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I will try to make this short... Every time my son's dad shows his face, my son cries himself to sleep. His dad tries to console him but it never works. It always gets to the point of his dad feeling the need to spank our son to make him hush. It only makes it worse when he tries to use discipline when our son has done no wrong.

The dad blames me for feeling how I felt when I was pregnant with our child. I agreed with him on that. I just don't like how the dad is treating him because our son never wants his dad. Me and his dad argue every time he comes to visit.

I usually let his dad take him knowing he's scared and doesn't want to go. His dad doesn't see him often at all, so at any time he wants to see his son or take him for a day, I let him.

I hate his dad, but I will never keep my son away from his dad when his dad wants to see him. What, more or less, should I do to get my son to want his dad?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Please take all further comment-based discussion there! – Acire Jun 8 '15 at 10:58
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    I don't have a full answer for you, but I do have some experience as a step father from a now divorced 3 year marriage. The fact that you "hate his father" is adding to the issue you're having. Before you can both parent, you must attempt to treat one another as equals, whether you hate him or not. He spanks, because he was spanked. Agree on the type of discipline, and stick to it. Don't badmouth the father in front of the child, i.e you must have loved or liked the man at some point, or you wouldn't have a baby. In short agree to rules you can both live by. – eyoung100 Jun 8 '15 at 19:57
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    "I will never keep my son away from his dad when his dad wants to see him". Sure thing. But you must strictly keep the balance to see, if your child wants to see his dad. It is only, what your son wants, not what his dad wants, what really matters here. – trejder Jun 9 '15 at 9:14

10 Answers 10

53

You are in a tough situation. Having to share parenting with someone you hate is very difficult. And whenever anyone upsets your child, it's natural to want to prevent that. Let me make some suggestions for you.

  • first, no hitting - I am presuming that "pop our son top make him hush" means hitting. That has to stop. It doesn't work, it makes the crying louder and longer, and it's hurting their relationship. It has to stop. One way to enforce this is that if there is hitting, the visit is over. You can tell him this in advance and explain it is as much for his sake as the baby's.
  • second, don't let his dad take him. Spend time together the three of you somewhere pleasant like the park, the mall, out for a walk, whatever. Let the dad do all the work (carrying the baby, pushing the stroller, giving the bottle or food) but be there. You can teach him how to do things, like how the new coat does up, or remind him things he needs to do, like checking a diaper, but let him do the parenting. This way the visits won't start with the baby being scared and not wanting to go. The dad can work on developing a relationship in a more relaxed environment.
  • third, sometime when the baby is not around or is asleep you two need to talk. What's past is past. How you felt when you were pregnant or even that you don't like him now are not relevant. You want him in the baby's life and that is relevant. He needs to learn how to parent and how not to hit, and those are things you are willing to help with. It will be hard. You will have to spend time with someone you don't like. Parenting is hard. It keeps you up late and breaks your heart sometimes, but we do it anyway.

If the dad stops hitting the baby, stops taking him away crying, and learns how to meet the baby's needs, it's possible they will develop a good relationship and the baby won't be scared of him. It's also possible the dad will decide that seeing the baby is way too much trouble with your new rules. But if he does that will be his choice, and not your fault. Showing up to scare, hit, and yell at a little baby is not really being a parent anyway.

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    You (@user16655) should also keep records of when the dad hits the child. Write notes, every time. If you happen to be recording it (be aware of your local recording consent/wire tap laws), then save that recording. At some point, you may need to get the police involved to help limit future harm to you and your child, or you may need to actively defend yourselves. Having records that you start now will help to make your case in court. – atk Jun 7 '15 at 14:25
  • @TBohne Sadly, this happens more than you can possibly imagine... – Ismael Miguel Jun 8 '15 at 10:14
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I support the answer written by @Chrys except for two things:

  1. If you don't feel comfortable spending time together the three of you, that's okay, the basic idea Chrys suggested can still work -- but it would have to be someone else, that the child knows and trusts, who would be spending time with child and dad as a threesome.
    It could be a friend or relative of yours or the dad's, who will spend some time getting to know your child well enough for this to work. Or you could contact your county's Child Protective Services office to ask for a social worker to do formal supervised visits.
  2. I admire your willingness to set aside your own feelings about the dad, and not stand in the way of child and dad developing a relationship with each other. However, there is one thing that even more important than that. Your child must be protected from psychological damage. If you feel that, on balance, their relationship is doing your child more harm than good, then it's time for dad to take a break. The dad may be in a better place in a few weeks, a few months, or a few years, to develop a positive relationship with his son.

I would like to suggest that you try to find at least one positive male role model to be in your son's life -- if he doesn't have one yet. If you don't have a male friend or relative who could be kind of like a favorite uncle for your child, then I would suggest that you sign up for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and specify that you would like a Big Brother (not a Big Sister) for your child. See http://www.bbbs.org/site/c.9iILI3NGKhK6F/b.5962347/k.9063/Enroll_a_Little.htm

Basis for this answer -- personal experience: I was raised by a single mother. My mother made an effort to make opportunities for me to meet my father and spend some time with him, but she also tried hard to protect me from his hurtfulness -- he was a troubled person, who eventually committed suicide when I was 13. I appreciate what a fine line she had to walk, as you are doing -- trying to facilitate things so child and father can get to know each other, but also trying to protect the child from too much pain. That's not easy.

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    "who would be spending time with child and dad as a threesome" --> Nothing wrong with your answer, I just suggest that you pick another expression other than "threesome", due to it's sexualized context. Other than that, I agree that if he is really violent, and the O.P. wants to stay away, then someone who's stronger and that the O.P. trusts should go instead. Also, notice that the damage isn't just psychological but also physical. I think this also has some legal issues in that mix. But, I still agree with your answer in every aspect of it. – Ismael Miguel Jun 8 '15 at 17:42
  • I like that you offer additional solutions, even if the mom can't stand being around the ex. +1 to you. – Canadian Luke REINSTATE MONICA Jun 9 '15 at 18:00
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This is a tricky situation.

In general the child has a human right to a family life with both parents; and each parent has a right to a family life with the child. But the best interests of the child over-rule the parent's right to a family life with the infant. Hitting an infant because that infant is crying is abuse, and that's enough for you to refuse to allow anything but supervised access.

The other thing is that you say you hate the father and argue with him in front of the child. You should try to protect your child from this. It doesn't matter whose fault the arguments are - your child needs to be protected from them.

With these things in mind: have you considered supervised access at a children's contact centre? They can arrange drop off and collection so that you and the father never meet. He'll get access to the infant and he'll be supervised by child care experts.

You can move onto to less supervised contact (eg he could have the child in a public space) after the father has completed a parenting programme.

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A child's relationship with its daddy is important, but that only going to work if daddy steps up and acts decently. Hitting a 10 month old is not right. It's not going to teach the baby anything but fear.

You say the dad blames you for feeling how you felt when you were pregnant. This is not fair. Pregnant women have all sorts of hormonal issues. It's normal and expected for your behaviour to change while pregnant. Again it's up to the man to be strong enough to deal with the challenge.

You say you hate the father. This again is not cool. If you want your child's father to be involved, you need to build some kind of relationship with him.

You say the baby seems scared. Think how you would feel if you were small and powerless and a stranger kept showing up, fighting with your mum and hitting you. You would probably be scared too.

  1. Don't let anyone hit the baby.
  2. Don't fight with the dad when you see him. Make a real effort to be nice for the sake of your child.
  3. Try to build some sort of working relationship with the dad. I'm not talking about sex here. Try to get along and respect each other.
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    "If you want your child's father to be involved, you need to build some kind of relationship with him" — that doesn't necessarily require friendship, just basic civility. – Acire Jun 8 '15 at 11:22
  • Good point @Erica - I have edited for clarity. – superluminary Jun 8 '15 at 11:28
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Dad is a source of pain and unhappiness, and the infant has associated dad with this pain and unhappiness. You don't give us clues as to whether the only pain and unhappiness is just the spanking, or if there are activities the father has the infant participate in that the infant doesn't like. It could merely be that it's infrequent enough and the infant's needs aren't met with the father, so the baby complains, or it could be more serious and the father is a source of pain - whether spanking or worse.

Here's the key takeaway though:

You can't quickly change the infant.

The father has to change and build a different relationship with the child than the one he's built already. Whatever has happened in the past, and whatever is happening, is what has taught the infant that dad is something to complain about.

Either you, the baby, and dad can stick it out and teach the child over the next year or two that things aren't going to change, and eventually the child will learn that this is simply part of life and they'd better follow the rules (being quiet and pretending to enjoy their time with dad) or be punished.

Or you, the baby, and dad can change how dad is taking care of the baby, how the dad acts and reacts. Spanking a baby in order to quiet them is probably not as effective as some other methods dad could try. Perhaps he could take a parenting class that would give him the tools, skills, and knowledge on how to build a positive relationship with his infant.

It's going to take time and patience. You can't fix it for him. So unless you can convince him to take the time and to be patient, then chances are there's nothing you can do but watch from the sidelines as you have been if you intend to keep letting them have alone time together.

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Subjecting a child to emotional or physical abuse is absolutely not acceptable, it creates long lasting psychological issues which stay with them throughout their life. As stated by others in this thread, the safety of this child is first and foremost and trumps any other legal rights that either parent may have.

It would be prudent for both yourself and the father to attend a "positive parenting" programme, which will educate you both on what the need of a child are, both emotionally and physically. As a precaution, you should seek legal advice on enforcing supervised contact, until there is a noticeable change in the fathers behaviour.

And as others stated, you need to try and build a positive relationship with the father and present a united front. Children will pick up on negative vibes, and it has a dramatic impact on their personality in future. Arguing in front of the child, in any capacity, is not acceptable.

On a final note, you may find it useful to read up on baby/child psychology, it will give you a better understand on how your situation may impact the child and ways to compensate for it. The positive parenting classes will also help you with this.

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To me this sounds like the father has got some anger issues. I wish you the best of luck and recommend counselling or supervised visits rather than just letting them go. If he's getting upset and wanting to spank or hit the little one for being afraid of him...then there's probably a reason that the kid is afraid of him. Maybe something that's happened when you're not around. It sounds like he's got the fear of God put into him by his dad...it doesn't mean he's a horrible human necesssarily (but maybe) but it DOES mean he probably doesn't need to be spending unsupervised time alone with someone too small to defend himself or speak out about it. Put the child's safety first, no matter HOW uncomfortable it may be for you to do so. Stand up for him, because he has no one else to do it and he may end up paying the price if you decide it's just nicer to keep your mouth shut. Don't put his life at risk. I speak from experience and have seen some VERY bad situations go down because one parent didn't want to step on the other one's toes. Defend that baby.

2

I would call child support services, and let them know you suspect the father of your child is abusing him. Explain what you've seen (the spanking), as well as the baby's fear of spending time with the parent. Ask what next steps are. I would also consult a lawyer and see what you need to do to protect your infant. Courts can require all visits to be supervised (not by you) in the event of suspected abuse.

There is really nothing you can do or have done that would make your baby fear its father. It's about the relationship between baby and father, which you have no control over.

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    Not entirely sure jumping straight to "Call CPS" is the way to go here. I would at least discuss the physical discipline with the other parent first... If you have reason to suggest that this fear is directly sourced from likely abuse, I would expand on that some. – Joe Jun 8 '15 at 19:09
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Define "not often at all." If there's a month between visits, to an 11 month old, that's eternity. That could be stranger danger.

I disagree with the "feeling the need to spank our son to make him hush," mentality. Eleven-month olds have needs. They're not spoiled nor have the capability to cry/whine to get what they want. In other words, there's something the baby needs, whether that be just more time spent with you + dad (the baby needs to know this person is okay, but if you give off the vibe that the "stranger" is not okay, then the baby won't trust the dad either).

You really should have the three of you play for nearly an hour before you let him go w/ the father. Make sure the baby is fed and well rested too.

If you sense the baby is still terrified of the father after the visit, then I'd start to be concerned.

We've never had major issues leaving our (almost 2 yo) daughter with others, but we stick around for a good 30 minutes and let her warm up to the new person, plus get the new person to be more fun than us. She's happy to tell us goodbye.

I would guess your contentious relationship definitely doesn't help, nor does the "discipline (arguably abuse)." Who would want to go with someone Mommy hates and then gets spanked while protesting? I feel really awful for your child.

  • I think that perhaps the mother is aware of the problems with spanking a child this young and has expressed that she does not condone it. Otherwise, I think this answer is quite helpful. – anongoodnurse Jun 9 '15 at 18:52
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Key words: "every time he comes to visit." Kids are scared of people they don't see often. If dad is around more often, baby will stop being scared. You should probably try to be around Dad more often and show him some affection, because then baby will learn to be affectionate as well. But for goodness sakes don't discipline an 11 month old for being scared - that will only make it worse. Also, you should try to stop being anxious about it yourself, because the baby can read your anxiety better than you might expect.

I'm a former educator and father of 3. Don't doubt me here.

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