Relationship Connection: Our kids can’t stand their mom

Question

My wife and I have very different parenting styles, which my kids have picked up on. She’s not very nurturing with the kids and pretty much bosses them around all day long. By the time I get home from work, they don’t listen to her and come tell me things about their day. I feel bad for them because I’m basically having the same experience as them in my marriage to her. I feel like she’s constantly critical of me as well.

I don’t want to put her down in front of the kids, but they have a point. How should I respond to them when they come and talk to me about their negative experiences with their mom?

Answer

I recommend you ask your wife how she suggests you talk with the kids about their experiences with her. My guess is that she has no idea they’re feeling this way. She deserves a chance to repair things with them.

It’s also important for you to pull yourself out of the middle so you don’t bring your marriage drama into their relationship with their mom. You are hurting in your marriage and when your kids express the same feelings you’re having of not being respected or understood, it’s tempting to get sucked into your helplessness about the situation. This does more damage by creating an alliance with you against her.

In the moment your children are talking with you, there’s nothing wrong with you listening to them and validating their experience. You might say something like, “Sounds like you’ve had a rough day with mom and feel pretty misunderstood. That’s no fun. Sorry it’s been so tough for you.” This isn’t about choosing sides. It’s about recognizing the emotions your kids are bringing to you.

You’re not betraying your children by talking to their mom about the dilemma you’ve been put in. You can let her know that the children are coming to you to talk about how tough things are for them during the day. You don’t need to be critical or harsh about it. You can simply let her know that you’re not sure how to respond in a way that would support her relationship with the kids. Ask her what she thinks would be the best way to respond.

If she blows you off and doesn’t want to hear you or the kids, then continue to validate the kids when they talk to you. There’s nothing wrong with trying to bring this up in different ways at different times to see if she has any interest in improving her relationship with the kids.

If you keep hitting a dead end trying to get support from her regarding the kid’s emotions, it’s a good idea to seek out some marriage counseling to help work out the challenge of not being heard in the relationship. While there’s nothing wrong with you being the more nurturing parent, recognize there are factions forming inside the family, which ultimately set everyone up for long-term strife.

Stay connected!

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Want to improve your marriage in a fun and engaging two-day marriage workshop? Geoff will be facilitating a Hold Me Tight marriage workshop in St. George, Utah, February 21-22. Visit www.alliantcounseling.com for more details.

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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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12 Comments

  • Katrice February 12, 2014 at 7:46 am

    It’s also possible she (wife and mom) is in a negative spiral, feeling unloved and under appreciated. The husband might try some compliments or positive reinforcement of anything good she does. It might take a few times, but chances are she will start responding in kind.

  • Shallow Moms February 12, 2014 at 9:39 am

    It’s possible she is a shallow, materialistic mom with unrealistic expectations who should quit reading fantasy land magazines and thinking the world (and her kids) should aspire to her imaginary visions. Many of these local moms are extremely shallow, materialistic and live in some crazy fantasy world. Maybe it’s time to quit worrying about image and looks and how others view you and how they may be constantly evaluating you and your possessions. Lay off the happy drugs. Live your own life and let their kids be kids instead of some product that must excel in fantasy world and present behavior that will be acceptable by the entire church congregation less some bishop criticize you for their behavior, something I would tell him to kiss off. Get a life of your own, not live a life you think you are expected to live.

    • Bub February 12, 2014 at 10:04 am

      well said. Some people don’t make good parents and possibly should not have even had kids. More issues the the mormon ‘one size fits all’ thing they have going. Advice: husband is going to have to take on more of the burden to lessen stress on the wife. Sounds like he married a neurotic women. Either find ways to cope, *NON-LDS family counseling, medicate her, or divorce.

      • Shallow Moms February 12, 2014 at 11:19 am

        It’s depressing to overhear these 19 & 20 year old moms discussing their drama of house and kids with other 19 & 20 year old mommas. They are kids themselves with no idea of jobs, finances, medical expenses or even a vision of the world outside their lonely bubble world berg of St George. Their husbands who are equally as young, immature and lacking vision of the world, focus on their trucks, ATVs and toys. It’s a weird society in StG that impresses upon kids that after high school they either go on a church mission or get married.

      • Bob February 12, 2014 at 1:06 pm

        I would never marry a Mormon woman no matter how hot she thinks she looks. They have too much fixation on image and appearance while lacking individuality and knowledge or interest in anything other than their image and acting like everyone else in their cliques. That’s my opinion.

      • Richard February 12, 2014 at 8:04 pm

        Thanks for commenting….. We would all be lost without your thoughtful insight. Seriously…… Please find a hobby

        • Shallow Moms February 13, 2014 at 9:24 am

          A hobby is what these high school girls need to propel them into adulthood rather than fantasize about marriage and kids immediately after high school. I stopped at an accident once, a car had bumped the car ahead of it. No damage done. Yet, the 17 year old girl, sitting on the curb, bawling her eyes out about the accident and being unable to get ahold of her mom and her fiance. Yes, her fiance. Serious. Bawling like a baby because someone bumped her car? Yet, she thinks she can handle the emotional, financial and other responsibilities of marriage and family? Young women in this town are nut cases. Guys would be well advised to give them a wide berth and seek dating mature and responsible women, if they’re looking for serious relationship. Else, every day will be just another day of drama in junior high school.

      • Richard February 12, 2014 at 8:06 pm

        We all think Bub is a little “attention starved”

    • Anon February 12, 2014 at 12:23 pm

      I have no idea how you came to the conclusion that she is a shallow, materialistic Mom who lives in a fantasy world. The question and the answer mention nothing of the sort. You are assuming. Don’t read so much into it. You don’t know either of these people so you can’t say for sure what is going on.

  • Julie A. February 12, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    Sounds to me like the kids are playing Dad against Mom. And of course she ” bosses them around all day,” she’s the mom, she is in charge. Most likely she’s nurtered out by the end of the day when Dad gets home. That’s when he should be jumping in to help, not encouraging his kids to tell him how unfair she is. Geez.

    • Shallow Moms February 13, 2014 at 9:29 am

      Or maybe after he works all day, perhaps two jobs to pay for her happy stay at home mommy lifestyle, he wants to spend some play time with the kids but she demands he be the stern, bossy and controlling figure with them. Maybe she can cut back on the zumba workouts and gym time and/or stop sitting around the park with her mom friends discussing “the relationship” and all their drama.

  • Ashley February 12, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    I never reply but feel impressed to at this point. As the oldest child coming from a family like this i understand the situation a little more and see it a little differently. We dont know what a lifevthis mother has had and where her emotional status is regarding her children and im sure it didn’t start out that way. There could be a number of reasons for whats happening and either way all in the family should receive counseling for emotional damage done. But what family doesnt have problems at one point or another. Its not our place to judge someone based on religion lifestyle or any other means until you put those shoes on yourself dont go assuming. Its people that put that stero type on religon family race ect. That cause commotion in the world instead why do we put our best foot forward and help the person struggling instead of pointing fingers and gossiping. The damage is done don’t dwel there move forward and help thats all im sayi.

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