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Need help to protect my child from verbally abusive father


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#1 tigger

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 05:16 AM

I am new to this box, have recently realized my husband is verbally abusive towards my son (3.5 years old) and myself. He comes from a verbally abusive, aggressive family and has little impulse control when he is frustrated, irritated, or tired and things are not going his way (which, in a household with a 3.5 year old, happens MANY, MANY times in the course of a day). He is moody, sullen, sarcastic and just plain angry all the time.

I have talked to him about this behavior and its adverse effects on our child and our relationship. Our relationship has other issues that he and I have to deal with, and it will take time because I am not ready to quit yet. He is a good father and husband when he is not angry/moody and I am hoping that we can turn the situation around. However, ever since I came across the verbal abuse phenomenon and realized what was going on, I have told him that he needs to stop the verbal abuse and get a grip on his short fuse. He does not necessarily agree with me that it's a problem so we end up having situations where my son gets oppositional and my husband starts to threaten him (" I will whack your butt/face", "I will break your head"). All this can happen over silly things like my son is playing with his food or not getting ready on time when we want to leave for work......I mean, nobody is perfect and I lose patience with my son too but yelling and screaming at him is teaching him all the wrong behaviors! He has hit our son in the past in anger and understands now that the next time he hits will be the last day of our relationship.

Our relationship is at a point where my husband is not amenable to suggestions, or to reading some material on the anger problem (he does not think there is a problem). We may go for days without talking. For the moment, we are trying not to have fights in front of our son, and to make sure that his routine is the same from day to day. While we find a way to work things out, I need a way to protect my son that (a)stops the verbal abuse when it is occurring , and(b)does not give my son the message that his father is the bad cop and mommy is the good cop. My son is visibly scared of my husband when my husband is in this mood. On other occassions they have a great time together and I have no doubt that he loves his son - he just does not know how to stop himself from behaving badly towards those he loves.

Any tips on how to handle this situation and protect my son from the yelling, shouting, threatening behaviors will be much appreciated. I realize I am giving a very small slice of the picture but I need some help on what I can do specifically to stop any incident of verbal abuse from escalating. Thank you all!

Edited by tigger, 12 January 2010 - 05:19 AM.


#2 cantdecide

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 09:23 AM

I have a husband like what you describe. The difference is we have custody of his now 13 yr old son. I have protected his son since he was 6 yrs old (the day he came to live with us). I told my husband "you ever lay a hand on him and I will call the police so fast you wont know what happened." Of course I told him this when we were alone, not in front of the child. I compliment my stepson and encourage him in front of my husband hoping to show him this is how you treat a child. I also discovered thse men want attention so if you step out of the situation, go to the garage etc his tone will settle down because you are not giving him the attention he is seeking. It is very odd and hard to deal with and Im not sure I should have put up with all of this. You can suggest family counseling but good luck, they seem to turn it all around. I have also explained to my stepson that I dont know why his dad acts like this but it it wrong. As your child grows older you can explain things to him. They know much more than you think. If you stay in the situation keep encouraging your son and praising him when he does good things because his dad is beating him down and he needs to be picked back up. This is what I believe. Good luck. It is a hard road. Pray to God for help and strength. Pray for your husband. Read books on narcissism. Hope this helps. Always protect your child. Even if it comes between you and your husband, always protect your child. He has no one but you when his dad is acting out.

#3 Pebbles

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 09:26 AM

I am new to this box, have recently realized my husband is verbally abusive towards my son (3.5 years old) and myself. He comes from a verbally abusive, aggressive family and has little impulse control when he is frustrated, irritated, or tired and things are not going his way (which, in a household with a 3.5 year old, happens MANY, MANY times in the course of a day). He is moody, sullen, sarcastic and just plain angry all the time.

I have talked to him about this behavior and its adverse effects on our child and our relationship. Our relationship has other issues that he and I have to deal with, and it will take time because I am not ready to quit yet. He is a good father and husband when he is not angry/moody and I am hoping that we can turn the situation around. However, ever since I came across the verbal abuse phenomenon and realized what was going on, I have told him that he needs to stop the verbal abuse and get a grip on his short fuse. He does not necessarily agree with me that it's a problem so we end up having situations where my son gets oppositional and my husband starts to threaten him (" I will whack your butt/face", "I will break your head"). All this can happen over silly things like my son is playing with his food or not getting ready on time when we want to leave for work......I mean, nobody is perfect and I lose patience with my son too but yelling and screaming at him is teaching him all the wrong behaviors! He has hit our son in the past in anger and understands now that the next time he hits will be the last day of our relationship.

Our relationship is at a point where my husband is not amenable to suggestions, or to reading some material on the anger problem (he does not think there is a problem). We may go for days without talking. For the moment, we are trying not to have fights in front of our son, and to make sure that his routine is the same from day to day. While we find a way to work things out, I need a way to protect my son that (a)stops the verbal abuse when it is occurring , and(b)does not give my son the message that his father is the bad cop and mommy is the good cop. My son is visibly scared of my husband when my husband is in this mood. On other occassions they have a great time together and I have no doubt that he loves his son - he just does not know how to stop himself from behaving badly towards those he loves.

Any tips on how to handle this situation and protect my son from the yelling, shouting, threatening behaviors will be much appreciated. I realize I am giving a very small slice of the picture but I need some help on what I can do specifically to stop any incident of verbal abuse from escalating. Thank you all!

Welcome to the Catbox Tigger. Sorry you had to find us, but glad you did. You will find much support here from people who truly understand.

I lived for almost 10 years with a VA/EA husband and did not realize what the problem was, but knew something was wrong. It was when he started going off on my little 5 year old that I finally spoke up to my friend and then to my pastor. I think right now the best thing for you is to find someone to talk to. Do you have a church? If not, perhaps contact a counselor at the local DV center. Talking it out, reading books etc. will really help. Dr. Irene has a whole list of books on her Website, two books that I can totally recommend are "Why Does He Do That" by Lundy Bancroft and "But He Never Hit Me" by Dr. Jill Murray. You can find them used on amazon cheaper than buying them at a bookstore.

Understanding what is going on will help you as begin the journey. . . .

Huge hugs to you. Keep posting here!

Pebbles

#4 Nacho!

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Posted 14 January 2010 - 11:25 AM

Tigger,

(((Tigger and son)))

I am sorry that you and your son are being abused. The damage that abuse does to a child is not easily undone, nor is the damage it does to a grown woman.
The only way that I found to stop the abuse of my children was to leave the abuser.

There is no way to put a bubble around them so that they are not affected by the abuse. I believe that attempts to shield a child from abuse while allowing it are very confusing and ineffective.
By allowing abuse, I mean: living with it. You cannot stop your husband from abusing. You don't have that kind of control.

I would encourage you to talk to a DV center in your area, being candid about the abuse that your vulnerable child is experiencing. They will likely have some guidance and help for you.
As mothers, we must make terribly difficult decisions in the best interest of our children, and my heart goes out to both of you.
Nacho!

#5 Kilroy

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Posted 14 January 2010 - 11:33 AM

While we find a way to work things out, I need a way to protect my son that (a)stops the verbal abuse when it is occurring , and(b)does not give my son the message that his father is the bad cop and mommy is the good cop. My son is visibly scared of my husband when my husband is in this mood.


Hi tigger, and welcome to the Catbox! I'm sorry you're stuck in this situation.

Unfortunately I'm having a hard time seeing any solution to the problem you've presented, given both of the criteria you've imposed.

True, there are ways that you MIGHT be able to stop the verbal abuse of your son as it's occurring--that's if your husband isn't TOO angry and belligerent at the time. If you interrupt him with a reminder to speak more civilly, he might respond to that--though I'm inclined to doubt it. If you intervene more assertively, telling him in no uncertain terms to "cut it out," he MIGHT respond to that--though he might turn his anger on you instead! Then you could just get between him and your son any time there's a problem, telling him that "you'll handle this." He might be inclined to let you do that. Or you may be able to physically remove your son and take him into another room if your husband starts in with the abuse. Any of these approaches MAY be worth a try, and if anyone has any better ideas I'm sure we'll both be glad to hear them.

But the trouble is, first, that none of this is guaranteed to work if your husband insists on acting out his anger regardless. Second, NONE of these approaches, even if they do work, can possibly fulfill your second criterion: that's to say, NOT giving your son the message that Daddy is the Bad Cop and Mommy is the Good Cop. Your son is bound to learn that lesson anyway, and there's no way you can stop that from happening. Not unless there's some magic button you could press that would modify your husband's behavior without your even having to appear on the scene!

Otherwise your son is always going to have the same experience. First Daddy starts raging at him over something, terrifying him to death. Then Mommy appears like a fairy godmother, and regardless of what Mommy actually says or does--whether she says some magic words, waves her magic wand or whatever--somehow she saves the little boy from Daddy's raging and makes everything all right again. So he's always going to experience Daddy as the Persecutor and Mommy as the Rescuer.

Outside of that, what can you do to get your husband to stop his angry and abusive outbursts? What influence can you bring to bear on him to persuade him to change his behavior? I'm afraid your options are rather limited. He won't listen to what you say. He won't read books or articles that might help. What's more, if he ever is going to conquer what you've described as an impulse control problem, he's unlikely to do it without some kind of professional help.

You could, as "cantdecide" suggested, consider family counseling in the hope of influencing him. But as she rightly said, there are drawbacks to that with abusive people like your husband. To start with, he may not even agree to go. If he does, he probably won't want to listen to the counselor, and you might find him using the sessions to make unfair complaints about you instead.

If you do go to church, frequently a pastor or other church members can exert authority that he might listen to. That has happened, though again there's no guarantee. It may be worth a try, that's all.

Otherwise all you're left with is your final sanction: to leave. Or anyway to lay down an ultimatum: that if this behavior doesn't change, then you will leave. But don't forget, drawing boundaries like that won't work unless you're prepared to follow through with them if you have to.

One worrying aspect to all this is your son's age. He's three and a half, yet he's getting raged at--over the most trivial things, like playing with his food. All this, although three is typically a "nice" age when kids are relatively cooperative. To many parents this stage comes as a welcome relief after the "Terrible Twos," characterized by battles of will against a parent. Yet this "nicer" stage doesn't last either, and pretty soon you'll be seeing the Ferocious Fours. And the Ferocious Fours are often WORSE than the Terrible Twos.

However annoying the Terrible Twos may be, at least there's nothing personal in a toddler's opposition to a parent at that age. Children are just trying out their newfound independence. But when the Ferocious Fours come around, some children seem to act as if they're deliberately trying to get a parent's reaction! If your husband is raging at your son and threatening him right now, I hate to think what will happen in a few months' time if your son starts experimenting with ways of intentionally getting his father's goat. He could be in real danger from your husband's nasty temper.

At the same time, though you're saying you're "not ready to quit" yet, your marriage sounds very unstable already if you're often going for days without talking. This sounds to me as if matters are approaching a crisis. You've said your husband is a good man and father "when he is not angry/moody," but you also said "He is moody, sullen, sarcastic and just plain angry all the time." Those "good moods" seem to be rather few and far between.

Unfortunately anyone in your situation can get into a state where you're settling for far too little in a marriage. You may be viewing your husband's GOOD moods as some kind of "reward," as if it's worth putting up with all the raging and the bad moods because he's nice SOME of the time! This is rather like the story of the man who kept hitting himself on the head with a hammer. When they asked him why he did it, he said: "Because it feels so wonderful when I stop!" That's an awful lot of pain to put up with for the sake of a few moments of blessed relief.

Even if your husband "only" has a big rage one day a week, say, that's still one day too much. And it's certainly more than your son should have to put up with.

It's hard when anyone is forced to think seriously about giving up on a marriage. So regardless of what the specific issues are, I do understand your saying you're "not ready to quit" yet. But many parents in abusive marriages put up with being treated badly for years, as long as they're the only ones being abused. Often it's when they see their kids being abused too that they realize this is altogether too much. Then they have to do something to stop it, even if it means getting out. And some people--a minority, to be sure, but some--have found their abusive spouse was prepared to make some real changes when they finally did leave.

Even if you can't get your husband to listen, take notice of you, or seek help, I do recommend seeking help for yourself. A counselor can help you work through your own situation and decide how best to act for your own sake and your son's sake as well, even if your husband won't cooperate. Anyway I hope you'll continue posting and let us know how it's going. You'll always find someone to support you here in the Catbox. Good luck dealing with this!

#6 noodlie

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Posted 14 January 2010 - 04:42 PM

hi tigger
love the username by the way. but i'm afraid i DO agree with kilroy, above. you do need to start asking yourself
1/ what 'relationship' you are saving
2/ why
3/ if it's really worth anything for you AND your child.
from my experience, if he had physically and verbally abused the kid (mine is 3 y.o), i would've been out faster than than! unlike VA or EA, ppl WILL support you and you will find it easier to get a settlement in the courts.
apart from that i think he has NO concept of boundaries and you are bound to only suffer MORE.
sorry, just relaying my opinion, mummy to mummy.

strength to you, whatever YOU decide.

Edited by noodlie, 14 January 2010 - 04:42 PM.


#7 tigger

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Posted 14 January 2010 - 06:37 PM

Dear all,
Thank you so much for all your kind responses and support. As I read them, I realized that I have not said enough about my marriage and why I think it might be worth saving (maybe I'm being naive - but right now I am just plain confused and don't want to take a hasty decision). I'm a professional, earn a good living, and can support myself and my son, so walking out would be a VERY easy thing to do from a financial perspective.

I need to post more on what's going on in my marriage and get a perspective from people on this board who understand - as Pebbles pointed out, I need to really 'talk' to someone. Unfortunately church is not an option (we don't belong to a church) and since we are currently not in the US (and live in a non-english speaking country), good counseling and therapy is going to be pretty darn hard to find, if not impossible. I am too ashamed to reveal this to family and friends at this point. I an reading many of the books suggested on this website and it has helped me a lot already.

Kilroy, Noodlie: You are both right, I need to think more about what am I saving and the cost of doing that. I will post more in the coming days under a different thread.

Kilroy and cantdecide: Thank you for the suggestions. For the past two days what seems to be working is that if an outburst begins (because my son is misbehaving), I jump in with a stern warning to both of them to cut out whatever it is that they are doing (to son: Pls stop playing with your food and finish up what you need to coz we're all done eating and we have to clean up now, and to husband: we're ALL going to talk nicely to each other). So I am putting them BOTH in the playpen.

Thank you again - HUGS back to all of you.

#8 noodlie

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 02:45 PM

hi tigger
you're in my thoughts. i know how hard it is to try and protect your child with all your might... keep at it! and yes, unfortunately it will require you undermining his father in front of him but if he's going to act like a child...
take care and keep reading :clapping:

#9 katty

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Posted 16 January 2010 - 03:55 PM

the way your husband acts is very similar to the way mine acts toward our two-year-old son, except that mine hasn't hit our son. He has threatened a spanking, but it's never happened because I step in and explain that if he lays a single finger on our child, ever, he will never see him again. and he believes me.

but, he, too, is impatient with our son and he is very harsh with his words in front of our child, even when it's telling me what an awful wife I am.

I thought I could change him for a long time and gave the marriage six years. But he has not changed, and I realize now, with a child, that it never will. It took me a long time to admit that to myself. It is a long journey toward the realization that a marriage simply won't work. I began mine in 2006, as you can see from my registration date. And it was only this past month that I finally got up the power and nerve to leave. I realized I had to do it for my child, if not for myself. So I have told him that I want a divorce and I have rented a house and retained a lawyer. I'm still living in the family house, but moving out in three weeks.

So...the solution came to me in time, but it took a very long while to figure it all out. I don't want to say that my path should be your path. Everyone has to reach their own decisions in their own time. But I will say that a stubborn, verbally abusive husband with no desire to change - because he thinks what he does is right - and who refuses to seek help or read anything about their anger issues, is someone who will not change. Verbally abusive husbands don't get better without help. And if they refuse help, then nothing will change. It might get better for a month or two or three, but in the end, it is the same.

Hugs to you and your son. I know this is a terrible situation to be in. But there is light at the end. You just have to find your way there.




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