mermeg's picture
mermeg

Husband too strict at dinner table

I have 2 teens (14,16), stepdaughter, and a 2 year old son with my husband. I love him but he is so strict at the dinner table and has rules that I do not agree with. If I say something to him and one of my children comments on it or asks a question bc they are interested in the topic, he immediately interrupts them and tells them this conversation is none of their business and that it is a private conversation between 2 adults. I am at the FAMILY dinner table -the whole point is that we are sharing time as a family - conversations included and if I say anything at that table - even if I directed it to my husband, I am absolutely OK with my kids becoming a part of the conversation. I think it is rude to tell them they can't participate. AM I wrong? He tels me that 3 people at work all agree with him (we have had this fight before over him telling the kids they are not part of the conversation). Now if they interrupt or they are rude or get too personal about something I will certainly tell them that is not appropriate. But I should not be bringing up - nor should my husband - be bringing up anything he does not want them to comment on. If we need to talk in private then we should do so at a later time behind closed doors. He believes in the "children should speak when spoken to" - YUCK! I have taken enough college child psych classes and family relations to know that phrase is not healthy for kids. This is really becoming a sore subject for us and I don't know how to deal with it - he is very stubborn and has to be right most of the time. He did not have a good childhood. He lost his father at an early age and his stepfather was verbally and physically abusive. They were not treated with respect and were made to do many chores. I am assuming he got into trouble at the dinner table and was not allowed to talk when he wanted to. I am hoping I can get some other opinions on this subject - I hope I am not just being oversensitive. I just want to have nice dinners where we all feel comfortable and my children are not afraid to ask questions or participate in conversations.



GirlsMom's picture
GirlsMom

Hello! I am very sorry to hear that your family dinner time is not going all that well. I agree with you that things need to change and that your husband needs to fix his attitude and become a father of 2009...not one of 1949!

First off, I have a 4-year degree in Child Psychology and I have also been a Vice Principal for K-8th grade. I am qualified to give you sound advice. The dinner table is actually the BEST time for family interaction, comments, hearing about someone's day or working out troubles that a child or even a parent may be facing. Consider it family "face-time" that serves a dual purpose of not only eating, but spending quality time with one another. That includes Hearing EVERYONE at the table and allowing for free speech. Granted, the free speech should be within polite and tasteful parameters and those lines should be drawn in the sand by the parents. To me, family discussion is a lost ideal and when this important gathering time does not occur or is dysfunctional, so is the family! As long as your children are not blatantly interrupting on a rude level, they should not only be allowed to speak but also be allowed to voice an opinion. Their opinion. you don't have to agree, but you do have to validate a child's viewpoint and let it be heard. Your 2-year old can learn to become a good communicator by watching how you act during family conversations. Your teenage children desperately need to have you involve them in dinner talks because often this age group becomes secretive and isolated from their parents quite easily. This breeds trouble....might I add lower grades, misconduct in school, fighting, drug use, alcohol use, teen pregnancy, and the list goes on. These are the by-products that a parent will get when they do not have open communication with their teens. I have not only seen it, but I have been front and center in the educational system long enough to tell you that teens need their parents more than ever! Let these kids be heard! It is never okay to shut down on your kids. When you do this, you are telling them that they don't matter and that they have no importance in your life. It's a dangerous practice.

As for your husband, I'd love to actually speak to the three co-workers that support his philosophy of the dinner table discussion dilemma. Are they 85 years old? If not, then he needs to stop listening to this "advice" immediately because they are way off base. It's 2009, Dad and YOU need a wake up call! Losing your father and coming from an abusive past does sum up why your husband might be acting the way he does. He did not have a nurturing environment where he was allowed to speak and be heard. That is awful and unfortunately his has chosen to repeat what happened to him years ago on his own children today. Have him stop and think about that comment. Ask him how his past justifies carrying over that grief and hurt to his own children today? That's what he is doing and he may need to get some help. It is hard to break a cycle of behavior that we have as an adult especially when we did not have good role models to help form healthy behaviors when we needed it most as a child or teen. Still, he is an adult now and he has to be held accountable for his actions. If these means he needs to get help to better his parenting skills or learn to be a better communicator, then so be it. There is no shame in that.....only shame for the lack of trying. Children are tiny human beings. They have emotions, thoughts, and views on how the world is around them from the first breath that they take outside the womb. To treat them as if they do not or can not have these feelings is abuse in and of itself. Not everything has to be physical to be classified as a certain degree of abuse or neglect. As a former student in child psychology classes, you should know this by heart.

You have to take a stand here and I also suggest enlisting the help of your kids and other family members. Stage an intervention. gather the troops and have a quiet place to sit down with your husband and each of you get to have the floor and tell him how his behavior at dinner makes all of you feel. If you don't think you can say it, write it down and hand him the notes. Insist that he listen or read them. Talk about changes that need to happen and why. Discuss a process to help him get over his thoughts of the past and make a fresh start. This is not an ambush, it is an opportunity to help your husband see things clearer and to get some feedback from all people involved in his wrath. If he refuses to go through this little intervention and will not allow the kids or you to be heard in a neutral setting, then you have some bigger problems than you thought. Those problems will need to be addressed.

I hope I have given you some food for thought and a leg to stand on as far as having someone in your corner. I am qualified to speak on the issue you posted and by all means...let your husband read this and let him know if you think it might help. I wish all of you the best of luck in changing your family dinners from one-way conversations and silent kids to happy discussions about life and really hearing how things are going in your teenage kids lives. They need this from BOTH of you. Please think about what I've said here and make the changes immediately. At 14 and 16, you are losing ground with your teens at a rapid pace. For your 2-year old, his future will be even more bleak if things don't change and improve. Let me know if I helped or if you want to ask about anything else. Go get 'em....you can do this!

sandstorm's picture
sandstorm

Maybe you should suggest to go to Family Counseling? How long has your husband engaged in this sort of behavior?