I Want My Kids To Like Me

The Healthy Family Connections Podcast

Episode 211 · Duration: 00:15:15

I Want My Kids To Like Me

What’s a Dad to do, when his wife wants him to support her, but he sees her behavior as the problem? Click To Tweet
We’ll talk about this and a whole lot more on this week’s podcast, I Want My Kids To Like Me

Today we’re hearing from Paul from Glendale, AZ and Paul writes:

Dear Neil,

My wife asked me to listen to your podcasts and I’m hoping you can help us.  I think my wife has serious emotional problems.  We have two terrific kids, a 16-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son.  They don’t do everything right of course, but does my wife need to get upset and critical about everything that goes wrong?  Not doing chores, grades could be better, too much screen time, are the common problems, but is it good to get angry about these things?  My wife seems to think I’m the problem because I don’t make a big deal about these things.  Rather than a fight about emptying the dishwasher, I’d rather empty it myself and have a good relationship with the kids.  I enjoy my kids and would rather watch a movie with them, go on a bike ride or take them and their friends out for food than try to get them to be perfect little obedient robots. I work a lot and want to enjoy my kids when I have the chance.  Don’t get me wrong, my wife is a good mother; she always takes care of the kids and our home, but I don’t want to go along with her anger and criticism.  I’m sure you’ll say the truth is somewhere in the middle, but it’s impossible to negotiate with my wife, it’s her way or the highway and I can’t support that.  Any advice will be appreciated.

Paul of Glendale, AZ

Now to Paul’s question:

Paul, you are asking a truly important question and I’m thrilled you’re asking it because the situation you describe in your family is a destructive dynamic in many families today.  I totally get it that you don’t want to support anger and criticism; two unhealthy elements in parenting.  And yet we do want our kids to be responsible and cooperative. We want them to respect their mother, their father and experience self-respect.  So, let’s look at a couple of things here and then what you can do.

First of all, how are you and your wife doing as a couple; as friends, partners in general, as lovers; totally aside from being parents together?  Not so well I assume. You have a 16-year-old, so I’m guessing you’ve been together for 17 or more years.  One of the most important things a couple needs to do during the early part of their relationship is learn how to manage conflict together. You both have different personalities and ways of managing feelings and conflict.  Conflicts and challenges are guaranteed throughout your lives together and if you haven’t learned to adjust your conflict management styles and work together, eventually all the love you feel for each other will wear down and lead to disengagement and often divorce.  There is nothing like kids to challenge a couple’s conflict-management skills.

Paul, you and your wife missed this step in relationship development and the result is that you and your wife’s conflict management default positions became more entrenched instead of growing as individuals and as a couple, you built a negative cycle, a negative communication pattern built on negative narratives about the other person.  For instance, yours is, “my wife has a serious emotional problem.”  I can imagine that hers is something like, “my husband is a big kid and I have to raise the kids alone.” 

So Paul, this is what you are going to need to do.  You are going to need to ditch the negative narrative, that your wife has an emotional regulation problem, even though there may be some truth to it.  When you focus on that, you’re letting yourself off the hook from challenging your own conflict avoidance issue and blaming your wife for the problems in the family.  I’m sure that her anger and blame is largely fueled by her frustration that you undermine her and don’t support her. 

Paul, stop blaming your wife and join her in parenting.  You don’t like the way she parents, and then rather than joining her in parenting, you are joining your kids in resisting.  That’s unhelpful to your kids’ growth and development and it undermines their respect for their parents and parental respect and self-respect are related so you are not helping the family problem, you are part and parcel to it.  

When your wife is upset with the kids, go to them, and support them in cooperating with their Mom. You can say something like, “I know you don’t like it when Mom gets angry.  Let’s not focus on that, focus on what she needs us to do.  Mom has a hard job keeping our family running and she needs our cooperation.  I’m sure Mom will be a lot less upset if we all cooperate.”  What you’ll see if you do this, is a wife who respects and appreciates you and is a lot less critical or angry at you and of the kids. Then when you’ve made it clear that you are joining her in setting limits and encouraging cooperation with the kids, you can talk with her about doing that together in a way that is emotionally positive and not anger based. 

It will be important for the two of you to get some counseling together where you explore how you missed the stage of development where you learn to solve problems together. 

A good therapist can help you both:

  1. Understand your negative default positions; yours of conflict avoidance and your wife’s of anger and criticism.
  2. Understand the underlying roots of those positions. 
  3. How you built a negative pattern that now is supported by negative narratives about each other.  
  4. Then you can work to change that negative pattern into one that brings out the best in both of you, and will bring out the best in your wonderful teenagers. 

Here’s your new mantra Paul. 

I’m the father to two teenagers who need a good role model, not a best friend. And, a husband whose wife needs and deserves his love, respect, and support.Click To Tweet  

Make sense Paul?  Don’t be a victim of your wife’s issues.  Step up and be a leader and if that means overcoming old habits and behaviors, great.  It’s never too soon or too late for personal growth. 

So parents, therapists and folks who work with families.  When couples are in a chronic negative pattern, it’s easy to fall into that trap of, “I’ll give a little if you give a little”, but that rarely works out. Why?  Because as soon as I see you doing the behavior I don’t like, I accuse you of not doing your part, and that becomes an excuse for me not to do my part.  As soon as Paul sees his wife get angry, he’ll go, “You promised to change, and you didn’t.” Or as soon as Mom doesn’t get the support she wants from Paul, she’ll say, “See, there you go again.  You never support me.” And you’ll both go back to your negative behaviors.

The only way real change happens, is when the person seeking change takes 100% responsibility for their own behavior and makes their own growth in that area their number one priority. Click To Tweet It always takes time to change a negative relationship pattern so one needs to be committed to their new healthy behavior in the face of challenges and feeling like they’re going it alone.  

Thanks for tuning in today listeners and special thanks to you Paul for your question. I hope your willingness to follow your wife’s advice and tune into Healthy Family Connections is rewarding for you.

Before we end today, let’s do a little something to relax our minds and bodies. Have you been remembering to do some slow deep breathing throughout the day? I hope so; it makes a big difference.  Here’s another small thing you can do for yourself.  Let your arms and hands flop comfortably to your sides.  Now let your arms stay limp, roll your shoulders back, then-up then forward and back down, so you’re making a circle with your shoulders.  Try that slowly, say five times and then rest.  1,2,3,4,5.  Now do the same thing in reverse so that you’re rolling your shoulders front to back.  Try that slowly five times.  How does that feel?  Do you notice the tension release?  Try five more back to front and then front to back.  Once again, a small thing makes a noticeable difference.  And these small things are important because as I’ve said many times and I’ll say it again, this parenting business ain’t easy so self-care is essential; you need it, you deserve it, you’re worth it.  Bye for now.

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