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Alicia_MSW, Family Counselor
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 628
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

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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 son is nowadays interested in boyish things like car ( its workings) , computers/i-pad etc which my husband tends to use 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:
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.



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: 628
Experience: Licensed social worker and psychotherapist
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