The Healthy Family Connections Podcast
Episode 154 · Duration: 00:19:53
Teach Your Sons To Respect Women
What do you do when your two sons ignore your very reasonable requests and your husband covers for them?
Today we’re hearing from Terri. She writes to us from the San Joaquin Valley in Central California. Terri writes:
My husband always takes the blame in front of our boys and me for a mess that my boys have made around the house. I feel like I can’t tell my boys anything. Everything I ask them to do, to please clean the yard, pick up the dogs’ poop, or clean their rooms, it might get done days later and almost never gets done at all anymore. Is there anything I can do to get my husband to stop interfering and my boys to start listening?
Terri, I’m so glad you’ve written in because your situation sounds terrible. You sound completely defeated and most likely burned out. It doesn’t go unnoticed that you are the only female in the home. You are being taken for granted and disrespected, and that’s sending a message to your boys as well. So we’re going to do some things here to right this ship. But before we lay out an action plan, let’s make sure we understand some basic principles.
Important Principles To Consider
I hear that your husband, “takes the blame” for the boys’ messes. Blame shouldn’t even be an issue. The issue is that there’s a mess and it needs to be cleaned up. Let’s substitute the word responsibility for blame and then the question is who is responsible for cleaning up the mess. Is your husband volunteering for that? I’m guessing not. But the principle here is; we should not be interested in blame in families. We should be interested in responsibility. "If I made a mess and neglected to clean it up, I need to be responsible for that and fix it."
In family life, we do want to operate as a team where we all help each other out. So, if someone makes a mess, it isn’t the end of the world if someone else cleans up after them. But, we don’t want one person doing all the cleaning up after others. We want everyone to participate in helping out.In family life, we do want to operate as a team where we all help each other out.Click To Tweet
Getting your kids to pick up after themselves, to clean their rooms, or to be responsible dog owners are important skills that of course, you want your kids to learn. It shouldn’t be that you are trying to get them to do this or that, but that you’re trying to teach them good habits and skills. There’s a difference.
When we try to get someone to do something, and they don’t want to do it, they naturally resist. Think about it, getting the poop picked up isn’t the biggest problem. If it was, then you could go out and take care of it in a half-hour or so. The issue is the teaching and learning that you want your kids to do. So what is an effective way to get their attention and teach them so they’ll listen and learn?
The other principle here that needs to be addressed is that Moms and women, in general, need to be respected. You being disrespected as a woman and a mother is unacceptable. We don’t want your sons growing up to treat women as people who don’t need to be listened to or respected, not to mention that you don’t need to live your life being taken for granted and disrespected. We’re going to have to do something about that.
Another obvious principle here is that parents should not undermine each other. That’s been a common theme in several of my podcast episodes. If you as a parent see your child's other parent doing something ineffective or destructive, find a way to support their good intentions and offer support for their emotions, and/or support the kids in responding to the request rather than the tone of the request.
There are probably several more principles I’ve missed, but these four will do for now. So what are we going to do to turn this ship around? I use that metaphor because you are in a long-term pattern or Control Battle and entrenched family patterns resist change. In fact, one of the key elements of healthy families is flexibility or the ability of families to adapt to changing circumstances, such as children growing into new stages of development, employment changes, etc. The flexibility to address problems, including behavioral and relationship problems, so they don’t become chronic and entrenched such as they have in your family.
How To Address Much-Needed Changes
We’re going to need to go forward with the resolve that it isn't going to be easy, but with a clear vision of health and change, we can do this. Here’s a vision I’ll offer and if it doesn’t fit exactly for you, change it so it does:
- I am a smart, reasonable, loving, and loveable mother and wife who will be treated with love and respect.
- My boys are smart capable kids who will learn to be responsible and respectful.
- My husband is a great guy. He will learn to support me and support the boys in learning to be responsible.
Terri, I have to guess that the way you have been treated in your family now is related to your having grown up without being supported and without having your emotional needs met and that left you with compromised self-esteem. Starting with compromised self-esteem and then being undermined and disrespected for a long time has left you pretty beaten down. It might be an understatement that you’re suffering Parental Burnout.
Step one is to focus on your personal emotional recovery. Here are some ways to do that. The first way I’m recommending accomplishes two things, it gives you a much needed break and an opportunity for some emotional recovery. Plus, it signals your husband and kids that something is changing.
- Take a week and go stay someplace where you will find some peace and support. Stay with a good friend, a supportive relative, or if you have the funds, go take an Air B&B in the mountains or by the ocean. If your funds are very limited, go camping either with a friend or by yourself. Tell your husband that you are going to take a break for yourself; that you’re exhausted from trying to get him and the kids to be responsible and respectful and you are going to take a week off. Tell him when you get back you can talk together about out how to work together better and be effective parents together.
- Locate a therapist that can help you recover your self-esteem. Work with her or him on how to focus on your own needs.
- Make personal time for yourself every day. It can include a hobby such as painting, dancing, or singing.
- Exercise daily in a way that works for you: walking, yoga, whatever you like.
- Rest daily, eat right, and talk with friends.
That’s the taking care of you part.
Step two is with your husband. Tell him that you need the boys to learn responsibility and need his support. Ask him what he needs you to do differently to make it easier to support you. He may be running interference because he sees you nagging or complaining to the kids instead of giving them instructions with a positive tone. It’s not an excuse for his behavior, but we need to include his thoughts and feelings in addition to yours.
If he runs interference for the kids again and says it’s his mess, then let him know that he needs to clean it up immediately. That you expect when messes are made, regardless of who made it, it needs to be cleaned up. Why? Because you’re the mom and that’s what you want, and it’s a good habit for the kids and a clean organized house is a better way to live.
Step three is for the boys. Before you come home, have your husband take away or otherwise disable any computer games or electronics that will interfere with their attention and have them clean the yard of all dog poop and clean their rooms as well. When you get home, take a walk with your husband to discuss what needs to be different on both your parts. Then, perhaps the next day, you and your husband can sit down with the kids and have a talk with them that might go something like this.
Terri: It’s great to come home to a picked up yard, clean rooms, and a family that isn’t totally distracted. I appreciate it very much. I took a week for myself to think about who I am, what I need, and how my family is doing, and how I need to change to help my family do better. While away, I missed you all tremendously, and my love for each of you was strong within me.
Them: We missed you too Mom.
Terri: What I didn’t miss was the way we were communicating. I didn’t miss not being listened to, or people making messes and not cleaning up after themselves, and I didn’t miss feeling like the family maid instead of an appreciated mother, wife, and an otherwise respected person. I know my communication wasn’t great either, that I have been unclear about what I expect and instead I’ve just been frustrated and annoyed and sounded frustrated and annoyed and I can see where that would push you away.
Dad: Mom and I have been letting you guys down. We have not been expecting your best, your best in school or your best at home and that’s not right. You won’t know how smart and capable you are if we don’t require your best from you. Mom has done some important soul searching here and I totally respect her for leading us all in this important change; change from a family getting by, to a family doing great.
Kids: Okay but why can’t we play games? What’s wrong with that?
Mom: The problem isn’t the games. The problem is that when you are playing them, I don’t get listened to and things don’t get done. When Dad and I see that you guys are ready to show us your best, that you understand the seriousness of this, then we can talk about the privileges you want. But first, you have to earn them and when you earn them you can enjoy those privileges but only as long as they don’t undermine your priorities.
Mom: I want to tell you both something very important. When you become adults, even young adults after high school, you are going to need to know how to take care of yourselves. You’re going to need to know what your responsibilities are and how to organize yourselves to take care of them. You are going to need to know how to cook, shop, clean up after meals, and how to clean a house. These are things we are going to be working on together. When you grow up and get married, your partners aren’t going to want to do everything for you. They are going to expect you to be responsible, thoughtful, and able to listen to them and respect them. They are not going to want to be ignored and taken for granted. That will not make them happy; it will make them sad and depressed.
Dad: Let’s work as a family on showing our best and then Mom and I will talk about how to reintroduce the privileges you guys want.
Okay Terri? I know this is an imaginary conversation and it’s a far cry from where things are now, but I want to put this out there because things in your family need to take a giant step forward in this direction. It’s critical to you and your mental health, your kids and their development, and to your relationship with your husband.
Moms, Dads, and those who work with Moms and Dads, respect is a critical trait. When kids don’t show respect for Mom, it can impact their attitude towards women and towards themselves. I’ve known many young women who have had mothers whom they didn’t respect and they had trouble respecting their own womanhood. And of course, when boys don’t respect their mothers, they have a hard time respecting women in general. When Moms, with love and positivity, expect the best from their kids, kids will grow their self-respect and their respect for women and womanhood.Respect is a critical trait. When kids don’t show respect for their mom, it can impact their attitude towards women and towards themselves.Click To Tweet
Thank you, Terri, for your thought-provoking question.
During this time of profound disruption, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Your local mental health resources are very much there, mostly using video platforms, and that works just fine, phones work too, and sometimes you can be seen in person as well.
If you're looking for a resource to help keep you productive at home while also helping you become a better parent, I've prepared a free gift just for you. It’s called Parenting Through Your Child's Second 12 Years. I know you’re thinking, "What the heck, 12 more years of parenting?" Adolescence neurologically, socially and emotionally, and often financially goes to around age 24. Yes, parenting your 20-year-olds is different than the teens. Download my gift and read and learn about the different stages of adolescence and critical strategies parents can use to avoid control battles and best support their adolescents’ quest for happy successful independence.
If you are a therapist who works in a behavioral health treatment program and would like to talk with me about improving outcomes in your program, come on over to my website neildbrown.com and shoot me an email or give me a call. I’ll be happy to talk with you.
Please, take care of yourselves; you need it, you deserve it, you’re worth it. Bye for now.
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