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4 yo/Wits End

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4 yo/Wits End

I will try to keep this short, but I apologize in advance if it’s long! My husband and I have a 4 year old daughter who is our only child. We come from vastly different backgrounds. I grew up in a very strict home where I was expected to behave and given responsibility and expectations. I was in soccer and dance from the age of three and was expected to get good grades (it didn’t have to be straight A’s but I did have to pass my classes). I had chores around the house and was given an allowance. My parents regulated my screen time and I was encouraged to read and play outside. I took dance until I was 18 years old. I went to college and got my Bachelors and Masters degrees. I have a good career and stay at my jobs for a long time before moving on.

My husband was raised very differently. His parents never put him in any extracurricular activities. They never went to his school functions if he was in a school play or performance. They didn’t care what kind of grades he got and were not involved in his schooling in any way. They did not enforce any kind of discipline or behavior expectations at home and he was pretty much allowed to do whatever he wanted. He stayed home and played video and computer games pretty much his whole life. He hated school and cut class frequently in high school. His parents knew he was doing it and didn’t care. He started college (which is where we met) but had no aspirations or goals. He changed his major frequently and eventually dropped out. He has trouble keeping a job and changes his career goals every few months. He frequently complains that he wished his parents would have motivated him more or encouraged him to do more with his life.

Fast forward to our daughter. Before we got pregnant I made it clear to my spouse how I would like us to raise our child. I knew my husband’s background and stressed to him that I wanted our child to have boundaries and to be involved in at least one activity. I told him school was important and I wanted our child to have learning opportunities and to be encouraged to read. He agreed 100% and assured me that is how we would do it.

We had our daughter and from the first night in the hospital she refused to sleep alone. She would scream at the top of her lungs if she was laid down in the bassinette. The nurses in the hospital were shocked that she would not let anyone lay her down even for a few seconds. My family and friends were shocked and told me they have never seen anything like it. She had to be held all the time or she would scream at the top of her lungs. I did not believe in co-sleeping at all and feel children need to be in their own beds. His family is highly supportive of co-sleeping and his mom and sister told him our daughter needed to be in our bed because she got so upset when she was laid down. I put a chair in her nursery and would try rocking her until she fell asleep but he would come in and get so upset with me because I wouldn’t just bring her into bed with us. For the first six months I was staying up until 3-4 am trying to get her to fall asleep in her bassinete and the only way she would sleep is if someone was holding her. This literally caused screaming matches between my husband and me, and I was also dealing with post partum depression. I finally just caved in out of exhaustion and my husband was happy because we were finally getting sleep. He also got lots of support from his family who felt that co-sleeping was best. As a reference, his sister’s children co-slept with her until they were in middle school.

Over the next two years. I tried to sleep train our daughter alone with no support from my husband. I tried every method I could think of and none of them worked. She would scream and cry as soon as i put her in her baby bed. When my husband heard her so upset he would immediately come get her and bring her back to our bed, regardless if i was in the room with her. She slept in our bed every night and for all naps. I never had a night alone with my husband. I told him this bothered me and that I missed him and just spending time with him. He told me we were doing the right thing and were creating a deep bond with our daughter. At one of her doctors appointments I brought it up with her pediatrician that she refused to sleep alone and was cosleeping right in front of my husband. Our pediatrician agreed with me and said to stop the cosleeping immediately and that it was not good. He gave us lots of good advice to stop it. When we got in the car I told my husband that the pediatrician agreed and it was time to get her in her own bed. My husband shrugged it off and didn’t agree.

As she got older he had no discipline with her. He pretty much let her get away with everything. She was allowed to have major temper tantrums and outbursts. If I tried to punish her I was the only one doing it, so it made me look like the bad guy. He also got her a tablet when she was a year old without telling me about it. When I saw it he told me he was only going to let her use it to play educational games and nothing else. But then I would come home and she was watching YouTube beside him as he played video games. We would have major fights about it and the tablet would be put away for a few months only to reappear later on when I wasn’t around. Our daughter got bigger and was a sprawler so I was not getting any sleep. So I started sleeping in my daughters room while they took the large king bed in our room. This is still going on today.

I started exposing her to different activities when she turned three. I would pick something out and we would take her to the first practice and she would cry and scream as soon as we walked away. She refused to participate in anything and would come running over to us so we would have to leave. It was so frustrating because she was the only child doing this. No matter the activity, she was always the only child acting this way. All the other kids were happily participating and playing with each other. Our daughter was screaming and wailing for us to come pick her up. I told my husband we had a problem but he would brush me off and say she just wasn’t ready. I tried putting her in dance class and she actually liked it and would do it. It was the only thing I had found that she liked and would do. She had a great year and did wonderful at the recital.

She started preschool this year and we re-enrolled her in dance class. She did fine the first few months. One day my husband took her to dance class and she started crying in class. He immediately went inside and got her and brought her home. This started a chain reaction of events. She started screaming and crying any time she had to go to preschool. I always dropped her off because my husband has to start work at 6am so I was having to deal with the tantrums. She would scream and wail the whole way to preschool. When I walked her inside she would start kicking and screaming no, and would refuse to let go of my shirt. This was a child who just a few months earlier had no problems going to preschool. Her behavior got worse and worse and the school couldn’t handle it anymore so we were forced to withdraw her. I was very upset about this but he didn’t care. He told me it was normal and not a problem. We both work from home so he set up a couch for her in his office and lets her stay in his office and play on her tablet all day while he works. Unfortunately my job requires me to be on the phone all day so she can’t stay in the room with me. So she now sits in his office all day watching her tablet.

Last month she started doing the same behavior at drop off for dance class. She would scream and cry and refuse to go. If we were able to get her inside, she would cry and refuse to participate in class. So, her dance class eventually did the same thing and we were asked to leave. This was very upsetting for me. My husband again blew it off and said it wasn’t a big deal. We had a big fight about it and he told me I needed to just let her be a kid and let it go. I am not a crazy activities mom who enrolls her child in 8 different activities a week. She was in one dance class that met for 45 minutes once a week. I tried explaining to him that she needs these outlets for socialization (she is an only child with no cousins her own age) and for exercise and creativity. He wouldn’t hear me and told me he saw no problems if she didn’t want to do anything. So our daughter now sits in his office five days a week playing on her tablet and watching movies. On the weekends when she is with me she plays with her toys because I don’t allow tablet time, which makes her resent me because I’m not the fun parent.

A few weeks ago my parents came to stay with us for the week. They were looking forward to spending time with our daughter. She refused to be anywhere around them alone. If they tried to play with her in the living room while we worked, she would again scream and wail until my husband went in there and got her and let her go back to his office. We had a major fight that day because I could see my parents were hurt by her behavior, but he won as usual and she remained in his office playing away on her tablet. I have a couple of friends with daughters around her age and we have done play dates their whole lives. The past few times we have done play dates, we always have to leave early because she has started screaming and crying that she wants to go home. She will be rude to her friends or refuse to play. If I correct her or ignore the behavior then she starts screaming and throwing a tantrum and demanding to go home. My friends daughters no longer want to play with her or spend time with her. I have told my husband about how she acts but he shrugs it off and says he wouldn’t want to play with them either ( he doesn’t like my friends daughters and says they are brats. The irony...).

As she is getting older, her behavior is getting worse. She smarts off to me all the time and never listens to me any time I ask her to do something. He lets her do pretty much whatever she wants and doesn’t care if she acts up, in fact he thinks it’s funny and will laugh about it. She leaves messes all over the house that I am constantly having to clean up. If he sees that I am really getting upset then he tries to bribe her for good behavior. He will tell her if she is a good girl that day he will take her out for ice cream that night or he will take her to the store to get a toy. It doesn’t matter how she acts he still ends up taking her out for ice cream or a toy. His solution for discipline is to bribe her for everything. I try to do time outs and take away toys and her tablet which he doesn’t back me up on and just makes me look like the bad guy to our daughter. I tried setting up a behavior chart where she earned stickers for good behavior and I would then give her an allowance at the end of the week depending on how many stickers she got. He would not enforce this and told me she was too young to understand. If I try to talk to him about anything (my day, a good book I’m reading) our daughter instantly interrupts me and will talk over me to her dad. If I try to correct her for interrupting me, he plays it off and tells me she was just excited to tell him something, or needed something. I can’t even have an adult conversation with my husband.

I broke down a couple of weeks ago and tried finding a family counselor. No one has any openings or they don’t take my insurance so each appointment will be like $200. I called several play therapy counselors for my daughter and they told me that because of Covid they have seen more people wanting counseling so they are booked solid. We are on several wait lists but I cannot get an appointment anywhere. My husband thinks this is silly and is just going along with it because I am so upset about things right now. He is not helping me look for a counselor or making calls to find an appointment.

I am so worried about her continuing this behavior when she starts kindergarten. We had previously agreed that we didn’t want her going to public school and preferred a charter or private school. She was accepted to one of the best charter schools in our area for kindergarten, but with the way she has been behaving I don’t know if they are going to let her go there. She has already started telling us that she doesn’t want to go to kindergarten, and my husband has been discussing home school. I am unbelievably frustrated right now. I can just picture our daughter 20 years old and still hanging out in that office watching tv and playing video games. I’m tired of sleeping alone and miss my husband. I hate our life right now and refused to have another child with my husband. We had originally talked about having 2-3 kids, but after all this I am one and done. I constantly think about leaving our home and marriage. I have no clue how to handle this or what to do. I’m absolutely miserable and my husband doesn’t care. You would expect to have problems like this with a teenager who doesn’t want to go to school and wants to stay home all the time, but a 4 year old acting this way? He doesn’t think there is a problem and says her behavior is normal. His family thinks it’s all normal and encourages it. I’m at my wits end.
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Re: 4 yo/Wits End

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Hi @Exhaustedmom17 , 


That sounds like such a tough situation for you to be navigating- I'm hearing that you and your husband have really different approaches to parenting as well as different family backgrounds, and it sounds really difficult when you have different ideas about what's appropriate in terms of discipline, sleeping arrangements and also quite different parenting styles. It also sounds like it's been pretty difficult for you and your husband to discuss these issues, which I imagine would be very frustrating for you. 


Unfortunately our service is aimed at parents of young people aged 12-18 and we are based in Australia, so I don't have a lot of knowledge about support services available where you are. It's great to hear that you're on some waiting lists to get some professional support, I'm sorry that things are so hard to access at the moment. It sounds like you're doing all of the right things in terms of looking for a professional to help you work through these issues - here's a few other resources that may also be helpful for you/ helpful for you to share with your husband


The Raising Children's Network has some great, evidence based content on parenting young kids, and i thought these resources may be helpful:


Preschoolers: Behaviour Management Tips and Tools


Preschoolers and healthy screen time


Preschoolers: Family relationships


This program may also be helpful - it's a positive parenting skills program that is run across the USA by the American Psychological Association


Wishing you and your family all the best-  it sounds like you are a switched on and loving mom who wants the best for her child and family, and I hope that things start to improve for you all soon.