Know Your Child’s Needs

The Healthy Family Connections Podcast

Episode 071 · Duration: 00:18:07

Know Your Child’s Needs

Do you know a parent struggling to get cooperation from their child while feeling undermined by their spouse?

Today we’re answering a question from Kate who didn’t say what city she’s from but she did say she lives in California. Kate writes:

Know Your Child's NeedsWhat course of action is appropriate when one parent continues to undermine the other when a 5-year-old is involved? I became a stay at home mom 2 years ago and while adjusting to the new family dynamics my husband has started undermining me when I get firm with my girl about nagging me. I need to let her know it’s not ok to ask me to do something with her every two minutes. Our routine is chores in the morning and playtime after, most days when my child is excited for the next activity of the day she will not stop asking me to play. On the weekends my husband will intervene and tell me I’m in a “mood” then take over parenting with the over nice playful parent routine. I have never corrected him in front of ourdaughter. I pull him aside later and disagree with him. I wish he did the same for me. I doubt he will change. What do I do?

Thanks for your question Kate and I’m glad you’re checking in because we have some important things to talk about here:
• One is your relationship with your five-year-old daughter
• And the other topic is you and your husband’s communication.

Your Relationship With Your Daughter

Let’s start with your daughter. I’m not sure what exactly you’re asking of your daughter during the morning when it’s chore time, but asking a five-year-old to entertain themselves for an entire morning would be too much. Does she do the chores with you? If she does, do you make it fun? Do you play music and sing while you do the chores? Do you play counting games as you sort things or enjoy how clean and shiny things are after you’ve cleaned them? In other words if she’s involved with the cleaning are you letting her have some fun and learning to go along with those activities? I would add that teaching kids to do chores and making chores fun at an early age is a very good thing to do. If your daughter isn’t doing chores with you and she is expected to self-direct and play by herself, that’s a bit much. Now you could set her up to do independent activities, but you would need to check in with her and oversee the activities, support and appreciate what she’s doing.

Teaching kids to do chores and making chores fun at an early age is a very good thing to do.Click To Tweet

For instance if she is coloring, you would want to check in with the coloring; notice what she’s coloring how she’s coloring and the colors she’s choosing and appreciate those. If she’s playing with stuffed animals, dolls, or figures, you would want to come in and ask her what they are all doing and if they are having fun and let your daughter explain it to you. In other words Kate, your five-year-old daughter needs positive engagement during your chore time.

Now of course we do need to set limits with our children and it’s important for your daughter to understand your limits as well. So if you are providing appropriate emotional support and engagement for her, she needs to understand your limits. You can let her know that while she’s bugging you, you can’t finish your work, and you won’t be able to play, and you want to play with her. With lots of positivity, you can partner with her to be able to get through the chore part of the day so we can get to the playing part of the day.

Kate we can talk about some other ways to set limits with five-year-olds but the bigger issue here is you do not want to be in a Control Battle with her and it sounds like that is what is going on. She’s bugging you every two minutes and you’re using a firm voice, which probably has at this point some anger with it, then she comes back and bugs you some more, then you get more frustrated that she’s not listening and your voice is firmer or angrier. The attention she’s getting is negative attention, but apparently, she now thinks that’s the way to get attention. That’s not healthy for her and it’s not healthy for you. In fact, you’re not having a good time at all; you are pretty darn frustrated.

Your Relationship With Your Spouse

Now let’s talk about your relationship with your husband. You experience that he’s undermining you in setting limits with your daughter. Kate, he’s not seeing that you’re setting limits, he sees that you are “in a mood”. And so, much to your chagrin, he’s simply taking your daughter and entertaining her to reduce the conflict. And of course, the conflict he is reducing is short term because in the long-term you feel more frustrated, feel less supported, more isolated and this is a great formula for burnout. In a state of burnout, you’re going to have less resources for using a positive tone and being creative and finding a way to enjoy being a Mom and a wife in a family with your husband and your daughter.

So we have a father/mother control battle going on where you tell him you don’t like him undermining you. I’m sure he doesn’t see that as a discussion, he sees that as you being angry with him, and he ignores or avoids, and goes on doing exactly what is doing. He doesn't talk with you about what he’s really seeing here, or what he’s hoping to achieve. And, he’s not listening to you and all this is making you frustrated and upset, and maybe even a little hopeless because you mentioned that you don’t think your husband will change. Since I don’t know your husband, I can’t comment on that, but I do know that you can change your relationship with him and the tone of your communication with him and you can change the negative cycle or control battle the two of you have going.

You can change your relationship and the tone of your communication. You can change the negative cycle or control battle you have going on.Click To Tweet

Kate, what you’ve got going here is a formula for disaster and I’ve seen this dynamic end in a bitter divorce with a child caught in the middle suffering, and I’ve seen couples turn things around, learn and grow when they get to this point and I hope you two will handle it that way.

Tips For Creating Change

For your part Kate, start on the positive side. You have a beautiful daughter who wants your attention and a husband who wants to play with his daughter and wants to support you in being a stay at home Mom. That’s wonderful stuff so let’s begin by being grateful for all that.

Now, try some new approaches with your daughter that are more age-appropriate for her and make sure your presentation and tone with her is positive and when enforcing limits, neutral and not angry.

If your husband is available to play with your daughter on the weekends while you have tasks to do, or simply need your own personal time, don’t wait to get frustrated with your daughter and then he gets involved. Ask your husband to set up some Dad/daughter time in advance, and like I said, use that as time off from parenting and let yourself recover and start to get yourself out of burnout.

I recommend you read a couple of books to help you understand five-year-olds and that will help you be less frustrated. A classic easy one is Your Five Year Old by Louise Bates Ames. A very popular one for many years is How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber. A contemporary one based on recently understood neurodevelopment that helps us understand the wiring of a child’s brain and how to support development is The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel. You and your husband can share reading them so you can both be on the same page and stop polarizing.

Now if your husband will listen to this podcast, here is my advice to him: Husband, when Kate is struggling with your daughter, do not whisk your daughter away. Come close to Kate and with support, let her know it’s hard when our daughter doesn’t listen. Then go to your daughter and help her listen to her mother and follow directions, once again, with a very supportive tone. Later on, you and Kate can have a longer talk about how to support each other and discuss best parenting strategies with your daughter. Don’t make Kate the “bad guy”. Like a lot of full time Moms or Dads, she get’s frustrated and burned out. Have some compassion for that, offer support, and collaborate with her and you’ll be a happy husband and father.

A lot of full time Moms or Dads get frustrated and burned out. Have some compassion for that, offer support, and collaborate.Click To Tweet

So parents, If you're not getting anywhere setting limits with your child, don’t keep doing the same thing. Assume your child has needs you simply are not yet aware of, and try to learn what they are. If you’re a full time parent, give yourself a break, notice if you’re getting into burnout and get some non-parenting personal time. It’s okay to take care of yourself and you don’t have to be burned out to justify it. Give yourself permission to be a happy parent and be proactive about personal time. If your partner is becoming grouchy with you or your children, don’t judge them, support them. That’s what they need and that’s how you can make things better.

If you're not getting anywhere setting limits with your child, don’t keep doing the same thing. Click To Tweet

Thanks for tuning in this week listeners and special thanks to Kate for sharing her situation with us.

If you are enjoying the Healthy Family Connections Podcast, take a minute and leave a review for me. It will let others know that they too can benefit from tuning in.

And please remember, take care of yourselves; you need it, you deserve it, you’re worth it. Bye for now.

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  1. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts of gratitude with me Elizabeth. They are deeply appreciated.

  2. Thank you for your excellent work on your podcasts. Your enthusiasm, authenticity and empathy shine through in your words, suggestions and manner. Today, I listened to ‘How to Know Your Child’s Needs’ and forwarded it to a friend who would benefit from your counsel. No doubt, all listeners appreciate how you describe the problem, assess what is happening, remind about strengths, offer suggestions and kindly, ever so lovingly, end with your signature reminders to give themselves permission to take good care of themselves. You remind all of us that we are worthy of this attention and of course, we know, that this is the only way to benefit those who need us and whom we dearly love. You are one of my teachers, Neil D Brown.

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