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Which kid do you think is more like dh was as a kid?

 

I suspect it is a personality thing--for some reason dh struggles with son 2's personality and isn't bothered by son 1's; could be either that son 2 is too different from or too much like dh!

 

Either way it is not OK. I don't know the specific dynamics of your relationship with your dh but if this were my husband I would be calling him on it and we'd be discussing it in therapy together; I don't tolerate adults taking out their emotional reactions on kids. Dh has over the top reactions to a couple of our kids and I intervene every time.

 

I used to be the kid that for some reason triggered dad's anger; in my family the problem was consistently blamed on me. The primary effect of that was to profoundly undermine my respect for my dad, who was clearly emotionally out of control and unreasonable in his reactions to me. Not happening in my household.

Edited by maize
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Maybe just 'lazy' parenting? It's easier to parent easier kids. It sounds like your older one would need an approach that takes more thought and patience to figure out what works best.

I could be way off so I'm just throwing that idea out there for you.

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Wild guess here:

 

Does he have a favorite?  He may not be consciously aware that he is treating them so differently, and the different treatment may stem form favoritism.  I'm not being judgmental about that.  Some kids are more likable than others...  :-)  ... but they all deserve fair treatment and preferably treatment that corresponds to their own emotional needs.

 

He may feel he cannot discipline oldest, so he takes out his frustration on the child who is more easily cowed.  That makes it sound like he's a terrible person, but I admit to catching myself venting frustrations with the toddler by over-reacting to the behavior of my older children.  I could see how frustrations with a teen might be similar to frustrations with a toddler.  :-D  Luckily I catch myself most of the time and cool down.

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Agree with the others, the son that is more challenging to parent may make your husband feel inadequate to the task so he takes out his parenting frustration and insecurities on the child that is least likely to argue back/more easily intimidated. 

 

FWIW, DH has never had an easy time being a father but he tends to react in a healthier way with DD than with DS.  DS is just so different than DH in key areas that DH has no clue how to deal with DS.  He tends to overreact to everything he does.  It has been a long road to try and improve that dynamic.

 

Have you tried talking to your DH in clear, non-judgemental terms about what you are observing?  Counseling might help but it may take some effort to find someone that is a good fit.  

 

Be proactive if you can.  The younger child may feel bullied.  It can have long term negative ramifications for both kids to have this dynamic.

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My dh was like this with out older two. He would not discipline the oldest for any reason and excused away the most blatant bad behavior (making that behavior worse) and instead coming down hard on our second child who would do anything to please him. After therapy DH was forced to admit that he wanted the older one to like him, and felt bad because the older one had a harder life (the older had to be removed from her drug using birth mother when she was four and come to live with us) but he did see that kids need discipline so he was over disciplining the younger one to compensate. 

 

I almost took the younger one home from a vacation where dh was a jerk to him over the worst stuff. Dh straightened up a lot after he realized I was going to leave him in Glacier National Park with the girls and he would have to explain to them why. We almost never had another problem after that. It took a huge blow up that probably caused other people on vacation a lot of stress, because even though he had admitted the reason in counseling the week before, he could not stop the ingrained behavior without real trouble. 

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Either way it is not OK. I don't know the specific dynamics of your relationship with your dh but if this were my husband I would be calling him on it and we'd be discussing it in therapy together; I don't tolerate adults taking out their emotional reactions on kids. Dh has over the top reactions to a couple of our kids and I intervene every time.

 

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This. In our case, it was DD that DH was hard on. I promised (not threatened, I was serious) my DH a divorce with very limited visitation if he didn't figure out how to treat her respectfully and in the same manner as he treated DS. He recognized the pattern himself, but it took a hard line in the sand for him to "break the habit". It was almost like a flipped switch from one day to the next since that conversation several years ago - he's been much more even-emotioned with both kids from that day forward.

 

He's an awesome Dad. Loves them, spends time with them doing what they want to do even if it's not his favorite way to spend time, spoils them more than I'd like sometimes, etc. But his expectations for behavior were so much higher for DD for some reason - possibly due to his horrible mother and stepmother experiences. Whatever the cause, it was up to him to figure out how to act better in the here and now.

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This is what I found out at marriage counseling.

 

My husband thought I was too easy on the kid he was too hard on.  He thought he had to be hard on him to compensate for me being too easy on him.

 

However my perspective was that, in the first place, I was not too easy.  In the second place, I was the one to pick up the pieces after my husband was too harsh.  But my husband saw this as me babying him and it left him feeling like he had to go even farther to compensate for it.

 

It ended up that several things happened.

 

One, we became aware of this dynamic.

 

Two, we hashed things out in marriage counseling and it turned out that we expressed very similar values and ideas about what was appropriate for ways of handling things.  This was a shock to everyone including the marriage counselor.  He was like ---- okay, so you AGREE about everything, this should not be too hard to turn around.  That was a good moment for us. 

 

Three, I had to trust my husband not to over-react and so I backed off.  I would still get involved if something was egregious.  If it was -- not egregious, but not to my exact liking ----- better for me to stay out of it, or support my husband only.  This turned out good.

 

But we agreed on a lot of things at marriage counseling and were going back weekly for several months.  (The trusting-my-husband-not-to-overreact phase I don't think I could have done without knowing we had weekly counseling appointments for accountability.) 

 

The counselor also recommended ways for my husband to improve his relationship with our son, which went a long way.

 

It turned out for us, that some of our marriage issues came out around our older son.  I don't know why, but that is how it was for us.  It really was a marriage thing more than a parent-child thing, because it was about how we got along as a couple and how we cooperated or didn't cooperate, and how we talked things over or failed to talk things over. 

 

This was after my husband came back from a year-long deployment so I had been running everything to my liking for a year. 

 

Edited by Lecka
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This is what I found out at marriage counseling.

 

My husband thought I was too easy on the kid he was too hard on.  He thought he had to be hard on him to compensate for me being too easy on him.

 

However my perspective was that, in the first place, I was not too easy.  In the second place, I was the one to pick up the pieces after my husband was too harsh.  But my husband saw this as me babying him and it left him feeling like he had to go even farther to compensate for it.

 

It ended up that several things happened.

 

One, we became aware of this dynamic.

 

Two, we hashed things out in marriage counseling and it turned out that we expressed very similar values and ideas about what was appropriate for ways of handling things.  This was a shock to everyone including the marriage counselor.  He was like ---- okay, so you AGREE about everything, this should not be too hard to turn around.  That was a good moment for us. 

 

Three, I had to trust my husband not to over-react and so I backed off.  I would still get involved if something was egregious.  If it was -- not egregious, but not to my exact liking ----- better for me to stay out of it, or support my husband only.  This turned out good.

 

But we agreed on a lot of things at marriage counseling and were going back weekly for several months.  (The trusting-my-husband-not-to-overreact phase I don't think I could have done without knowing we had weekly counseling appointments for accountability.) 

 

The counselor also recommended ways for my husband to improve his relationship with our son, which went a long way.

 

It turned out for us, that some of our marriage issues came out around our older son.  I don't know why, but that is how it was for us.  It really was a marriage thing more than a parent-child thing, because it was about how we got along as a couple and how we cooperated or didn't cooperate, and how we talked things over or failed to talk things over. 

 

This was after my husband came back from a year-long deployment so I had been running everything to my liking for a year. 

 

Marriage counseling really can be helpful for working around sticky points, if you find a good counselor and both spouses are on board with wanting to make things work. I too have found that knowing there is a counseling session coming up helps me hold me tongue and not exacerbate a situation when we are in the thick of things because I know we'll have the chance to talk it through with a good facilitor at a time when emotions are more stable.

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Which kid do you think is more like dh was as a kid?

 

I suspect it is a personality thing--for some reason dh struggles with son 2's personality and isn't bothered by son 1's; could be either that son 2 is too different from or too much like dh!

 

 

 

Younger DS is just like DH.  MIL used to tell me that DH was perfect when he was little, always tried to do everything right and never liked to make a scene, cause problems, etc and I thought she was exaggerating until I had this child.  He is just like that.  Model child.  If he was my only child, I would think I should write a parenting book  :lol:

 

Wild guess here:

 

Does he have a favorite?  He may not be consciously aware that he is treating them so differently, and the different treatment may stem form favoritism.  I'm not being judgmental about that.  Some kids are more likable than others...  :-)  ... but they all deserve fair treatment and preferably treatment that corresponds to their own emotional needs.

 

He may feel he cannot discipline oldest, so he takes out his frustration on the child who is more easily cowed.  That makes it sound like he's a terrible person, but I admit to catching myself venting frustrations with the toddler by over-reacting to the behavior of my older children.  I could see how frustrations with a teen might be similar to frustrations with a toddler.  :-D  Luckily I catch myself most of the time and cool down.

 

DH does not feel like he can discipline the oldest, I know that.  Older DS is complicated.  He is such a good kid in most areas but he is very proud and if you try to confront him on anything, he denies it, argues, casts blame, and somehow you walk away feeling like you were wrong and DH just can't handle that.  DS can be super manipulative.   We can't figure out why in the world?  We have three amazing kids and then DS (again, he has his strengths and isn't all bad) struggles with borderline narcissism.  I wonder sometimes if he hasn't simply given up on DS.  As sad as that may sound, maybe he doesn't think it is worth the battle?

 

Have you described your observations to dh and asked him about it? What does he say?

 

I talked to him a little last night.  He listened but didn't respond.  He will take it to heart, probably too much.  I walk on eggshells with him at times and don't confront him about things because he can get depressed really easily.  But remember, he is practically perfect so there isn't much to confront.  DH does what is right 95% of the time.

 

Agree with the others, the son that is more challenging to parent may make your husband feel inadequate to the task so he takes out his parenting frustration and insecurities on the child that is least likely to argue back/more easily intimidated. 

 

 

 

Neither of us feel adequate to parent this child, honestly.  He can be a joy but when he is tough, it is super tough.

 

My dh was like this with out older two. He would not discipline the oldest for any reason and excused away the most blatant bad behavior (making that behavior worse) and instead coming down hard on our second child who would do anything to please him. After therapy DH was forced to admit that he wanted the older one to like him, and felt bad because the older one had a harder life (the older had to be removed from her drug using birth mother when she was four and come to live with us) but he did see that kids need discipline so he was over disciplining the younger one to compensate. 

 

I almost took the younger one home from a vacation where dh was a jerk to him over the worst stuff. Dh straightened up a lot after he realized I was going to leave him in Glacier National Park with the girls and he would have to explain to them why. We almost never had another problem after that. It took a huge blow up that probably caused other people on vacation a lot of stress, because even though he had admitted the reason in counseling the week before, he could not stop the ingrained behavior without real trouble. 

 

 

 

DS does have some health struggles and that adds to the dynamic. 

Edited by Attolia
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I talked to him a little last night.  He listened but didn't respond.  He will take it to heart, probably too much.  I walk on eggshells with him at times and don't confront him about things because he can get depressed really easily.  But remember, he is practically perfect so there isn't much to confront.  DH does what is right 95% of the time.

 

 

Sounds like dh has difficulty with people and situations he can't control easily. Does he "shut down" on you when you don't immediately follow his lead? I'd watch very carefully that he isn't taking his frustration out on the younger child(ren). 

 

Does dh have friends and a support structure outside the immediate family? Is he on good terms with his own parents and siblings?

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Mm, sounds like dh is a perfectionist with lots of anxiety. That's a tough life to live. And your practically perfect ds has inherited these traits.

 

Maybe talking and helping him be more aware of the dynamic will produce positive results. 

 

Do you want him to be more proactive in correcting the older child or just to lay off of being unnecessarily sharp with the younger? I'm guessing the former would be harder for him as it sounds like he may feel very out of his league with your older son.

 

My husband really struggles to maintain appropriate emotional balance when attempting to correct the kids, he suffers from anxiety and depression and is emotionally fragile and volatile. He has a heart of gold but cannot consistently pull off appropriate parenting. This basically means that I do 99% of the limit setting/corrective/teaching sorts parenting; not ideal, but better than the mess he tends to make of things if he jumps in to correct the children. He does do his share of positive parenting--reading to the kids, playing games with them, taking them places. He just is not capable of handling discipline and we all do better if he stays out of that picture.

Edited by maize
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Does dh have friends and a support structure outside the immediate family? Is he on good terms with his own parents and siblings?

 

Is anyone in dh's family of origin NPD? If so, maybe he just can't go there, it's too painful to interact with someone who reminds him of the NPD person or it makes him feel helpless the way he did when he was a child.

 

We had to distance ourselves from his family just over a year ago for complicated reasons.  I believe his dad is NPD and DH struggles with the level of manipulation he endured as a child (he didn't recognize it then but he does now).  Maybe this makes him feel like he just can't deal with older DS?  

 

Mm, sounds like dh is a perfectionist with lots of anxiety. That's a tough life to live. And your practically perfect ds has inherited these traits.

 

Maybe talking and helping him be more aware of the dynamic will produce positive results. 

 

Do you want him to be more proactive in correcting the older child or just to lay off of being unnecessarily sharp with the younger? I'm guessing the former would be harder for him as it sounds like he may feel very out of his league with your older son.

 

My husband really struggles to maintain appropriate emotional balance when attempting to correct the kids, he suffers from anxiety and depression and is emotionally fragile and volatile. He has a heart of gold but cannot consistently pull off appropriate parenting. This basically means that I do 99% of the limit setting/corrective/teaching sorts parenting; not ideal, but better than the mess he tends to make of things if he jumps in to correct the children. He does do his share of positive parenting--reading to the kids, playing games with them, taking them places. He just is not capable of handling discipline and we all do better if he stays out of that picture.

 

He is rarely sharp with the younger (younger hardly ever warrants any type of correction) but I do feel like he needs to be proactive with older DS and I struggle with how easily and quickly he can correct younger DS vs older DS.

 

I can't tell.  Is your dh actually favoring one son over the other?  Or is it something else?

 

 

 

 

No, I don't think he actually does favor, the more I've thought about it, I think he just doesn't know how to deal with older DS.

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Your older son sounds oppositional, which in my opinion can be seen as a manifestation of anxiety.

 

I wonder...could you and your husband maybe try reading some books geared towards oppositional kids and pull together a unified plan of approach? Meeting with a counselor with experience with such children could also be an option.

 

I'm not familiar with any of these books in particular, but here are some possibilities:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/s/ref=is_s?k=oppositional+child

Edited by maize
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I would guess that the above is the core of the problem.  Until your dh is able to work through all the NPD garbage he endured as a child, I would handle the bulk of the parenting with the kids and stop waiting for the dh to step in.  It might take a while for your dh to work through his issues, and, meanwhile, your dc need some consistency and clarity in their lives.  It sounds like your dh just isn't able to give them that right now.

 

Another thing I might do - depends on your particular dh - is try to talk to him about NPD's among other things.  Maybe he doesn't understand what he was actually dealing with when he was a child?  Don't know.  But if he doesn't, it would probably help him to see it now.

 

 

Thank you for your thoughts.  I am the primary parent so this isn't difficult.  DH works a lot and I am simply with them more.  

I think DH is just now beginning to grasp the level of manipulation he has endured.  He was still holding onto a relationship with them, visiting them every so often even though they were making no effort on their part.  I have neither encouraged or discouraged this.  He went through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's and made no contact whatsoever so I think this is a sign that he is ready to move on and let it go.  It is a process and I think he is handling it well but it takes time.

Edited by Attolia
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