When mum has a problem with an interaction between dad and child

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    • #4637

      There’s just been a discussion in the q&a group, which I’m copying in here to be accessible in the future. It’s a very common issue amongst parents:

      Clare asked:
      how would you suggest I treat my DH peacefully when he says something in a way that feels shaming or humiliating to me, or is just flippant/sarcastic and completely unhelpful in solving whatever situation we have going on?
      There’s another thing he’s been saying to the DC recently which drives me NUTS: ‘You can’t be trusted’ – if one is, say, messing around with an expensive bit of technology or doing something that’s not really right for their age range … how would people suggest I respond peacefully to that? I just know that when I bring it up it’ll probably result in an argument frown emoticon

      Nicole shared

      It’s hard for me to let you use my stuff after I see you touching it like that.

      Gretchen shared:

      I’d try to rephrase it so the concerns and needs come to the forefront, like “Are you concerned that this might get broken?” Or “Are you concerned that someone might get hurt?”. If he answers yes, you could say something like “Is there a way you might feel comfortable if DC agreed to do/not do certain things with it?” Rephrasing things this way helps you to hear the needs and concerns he has behind his imperfect way of expressing them, models a way for him to express his needs without blaming/shaming, and helps the kids to see the underlying issues preventing their dad from being comfortable with what they are doing.

      Genevieve shared:

      Clare I didn’t spot that thread yesterday sorry. Most dads/ partners in general tend to respond better to using I statements instead of direct criticisms. Most of the PP parenting tools can be adapted to improve the communication between parents: I statements, active listening, problem solving, family meetings, connection before correction, requests instead of demands, aiming to relate to the underlying feelings and needs beneath the behaviour, empathising.

      Some of the healthier ways of tackling conflicts:

      Stating what happened without judgment (when you said to DD “’You can’t be trusted’”), using an I statement like “I feel uncomfortable/ stressed/ concerned/ a bit sad/ I notice I got really stressed”,

      bring in some reassurance/ empathy “I can well imagine that you felt scared/ frustrated/ stressed/ confused/ overwhelmed/ worried/ exhausted …..

      Because we bring out the defenses in others when we take a higher moral ground or tones of indignation/ exasperation, yet that’s very hard to avoid

      when there’s a big backlog of unresolved issues, that DO NEED to get resolved eventually – yet in the mean time finding an outlet before talking to one’s partner often helps to reduce the level of tension that comes through the tone of voice. To gain an outlet, do what works for you; maybe time in nature, maybe journalling, just spill it all out and let yourself rage! Sharing with a safe friend, doing some EFT, counselling, join the Self-Healing Group on here.

      A statement that creates some common ground can really help to dissipate their defensiveness and move away from a power struggle: “these situations are hard aren’t they”, “it’s really hard to speak calmly when we’re feeling so stressed isn’t it (note the “we” bit), it was a stressful evening for all of us, we’re all feeling a bit exhausted at the end of term, it was a big weekend wasn’t it, I know we both just want what’s best for DS/DD, we’re both working so hard these days.

      Then invite problem solving: “can we explore what might make these stressful moments easier for all of us?”, “what do you feel you need?”, “How can I help?”, “are you open to me sharing with you some articles, or just explaining some parenting tips that really help me when I remember to put them into practice?”.

      One that my husband uses a lot in a moment when he has the urge to be too direct is to problem solve; “hmm DD you want to listen to your music and I’m trying to concentrate on working out some measurements here, do you have any ideas what could work better here?”.

      Usually, my son/ daughter are much more cooperative and understanding of HIS needs at times when he can problem solve in a genuinely level tone. But when he asks in a tone of exasperation, regardless of the words being akin to peaceful parenting, the tone creates a power struggle and they’ll usually agree but I can see they feel hurt”. My kids always know they can offload with me later at a safe time, but I also work hard to mediate between DH and DC (if both willing) to help them come back to a place of resolution. Both children are dramatically better at coming back to the heart and holding intentions to find win win solutions than DH. I try to be patient with him because they’ve grown up with this way of parenting with me (which luckily so far has been a much stronger modelling for them than their father’s modelling of defensive communication).

      “I” Statements – Expressing limits non-aggressively – Peaceful Parent

      Active listening improves communication in the parent child relationship //www.peacefulparent.com/active-listening-improves-the-parent-child-relationshi/

      And great resources to help couples resolve their differences and increase their harmony, connection, mutual understanding, listening, empathy, problem solving, creating mutually satisfying agreements, healing the backlog of resentments etc etc are:
      Getting the Love you Want by Harville Hendrix, |

      Sue Johnson’s Hold Me Tight
      Nonviolent communication by Marshall Rosenberg
      And John Gottman’s you tube clips/ website.
      And all have good material on their websites.

      And another approach that I’ve used a lot in situations where I see that my child is emotionally impacted by a communication of my husband’s is to invite my kid to share how they are feeling “hmmm you look like you found that hard to hear, can you tell us how you feel about what dad just said?”
      Or mediating between them; “hey you guys, you both seem quite stressed, this is a hard conversation isn’t it, would you like to each share how you’re feeling?”, then bring in the empathy to dissipate some of the tension, “ah yes I can see why this is really stressful to you both, what might work that meets both your needs?”

      Here’s the thread in the q&a group for those of you who are part of that group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/540808069347749/permalink/878203852274834/

    • #7147
      Tabitha Jonson

      Great article.
      This can be such a tricky situation.

    • #8169

      Another place that people might like to visit on this subject is the Meeting Aggression with Connection page. I talk about how easy it is to get locked in the “drama triangle” in these situations and noticing that can help us to come back into a more constructive working relationship with our partner.

    • #10703

      I’ll also chip in to this thread by adding that an approach that is sometimes more likely to lead to a more open conversation relating to unpacking a conflict that happened between your partner and your child is to ask: “How do you feel that went?”, or “Are you happy about how that went?” And then listening and using active listening to reflect what you hear.

      A recent time that I did just this with my husband (asked how he felt it went), he shared that he was frustrated that the interaction with our daughter didn’t go well (she got upset and left the conversation) because he felt he was working particularly hard to be patient and to keep his tone level. For me listening, I had my own feelings of sadness and frustration at how the interaction had gone, but I didn’t bring my feelings or thoughts about how it went in at that stage and held space for him to think it through. I had just run a parenting workshop the day before that he’d been at as a support person, so I asked him if it would be helpful to reflect on the situation from the perspective of some of the concepts I’d been talking about the day before. He then shared that he could see that he needed to put much more focus on connecting with her, bringing in reassurances, more listening and reflecting, more open questions to create more space for her to think and talk it through more.

      When he seemed defensive I asked him if he felt defensive and made it clear that I was only interested in the conversation if he genuinely saw value in it and genuinely wanted to think through how it had went. To which he offered reassurance that he appreciated me holding space and helping him unpack how it went and hence how they could move forward and reach a better place on the topic. I could tell that this helped him take another level of responsibility for the dynamic with our daughter.

      DH is better than he used to be at admitting when he’s feeling defensive. It’s very tricky when our partner is defensive and hence the communication and energy feels more like a power struggle than being teammates. It’s good to get really clear about whether or not you’re willing to cotinue these conversations when they feel discordent and whether to name that it doesn’t feel constructive. This is all quite tricky, but when tensions arise in any interaction, there’s not a lot of point in pushing forward debating the topic without addressing the emotions that have arisen in the space.

      Like with our children, when it feels like a power struggle, the relationship, the connection needs to be addressed and restored. Sometimes just naming that it feels more like a debate, or naming that you don’t think an argument is constructive and negotiating taking a break and putting the ball in your partner’s court to come back and let you know when they want to move forward after they’ve done some thinking and feeling and reflecting. Sometimes, the heart connection can be restored through simply touching their arm or back or holding their hand, or facing each other and looking into each other’s eyes. Sometimes it helps to name that it’s hard.

      If it feels like you’re the teacher/ parent and your partner’s the reluctant student, that’s a difficult and painful dynamic and rarely constructive. Talk together about how that dynamic can change. Perhaps doing Imago Dialogues together could help.

    • #10704

      This audio Supporting your parent to come on board with peaceful parenting is very relevant to this topic.


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