are supportive of their kids' independent efforts rather than directors of those efforts. I feel that given your wife's instinctive way of managing your children, it may mean that changing to a formal school environment at some point will allow her to let go of some of the reigns and will let your kids rebuild their relationships with you as parents. Otherwise you run the risk of continuously dividing the parental relationship between you as the care giver and her as the authoritarian and not only never-the-twain-shall-meet but that you will get further and further apart as a result. My instinct is that this situation is doing damage to your marriage and that it need not be so.


#7

Please get some help for your wife, the problem she has with the children is really what is lacking within herself.
If she won't see a psychologist/counselor then you need to so you can deal with her.
Those kids will never have a good relationship with her and will always remember her negatively when their grown.

Sincerely,
Debbie


#8

OP, I just glanced through the other replies but haven't really read them... but I wonder if your 12-year old's unkempt appearance reflects depression? Can't help but think most young girls would be, in that situation.

Hopefully your wife will be open to getting help, because people can recommend from here 'til Christmas that your wife "gets help/needs counseling" but if she won't do it, then....:( maybe you and the kids could go to counseling as a group? If for nothing else than to learn how to build a strong unit yourselves, so the kids know YOU are on their side. Not to pit one parent against the other, but you really need help with this. It sounds like the kids are suffering.

Prayers for you.


#9

Unfortunately, your wife sounds like she is extremely bright but not very kind. That is a combination that happens a lot and I don't know why. Sometimes I wonder whether if in childhood, very bright children are left to rely on themselves more, b/c they understand more than others their age, and then they don't get the experience with nurturing. This may make it hard for them to pass it on.

Life is not a test of accuracy and statements should not be analyzed for correctness all the time, in my opinion. I'm not sure I quite agree that confabulation is what your son is doing. Confabulation happens if he doesn't really remember something but fills in a false memory to fill the gaps. This is an unconscious process usually and is not related to being untruthful. It could be something as simple as, he spent a few hours watching some bad TV and only remembers a little bit of it so he sort of makes up that it all had to do with detective stories, for example. When maybe he saw one issue of Columbo and a bunch of sitcoms and he vaguely remembered the Columbo and not the other shows. (there is a point in here about not watching too much bad TV, as I did at times, but that's beside the point :))

Confabulations and false memories tend to be produced under pressure; one condition happens when someone really doesn't know something but they are being asked to say what happened. For example if you had the flu, what was going through your mind when you had the fever? A lot of people would never remember that and if pushed might 'make something up' but not intend to deceive anyone. They would think it's true.

OTOH, there are plenty of times that people just believe something b/c they believe it. b/c they are a bit absent-minded and can't remember if they have done a chore, or not. That is totally normal and imo, is not necessarily confabulation but it could just be distraction. Not everyone is going to remember all the time if they took out the trash or paid a bill or whatever. If the atmosphere in the house is that such lapses in attention are bad or intolerable, that is a problem.

Then there is just believing something b/c you think it's true. I think the other kids are all going to the Britney Spears concert or whatever.

Being truthful and accurate is important but so is being kind. I understand why your daughter is withdrawing. My parents both were and are brilliant people and I mean extremely intelligent, to the point where a very prominent scientist observed them and discussed this problem with me. He said that he had seen a lot of brilliant people in his life and career b/c many very very bright people were attracted to the physical sciences. But he thought too many of them were unkind and/or dismissive of those they considered less intelligent, or even their - what they thought to be - equally intelligent peers. You could be a brilliant person and have a brilliant career and do a lot of truly important work but if you were not kind then - the people around you would suffer and the work might suffer too. Among other things it made it harder for people to work together.

My coping mechanism was to withdraw and then I will tell you honestly, to cut my parents off in adulthood. There was also abuse in my case but I got very, very very tired of the verbal hostilities and dismissiveness. Now I was told things that are truly not OK, such as, when my mother had a stillbirth, that she wished I had died instead of the baby b/c she wanted him more than me. She tried to apologize but it wasn't a real apology, it was just, I want you to accept that I "really" didn't mean it which was only sort-of true. However my parents continue to brush off a lot of what I have to say and to be very dismissive and not to listen much at all. and in addition I am the 'black sheep' in the family. So while I see them, it is a really distant relationship. I know this bothers them and I know they would feel better if I spent more time with them and tried to see the world more their way, but I am tired of the rejection and I am tired of not getting anywhere when I discuss this.

These are my issues but I'm trying to say that when children are subjected to a lot of rejection and harsh comments from a young age, a very common reaction is to tune out and withdraw. They can react that way to both parents, not just the one (if there is just one) who has the problem, b/c they wonder why the other parent didn't protect them. I agree that counseling is a good idea. but it needs to be a therapist who is a good listener and will not blame the children.

this all having been said -

I think it's important to keep in mind that while your wife's behavior as you report it really troubles me, that does not mean she is a bad person unless she is deliberately abusing your children. She may really not see the impact of her behavior. Some people need to be taught social skills, which is a lesson I'm still learning. There is always plenty of time to change situations like this as long as people are still in contact. That doesn't mean waiting too long is good, but it means it's important not to panic and think it's too late.

A key variable is if she is willing to change. Is she willing to look at her words and actions when she is kindly but clearly told they are hurtful (or at least, perceived as hurtful)? If so, that is a really good sign. If not, it's a more difficult situation but counseling can help. Whatever the case, everyone will be much better off if the criticism can stop.

As I said above, it sounds like she is extremely bright. She may have been raised with very unreasonable expectations put on her b/c bright children can be self-sufficient in a certain kind of way. Maybe if everyone can agree on what is OK to expect of the children, things will improve.

take care and good luck.


#10

Just to add a different point of view, I think may be hasty to suggest the wife needs medical treatment, counseling, or is abusive, because she chooses her words poorly with her children sometimes and is not as kind as the ideal mother should be. Maybe she's fed up and angry at the spouse undermining her with all his special nice time with the children, while she takes care of the hard part? I'm not accusing here, but it's possible, and we don't know.
Frankly, a 12-year old imo should still be obeying her parents. Requiring a child to look after their personal grooming is properly teaching them to be responsible for themselves. Letting them get away with slothful behavior regarding music practice, etc. does them no favors. At 12, they should do a perfect job emptying the dishwasher; there is no reason the other parent should excuse poor work habits and poor performance of this simple task. A 12 year old should be willing to help when asked, not slinking away to play on the computer all day, which is damaging in itself in my opinion. There is no reason not to set reasonable limits on computer playing, after chores are completed.
My first prescription for all this is that the husband support the wife 100% in having the children obey their mother. Hair washed and combed. Dishwasher emptied correctly. Specific limits on computer use. An agreement to practice music some specified amount of time per day/week whatever. Of course at 12 they should have some time to noodle and improvise whatever they want, and to choose to give up or take up an instrument after serious effort and thought, and they should have some choice in when and how they practice. Free time to draw, play on the computer, or to do whatever is fine after they obey and are being responsible.
Simultaneously, make the agreement that if you support her 100% in what she wants the children to do, that she will work on being firm but kind, without nasty comments about their person or character. Maybe she can agree to letting you enforce some rules and behavior that are important to her, and you can do it in a way that is supportive and encouraging for the children. Perhaps she could also agree to you scheduling some family activities with the children that are very open, low-stress, and fun, where she agrees for that period of time to refrain from judging comments and makes a genuine attempt to express joy and affection with the children. Help your wife to be happy, support her, don't undermine her, and maybe these problems would lessen.
Additionally, recall that your children are also choosing to be "adversarial", and it is their responsibility as children to listen to their parents. Now if your wife was wrong in these arguments I would expect her to be reasonable and admit she is wrong, of course. But if she is factually correct, why are you supporting your son in continuing to argue with his mother? Yes, she should charitably point out that the son is wrong (if he is), and refuse to be baited by his attempts to continue the argument. Maybe you could help in this regard. I don't see a reason to tell him quietly on the side to let it go - you should be doing this (and enforcing this) in full view of his mother.
Just some thoughts from a different point of view. :-) I believe children will end up happiest if we do hold them to fairly high standards and teach them responsibility first. What "feels good" now is not necessarily what is best. Maybe you can also use this as an opportunity to teach your children about charity and forgiveness - their mother is trying to do best for them, but she may not as nice a person as they would like. They should still love and obey her.


#11

This is how I handle this in our family.

If my husband talks to the kids in a way I don’t like, I let him know how I see it and ask him to consider other ways of doing it. I do this in private, though. Unless I were to think he was being just plain abusive, though, he gets to parent in his way. He doesn’t have to do it in mine, and he doesn’t have to be perfect. (If we think one or the other of us is losing it, though, we do sometimes step in and help out, so that parenting is carried out even though the overwhelmed party needs to take a break. The way we do it is a mutally-agreed upon to be a good thing.) I try very hard not to contradict him in front of the children, to the point that I will say, “well, it’s what he said, and we’re going with it.”

If the kids complain about the way their dad treats them, I tell them they need to talk to their dad on their own behalf, and that any issues I have about the way he parents will be something I would deal with him privately. I do tell them that they are welcome to talk to me about how to do that, how the way their dad sees things or means things might be different than the way they’re taking it, and so on. Still, I let them know that while it is a learned skill, and while it is not always fun, they are competent to learn to deal with their own dad. I think that is the healthiest way to go.

A third thing I do, though, is to talk to them whenever I think someone is running a manipulation or a guilt trip on them, even if that were to be their dad. I have taught them how to take criticism from others and what others may fairly ask of them or not. For instance, if they do something wrong and someone says, “We just had a great weekend, and you ruined it”, I’d point out that while it is their responsibility to make amends for the offense, whether the other person let on that they were hurt by it or not, it is the choice of the other person to decide that one bad interchange is going to ruin an entire day, let alone an entire weekend. This is the kind of thing we’re not born knowing. We have to learn it. We have to learn, too, that the kind of issues the OP’s daughter is having with her mother are far from rare. People learn to cope with it. It can be done. Learning what is your responsibility and what’s not is a big part of that. Learning how to look for and take advantage of the good in a comment while discarding the toxic is, too.

I think the OPs daughter can learn to deal with her mother on her own, and in a healthy way. This is her task for a lifetime; her father can’t do it for her. Her dad can give her guidance on what the mother has the perogative to do and what is under the daughter’s control, and in a practical way what strategies might or might not work with the mother. Her father can teach her what it means in her case: To have the courage to change the things we can change, to have the serenity to accept the things we can’t change, and to have the wisdom to know the difference. That wisdom is earned by trying and making mistakes.

Also, I think it helps to remember the psychologist’s definition of a dsyfunctional family: Any family with more than one person in it. Family life is never without its bumps. Our Lord’s family had only two perfect people and a saint in it, and they still had to go through the whole Temple misunderstanding. Then there was the Wedding at Cana thing. So let the kids know that “situations” are part of family life. There may be pastures that are greener, but they all have a thistle here and there, and this is the one God chose for you. The thing is, though, unless someone needs to flee a truly toxic situation, I think kids do best to hear, “I can see why you don’t like the situation, but we aren’t entirely in control of it. I’ll help you learn to do what you can do, though. I know you can do it.”

Another thing to consider is this: Most of us need about 5 positive comments for every negative comment, or we start to shut down on the negative source. This is borne out by psychological research. So another thing the OP could do is to read up on leadership and how to balance positive and negative comments, tell his wife, “wow, isn’t this interesting, I think I’m going to try it” and then do it as his general rule in their home (if not all of his relationships…why wouldn’t he?) If, as it expected, he learns to do it so that it works for him, she may try it, too…and he will have learned how to give both his daughter and his wife feedback in a way that is most likely to give good results in both behavior and relationships.


#12

:thumbsup: Agree completely. My soon-to-be 6 y.o. dd not only washes her face in the mornings and brushes her teeth, she also brushes her hair (though at times we do have to remind her) and she is able to bathe herself in the shower.

OP, I’m probably somewhere between your attitude and that of your wife’s. I don’t believe in coddling (which I find too many parents do that too often and it annoys me greatly because that coddling doesn’t help the kids). Also, you have admitted that you have undermined your wife with your son. Don’t ever underestimate the fact that your kids WILL use that to their advantage and to your marriage’s disadvantage. You didn’t say what your role in the family is (yes, you may be the father and husband, but that doesn’t mean that I am to assume that you lead your family as God has called you to lead them). Some introspection may also be in order.


#13

[quote="PFoxcroft, post:1, topic:209285"]
I have a problem with my wife. She is the product of parents who were not at all affectionate and a grandmother who was out and out abusive to her (verbally).

My relations with her are strained but I am doing my best to love her as Christ loved the church. We are a prayerful family and** she is quite religious**. I think her problems stem from her upbringing and psychological damage done to her as a child/young adult.

Now, my question - she is very disappointed by our eldest daughter. Evidently she was a very responsible, truthful child, and her mother required her to help out with her other siblings (she was the eldest of 7 children).

My daughter (12 yo) has long hair and it is unkempt. It is extremely thick and always looks greasy and** my wife will say things to her like "I can't stand the way you look." And **complain bitterly **about how she can't look after her hair at 12. She **complains that her daughter "disgusts" her because she will not do the dishes/load the dishwasher or do a bad job of it. She also complains that my daughter slinks away whenever there is work to be done, and spends all her time in her room and only comes down when it is meal time.

She is **disgusted **by the fact that her daughter will not practice her musical instrument or read good books, instead of playing on the computer all day or doing her drawings. She also complains that her daughter will only play by ear and not play challenging music.

My wife was a music teacher and has extremely high standards that even I find it hard to live up to.

We home school so my daughter does not have her immature behaviors checked by her peers.

I would like to know how to handle this. I can't seem to convince my wife that her behavior is damaging to my daughter. Doing so I get an earful about what her home life was life, and how my daughters peers are all so accomplished, and how deceptive my daughter is. Now pointing out that when I look at my daughters peers and I see even more shyness or immature behavior in them doesn't seem to help.

I am trying to be very affectionate with my daughter and have special times together with her. Any advice on how to handle this would be appreciated.

Next problem - my wife and my eldest son (11 yo) argue all the time. Mainly they are arguments about fact. For example my son once stated "All the home school boys I know do X" where X was perhaps not read a chapter of a book a day.

Now first off, my son does not mingle much with home-schoolers and the chances of him discussing curriculum with them is nil. But in his head my son believed it. I often catch him believing something which simply is not true. For example he might forget to empty the bathroom trash, but if you ask him if he did, he swears he did and is bewildered to see that he actually did not. I recognize this behavior as I do it myself. I am sometimes asked if I did something and I think I did. There is no intention to deceive.

So my wife and him go to it. I try to tell him privately not to argue with her and just let it go. The battles he has with her are the same form as the ones she has with me, I just don't quibble on every single inconsequential fact.

My concern is that if my wife chooses to have such an adversarial relationship with her two eldest children it will not be healthy and cannot be resolved into something peaceful. This battle will just persist and get worse.

I should point out that 2 of her siblings are divorced (anger management issues), we have strained relationships with 2 others - mainly because of belligerent/stubborn behaviors which my wife also manifests.

My thoughts are that I must lead as the male parent, and protect my children and ensure that they will be well adjusted children and not carry on this streak into the next generation.

Any advice on handling this situation would be appreciated.

Thanks!

[/quote]

No, I'm sorry... those words simply sounds abusive.
Hearing these words as a child - I guarantee you - is damaging.

Been there... done that... still coping... :o

No amount of "honor your mother" will ever be *genuine *when a mother speaks to her daughter like that.

Oh - and he also mentioned that she's "quite religious" - you can have all the appearances of religion on the outside, but without LOVE, what's the point. :shrug:

I agree... setting firm and distinct rules is very important. But this CAN be accomplished in a loving way. Discipline is loving when done correctly.

But discipline is not the issue... the issue is the words she is using, which sound to me (as someone who experienced very similar situations) like something that should be addressed as nothing less than emotionally abusive.


#14

18 years ago i was your wife. till 10 years ago, i still practiced some of her behaviors.

when my husband became (as Em in FL asserted) STRONG, PROACTIVE AND **DETATCHED *from my blustery angst- i.e, he STOPPED trying to appease me-- ** I had to change.*** we did this without counseling, but notice the timeline. it took too long.

a twelve year old kid is too young to shoulder the burden of being "disgusting" to her own mother.

OP, make changes now.

  1. OP, go to counseling. take the kids. pray unceasingly. invite wife to go. but GO WITHOUT her if she wont-- you and the kids. not just once in a while, but committed and a lot.

  2. as a veteran 22 year homeschooler, i also wonder if homeschooling is best. my husband would have been well within his rights to put an end to our early years of homeschooling-- those years when i was at my worst (and coincidentally, my oldest was 11 or 12.)

to address the querry that some undernmining might be going on:

if you HAVE developed seemingly undermining behaviors, who can blame you? your wife's **exactitudes **set up a "choose a side" dynamic. you cannot be kind to the kids without her perceiving you're undermining her. then you show kindness to the kids with a certain defensiveess; defensiveness because you know kindness evokes her ire. either that or you throw the kids in front of the bus and dont stand up for them. or you infer things about mom behind her back, but that only proves 2 things; mom's a jerk AND dad can't stand up to her. and daughter, who knows you're usually rooting for her ALMOST CAN'T HELP but flaunt a little bit of attitude "daddy's my advocate" because she's too young to avoid taking sides.

that's why you need counseling-- to navigate away from all the unhealthy dynamics and reactions (even your Mr. NiceGuy ones) and choose Strong, Proactive AND Deteched behaviors to demonstrate a straight-thinking attitude.

Not-Making-Her-Mad cannot be your main motivation anymore. MAKING-Her-Mad shouldnt be it either. doing what's right regardless of her mad or not mad-- that's your goal.


#15

I agree with all the comments so far. Another problem I see here is that your wife seems to be not respecting you, as her husband and father of the children. She seems to have declared that her personal feelings of "disgust" with your daughter warrant expression, regardless of how you feel about it.

I am diagnosing this from a distance, but I see some similarities with my ex-wife. Child rearing became a day-to-day process governed entirely by her moods, and where my input was scorned. I went along with it, for the sake of the peace, but by time our marriage was over I saw that I had been relegated to just a money provider, and an inconvenience in the home. I really wish that at some point I had stopped the rot - or, at least, been able to recognize what was occurring.

My thoughts are that I must lead as the male parent, and protect my children and ensure that they will be well adjusted children and not carry on this streak into the next generation.

That is a very significant, and well made comment. I suspect that you are further away from "leading" than you realize, and getting back there is going to be hard. However, make the start now. If your wife rebuffs you, then don't give up - seek help and counselling for yourself. Monica's post above, though, seems to provide some help and direction.

One thing you can do to assess the current damage, and stop the rot, is to look at the positives, eg: we go to mass every Sunday, meals are on the table, we pray together as a family, I can talk with my wife about most things; we take holidays together etc. Try to build on the positives, but also be very concerned if any of those fundamentals are taken away - and believe me, there are plenty of families who don't share those fundamentals.


#16

[quote="PFoxcroft, post:1, topic:209285"]
I h
My thoughts are that I must lead as the male parent, and protect my children and ensure that they will be well adjusted children and not carry on this streak into the next generation.

Any advice on handling this situation would be appreciated.

Thanks!

[/quote]

a parent who has a bad relationship with her older children to the extent she verbalizes "disgust" with them--not with their behavior, I am going by what you relate--should not be home schooling in the first place. Leading as a male parent as find, but just as the female parent should protect children from abuse, so should the male. If there is abuse, verbal or physical, get your wife into get help. today. tomorrow at the latest, and get your kids in school so they are out of the day to day contact with her while she is getting help.

If this is merely a difference of opinion about parenting styles, communicate with each other out of the children's hearing, with professional guidance if necessary, and come to an agreement, better late than never.

I am curious though about 2 things. Why do you speak of "her daughter" are you not also the parent? and why is all this discipline etc being done by the mother. What role do you play in parenting, except to criticize her? I am asking because the answer is not evident from your post. No need to answer here, but something to consider while you weigh your response to this situation.


#17

This does seem to be the root of the problem. She is reacting to the abuse, and perpetuating it.

I commend you for your holiness. This is the forge in which saints are shaped! From the tone of your letter, it sounds like you are striving for that holiness, without which none of us will see God and I commend you for it. If all Catholic fathers would take your attitude, we could turn the whole nation back to God.

You say you are a prayerful family, so maybe you are already doing this, but if not, then a daily rosary and daily bible reading can be added. I recommend the daily Mass readings from the Liturgy. This sets a standard and upholds it about how we are to treat one another. It is not then just coming from you, as a concerned father, but the Word of God.

You wife and your daughter need counseling. I recommend a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist. They see situations like this all the time. I would also recommend that you and your wife try to go together first. If she will not go with you, then go by yourself once, then bring your daughter, then your son, and eventually hopefullly everyone can go together. I think mom will be roped in if everyone goes without her.

Your daughter has adroitly found a couple things that really chap her mum to get back at her. It is an expression of her anger, done very passive aggressive style. Smart kid.

One of the principles of family functioning is not to have battles that don’t need to be fought. Is it necessary for her to practice and instrument at all? I read all the posts, which are full of great advice, and I agree that, if she does not want to do this she will just drop it later. If it is necessary for her school program, that is another matter.

With regard to the computer, put some parental controls on it, and restrict her play time. Let her use it for school, but if she does not keep the expectations about the chores and hygiene, no play time on it. Set up a program where she can earn what she wants. If she wants computer time, she will do what is expected. The therapist can help you do this. If she likes drawing, this can also be used as an incentive. The principle is to use what she wants to get her do do what she needs.

This is something that can be brought up in therapy also. Her attidude and behavior are discouraging everyone, and it is very damaging to the whole family. Music should be appreciated as a gift, and she is instilling avoidance.

I am in agreement with what was suggested above that all your kids need to be in some outside activities with their peers, such as classes at the Y, after school program, scouts, etc. I also agree that it might be time to jump into school. The Catholic K-8 program would be good.

You have correctly identified the source of the problem, and you are also not in a posotion to “convince” her. Get your family some professional help, and let the therapist take over that job. All you need to do is go to the sessions and talk about how you feel, and the professional will go from there.

This is great and very healing. some of that special time needs to be in the therapy office. :smiley:


#18

[quote="PFoxcroft, post:1, topic:209285"]
Next problem - my wife and my eldest son (11 yo) argue all the time. Mainly they are arguments about fact. For example my son once stated "All the home school boys I know do X" where X was perhaps not read a chapter of a book a day.

[/quote]

It is important to put a stop to this ASAP. One of the things the Family therapist can help you to do is to remove the expectations from the strained relationship. Children need an objective list of expectations, and built in consequences (positive and negative) that go with them. For examle, if the trash is taken out, the son gets something he wants. Trash still in house, no reward. It is all based on the "evidence" (can full, or empty?) so therefore there is no arguement about the "facts".

[quote="PFoxcroft, post:1, topic:209285"]
Now first off, my son does not mingle much with home-schoolers and the chances of him discussing curriculum with them is nil. But in his head my son believed it. I often catch him believing something which simply is not true. For example he might forget to empty the bathroom trash, but if you ask him if he did, he swears he did and is bewildered to see that he actually did not. I recognize this behavior as I do it myself. I am sometimes asked if I did something and I think I did. There is no intention to deceive.

[/quote]

When children lie like this for no reason, it is a serious symptom that it is not ok to be honest. It is more likely that he has thoughts and feelings that he cannot express, and this is just a manifestation. He has an internal sense of justice that is being violated, and he is grasping at straws to normalize his experience.

It is easy to fix the practical matter. Take the trash out "again". There should be some reinforcement built into the task, so every time it is done, there is a payoff.

[quote="PFoxcroft, post:1, topic:209285"]
So my wife and him go to it. I try to tell him privately not to argue with her and just let it go. The battles he has with her are the same form as the ones she has with me, I just don't quibble on every single inconsequential fact.

[/quote]

The therapist can help him to learn the skills necessary to avoid arguing with mom. Bottom line, though, the things he wants to argue with her about (her attitude and emotions) he can't so he has picked something "safe" to create conflicts around.

[quote="PFoxcroft, post:1, topic:209285"]
My concern is that if my wife chooses to have such an adversarial relationship with her two eldest children it will not be healthy and cannot be resolved into something peaceful. This battle will just persist and get worse.

[/quote]

Your concern is valid, and right on. Your family is in trouble,a nd it is already not healthy.

[quote="PFoxcroft, post:1, topic:209285"]
I should point out that 2 of her siblings are divorced (anger management issues), we have strained relationships with 2 others - mainly because of belligerent/stubborn behaviors which my wife also manifests.

[/quote]

Anger and stubborness are healthy responses to abuse. THey are what enables a person to survive the abuse. However, when one is no longer in an abusive situation, they become obsolete responses, and unhealthy.

[quote="PFoxcroft, post:1, topic:209285"]
My thoughts are that I must lead as the male parent, and protect my children and ensure that they will be well adjusted children and not carry on this streak into the next generation.

[/quote]

Despite your best efforts and intentions, it has already carried on. Don't give up, though, just get some professional help.

[quote="PFoxcroft, post:1, topic:209285"]
Any advice on handling this situation would be appreciated.

Thanks!

[/quote]

You and yor family will be in my prayers PF.


#19

I agree that family counseling is definitely in order. If all of you go, no one will feel the finger is being pointed at them, it's just that as a family you all need to work on getting along better.
I would also suggest getting your daughter a short haircut, My daughter, at about the same age, had long unkempt hair because all her friends had long hair too, but she had a horrible time brushing it, and resisted letting me brush it. It was all knotty and straggly. We finally cut it short, a girlish bob, and it looked lovely and was much easier for her to wash and manage. 12 is pretty young to be managing a difficult length without the help of a sympathetic mother.


#20

Dear OP. I am sorry. Your wife sounds a little like me. I was abused as a child, and thought this sort of thing is normal. It is only now my children are older that I realise how damaged I am. While I was going through puberty, I had a “friend” who would physically and verbally abuse me, mock my apperance and make me undress for her. It is only now, when my OWN daughter is going through puberty, that I realise how that effects my relationship with her. I love her, I want to protect her. You see if I had gone to school with dirty hair, my “friend” would have torn me to shreds, so for me, making my daughter clean her hair, and shouting at her, is an attempt for her not to go through what I did-it is love, but in this disordered way that can only happen when you have been abused, and life has a new “normal”.
Love your wife, pray for her, love your children. If you can get her to go to confession, good, I find it helpful, but don’t force it.


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