Father who won't stand up for his own needs is raising holy terror
Dear Dr. Markham,
Is there a solution to an almost 7 year old boy (brother to: 5 year old and 1) who embarrasses his parents - mostly his father (who is unable to stand up for his rights when with his kids) - IN PUBLIC when he's frustrated: kicks him, pushes him, does not let him move until his wish has been satisfied? The father does not want to embarrass his boy by any means, and keeps standing still and letting the son do whatever he is doing, though he feels ashamed. In addition, the boy is physically too strong for the parents, so they cannot just pick him up and go. There are also cases where the father has to take care of the baby, which means that he cannot possibly even hold his 7 year old firmly to get the message across. Talking to the boy usually derives a mocking or angry response, and he keeps behaving thus until he relaxes. Father feels exhausted and controlled by boy.
Dear Frustrated Mom,
You've answered your own question: The father is unable to stand for his rights. Your son is pushing his father for limits, so that the he can feel safe. Imagine how scary it is to be seven and feel like you're in charge, that your father can't keep even himself safe from you. By not establishing a respectful relationship with his son -- which is always about respect from and for both people -- your husband is depriving your son of of a healthy model of relationships and handicapping him for life.
I agree with your husband that he should not embarrass his son. But his shame indicates that what he is doing is not good for anyone. Kids need to know that their needs are taken seriously by their parents. They also need to know that the parents' needs are taken seriously by the parents. It does a child no favor if the parents let him walk all over them. A child who is used to taking advantage of parents will do that with others and will be disliked by peers. Please read the section of my website entitled: Why permissive parenting doesn't work.
The issue of your husband not being able to juggle a tantrumming seven year old and a baby by himself is a real one. Usually this is avoided by having gained a kid's general cooperation by the time he is seven. It might be best for your husband not to have all three kids by himself, especially in a public place, until this issue is resolved. And I do think it can be resolved fairly quickly, if your husband is willing to start setting respectful limits with his son on a consistent basis. Once it stops working to throw tantrums, your son will stop doing it.
As the mom, please don't stand by and watch your son emotionally injured in this way. I realize your husband must himself have issues about having been respected as a child, but he needs to work those out, not visit them on his son. I wish you luck. You and your husband may want to get in on my weekly
parenting coaching call for some help in understanding how to help
your son before he gets any bigger and this gets even more out of
Dr. Laura Markham