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Husband Yelling at Kids
Q: I have two daughters, ages four and two. My husband is impatient with them and he often yells at them when they're misbehaving. I've tried talking to him about this, but he won't listen. He supports spanking and feels our kids would listen better if we used this method. I'm concerned for my kids. I once told him to leave, but my older daughter cried and said, "Don't make my daddy leave." When he's in a good mood and they're behaving, he plays with them and everything seems fine. I don't know what to do. Should I leave him before the kids suffer emotional scars?
A: I sense that there must be much more disturbing you in your marriage than just this issue of your husband yelling and screaming at your kids when they are misbehaving. Most spouses are not considering divorce with two small children over just this issue. You do state that he believes in spanking, but you do not mention that he spanks them or beats them. Perhaps his verbal abuse to them when they misbehave is occurring far too frequently, making you feel that he will never change and that your kids will grow up scarred emotionally because of this.
Four-year-olds and two-year-olds are not going to be "good" all the time. I am sure that your husband has unrealistic expectations regarding their age-appropriate behavior and their ability to behave like he wants them to. As opposed to saying that he is wrong and you are right regarding how you discipline your children, suggest to him that you both need to find better ways to parent your kids, especially in the arena of discipline. Your husband is screaming at your kids because he wasn't taught a better way of dealing with them. You've heard the phrase, "When you know better, you do better." Rather than tell him he is the problem and he needs to get help with his temper, suggest that you want to see a family therapist with him and maybe take some parenting classes, too, in an attempt to come together on how you parent the kids. Offer him praise for what he does well with the kids and admit to wanting and needing some help yourself. Tell him that you want to feel like you are a good team, that you support each other. Once you begin therapy and parenting classes, he'll have the opportunity to learn different techniques of disciplining your kids.
Telling him that he has to change or you'll leave him will not bring about the changes that your family needs. If he refuses every invitation of yours to go see someone together and continues to emotionally abuse the kids, then you'll have to consider whether your kids will indeed be better off without his daily presence.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.