Dear Dr. Sadaqat Ali,
Since childhood, my husband was trained to be responsible for more than typical, age-appropriate tasks—house cleaning and food shopping at age ten, providing personal hygiene care for an ill older brother at eighteen, etc. He has continued to demonstrate a greater-than-typical responsibility throughout his adult life. This has extended to providing “reminders” and “corrective suggestions” to our children. They are now adults, and have begun to suggest boundaries and ask that he not remind them. For example, they ask that they be allowed to send or not send birthday cards or thank you notes on their own without his reminding. Their requests have been made respectfully, but he sees their messages as “Don’t tell us what to do” and is offended and angry.
Is there a much needed conversation I can have with him before it impacts his relationships, or do these need to be appropriate conversations between my husband and our kids?
Dear Concerned Mother,
I would like to thank you for having confidence in me and I really respect your futuristic thoughtfulness towards growing confrontational patterns between your husband and children.
During my practice in the field of parent-children relations, I have observed that issues that can be easily solved are usually brushed under the carpet as neither of the parties stand up to address the problem in an appropriate manner.
In your case being a concerned mother you want a well-bonded relationship between your husband and children. You also want that the kids should respect their father and accept his writ. Being evident of how father’s behaviors are obstructing a constructive father-children relationship, I would suggest you to talk to your husband about his behaviors.
The purpose of your conversation will be to help your husband to see how his own behavior is keeping him from things that are important to him.
Firstly, you need to make this conversation comfortable for your husband by mentioning all the good deeds he undertakes for the betterment of the family and specially the children. Then you can tell him that you are not here to criticize him but really want to see healthy relations between him and children.
Secondly, express your general observation about the former mishandled conversation between him and children. Here I would like to suggest that not specifying the events like his occasional obliviousness in sending birthday cards would help. If he asks for specific events, specify it as one of the mishandled conversation that you have observed.
Thirdly, you need to tell him the writ problems that he himself is aware of. For Instance, why kids are maintaining distance from him or how they have stopped sharing with him or why they don’t do what he asks them to.
A change in his habits require some time as it will be a process not an event.