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Wife taking it out on me at every DD's tantrum - suggestions?

(134 Posts)
ExhaustedFather Sat 21-Apr-18 08:04:01

Dear mummies and daddies of mumsnet, I could use some advice on a situation at home that's getting a bit out of hand. Of course I mean some constructive advice: just saying "poor you", or "it's all your fault" or "you need to understand her" without elaborating doesn't help much.

When our 3-year old girl throws up tantrums, mummy is usually the only one who can calm her; we range from situations where she doesn't explicitly ask for mummy, but only mummy can calm her (eg refusing to go to bed because she wants whatever dessert she saw on TV), to cases where she goes totally ballistic because she has decided she wants to be near mummy and finds it unacceptable that mummy might be having a shower without her.

I have tried all I could think of: distracting our daughter with songs books toys, offering some milk or a babyccino, hugging her to comfort her, talking about inviting her best friend or her cousins over, etc. The only thing that works is pulling out a mobile and showing something on youtube, but I don't do that anymore as she seems addicted to it, and her reaction when I try to switch it off is even worse (withdrawal syndrome, almost).

The typical cycle is: kid throwing up a tantrum with parents, followed by wifey taking it out with hubby (me) and using me as kind of emotional punching bag.

Wifey's typical comments are along the lines of: what do I even need a husband for, I'm practically a single mum, why do I even have you in the house, all you do is bring a salary home, etc.

I always point out that it would be in my interest to be able to calm our daughter, because if I did I wouldn't get the double earache of daughter crying in my ears + wifey taking it out on me, and my life would be oh so much better. When I try to say this, and ask her: ok, what do you want me to do? Calm her by myself? I'd love to, but how? Reason with her? If you have found a way to reason with a toddler, you're in for a Nobel prize! Yes, it's unfair, yes, it sucks, no, I probably can't imagine what it must really mean for you... but, realistically, what can I do?

I work longer hours than my wife, typically arrive home 2 hours after her, so it's inevitable that our daughter spends more time with her than with me. Maybe if I were a stay at home dad things would be different, but neither that nor getting a 9-5 job closer to home are realistic options for now.

Thoughts? Thanks!

annandale Sat 21-Apr-18 08:14:28

Sympathies! Three is a really tough age. Two year olds you can get away with stuff, by three they're wise to it.

Remember that you are both suffering through it, it will get better. Four is often fabulous smile

In general, the principle is to praise the good and ignore the bad. So at any moment your daughter is NOT having a tantrum, love bomb her with attention and doingredients things, at her pace. As soon as she is having a tantrum, don't smile, don't talk. In particular dont use lots of language as she wont have tge brainspace for it. Stay with her to concentrate on keeping her roughly safe, and she's still little enough to pick her up and move her if she is eg throwing herself at the bathroom door where your wife is showering. I used to say in a monotone 'oh I hope ds is feeling better soon, then we can do [mildly exciting thing like a card game]' repeatedly until he got a bit calmer.

annandale Sat 21-Apr-18 08:15:07

Doing things, not doingredients things

applesandpears56 Sat 21-Apr-18 08:22:17

You need to work on your marriage then your relationship with your child will follow
Your wife must be exhausted and frustrated you can’t settle your child
I would start by explaining how upset you are to your wife that you can’t settle her, how it makes you feel like you’ve failed and you feel rejected when she only wants mummy. Do NOT mention your wife losing it with you just the issue with you and your daughter
That should stop your wife getting cross at you. If she feel sorry for you and feels that you want to work on the issue too she won’t take it out on you. I bet at tad moment you act like a typical guy not admitting that it upsets you, saying things like we just need to be tougher on her etc admit defeat - confide in your wife and loose the bluff
THEN you can work on it together as a team. At the moment it’s breaking down as you aren’t on the same page.

ExhaustedFather Sat 21-Apr-18 08:46:30

I once said something like "please, don't be like this, or mummy will take it out on me". DD didn't understand, obviously, but mummy overheard it and went even more ballistic. Since then, I may think it, but I haven't said it any more.

A few times I proposed to my wife that she go for a walk or a ride or whatever while I stayed home trying to calm DD down. That didn't work, either, because "what do you mean, this is my home, too, etc". What I meant was trying to give her some peace while I tried to deal with the tantrum. Anyway, I don't say that any more, either.

Not too sure what a "typical man" does, but I have reiterated countless times how frustrating this must be for me, that she has no idea what it feels like to be rejected by your own child, etc.

It seems to me the main difference is I have sort of given up and come to terms with the fact that only my wife can calm her down. My wife cannot accept it and MUST vent her frustration somehow. However, it seems a mostly irrational thing to me, because when I try to reason with my wife and ask her: ok, I am out of ideas, any practical suggestions? She doesn't come up with any. And, again, this is not about me not doing the laundry - this is about me being unable to do something (claiming DD down) I'd be the first ti benefit from.

Maybe if she didn't see me as giving up hope of calming DD down it would be better? I genuinely wonder.

The one and only very partial solution I have come up with is to refuse to engage with my wife when she's so mad, telling her she's too upset to have a conversation, and that we should have one at a later time. I carefully avoid phrases like "when you calm down" as those may easily be counterproductive.

mikado1 Sat 21-Apr-18 08:52:31

I suppose from a v simple point of view I would say, you don't try to calm tantrums; they're a toddler's feelings, rational or not (I'm look in at you 2.5yo ds who was inconsolable about his pyjamas being in the wash last night!). Just name the feeling- you're sad because mummy's I the shower. I'm here to help when you're calm. And stand by. Let her have her cry, that's ok, when you're upset about something, you don't want to be shut up or distracted do you?

mikado1 Sat 21-Apr-18 08:58:47

Try your best to be confident, hard when your wife's speaking to you like that, but your dd will sense any uncertainty and desperation. Show her you're ok with her feelings and you know they'll pass and she'll come round to bring ok with mum in shower etc.

Smeddum Sat 21-Apr-18 09:00:55

From your posts I’ve caught that your wife doesn’t feel you’re doing as much as you think you’re doing, so could you do more?
(Not having a dig, it’s what you’ve said your wife says that makes me think this).
“It’s my home too” - do you take your DD out by yourself and give your wife some down time at home, alone? I struggle with this, because I don’t get any down time (DPs work hours and no family to watch the kids for us) and I’d give my eye teeth for an hour at home on my own some days!

“Feel like a single Mum” - if, when your DD won’t settle for you, do you ever just leave your wife to do it? Because that, although easiest in the short term, could feel very wearing. My advice on that would be that your DD will never learn to settle for you if you don’t persevere. You are her Dad, if what you are doing isn’t working, try watching what your wife does and doing that or trial and error until you find your own way. That’s how she learned to settle your child, it’s how we all do.

Basically it sounds like the issue is that you can’t cope when your DD is having a tantrum so you leave it to your wife. You’ve also shut off her route of getting rid of frustration by refusing to engage.

So maybe a few days out with your DD, just you and her, where you don’t have the safety net of your wife to calm your DD and also your wife gets a break.

Toddlers are hard work, and being the one carrying the mental load all the time is exhausting.

Smeddum Sat 21-Apr-18 09:02:08

Sorry, to add, asking her for practical suggestions is again putting the responsibility on to your wife. You’re another person who she is responsible for by doing that, and I could see how that would be infuriating.

I’m sorry if my post upsets you, it’s not an attack, it’s supposed to be advice based on my own experiences of XH.

AnnaMagnani Sat 21-Apr-18 09:02:09

Do both you and your wife have an approach that all tantrums must be dealt with by your DD being consoled and calmed?

Because this was madness and exhaustion lies. Your DD has cottonned on she gets vast amounts of mummy time from this, mummy is exhausted, you feel like a spare part, a wedge is coming up between you and your wife and all 3 of you are actually unhappy.

I'd suggest both of you need to rethink the approach to tantrums as just standing there, letting her know you are there for when she has calmed down will be a lot more effective that fuelling it with offers of toys, youtube and mummy. But both of you need to be working as a team.

WhiteCat1704 Sat 21-Apr-18 09:02:19

Hmm..My DH has been a bit useless in calming DS initially..I was exhausted and he also wanted me to tell him what to do..That was even worse.
Eventually we had a big argument and he started to take some responsibility. He baths DS now..it's his job and they both know it. While DS still prefers me to calm him down bond between him and DH is definitely growing.

You need to keep trying. You need to spend time with your DD. Initially I would suggest without your wife. Tell her you need to work on your bond with DD and you can't with her around as DD naturally wants her mum.
Your suggestion of wife going out while you bath and put DD to sleep is a good one.
You should also take DD on your own to softplays, shops, playgrounds...All of that will.make you more confident and your DD will get used to just being with you.
Your wife will be grateful for a break but be honest about your reasons.
You need to be able to take care of your DD without DW around. You need to work on your bond with DD. You don't want to upset DW and want to give her a break.

colditz Sat 21-Apr-18 09:02:32

You’re in an impossible position here. You’re daughter tantrums because of her feelings, your wife tantrums because your daughter feels better only with her and not with you, leaving her with the emotional burden of your daughters feelings. It’s all feelings and you can’t logic or discuss them away and it’s enraging when someone tries.

I would suggest taking your daughter out for the entire day once a week, just you and her, to bond. Do not ask your wife to organise food, clothes or your daughter for this as that will give the further impression that she has to think about everything, which I guarantee is what’s triggering your wife’s emotional outbursts.

Further to this, never ask her if she wants you to do a household task. Look for what needs doing and so it without seeking her input on the mattter.

Bananamanfan Sat 21-Apr-18 09:03:24

My 4yo is very like this with me, he is getting better, but regresses back to it at times of stress (i.e. going back to school after holidays, illness etc). My ds also does the banging on the bathroom door and crying when I am in the shower and it is so draining and mentally tortuous. Imagine your DD is an adult doing that to your wife, you would call the police. Obviously your wife is not going to hold it against your DD in the same way as adult as she is 3, but your wife has no outlet and no recourse in this situation that she is experiencing. I think you do need to be more sympathetic to your wife tbh.

What helped for me was calling my local Children's Centre to ask for some resources on separation anxiety. They actually sent out 2 nursery nurses to see us and I went to the centre to discuss without ds beforehand. It really helped DS to talk about it out loud and just to verbalise it. He was sort of holding us to ransom in a family secret before (it wasn't a secret, but I don't know how to describe it). Talking openly about what was happening with a 3rd party really seemed to lessen the appeal of it to ds.

We also had mixed family and professional childcare and the nursery nurses suggested a planner which shows (with pictures) who was looking after ds, when mummy would be home (i.e. picture of tea, followed by picture of mummy coming through the door).

Zaphodsotherhead Sat 21-Apr-18 09:04:09

Do you take DD out on your own often? Maybe to the park at the weekend to let 'mummy' have a rest/ cup of coffee in peace?
Maybe if you are the only adult present your DD will start to see that you can be relied on to look after her and her relationship with you may start to improve as a result. Plus your wife gets some downtime - she can't complain about that!

category12 Sat 21-Apr-18 09:06:22

Yes of course it would be better "if she didn't see me as giving up hope of calming DD down it". Of course your wife is pissed off with you, when you've decided to leave it up to her to deal with.

You could read up on strategies to deal with your dd's behaviour and make sure you engage with her when you're home. It's nicer weather, you can take her outside more and things like that. It's on you to build a relationship with your dd. Yes, she will favour her main carer, but instead of giving up, keep trying. Next thing you know you'll be flavour of the month.

Teatogo Sat 21-Apr-18 09:06:28

Your wife is mad because your abdication responsibility at every turn. There is no tantrum that only your wife can calm. Just by saying this you are abdicating responsibility for trying. Your DD knows you give up before she does so you will never succeed

Yy if you can't calm the tantrum to being there through it. You win the tantrum because you have got your way even if she has continued the tantrum. You are there for her.

You need some solid one on one time where there is NO chance of mum being able to intervene. A regular activity once a week and/or a few long day trips.

ExhaustedFather Sat 21-Apr-18 09:06:36

Let me look at this from a different angle : ignore my feelings for a moment, what is best for DD? Should we let her cry till she calms down because she must understand she cannot get anything she wants just by crying? Or should we let her in the shower room with mummy because it's more important to calm her down, and she's too little to understand anyway? If she were 7 I'd say let's not grant her every wish, but at 3 I wonder if she's just too young to understand. But kids are also excellent at manipulating adults, so I genuinely don't know...

Has anything similar ever happened to you?

tickingthebox22 Sat 21-Apr-18 09:06:44

I have to say my sister and her h got in a "trap" like this.

Child tantrums, has to be taken away to calm down.

What they were missing was the first bit - it was usually a situation where her sisters were around claiming her parents attention or my kids or other adults chatting. Child felt ignored/sidelined/just wanted attention. She tantrums, gets sole attention of parent for 1/2 hour "calming" her. Objective achieved - tantum = what she wants, therefore to get what she wanted she tantrummed.

This actually went on for quite a few years before they resolved it.

The solution (which I realised many years later when reading a parenting type article) was to ignore the tantrum. Put her somewhere safe and ignore it.

They inadvertently resolved it by putting her in her room and leaving her as she got older. I'm not sure they ever realised the 'real' cause.

category12 Sat 21-Apr-18 09:08:43

Christ, let your poor wife have a shower in peace! Take dd out to play. Ffs.

Gazelda Sat 21-Apr-18 09:21:11

I don't think that 'giving in' to the tantrum and rotting dd into the shower room would help anyone in the long term!

I echo their posters who suggest you spend some time alone with dd. Take her out for a morning or day each week, strengthen the relationship between you so that she trusts and feels as comfortable with you as she does her mum.

BettyBaggins Sat 21-Apr-18 09:21:26

Be firmer Daddio. Say No. Mean No. Be consistent. Stand up for your wifes right to privacy and a shower in peace. Gain respect from them both.

On you go.

Gazelda Sat 21-Apr-18 09:21:36

Letting, it rotting!

colditz Sat 21-Apr-18 09:23:49

Distract r ignore. Never never told. If you’ve been letting her have mummy when she starts screaming for mummy, you’ve trained her to scream as effectively as clicker training. Reassure. Cuddle. Distract. Take her away. Ignore and shut a door on her. But never ever ever fold.

TheMildManneredMilitant Sat 21-Apr-18 09:28:54

Some good advice upthread OP and not that much else to add, other than sympathy. I was in your position - both ds and dd only wanted daddy at that age when they were upset, even to the extent where if I went into dds room first thing to get her up she would cry for 15 mins (and I'm a nice mum, honestly!). DH used to get incredibly frustrated even though he knew it wasn't my fault and I was so upset at feeling rejected all the time. I think again it was about attention - the older one had a preference for dad so he then became something to fight over.

I would like to say we found some magic solution but the truth is that we muddled through and they just outgrew it. They are now as happy/loving (or cross) with me as him. But at the time they were definitely better whenever they knew there was only one adult around, so if I was home with them on my own or out and about. A regular day/morning to herself (at home if she wants it) would probably give her a break and help establish some dad/dd time.

Branleuse Sat 21-Apr-18 09:29:09

all of my kids have been like this at some point, which is one thing if occasionally they really NEED me, but if its every single time, then thats unsustainable. Have you ever taken her out for the entire day or for a weekend, where your wife wont be there and you dont have the option of just handing her over to make it stop.

There have also been many times when my kids would only be comforted by their dad, and even only comforted by their nana. Kids just do this. You DO have to do something if its all the time though. Be a comforting person they trust.

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