How to help modify toxic behavior in 3 yr olds?
March 27, 2010 3:06 PM Subscribe
How to help my friend's marraige and mental health survive their 3 year old dictators?
posted by Wilder to human relations (58 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
After years of IVF, fraternal twin girls are born to overjoyed parents. They turned 3 last week and came for a visit to us, the god parents. Due to distance I hadn't seen them for 1 1/2 years and I was horrified. Apologies in advance as this may be a little long. The problem is the parents and perhaps how desperately they wanted these babies.
They have no boundaries.
They have never gone out and left them with a sitter or even family (and their families are very distant and don't want to help).
They drop everything when they scream, cry, demand, interrupt. They "negotiate" and gennerally lose, as in "Sweetie, lets' put on your clothes and go out" (X 20minutes) "No!", end up taking both of them to physically hold down screaming kid. One twin in particular is far worse than the other and constantly gets Daddy's attention. If he doesn't give it instantly she screams.
Daddy is the main problem. Mum is a paeds nurse and has tried to implement boundaries but Daddy comes home at night delighted that his girls want him, clearly prefer him as he gives in to all demands and it is an ego trip for him. This means the girls sitting on his lap during his dinner, and being soothed to sleep by him almost every night. They cannot self-soothe. They will only feed themselves when he is not there. If his wife in trying to establish boundaries allows the girls to throw a tantrum and scream he accuses her of being cold. She is at her wits end, their relationship is really on the skids. If she suggest readings about a different parenting style, he accuses her of being jealous (!!)
He is a highly intelligent physicist, quite Aspie, and incredibly self absorbed. He respects my husband and me. Because of this relationship I managed to explain how bad this was for the girls' development in very strong terms. I explained that spending 30 hours poring over car safety docs to ensure he has the safest car for his little darlings is pretty meaningless if the emotional development of these children is so incredibly neglected. At this stage they will not be able to go to School!
He appears to have taken this on board and I have offered to come stay for a weekend in 3 weeks to help kick start a programme which might help. In the meantime he has offered to read articles about why boundaries are so important and hints and tips about implementing change before the problem gets any worse. In the run-up to my visit they have agreed to find a sitter.
One other serious issue I believe is that one girl is significantly better behaved than the other. But the other gets all of his attention because "she's sensitive and highly strung" So when the better behaved one misbehaves a little he shouts at her, whereas the other can get away with a two hour tantrum. He is basically reinforcing the bad behaviour constantly and being unfair to boot!
So mefites, other than being a parent, I have no idea where to start to help this family. Please point me in the direction of useful strategies for change as well as the problems that this type of parenting can cause in the future. I have to overcome the ego trip he is on where he is the adored and favorite parent by appealling to his genuine love and concern for his children.
Sorry for the long Q, I'd be happy to answer any other questions you might have. Thanks!