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Alicia_MSW
Alicia_MSW, Family Counselor
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 685
Experience:  Licensed social worker and psychotherapist
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My son is 6 years old. He is an only child, and both of us

Customer Question

My son is 6 years old. He is an only child, and both of us (his parents) are working, and his grandparents look after him in our absence.
I return home by around 7 or 7:30 pm, while my husband returns home mostly after our son sleeps, though once or twice a week he manages to reach earlier.
My husband and myself have had a strained marriage especially the last 3-4 years, and we just try to be pleasant/civil for our son’s sake, but we are not on any normal terms with each other.
It has not been any specific major issue between us, though in-laws have contributed to a lot of stress earlier, but the issue is my husband has not been ready to reconcile/patch up, he tends to want everything his way and lose his temper easily, use abusive language etc. From time to time, things improve, then again worsen etc.
I have been stressed that all of this is definitely impacting my son. He is shy/reserved /not much social outside, though at home he is very talkative/stubborn/rebellious sometimes etc.
He was earlier not interacting much with other kids, but of late that has improved, he enjoys playing with other kids etc.
There are various issues , but one specific issue bothering me is what I wanted to discuss, as below.
I have been close to him, and have been the preferred/favourite parent usually…especially when he was 3-5 years old.
Last year…there was a phase when my husband was very impatient with him, and disciplined him by speaking harshly/scolding/hitting him. But he also played with him /was good to him other times.
Also, my son used to prefer me, and sometimes when my husband came into the room , my son used to tell him to ‘go away’…but I feel it was especially when he was sleepy/tired/occupied with something, and otherwise he was fine with his dad. But my husband got insecure/upset about that when it started happening often…so he first tried forcefully making him close to him, e.g. when my son was sleepy in the morning, and he didn’t want dad to hug him at that point, my hubby didn’t go away but still attempted to remain , then my husband tried by ignoring him/not talking to him for a day etc…finally later he changed his strategy and tried to please him totally, doing fun things ..not scolding him etc.
Now suddenly the last 4 months or so, my son now prefers my husband over me, whenever both of us are present. And further, my son tends to be rude/mean/negative towards me when my hubby is around, and says things like ‘I like daddy and not you’ etc. And I know that if I react/let him know that am upset at that, he tends to do it even more just to provoke me, so I try most often not to do that.
So on weekends, as well as when we went for a 3-4 days vacation, it was just the 2 of them interacting a lot, and I was totally left out.
And since my husband is anyway not on great terms with me, he doesn’t bother to correct my son’s behavior.
Also, sometimes my husband is rude/mean to me in front of our son, and I feel my son replicates this. He(my son) infact tells me, he is mean/rude to mom because ‘daddy’ is mean/rude to mom.
And my son is perfectly fine with me, when my husband is not around.

So am getting v fed up..

One or 2 more points I wanted to add..
Some of the above may be natural...my son is nowadays interested in boyish things like car ( its workings) , computers/i-pad etc which my husband tends to use more..so he enjoys being with him as he wants to do those things…(actually am a software engineer but at home I generally don’t use the computer/ipad etc much , nor drive..)
The other thing is, I feel there are too many authority figures in the house…i.e. me, my husband and grandparents, and there is constant competition among all of us over my son…though I think the grandparents have now backed out a bit …but my husband tends to compete over our son , and tries to question my decisions such as what activity classes to put him in etc, which typically most moms around here decide, so we get into clashes over these things. E.g I want to put my son is classes that he enjoys /gets peer interactions, while my hubby feels these are useless, and some more ‘useful’ /educational classes are required…though on sport we mostly agree..
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  Alicia_MSW replied 2 years ago.
Hi there,

Thanks for your question. I'm happy to help you today.

I'd like to point out one thing that you mentioned in your last paragraph, and that is, it is completely normal for your son to start to prefer your husband at this age. He's going through what's known as the latency period, (usually occurring between the ages of 3 and 7 although it's also flexible and can continue later), and during this period, the child begins to switch his identification with the mother to the same sex parent - so your husband. I just want to reassure you that that is, indeed, normal.

However, it does sound like there is too much chaos in your household, and the grandparents seem to have too much authority as to what happens with your son. I don't know if that is a cultural issue, but it's something that certainly seems to be undermining some of your power.

The main issue, as I see it, is that you and your husband are not on the same page in most respects but especially when it comes to parenting your son. Not only can this be confusing for your son, it also causes unnecessary tension in your household, especially when you add the grandparents into the mix.

If your husband does not step up in terms of discipline and start to support you, then your son's behavior probably will not change. He needs to see you both coming forth as a united front - and right now, it sounds like you're on one end of the spectrum and your husband is on the other.

The only real way for this to change is if you can address the issue directly with your husband and explain to him how this discrepancy is affecting your son, how it is not good to see a divided front because then he sides with one parent over the other, the other (meaning you) feels powerless and undermined, and your son learns that he only needs to obey one parent, and not the both of you.

I would suggest that you set aside with your husband to directly discuss these issues - if not for the possible improvement in your relationship with him (which also would have an effect on your son) but for the fact that as parents, you need to be approaching the upbringing of your son together, on the same page. If this does not work, it might be helpful for you both to discuss these issues with a couples counselor. It's crucial that you can work through the power struggle issues together and that your husband starts to see you as an equal parenting partner.

You can look for a counselor on this website, for example:
http://www.counselingindia.com/
Although if you can work things out with your husband on your own, this may not be necessary.

Please let me know if I can offer additional assistance or if you have any follow up questions. Best wishes.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

 

hi

Thanks a lot for your reply, it has helped quite a bit. However, I would like to clarify things further..

I am relieved that some of this behavior, that is, becoming closer with his dad, is a natural phase, but regarding my son being rude to me only when my husband is around, is that part of that, or is that due to the other issues i.e. grandparents/husband' behavior etc?

Regarding the grandparents, yes this is a 'culture' thing, (we are Indian) but after a lot of fights/struggles, this has improved a lot, that is, less of their interference etc. The only point here is, since in our absence they look after him, take him to whatever classes I put him in, drop/pick him from school etc, they feel entitled to some authority. But anyway, issues on this front are now reduced to the extent possible.

Regarding my husband, yes I agree, I will have to work on discussing these things with him, with regard to supporting me etc. His point of view is if my son is rude to me, I should handle on my own, and vice-versa when he will handle on his own without my support, which I feel is not right. He refuses to come to a counselor, but he has agreed to come to a child counselor for our son. We just had 1 session with the child counselor which was only related to providing background info etc. Am wondering if through this, I can get my husband to correct things?

One query I have is, is it possible to bring up the child normally, attempting to have a united front on parenting etc, without us being a normal couple, or having a normal marriage? My husband seems to think so, while I think it is not possible to resolve parenting issues without resolving marriage issues/having a normal marriage. And I feel, it would also help for my son to see us affectionate/nice to each other, which is not happening since the last 3-4 years.

Expert:  Alicia_MSW replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for the clarification!

It is always hard to say if certain behaviors are stemming from cultural considerations or if it is unique to the individual family but the information you provided helps to explain that difference. I am glad to hear that the issues with the grandparents are resolved to the extent possible. I am sure that relieves a little bit of your stress.

With regard to your first question, I believe your son's rudeness is stemming from his identification with his father - if he sees his father being rude or disrespectful to you, and he's in the phase of identifying with the father, then he's going to mimic his behavior. This is the sense I am getting from the information you've provided. Your husband should also address your son's behavior in the sense that if you address it, he needs to support you and back you up. So having that united front (where you back each other up) is important so your son doesn't think he can, for example, treat you rudely and get away with it because your husband isn't going to address it. You both should address it together.

Regarding your second question, I do think it's a positive step that you have both agreed to see the child counselor. If the issues are being caused by the discrepancy between your husband's ideas on upbringing and yours, then the counselor will see this and address these issues with the both of you (so, couples counseling is not necessary, since the parenting issues will come to light in your joint counseling sessions with the child therapist.)

Regarding your last question - it is possible, to an extent. If you both agree on how you want to raise your son and you agree to present a united front, then you can bring up your son relatively normally. However, you are correct, in my opinion, when you say that it's important to address the marriage issues as well, because your son will see that there is tension between you and your husband no matter what - children are very perceptive and pick up on everything. The crucial thing to consider is, putting aside your own happiness in the marriage, which I think is also extremely important - the message it sends to your son. Your son will learn what a "normal" relationship is based on the relationship you and your husband have. Therefore, it would indeed be helpful for you both to try to resolve some of your issues and be more affectionate, loving and supportive of each other - for yourselves and for your son.

I hope that helps. Please let me know if you have any more questions.
Alicia_MSW, Family Counselor
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 685
Experience: Licensed social worker and psychotherapist
Alicia_MSW and other Parenting Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 month ago.

Background: I have been married for 17 years. After my son was born 8 years back, my inlaws shifted in, and there were a lot of serious fights due to them, where my husband along with them, constantly humiliated me and was extremely verbally abusive. He become very very negative to me, not willing to discuss/resolve anything, in case of any difference of opinion he used to threaten lawyer/divorce, using extreme abusive language even in front of the child, Saying ‘my house, you get lost/get out, cut off totally from me, even talking abusively about my parents/grandparents who are not even in the picture. My son has been in the midst of all these severe shouting and fights, and has always been closest to me, he has also gone through the worst in his formative years witnessing all this. My husband used to threaten him and, somewhere around last year, 2013, things reached a peak, where I felt that his harassment was very harmful to my child and me. Because of his rage and bad temper, the child was frightened of him, and was naturally more inclined towards me. This angered him further, and he started using force /anger /scolding to get the child to be with him. This became so much, that I felt that my son would get mentally /physically harmed, there was one episode which was the last straw, where because of my husband’s rage, I took the child to my room and shut the door, to calm and soothe him, and my husband just broke the lock, and violently pulled the child from me. He also threatened the child a lot.


 


He had been telling the child, that me(his mother) will take him away, if he spends more time with me. He told the child that the court will ask him whom he wants to be with, and that way he will be forced to spend equal hours with his dad too. The child was very stressed with all this. He had told the child, it is his house, his car, his money, and showed him his account to show that he bought the house, and that he pays for our trips during vacation. When the child went to him to play with him on Sunday, he again questioned him as to why he is spending more time with me his mother. And he got angry at the child, threatening/making him cry, told him to go away, get lost. He told the child, ‘bring a sharp knife and kill me’, then cut a cake and be happy am dead. He told the child ‘you stupid kid, I will not play with you, as you are not interested in my games, I will instead teach /play cricket etc with my colleague’s kid.’ Also, he is poisoning the child against me by saying , that your mother is horrible, she is poisonous, tries to pull you by fear, threatens you etc.


My son came and cried and told me all this.


After tolerating all this , him getting more and more abusive, this finally made me take the step of taking the child away to my parents’ place, as things were getting too violent, and abusive, after I filed an FIR with the police for his harassment.


(other than this there was not physical violence, but a lot of above type of thing)


He kept calling and threatening and insisted on speaking to the child .The child was so frightened and didn’t want to talk to him.


Meanwhile I also spoke to lawyers regarding the matter, as he had long been threatening a divorce. Lawyer also felt this is harassment and domestic violence and that he is abusive.


But finally, after 4-5 days, I returned back to give it one chance, after discussing with my parents, as we felt that it is better not to break up, for the child’s sake.


Till this point, since I had just meekly tolerated all the harassment, he was getting worse and worse , but after I took this step, he seemed to have cooled down a bit, at least on the surface. But at the same time, in-laws domination/interference was still there, and instead of keeping the child’s best interests in mind, they just wanted their son to be happy, even at the cost of the child being mentally harassed.


I tried to be positive and see if we could try to be peaceful for the child’s sake. I didn’t realize his plans.


Now, after this till now, that is, the last 1.5 years, he seems to have changed his strategy. He had earlier constantly talked about fighting for custody. Now, he might have realized that my son was on my side only, and if any divorce ever happened I would definitely get custody. So now, he instead started influencing him behind my back, in a cunning way, instead of openly shouting. He spoilt him by making him play video games for 4-5 hours a day, kept carrying him even at the age of 7-8 years, secretly whispered to him whenever I was there, told him things like , is your mother threatening you/forcing you to do anything, don’t worry you come to me,..also one day when my son wanted to play with me, he said no, u cant, I will spend equal no of hrs with him and he physically forced him to be with him and didn’t let me go to him. This was too much and I went to the police. He also was called there..and they gave him a warning not to behave this way.


Also, he got into the habit of pulling the child into fights , and interrogating him, did your mother tell u anything against me, do you want to stay with me or your mother etc. even when the child was stressed and shouted that he didn’t want ‘fight’ ; he kept trying to interrogate the child whether I spoke negative about him, and the child got very stressed as he didn’t know whom to side with. He has stressed him out this way many many times, when he is helpless.


Also, he kept on poisoning my child against me.


He gradually started using a policy of winning over the child, by giving him his way on things which were harmful to him, and then creating an image that I was strict. E.g. if his eyes were paining due to watching too much tv, or playing video games. Also his school as well as doctor recommended to put him in more activities/classes to interact with other kids and some physical activities, and I had to struggle on these, as my husband and inlaws just wanted to keep him in a shell, and then he gradually made the child lose interest in going for these classes/ or for playing, and just made him lie down with him and play video games. Even something like crossing the road, when my son tried to run ahead when there were cars coming, and I frantically shouted, my husband made it seem that mom is the shouting/scolding one, and he didn’t bother to correct him at all even on something harmful. In some place where we were in some queue, and had to urgently enter somewhere, and he got into a severe tantrum if neither of us replied to him immediately, even if we were busy. These are just examples, but there were many numerous situations like these. He kept doing things showing to the child that he was the ‘nice’ parent doing whatever he liked, and also made some cunning deals with him saying things like ‘if mom scolds you for something, I will pretend to scold you, and then will separately talk to you when she is not there’ – he started doing this type of behind-the-back ‘deals’ with the child. He kept putting me down in front of the child.


If the child was very rude and disrespectful, he just smiled and told him that you can do what you like, I will not mind unlike your mother.


Over a period of time, he kept undermining my authority. Also he totally poisoned the child, and influenced him, and turned the tables. He kept brainwashing him into making him think that mom is always forcing you to be with her, do what she likes, you don’t do so, and come to me if any problem. Also he said, “you use me and I will use you – if mom tells me anything you support me, and if she scolds you, I will support you”…Also, “you are my pet and am your pet, and we will tackle mom”…These are the kind of things he has been doing gradually, slowly over these last 1.5 years. I know this as my son , when he is in a calm frame of mind , has told me, and I have myself also overheard sometimes.


And now the child has started being manipulative as expected in this situation, using one against the other. E.g. if he is late for some class/school, and I am waiting standing to take him, he will run to his dad, who will just smile and not be firm. He will not insist on his not missing the class, and will convey to him that it is ok to miss. So my son has started becoming very rebellious and manipulative, and gets very wild and angry if he is ever ‘scolded’ or does not get his way.


He behaves very rudely to me sometimes, and then copies my husband in telling me, ‘mom why are you”micro-managing”, why are you always restricting’ etc..and then he says “ dad and I will discuss when u are not there”, and then he secretly looks and smiles to his dad.


When we had taken him to some place, for some rides, and he child kept whining about something, and I tried to tell him to behave , he instead tried to me patronizing to me saying”ok ok…mom..just ignore..why don’t u just enjoy the ride’, as if he was the parent admonishing me!! And he said things like ‘ Dont listen to mom’, ‘lets ignore mom’, ‘lets leave mom here only’, ‘its always mom’s fault’, ‘nonsense mom’ etc..


If he was rude and I asked him on what he said, he said ‘oh, nothing nothing’ and just turn away and ignore me and just talk to his dad. And even when his behavior is extremely rude and unreasonable and disrespectful, my husband will never correct him and just laugh over it , making the child feel even more bolder. If I ever say anything to my son, he will say I will complain to dad, and that dad is the boss. If we went to any place for vacation, things were even worse, my husband has told him he is the one who is spending the money , and he boasts about it, telling him about hotel rates etc. And my son would then say, dad is the boss, he has booked things, and if I told him not to do this /that, he argues back heatedly, and when I try to point out, that dad and me are equals and you are the child, he says no , his dad and him are the equals and not me.


Things have reached to this extent, and I am not sure what to do. Already because of the above scheming tactics of my husband, he has pulled the child towards him, and in the long run, he is totally harming the child. Now, whenever he is not there, my son is perfectly normal and affectionate with me, but whenever he is present he totally becomes a monster and starts taunting me…such that this is happening every single weekend when we are both home and every single ‘so-called-vacation’..( though we have no marriage, and just staying together for the child’s sake, we just mechanically take him for vacations for 4-5 days during school holidays, but these vacations are even worse and am made to feel totally isolated)


I have tried telling my husband how the child is getting harmed in the long run, playing one against the other, but this is useless, as he is absolutely not bothered, he doesn’t care about this, all he wants obsessively is to have him on his side)


I have tried everything possible, tried to make the child understand values, but it is no use as long as my husband is there in the background manipulating him. The Situation is exactly as in the below extract from an article on the net:


Supporting each other means that even if you and your spouse don’t see eye to eye, you will not undermine either the decision or your spouse’s authority by helping your child work around the policy, by winking at your child when you know he’s violated it, by knowingly failing to enforce it when your spouse is not around, or by suggesting to your child, implicitly or explicitly, that you are on his side but your spouse is not.


This sort of sabotage happens frequently when separated or divorced parents are having trouble working out their differences amicably, but it happens in married households as well, usually when one parent is too insecure in the parenting role to bear making a child angry

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