How to help DH bond with toddlers(29 Posts)
DH has never been very child orientated and as our twins get older (now 2.5yrs) he is finding it harder and harder to be with them. Now they have their own opinions and are talking and kicking up tantrums and can be very demanding at times he finds them very hard work. So do I, and I must admit that some days I really wonder 'what have we done!' But this is also balanced by the times when they make me laugh and I see the funny side of things and they give me a cuddle to make everything better. DH however wouldn't seek to spend time with them. He has a really stressful job and works very long hours and sometimes weekends. His idea of a break is not to be with toddlers.
He says he is a useless parent but I don't know how bothered he is about not bonding much with them. The children love to be with him but they have absolutely no boundaries when they are with him and it can end up in a screaming match as all they want to do is grab his attention, jump on him, and then their games get very out of hand (throwing toys, twins beating each other up etc).
How can I help him?
How did he help you to be a parent? If he didnt then how did he think you managed? You probably just got on with it right?
I'm afraid that he took the decision to be a father, he needs to get his head out of his arse and actually start being a father. How about you go away for a few days and leave him to it?
Does he discipline them when they get too much?
I have a picture of them clambering all over him screaming and him just sitting there doing nothing except getting fed up. I'd get fed up with my toddler too if he didn't have any rules about running riot and screaming.
I think he needs to stop being a passenger and start asking himself what he wants from his kids. Is the problem that they are ill disciplined? Then he needs to discipline them. Are they too noisy? He needs to ask them to be quieter. Are they running around undirected? Then he needs to engage them in some games with clear goals and rules.
He's coming at it all wrong. Only by getting down and dirty with them will he start to have any sort of idea how they tick. Once he knows that then he can start to manage their behaviour.
You don't actually sound that convinced that he wants to get on better with them. Does he?
I think that just make sure he doesn't disengage totally. Because when they are school children, he will probably be able to engage with them better. Tbh I don't like toddlers, I was ok when mine were toddlers but I find them very hard work and unreasonable (obviously!). My dh struggled a lot when mine were toddlers, he finds them much easier now they are junior school aged and he can talk to them properly and reasonably and he can share interests with them. Like table tennis, rather than playdoh iyswim.
Why are you posting the question, not him?
What does he think he can do about it? What's his plan?
Has he looked into any parenting courses?
Talked to any other dads about it?
Thank you. He is a real introvert so things like courses and talking to other people would have him running for the hills. I am the proactive one in all this. I better explain, DH never really wanted kids but I did after a few years being married. I fell pg but had a mc. This started a long road of infertility and several other mc. He ended up getting caught in my ever increasing obsession for a family as it was the one thing in life I could not have. He would do anything to make me happy so he supported me throughout but I guess he was too scared and we are too uncommunicative in our losses and failures to have a frank conversation about everything. He always thought fatherhood would hit him like a thunderbolt and he has been expecting it to be all wonderful and lovely like other dads say in the media. However, baby twins are hard work and we had reflux issues which didn't help. He just finds it all such hard work. To tell you the truth I don't know if he wants to make things better. He has hinted that he needs to survive until they get to school and then he will be able to engage with them more but I am worried that it will be too little too late.
Please be gentle with me, I am in a fragile state about this and my 18yrs relationship altogether so go easy. I just want some practical tips on how to help.
I suggest buying him Toddler Taming and getting him to read it. This might help him understand:
1) 2.5 year olds are hard work. They just are. The dads in the media are lying, or have wall to wall nannies.
2) Nonetheless, there are things you can do to make it better rather than worse (ie good parenting rather than bad or passive parenting)
3) If he doesn't do those things now, chances are the children will still be hard work when they are school age.
Basically make him understand that if he wants to have decent school age kids he needs to put in the work now. This age is when the boundaries get laid down. However the DC will not accept boundaries being laid down by someone who barely engages with them, so he can't just be law enforcer, he needs to be fun daddy as well.
I don't think you can make him enjoy this stage tbh (I struggled to enjoy age 2.5) but you may be able to make him understand that engaging now is going to be so much better in the long run. Also he may feel better if he knows thst everyone finds this stage hard, it doesn't mean he's a bad father.
Agreed, well behaved and pleasant school age kids are not delivered overnight to an uninvolved and passive parent.
We have twins (2.10 now) and both of us have quite stressful jobs so I do understand.
We have older ones too though, twins as your first is tough.
There is only one thing which will help here but it will be hard for you.
You need to back off and leave your dh and the children alone together. He'll never feel like a proper parent to them if you hover about all the time.
Can you go away for a weekend and then set up a regular time every week where he's in charge and you are completely out of the picture?
The children will be badly dressed and covered in ketchup, the house will be a tip but they'll be much more relaxed with each other.
My DH was the same, but when DS turned three, things started to get a lot easier and DH started to get much more involved. Now DS is nearly five they go off for the day and have a lovely time. DS is still a handful and DH is hopeless at keeping any semblance of discipline, but they have fun together. DH told me from the beginning that he was hopeless with babies and toddlers but was much better with children once they started to become proper little people to chat with and to take out on adventures. Maybe your DH is the same. I don't think blame should be aimed at him for struggling to bond and not knowing instinctively how to parent. It's very hard. Not everyone finds baby and toddler stage easy. When you feel you've failed at something, it can make you shrink further into your shell and avoid the situation. I would discuss it more with him and try to build his confidence. We had some support from our local team and they helped us with some good advice and a bit of confidence boosting. Hope your DH finds his way through this, I'm sure he will over time..
And totally agree wth arseface, nothing will build his confidence or improve his bond with them quicker...
He's not a good parent though is he? He hasn't built an attachment relationship with his children and he hasn't made the investment necessary to pay the dividend of a strong and loving relationship with your children. He needs to pull his finger out and build the bond.
The advice part was lacking. I suppose he needs to understand that parenthood isn't about having working weeks and relaxing weekends and that he needs to put some effort in.
When I leave them on their own he is utterly miserable and makes things worse. His confidence plummets even more. The children really play in this and it becomes Lord of the Flirs territory. Our twins are very boisterous and really wind each other up too which doesn't help. Sometimes you just spend your time as referee. He is exhausted after a 70hr week (exc working weekends) and just doesn't have the head space to handle children. I have never seen him engage with older children either. I have a terrible feeling that as a couple and a family our time might be limited. I'm heart broken.
He has been working (at home) every weekend since Christmas and been away half the week as well since then. I don't know when he can carve out the time to do something about his relationship with us. We want for nothing because he works so hard and is a great provider and very respected in his profession. At the same time he is not going to have us if he doesn't want to change and is proactive about it. I'm the one that is proactive about everything, he leaves me too it and I guess he has become so good at what he does because has doesn't have to worry about anything else. Until now.
Get him to take them swimming - separately not together. It can be fun and relaxing. I had this with DH and DS - used work to hide from how he never bonded with DS as a baby. Just start with little things - maybe baking too. Worked for us.
Yes, how about one on one with each child?
I was also going to suggest you take one out and leave him with the other.
Are you sure he isn't staying at work to avoid them. TBH that would be my working assumption.
I have no idea how you haven't lost all respect for him. Does being an introvert give you a free pass to only do the bits of parenting that you like (ie looking fondly at them whilst they sleep !)
Can I ask does he blame you for them being Lord of the Flies (you are doing all the graft so if they have turned out not-to-his-satisfaction then you must be a shit Mother too)?
Does he have unrealistic expectations of their behaviour. When our twins were that age it was
often sometimes chaotic but you have to be able to plough through it. It does get better, not because they get better but because we as parents have put in the groundwork to have a good relationship with them.
If, God forbid, anything happened to you, what would he do? Really, what would he do?
I agree with the one on one time.
Swimming is an excellent idea. You can all go together and have one twin each.
Also get outdoors - park, woods, nt place. Get your dh to commit one morning or afternoon a week to have family time out.
Pop out with one of the twins and leave him with one at home and vice versa from time to time.
Pop out on your own too. Your dh just needs to get used to them.
Does he ever bath them or read to them?
The only way he's going to bond with them is if he spends time with them. Yes, they are at an age where they're boisterous and hard work but they can be fun and a pleasure too.
I struggle as a parent too and must admit that sometimes I don't enjoy being with my kids. Unless you are feeling 100% well physically, emotionally and mentally it can be a struggle. But I have a meeting with our HV this week to discuss parenting and have ordered myself a book on parenting too. See? I'm Mrs proactive, if there is a problem I try to fix it. I suffer from stress and anxiety and have been on the verge of depression several times. DH is a complete workaholic and feels that the only thing he is good at is his work hence why he throws himself at it. When I'm struggling with the kids and look to him for help he sometimes just looks as clueless as me when it comes to parenting. Most weekends I feel like a single parent with the benefit of having another adult around to help and with two incomes. I tend to do 100% of the parenting.
Not only is his work very demanding but our dog (the love of his life) has had long term cancer and unlikely to see the end of this year. He lost his beloved gran last year and his mum has sold her flat which everyone has very happy memories of which has hit him hard and his mum's memory is deteriorating to a point where we believe she has early onset dementia. On top, the one thing that helped him wind down and take a break from work were long haul holidays to interesting places which stopped when I fell pregnant. He said at Christmas he has nothing to look forward to. I think he has a touch of depression and I want to help build everything up for him again and give him something to look forward to but he must want it.
Thanks for the suggestions about taking one each. We have tried it before with various success/failures as our twins are very clingy to me and very close to each other.
If I wasn't around he would have a live in nanny. I work part time and our nanny sometimes does extra hours just to help him if I'm out.
Today a big deadline will be out of the way so I'll see how I can bring up the subject about 'resetting' our lives again.
Oh, I feel for you, it's sounds tough. Fwiw my dh struggles with our two young children (2+5) He loves them and does spend lots of time with them, but like your dh he'd rather just relax at the w/e. Two young children of course are anything but relaxing. And two the same age must be even worse!
He has been open with me and said it doesn't come naturally to him, and I can see it doesn't. It's getting better but I think he too struggles with boundaries. Eg DS was climbing all over him at the weekend which was fine until dh suddenly got cross with him that his back was hurting. Well, he needed to stop the game much earlier, (or better still not allow it in the first place) but he couldn't really see that.
Do you do much as a family at the weekend? If your dh finds it hard being left in charge on his own, could you do something where you are both present, but both actively involved (so that childcare doesn't automatically become your job again?) Probably better to go out, as at home you'll just end up doing it all. So a day out somewhere - museum, farm park? Or take them swimming and look after one child each? But you're still there together, so your dh doesn't have to worry about sole responsibility?
Oh can see I cross posted about swimming and getting out at the weekend! Great minds and all that
I really wish our families where near and more involved but they all live either abroad or a minimum of 3-4hrs away. It would not dissolve him of responsibility but if he had someone close he could have the kids with he would enjoy it. If I'm around I still do the lion share of everything and make all decisions and choices which is exhausting. We have had good days out and the children thrive in them. Now this big deadline is over maybe we can plans some nice days out together that won't end in everyone having meltdowns!
I would say start with family outings - swimming or the park. Start having fun as a foursome and he might start to see them as the little people they are
Are there any weekend activities they could do - like football. All dh would have to do is sit and watch but it would still be something they do together. Or does dh have a hobby that has been sidelined due to work that he could do with the kids
Agree that one at a time might be better - dh had more trouble bonding with our youngest and we overcame with the above. Key was to ensure daddy was taking the child to an exciting activity (built up by me it just a different playground and usually involving ice cream) and the remaining child was staying at home with me doing boring stuff (although older child was quite pleased to get me to himself!)
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