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The Un-United Front

Jan19

by

Amy,

I have enjoyed following your blog and advice columns for several years now, since my daughter was born almost three and a half years ago. My question concerns my husband. And, no, this is not intended to be a “can this marriage be saved” type question, but more of a what can I do differently question.

I work outside the home in an academic position, which in my case means three days a week. My husband operates his own business from home. Our daughter is home with him on the days that I work, and I am home with her on the other days so he can focus on his business. It has been a pretty good arrangement, except that the days I am away are very long days, and the work from home thing is difficult as you know. The main issue is that my husband repeatedly makes me feel as though things are better at home when I am not there. If she is crying or whining he says things like, “she doesn’t act like this when you aren’t here.”

The other morning she was crying because she didn’t want me to leave for work. He got aggravated with her for crying and then that evening told me he “couldn’t wait” until I left so she’d “get back to normal.” One day we were hiking and I’d gone off to explore by myself. When I got back, she started whining about something and he said, “We were fine until you came back. She doesn’t act like this until you are around.” He sent me off ahead (we were headed back to the vehicle) so he could calm her down and I pretty much missed the rest of the hike with my family.

The thing is, she does whine and cry with him. He can spend five minutes telling me about some epic meltdown she had about something, but then if she cries while I am present it is always somehow my fault. I’ve tried expressing to him that I am hurt by the implication that her behavior is due to me, but then he gets upset that he feels like he can’t talk to me about a behavioral issue.

But the net effect of all this is that sometimes I feel like they’d be better off without me around at all. I’m not suicidal or anything, but I feel like I’m not needed, and in fact make things worse.

So, I guess my question is this: do children act differently with one parent than the other? And, if I am making things worse with the whining and crying, how can I make things better? I don’t want my husband to dread my coming home in the evenings, or to wish I wasn’t there on family outings.

Sincerely,
Feeling like a third wheel

Okay, so based on what you’ve written here, I don’t think we’re dealing with a behavioral issue, or anything really related to your daughter at all. Your daughter is three years old and it sounds like she is very good at it. Everything is going fine…right up until it isn’t and everything is terrible and whine-worthy? Crying and tantrumning and testing Mommy and Daddy’s respective limits and being irrationally difficult for no apparent reason, interspersed with periods of being the most delightful little person ever? Yeah. That’s nobody’s fault. That’s just a three-and-a-half-year-old.

Kids do often go through cycles of preferring one parent over the other, which can of course lead to hurt feelings on one side and frayed nerves on the other, but…it doesn’t even really sound like that’s what’s going on here. It’d be one thing if you were describing epic meltdowns of “I WANT DADDY! NOT MOMMY! I DON’T LIKE MOMMY!” at bedtime or during your days with her (and to anyone currently experiencing that allow me to hand you a glass of wine and the assurance that this too will pass) but what you’re describing sounds more like a breakdown in you and your husband’s co-parenting skills.

Mostly because of your observation that she DOES whine and cry with him (because OF COURSE SHE DOES), I’m voting more for a communication/discipline breakdown more than any REAL “difference” in her behavior around you vs. him. I wonder if your arrangement — which is a good, enviable one! — has kind of led to you both always operating on a Dad’s In Charge and/or Mom’s In Charge basis that you guys aren’t used to approaching behavior quirks together, on the same page with the same approach. Does her crying during the morning separation from you hurt his feelings and/or upset you, and so he wants to reinforce the fact that she’s “just fine” after you leave, and is just expressing it clumsily? How does he “calm her down” that is so different and at-odds with your presence? Does he think you’re too indulging? Too strict? Does he think that you get stressed out and tense and she picks up on it? These are all valid issues that couples sometimes have to talk about and work through…but TOGETHER. With WORDS. Not accusations and orders for the other parent to clear the damn room.

Personally, when my three-year-old is losing his mind for no reason, that’s usually a signal that we — his father and I — should remove HIM from the situation. A time-out, a break, a Naughty Step, a let’s-get-back-in-the-car-we’re-leaving. Something like that. Kicking the other parent out of the equation is just…not the way we approach things. (UNLESS, of course, there’s a parental patience/temper/I-need-a-time-out issue going on with one of us. But that’s more like a self-recognized need to remove ourselves, or to let the other person take a breather. It’s NOT a blame-the-other-parent-and-make-them-feel-incompetent thing.)

Regardless, the stuff your husband is saying to you needs to stop, because it’s not helping anyone. I would be feeling pretty resentful and irritated too, if I was being “blamed” for every less-than-desirable behavior simply because…I was there? By saying “she never acts like that with ME,” he’s putting her behavior on you, which…no. Forget any casual correlation between her whining and your presence, he’s ALSO sending her the signal that her temper or desire to whine are not behaviors that she is in charge of and can control. Kids are smart, and they absolutely pick up on things like that. She’s the one whining and pitching a fit, but it’s Mommy’s fault, because she “never” acts that way otherwise! (EVEN THOUGH SHE DOES.)

You guys absolutely need to sit down and hash this out. AWAY from your daughter and NOT in the middle of an incident. The goal here is for you two to always be presented a united front in her presence — Mommy AND Daddy Are In Charge, Both Of Them. What one of you says, the other will support and back up. No matter what. No fighting in front of her, no giving her the sense that she can divide and conquer by whining in front of you until Daddy tells you to leave and then acquiesces to her demand. Write it all out on paper if you have to, use lots of “I feel” and “I hear” when addressing the stuff he says, and why it’s so hurtful and discouraging. He probably has no idea how deeply you’re feeling his comments, which could just be coming from 1) him wanting to reassure you that she enjoys her time with him while you work, or 2) a clumsy, kind-of clueless need to reassure HIMSELF of the same thing.

If there IS some big difference in your discipline approaches or how you handle tantrums and whining, figure out if there’s a way to get more on the same page. Pick up some books on preschooler behavior and find approaches that you both agree on. If your husband really does believe that it’s simply your PRESENCE and EXISTENCE that’s causing the behavior, once again stress that 1) Dude, that’s not helpful, and 2) removing yourself from interactions and outings every time she misbehaves is NOT a solution.

If he gets bent out of shape because he can’t “talk to you” about a behavior issue, point out that that’s exactly what YOU ARE DOING. He may have it in his head that he’s awesome and his approach is always right, but there are several people’s behavior in play during preschooler whine-fests. Hers. His. Yours. Him blaming you is about as helpful as asking your daughter “what’s wrooooooooong?” in the middle of a tantrum, when she’s likely to mostly be angry that like, air is touching her body and be completely unable to express it.

There have definitely been times when my husband and I have not seen eye-to-eye during situations with our kids. Oh, my lands. We both have an issue with picking our battles, and sometimes don’t realize that we’re locked in an epic struggle over something that JUST. ISN’T. WORTH. IT. But the other person does. So we struggle occasionally with wanting to help the other parent out and continue the whole united front thing…while fighting the urge to tell the other person that DUDE, CHILL OUT AND LET IT GO. THIS IS NOT A BIG DEAL. Recently I got annoyed enough and said these words to Jason in front of Noah, who IMMEDIATELY spun around and repeated it all to his dad in the most obnoxious, defiant way possible. Hooray! Everyone’s irritated now! I maintain that Jason wasn’t dealing with the situation perfectly…but I absolutely admit that I up and made it even worse by pointing fingers in front of Noah. I should have stepped in with a compromise or asked to talk to Jason in another room, or something.

It’s…an ongoing process, this parenting with a partner thing. Your husband sounds like a great dad who is very confident in his parenting abilities. Which is not at all a bad thing. But his confidence should not be trampling yours. You guys are a team, and should double as the other person’s biggest cheerleader too.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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26 Responses to “The Un-United Front”

  1. heather Jan 19 at 12:24 pm Reply Reply

    In your conversation(s) about how to best deal with your daughter, I would also check in with your husband that he doesn’t have any underlying issues with your marriage that are surfacing with the “things are better without you here” message. I’ve been known to occasionally make my husband feel third-wheelish in our family (or so I’ve been told… by him) and it’s usually related to some frustration I’m having with him that’s totally unrelated to the kids. OK, so it’s not so mature on my part but now that we’ve identified the problem it’s easier for me to notice when I’m doing it and correct my behavior. I’m hoping that your conversations allow your husband to do that.

  2. Jimmy Jan 19 at 12:34 pm Reply Reply

    Amalah!  

    Your blog and this space are awesome.  My wife and I hype your spot whenever we can.  Always a great read.

    I’ve never commented here before, but this one really strikes close to home.  I saw a similar situation develop in a close relative’s relationship.  I dont mean to sound alarmist, but suffice it to say it was not a pretty situation.  From my experience I’d like to add one quick point:

    Blaming the other parent for a kid’s sour mood can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Kids aren’t dumb, they pick up on this stuff.  If the kid is having a problem with mom (for whatever reason, real or imagined), dad swooping in to the rescue time and again just reinforces whatever irrational mom-averse feelings kid is having.  Eventually mom actually is the problem, because the kid sees this mommy fear as a way of getting daddy pampering.  This is not cool.  

    Like you said, the issue here has little to do with the kid and just about everything to do with a breakdown in co-parenting.   

    Goodluck to the mom.

    -Jimmy

  3. hayesmary Jan 19 at 1:01 pm Reply Reply

    So let me get this straight.   When your daughter has a meltdown with him, it’s because she’s tired, hungry, her shoes are too tight,  her shirt is scratchy/whatever, but when she has a tantrum around you, you are the cause?  Apparently, you are one powerful lady, who can override the entire physical world.   Perhaps he should google confirmation bias, “a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions, leading to statistical errors.”   Because it just doesn’t seem possible that, when you’re around,  tiredness, hunger, and general orneriness cease to exist.   

    Here’s another thing that struck me.  You described your family’s arrangement as “pretty good;” you work three days at an academic job and he works two days on his home based business.  The downside?  Your long hours are hard on him.  And working at home is hard on him.  And your being around is hard on him.    

    It seems like he doesn’t want to “talk to you” about a behavior problem.  He wants to talk AT you.  And not about your child’s behavior, but about yours.   Telling your life partner and co-parent that he “couldn’t wait” until you leave?  That is hostile and controlling.    And mean.     Why is he so angry?  
      

  4. Olivia Jan 19 at 1:04 pm Reply Reply

    Hugs to you. My husband has said similar things a couple of times to me and oh, how it hurts. In our case, my husband wasn’t so much blaming my parenting so much as my personality as in, “She gets this from you,” when she was having a tantrum. Which, a) there’s nothing I can do to control what parts of my personality she might have inherited, and b) are you saying I throw tantrums like a 2 yr old?

    Anyway, you bet we had a talk about this after the fact. I told him how much it hurt, how offended I was, and this is important, how I don’t do that to him when I see him parent in a way I disagree with. I take it in good faith that he is trying to be the best parent he can be, and actively try to not undermine him. If there is something I think can be done differently (notice I didn’t say better) I will discuss that with him when things are calm.

    Good luck talking to your hubby.

  5. Erica Douglas Jan 19 at 1:06 pm Reply Reply

    I think the husband here needs to work on HIS behavior. My husband has pulled this with me a couple of times, blaming me for our daughter’s crying.
    She’s eight months old. Sometimes she cries.
    When she was only a few days old and I was frantically changing her diaper as fast as possible and she was wailing, my darling husband woke up and said, in the nastiest, blame-y-est tone, “What did you do to her? Why did you make her cry? What’s wrong with you?”
    I said, “You do not speak to me like that. That is not acceptable.” By then the diaper was changed and I took Baby to rock and nurse her, which was all she wanted.
    He has said things like that a few other times, directly blaming me for her crying.
    My husband is autistic and is not currently attending therapy. This makes his behavior much worse. This also means that he lacks the communication skills to offer to help with the situation – his gut reaction is to blame me. For everything.
    His autism also makes certain noises intolerable. Baby’s newborn cries hurt his ears (he said it sounded like a kazoo in his brain) and her 8 month old happy squeals give him headaches. I literally cannot leave him with her alone for longer than it takes me to shower.
    In reading this column, it sounds to me like the OP’s bigger problem is her husband. It seems like he is intentionally degrading and demeaning his wife’s ability to care for their child. I think the couple needs to have a serious chat about their relationship and THEN worry about how to handle parenting issues. If the husband says things like that to his wife now, what will he say/do when the little girl wants toys/cookies/piercings/tattoos/boyfriends that the mom has already denied?

  6. Kate Jan 19 at 1:34 pm Reply Reply

    My gut reaction when reading this was to assume that the husband is using accusatory language to mask his own insecurities.  
    My parents-in-law, who are wonderful, have said similar things to us a few of times after we’ve left our daughter with them for a day or weekend or whatever.  Usually my daughter is on her best behavior during her visit but immediately has a meltdown as soon as we arrive (no biggie–we understand that there are lots of reasons why this happens).  EVERY TIME this happens, my parents-in-law insist that she was a complete ANGEL the whole time we were gone, that she never exhibited that kind of behavior with them, etc. etc.  The first few times this happened I was very hurt and upset, interpreting all of this to mean that they think we’re bad parents, my daughter prefers them, she’s better off with them, etc.  And I went so far as to tell my husband that I dreaded my daughter’s visits with them because of the aftermath.  Then I realized all at once (and my husband agreed) that they were saying these things out of insecurity and fear that we’d think that they spoil her or that extra time with them is the reason she turns into a little monster.  They’re afraid that we secretly blame THEM for her behavior.  And yeah, they feared that I’d decide that it wasn’t worth it to let them spend time with her.
    Anyway, all that to say, realizing that helped me recognize and let go of the insecurities that came up when hearing these comments… and helped me to be more affirming to them and even invite them to help us deal with the issue together.  We did have to speak to them more explicitly about our own rules and discipline methods (since I do think that my daughter WAS used to being spoiled by them, at least a bit) so that we could all be on the same page, but it all happened very positively and helpfully.

  7. Laura Jan 19 at 1:56 pm Reply Reply

    Another thing to consider, kids at daycare are usually fine when the parents are gone but melt down when they get back. It is actually a sign of a securely attached child that they can be independent and deal with stress BUT that they trust you to help them sort out/recover from the stresses they bottled up during the day. She might actually be showing you that she DOES very much need you. You are her source of comfort and reassurance.

  8. Bananna Jan 19 at 2:00 pm Reply Reply

    Is it possible that your daughter actually does cry and whine more when you are home? My 19-month old turns clingy, fussy, and whiny the second I walk into the door after work. My now kindergartener did the same thing at that age. I attribute it to several things — 1) the “witching hour” — the evening hours are the worst for small children, 2) Missing me and wanting me to focus ALL of my attention on them when I get home, and 3) letting out the frustrations of their day. And crying when you leave? What is so unusual about that? Honestly, what you describe sounds totally normal to me, and NOT a marker of you doing something wrong at all. Your husband needs to realize this and stop blaming you for normal child behavior.

  9. Jill Jan 19 at 2:09 pm Reply Reply

    I was trying to find ways to deal with seperation anxiety and came across this little nugget of info: Kids act out with the people they feel most comfortable with. Basically, they are showing their truest emotions. They may act like little angels with someone else because they are not comfy showing their frustration, anger, dislike, etc for someone or something. Basically a kiddie sensoring mechanism. I think there is a difference in parenting styles and the child simply preferring one parent of the other going on in this situation. Either way, it is completely inappropriate for the husband to be making these types of comments.

  10. Zoë Jan 19 at 2:22 pm Reply Reply

    I was going to add exactly what Laura has written about children acting out with the people they feel most comfortable with. When my kids stay with my in-laws, and then have a meltdown when we show up, all I hear is “Oh they never act that way with us”. I can’t help but feel a little smug, and reassured that my children feel my love so strongly, that they know I won’t mind (well, not too much) if they pitch a fit at my feet. In fact, it’s kind of sad that they don’t feel comfortable doing that with their own grandparents. Given that Granny tells them to take the crying upstairs – they’re 7, 4, and 16 mos, FFS – it’s not surprising. I think the husband is out of line and he needs to be told to stop making such hurtful comments. How would he like it if the tables were turned? Not very much, I would imagine.

  11. Annie Jan 19 at 2:52 pm Reply Reply

    Huge, huge hug to you. I think parenting and marriage can be hard. There are times when the intimacy of those relationships just….brought my shit to surface. The ugly feelings and unhelpful coping. Things that needed to be recognized and dealt with. I agree with previous commenters that it could be beneficial for you and your husband to look at BOTH parenting and your marriage. There are lots of layers to family relationships, and there may be more lurking under the surface than we realize. And just so you know, when my son was three and a half his behavior was AWFUL. Raging tantrums and whining and refusals to do simple things in our daily routine. It is a notorious age, and it drove my husband and me NUTS at times. It is tempting to point the finger at the other parent, but Amy’s right, NOT HELPFUL.

  12. Sara Jan 19 at 3:56 pm Reply Reply

    How about assuming that what your husband says is right, and then finding a way to deal with it together? My son cries more when he initially sees me. He is clingly and wants all of my attention and whines when I come home or if we are in a new situation. If I am not there, he seems to do better. For instance, we took the kids to a photographer. As long as I was in the room my son clung to me and cried and threw a tantrum. I left the room, and within a minute or so he calmed down and the photographer was able to take beautiful smiling photos of my son. I was behind a curtain in near tears.

    My husband and I spoke about this and our joint approach is to not let our son’s behavior when I’m around dictate what we do. We are both on board with this. So, if he cries more when I am around, I don’t leave the room. I stay and play.

    I think it is separation anxiety. I know that my son loves me and when he actually falls down and hurts himself, he only wants me, not daddy, which is hurtful to my husband. Dealing with kids isn’t easy, but dealing with your husband might be easier than you think if you are able to speak to him about it.

  13. Kim Jan 19 at 4:51 pm Reply Reply

    My first thought was that there is some serious resentment going on there. My second was – it sounds like he needs more time away from the kid. Maybe he needs to go work at a coffee shop on your days at home. Maybe you can take her on outings .As a SAHM mom, there are times when I just get fed up to here with my kids, and my husband is a much easier target than they are. It’s usually a sign that I need to Get Away for a few hours, or that they do. Just a thought, because seriously, his behavior is messed up. He’s not just hurting you, he’s damaging the entire family dynamic.

  14. BMom Jan 19 at 5:01 pm Reply Reply

    Amy is wise and brilliant. And I’m saying that as someone who is maybe more in your husband’s shoes. My daddy’s-girl daughter does whine and cry more with him – but if its really bugging me, then *I* take the breather. Sometimes the whining/crying is just how she shares her day with him (she’ll start crying and rehashing any boo-boo she got that day, for instance). It took some effort on my part to get over this, honestly. But Amy is dead-on – it was about communication styles and parenting styles, and reasonable conversations about how we were going to handle tantrums and general behavior made a huge difference for us. Hope it does for you too!

  15. karen Jan 19 at 5:12 pm Reply Reply

    How frustrating! This is a side note really, but after 3.5 years of arranging schedules so you can both work but not send your daughter to daycare, I think it’s time to start daycare and/or preschool and/or a regular babysitting session, at least a few days a week. Sounds like everyone could use a break and at 3.5 your daughter is more than ready for it. Good luck!

  16. tasterspoon Jan 19 at 5:55 pm Reply Reply

    Setting aside both the fact that she also acts up with him AND his poor joint parenting skills, is it possible your daughter nevertheless fusses when you are there because you are around less so she demands your full attention when you are and fussing is an instant attention getter? Like the soggy potato chip theory goes, negative attention is better than no attention. If that were the case, it would seem like removing you would make the problem worse, not better, and the better solution would be some undivided mom time, especially in advance so you could head off the less attractive pleas for attention. But that’s just one theory.

    I also focus on the theories about a child “letting their hair down” more with one parent as my consolation prize for the WHINING and the WAILING from the minute I get my 14 mo. daughter home from daycare until the moment her father walks in the door a couple of hours later. He’s an awesome, loving dad and we are on the same page in terms of soothing /discipline /fun times but she definitely perks up for him. Maybe it’s an oedipal thing, maybe it’s just because he comes home later and travels and is a scarcer commodity – which I guess is the opposite outcome of the theory above.
    I also like Kim’s suggestion. Your husband IS out of line, but he also is at least near your daughter 24/7 and a break may do them both good. You both may want to consider that shooing you away sends a terrible message to, and sets a poor example for, your daughter. Peanut gallery here, but he doesn’t see the problem with how he’s handling this and truly thinks she’d be better off with one parent (does he REALLY think that? Surely not), I vote for counseling, stat.
    What an awful way to feel in your own home. I hope you and your family can find a solution.

  17. Kaelak Jan 19 at 9:58 pm Reply Reply

    I agree with most of the commenters here – this is a behavioral issue with the husband, not the child. And the fact that the Mom’s overtures to talking to dad about this have been met with more blaming? NOT cool.
    Maaaaybe it’s because I have an over-sensitivity to these issues, but a father who (intentionally or not) emotionally manipulates his wife to frequently get her to leave him and his daughter alone – could there be any abuse going on here? I just don’t trust the manipulation in this situation.

  18. Bear Jan 20 at 1:21 am Reply Reply

    We have a household rule, which started out to be about chores but now encompasses child-related things as well. The rule is this:

    “If you’re doing it, you’re doing it right.”

    We have different dishwashing styles and different ways of addressing the laundry and different ways of helping the wee dude get his teeth brushed and different responses to certain of the less charming toddler behaviors. But short of something we think a) the other might have overlooked that b) feels potentially life-threatening in the immediate future, the rule applies. If you are accomplishing the task, then your way is just dandy.

    I love this rule, and highly recommend it.

  19. Madhu Jan 20 at 2:37 am Reply Reply

    From my experience, kids do act out most with the people they are most comfortable or attached to. My son has always been a fairly clingy child and tends to stick to me rather than anybody else. When i do go out of the house leaving him in my mother-in-laws care…when i’m back…i always get reports of how he was on model behavior…no tantrums etc etc.

    Discussed with friends in similar situations and they all have the same thing to report….kids act out most with the moms. So hang in there…you aren’t doing anything wrong.

    And your husband really needs to stop blaming you for ur child’s behavior. Remember that she’s 3…and she’s picking up on these signals between you two…ur hubby really needs to understand that and back off!

  20. MLB Jan 20 at 9:53 am Reply Reply

    I agree with all the advice but wanted to emphasize the point Karen made. I think it’s time for preschool at least a couple mornings a week. The downside is in the first month or so it may up the whining on your daughter’s part as she transitions, but it may help bring some balance back to your marriage and give her an opportunity to start to learn from others and get used to other kids. Also, some kids do whine more for one parent if it’s getting the reaction they want or think they need. It sounds almost like each of you are operating as parallel single parents and need to coordinate better together.

  21. professormama Jan 20 at 2:16 pm Reply Reply

    I am also an academic, and my husband and I have had a nearly identical arrangement for our kids on and off over the last 5 years. Our 7 year old and 2.5 year old are now in school full time, but we still share the evening and weekend time and have to work together on the way things go.
    One thing I have to add to everyone else’s comments is to pay attention to how you and your husband behave when either of you is leaving. It makes a huge difference, kids take their cues from us, and leaving can be a very smooth and simple transition is both parents make it clear that it’s no big deal, see you later today etc. I worked in early childhood Ed for a while and have watched tons more drop-offs at my kids daycare and even elementary school, and lingering, dragging out the goodbye, and generally entertaining the whole “don’t leave me” thing isn’t helpful, that means BOTH you and your husband being on board in terms of creating consistent and stress-free transitions for your child and yourselves.
    Also, what Amy said about NEVER talking about it in front of your child is huge. My youngest is a year younger than your daughter, but if her dad said her crying/whining was MY fault in front of her, she would be all over that excuse.
    KIds are smart; and they are always, always listening. Kids whine, and sometimes just act like jerks, but one parent blaming it on the other is completely ridiculous and counterproductive.  You BOTH need to be clear about what behavior is ok, and what is not acceptable, and you have to be consistent, no excuses. I know people who blame every tantrum or mean thing their child does on being tired.  But tired or not, some things just aren’t ok, the end, now go have some quiet time until your ready to be nice, thank you. True for kids and grown-ups too- even if you are somehow making your goodbyes with your daughter more difficult than they need to be, it’s not an excuse for him to make it your fault, you guys are in this together, it’s not a contest for best parent.
    Also, she IS old enough to be in at least a part time preschool program where she will learn tons of socialization skills, and how to do lots of things you may not realize she’s capable of. And, you’ll get to know some other people parenting the whiney 3 year old set.

  22. Nikasha Jan 20 at 2:48 pm Reply Reply

    Lots of good advice already, but to me, your husband sounds exhausted. He sees it as easier to deal with the situation himself than to do the hard work together to come to a long term solution. I would get a part time babysitter/etc, first to give him a break. Then work on getting to your core issues.

  23. puckgirl Jan 20 at 3:49 pm Reply Reply

    I’ve observed (as have other, non-family member types) that my son is a rotten, tantrum-y,not nice child who resembles a sociopath after spending time with his father.  When the 3 of us go anywhere, his behavior is terrible and my husband won’t reinforce any possible consequences.  When it is just me and the kid, he is a typical kid but the hitting stops.  The obnoxious behavior stops.  We’ve talked about this and he refuses to discuss any changes so I just try to minimize their time alone together.  

  24. Kathleen Jan 21 at 12:03 am Reply Reply

    For what it’s worth, I’m on the other side of this one – my husband leaves for work for long stretches and I’m solo parent (but we both work). My son’s behavior IS sometimes different when my husband is home, because my husband is more lenient (he lets my son get things when he whines, for instance) and because sometimes I’ve found tricks for dealing with the three year old that he hasn’t (giving choices for everything) because I can see the long-term effects.  I finally realized our different parenting styles and my tendency to let my husband be lead parent when he is home were confusing our kid since the rules changed depending on who was home. I admit that I don’t think I phrased it that well the first time I kicked out during a toddler fit…although I hope I didn’t go as far as FLATH’s husband!! So yeah, maybe he is seeing something that you need to talk about.

    In our case, finally had a rational, toddlerless conversation and things have been a lot more consistent for everyone. I hope you get some resolution!

  25. Tracy Jan 25 at 8:58 am Reply Reply

    Interestingly, I’ve seen this in a family I’m close to, and the child actually is much more whiny when Mom’s around. In this particular case, I believe it’s because Mom was going through a time when she was very busy and distracted and tended not to respond to him until he whined, and now when he wants her attention he goes straight to whine mode. And Dad is more strict and more likely to punish the child for whining, so he doesn’t do it around Dad. So it is possible that this can actually happen.

    But I also agree with those who point out that kids tend to relax around those they trust, and the fact that they are not on their best behavior around you might simply mean you’re the person they trust the most.

  26. diver1972 Jun 17 at 8:28 pm Reply Reply

    Both Sara and Tracy make some excellent points. Namely, separation anxiety and learned whining.

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