Will I have to choose between them?

Today’s problem comes from adoptive mum Rachel, who is worried about the way her husband is parenting their son…if you have any advice, or have been through something similar, please do share your experiences too.

ProblemI’m really struggling with my husband at the moment. He knows about attachment, he knows about therapeutic parenting, he knows our son’s background, and he knows that our son is very good at identifying and pushing buttons, but…he just can’t put it into practise.

We’ve been a family, him, me and our son for 5 years. We’re not new adopters, and I’ve been on many courses and fed back to my husband (unfortunately he just can’t get the time off to attend himself), he’s come to therapy when he can, and he’s even read and watched Dan Hughes (isn’t YouTube great?!).

He just can’t implement it. I really struggle to see him getting so cross at our son – shouting sometimes, sending him to his room, physically removing our son from situations, rather than moving himself into another room. It undoes all the hard work that I put in. It scares our son.

I’m worried that we’ll soon be at the point where I have to choose between them. Losing his father will be traumatic for our son, but surely this behaviour is just as damaging?

9 thoughts on “Will I have to choose between them?

  1. Sally

    I strongly identify with what what you are going through Rachel. A few years ago I could have written something almost identical.
    We almost got to the point of break up but now I am really glad that we pushed on. The difference came when my husband started coming with me to the courses and workshops. He found it hard to take time off too, but it came to the crunch when life-changing decisions had to be made. I’m just not sure that me relaying what certain speakers or coaches had to say was deep enough learning. Although I was always ahead of him adjusting my parenting, we had to go through a lot of the learning together for it to really stick and start working. Now we are able to work as a double act – he can rescue me when I’m failing and vice versa. We both admit to each other when we’ve made mistakes and are much better at forgiving each other.
    I can’t say whether it’s worth you and your husband pushing through this as we are all different and have different capacities to change. Maybe it’s hard for him to let go of what he’s always believed to be the right way as it was for my husband too. We move at different speeds I think.
    I really hope you can find a way through this. It’s really tough and I send you what love and support I can xx

  2. Debbie

    We have both been there and for us it has been a right of passage. The thing is everything you put in place is a full time job maintaining and you forget your human and sometimes just simply have enough. I over explained myself spending ages talking to our daughter who had switched off a long time before and it drove my husband nuts. It took years for me to stop only for him to start doing it! You have to talk about how you are going to do it together. Our daughter has made it more than clear she wants me to herself and my husband and 2 sons can evapourate but I would go insane with her on my own she is so much hard work mentally and emotionally as she has an attachment disorder. Your husband has to acknowledge he is the adult and the one with the power and I say power as our daughter is a control freak, to maintain consistency in working together to parent. You are going to have days when you think ooops what a blooper or words to that effect but take comfort from the days when boundaries and consistency do work. Most importantly remember your both human and keep talking.

  3. Three Pink Diamonds

    Hi Rachel, I am sorry to hear that you are experiencing this. My husband and I have often had differing views and I have felt torn in what parenting techniques to use. I have often felt confused between parenting in a therapeutic way and perhaps what Super Nanny would say. I think we are still in the process of working out what is right and what is not…. but I think what is helping us is having our post adoption support worker come out to us and speak to us together. We spend our time presenting various scenarios and difficulties that we are having with our children and between the three of us (husband, SW and I) we discuss the reasons behind the behaviour and then how to manage it looking through an attachment lens. This way if we have any differing of opinions or further questions we can present them to the SW rather than me trying to answer my husband’s questions and feeling like I can’t explain things clearly enough for him to make sense of it all.

    Wishing you all the best.

  4. RachelB

    I relate to what you’re going through. I have to admit I was often in your husband’s place. My partner went on the courses and was totally convinced by therapeutic parenting. I subscribed to it in theory, couldn’t put it into practice and fell back on shouting, shaming etc. When I finally went on a course, it made all the difference. There was something about actually experiencing the training that meant it sank in. I finally got it. So my suggestion to your husband is to really try to make time – I’m not only a better parent, I’m a much happier one. The difference it’s made to Acorn is huge.

    I also agree with Debbie about the control freakery. Our Acorn is an expert at divide and conquer. We’ve had to develop a ‘Team Acorn’ approach and agree to keep our differences for when he’s asleep. Now we’ve both got it that the need for control stems from fear, it’s easier (not easy!!) to deal with.

    Good luck and keep sharing.

  5. LilyFaerie

    I’ve ‘um’d and ‘ah’d’ about whether or not to reply to this post. I was in your situation around 5 years ago. Married to my partner of 10 years, our son had been with us for around 2 years. I gave up my career and stayed at home with our son. Attended all the adoption courses, read all the books, and fed back to my partner. I went through a long period of ‘post adoption depression’ and suddenly what I though no longer mattered, and decisions were made by my partner that I disagreed with. Our son was put in to nursery, despite my belief it would be damaging for them, and things started to spiral out of control. I clearly remember the moment I decided to leave my partner. I was up in our bedroom, listening to my partner yell at our son. My son said to me himself ‘I just want to live with you, Mummy’. He created a crack between us. It was fatal and I fell straight through it. I am now told at nearly every single therapy session, by nearly every professional I speak to that the loss I inflicted upon our son wouldn’t have helped him and the issues he’s dealing with. That I’ve contributed to his problems. That’s a guilt I’m going to live with for a long time.

    The plus side, is that it forced my partner to evaluate their parenting, to start attending the courses, listen to the Dan Hughes CD’s, coming along to the therapy sessions when they rarely would before. Their relationship with our son is now stronger for it.

    I’m aware that my depression forced me to make a decision I probably wouldn’t have made had I been feeling healthy and supported. None of us can tell you whether or not to stay with your husband. But I do urge you to think about what you want from your husband, what can be realistically done, and whether there is anyone in your support network that can support you to get there.

    Sending you a lot of strength. Take care.

    1. RachelB

      My heart goes out to you. There are so many things about my parenting, particularly early on, that I used to feel desperately guilty about. I also suffered from post adoption depression, which manifested itself as overwhelming and extreme anxiety. I didn’t trust my partner’s much saner judgement. Maybe one day I will truly forgive myself for inflicting ‘controlled crying’ on my son, because that was what the experts at the time were telling us to do. However, what I have realised is that I was doing the best I could with the information I had available to me at the time.

      What you say about being able to make different decisions when one is in a healthy and supported place is so, so true. It was only when I was feeling better in myself and able to search for the proper support for our son and help with his attachment disorder that I was able to develop better parenting skills.

      I hope you can let go of the guilt. It’s such a burden – and so undeserved.

      Much love,

      Rachel B

  6. lynne

    Hello. I saw your post last week and thought a lot about whether or not to put a comment on. Here goes … your situation echoes mine of 3 – 4 years ago. Myself and my partner had a little girl placed with us at aged 2. I became very concerned about how my partner was parenting and managing D’s behaviour – all the same things that you’re worried about – reacting very personally to her behaviour, shouting, putting her into ‘time out’ in another room. Instinctively I felt it was wrong. The difference was that it was before D was adopted, so the Social Workers were still involved. When they became aware of what was happening (which was, in effect, emotional abuse of D by my partner), to cut a long and very painful story short, I had to choose – either D left and went back into care, or me and my partner split up. As D had already been with us for 2 years, I couldn’t bear the thought of her going, so my partner moved out and we split up several months afterwards. We had tried everything to hold it all together – CAMHS, filial therapy, couple therapy, my partner had counselling for nearly a year, but nothing led to a change in how my partner was with D. We had been together for 13 years and if anyone had told me before we set out on the adoption journey that this was how it would end, no way would I have believed them. My ex-partner was the calm one, the quietly spoken one who was ‘unflappable’.

    What I would say is that for you to be able to have a different and more positive outcome (ie to stay together), your partner needs to acknowledge that it’s their problem – they are the adult – and actively do something about it and work on changing how they react and respond (not easy, I know). If they can’t do that, then their behaviour will be damaging to your child and will affect them now on a day-to-day basis and in the future in terms of their confidence, self-esteem etc. I really feel for you, and I hope it works out, I really do.


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