18 answers

Children's Behavior Better with Dad than Mom

I'm wondering if anyone else experiences this. My kids (twins, 6 1/2) act much better with their Dad than with me. We are divorced, and my son has a lot of temper tantrums when he's with me -- talks back, acts out, etc. His Dad says he never has these problems. I have been told by others that kids act out more with the person they feel safest with -- that that's when it's safe to fall apart. Does anyone else experience this?

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I am wondering if you are sticking to your rules and disciplining your kids accordingly (which at my house always seems to result in my kids saying "that's not fair" and throwing their little fits and talking back), but maybe your husband is letting things slide, so the kids are not talking back etc to him? Maybe his perception is that the kids are acting "fine" when in fact they're doing a whole lot of things that are not ok at your house. And then when they get back to your house, they've got bad habits that you have to break them of... resulting in you being the "bad cop" to your ex-husband's "good cop."

I don't know if that's the case, of course, but I know that I tend to discipline my kids for things that my husband doesn't clue into. If you think that might be the case for you, my only suggestion is to try and come up with a list of things that the kids are NOT allowed to do in your home, and get your ex to agree to that same list (possibly this may end up meaning some things get taken off the list - whatever, as long as both parties are using the same rules). I don't think it matters HOW the kids are disciplined, as long as both parents are taking action on the same issues. It seems to me that consistency between both homes would help.

Anyway, I don't know if this was helpful, but it's what sprang to mind for me when I read your post. Good luck and let us know how it all turns out!

1 mom found this helpful

I agree withthe posts you have so far, & am not split with my husband, but in our household I hear that on "daddy days" (when I go to work day or night times), he does not have nearly the behavioral issues that I do. I think a part of this is a function of what I'm clued into, & that he is with me more, so he feels safer to act out. Also, in our household, Dad puts up with very little guff, while I apparently put up with more. If this is the case for your household also, it could account for some of that...

I have found good resources in "love & logic parenting" books/tapes, they teach you how to set good clear boundaries with your kids, and naturla consequences for those behaviors & choices. The idea is, it teaches kids responsibility by allowing them to feel the natural consequences, and work out their own problems, while the relative "cost" is pretty low, so they can make good choices as they grow. They address the divorce issue specifically, as well. Some of their techniques seem counter-intuitive to me, but I think that may be conditioning from my own folks' protectiveness when I was a kid, coming thru me.

One suggestion they offer in love & logic parenting, is if your kid is acting out, they are free to do so, but they need to change their location so it isn't disturbing you & the others in the household, which means the kid can go be a jerk in his (or her) room. The main thing for you to do is to be as neutral & flat affect as possible, (not show anger--this can be hard!), & welcome him/her back to the main area of the house when he is feeling better. Encourage him to go away & work out his problem on his own...talk LESS, not more. Encourage him to think, & figure out what consequences naturally follow annoying or rude behavior, just like in the real world. If you are rude & annoying other places, people won't want to be around you. But the trick is, the more you tell the kid about the consequences & how they relate to the problem, the less the kid has to actually THINK about it & figure it out for him/herself. Check it out! Hope this helps. It has really helped me, even though I find myself explaining too much at times, still.

1 mom found this helpful

I can't answer your question, but I can tell you that I am also having the same problem. My son acts like he has been struck by lightening when his step-father tells him to do something. Let me tell him to do something; I have to scream, shout, etc..... I CAN'T STAND IT! It's not fair to me. It places alot of stress on me and I'm tired of it! Just like you, I would love to know how to get my son to react to me like he does his step-father.

Hi S..

I am also a divorced mom (3 1/2 years) and have two boys 7 and 11. They went through major anger over the whole divorce. Their dad was verbally abusive to me and them, and physically abusive to my oldest (one of the reasons we divorced.) However, they are angels at their dad's house. In our case it is out of fear. If they do one thing wrong they will be made to feel very bad by their dad. At home, the oldest one's anger was taken out on me. He knows I love him and will love him no matter what.

Now things are beginning to change. My oldest one is seeing who his dad is, and though he doesn't respect him, he behaves good around him, but gives his girlfriend heck. (He's on his 6th girlfriend in 3 years). At home he is becoming much more peaceful. Home offers stability.

Two things I had to do. First, I got him into counseling. It really helped him get control of his behavior. Second, the counselor gave me input on how to be consistent with discipline. He knows if he acts out for me there will be some serious consequences (his tech decks get taken away, or he doesn't get to visit with friends). He has to control his tongue or he's not allowed to use it (in his room alone until he can control it.) We have a star chart for good behavior, and so many stars equals a reward (ice cream, or a tech deck.)

Of course the other things that have helped my kids are that they are both growing older, we are very involved in our church and have very loving friends, and both boys are very involved in scouts which stresses respect and the older boy scouts are wonderful examples to the younger boys. I think the influence these things have had on them, plus their understanding that I'm not going to put up with unacceptable behavior has made a huge difference.

I talk honestly with my kids and explain to them that I know they are angry, but taking it out on other people is not going to help. One other thing that helps is lots and lots of exercise! When they are angry, they can go run laps or shoot some baskets. It really does help.

Good luck to you. I'm with you. It is so hard being a single mom, but I know it will get better. God bless you. If you want to talk more, feel free to email me.

I don't have personal experience with this, but my first thought is that your children may think, "if we are good for dad, he'll come back and live with us again". They may be shouldering the blame for the separation, that they weren't good enough and now they are trying to impress dad so he will come back home.

Hi, I have little experience with the custody battle. My oldest son is from a previous relationship, we were never married, thank God. Anyway, he wanted our son off and on frequently and I knew from the beginning that it would not be right/good for our son to have to go through that and not have a stable home. So I did not agree to that. We agreed that he would have our son every other weekend and every wed. he would then have the responsiblity to take him to school on Thursday and also on Mon. if he had him that Sun from his weekend. I know most kids come back on Sun., but he needed more responsibility with him, I shouldn't have to do it all myself. That worked out very well. Dad was the fun guy though and taking him to Toys R Us often. But from me, my son learned responsibility and how to be a good person and the morals and values of life. We got along well and at times needed to switch a weekend for family functions, he would then have him two weekends in a row to make up for that time that I had him, etc.

I think one week here and the next week there is too much on the kids. There is no "home" for them. Psychologically that has a bad impact on them. They do not know where they belong and where is home? I think you could try and make other arrangements if possible. Your ex may get upset, but remember you as a mother always has the upper hand and the courts almost always favor the mother unless they are not responsible or stable. Good luck and God bless.

I would not presume to tell you what's going on with your children, but I'll share what went on with my two children after my husband and I divorced. The children definitely acted out with one parent more than the other, but I believe it was stress about the split family that caused much of the acting out. Even years after the divorce, my daughter was angry with her father (still is; it's been 15 years) and would act up at his house. My son became a withdrawn recluse, which was his way of dealing with the stress of the divorce. Now, our divorce was as amicable as any I've ever heard of. I'm still good friends with my ex. But, divorce and shared custody is really hard on kids. You just have to make the best of it and parent your children consistently, setting clear expectations for behavior with clear consequences for unacceptable behavior and lots of praise and appreciation for behaving well.

Hi S..

I'm also a divorced mom of two girls (12 and 5) ... so I feel for what you're going through. It is certainly NOT easy!

I'm no "expert," but I can share with you what I've learned along the way. My comments (in no particular order) are: (1) When dad "leaves" the family home, kids are sometimes afraid (even if it's not justified) that dad will "leave" them too if he gets mad enough at them. (So they're basically more afraid to "piss him off!") Regardless of what's going on between you and your ex, you should both reassure your kids that no matter what happens both their parents love them very much and will always be there for them. (2) When kids are stressed out, sad, frustrated, etc. (fill in any emotion that's tough to deal with), they "act out." So, your son's acting out might be from any emotion he's trying to work through (eg. sad about the divorce, adjusting to change in the schedule, etc.) Try to give him time and be as understanding as you can while he "adjusts." (3) If your situation is anything like mine, mom is the one who does most of the disciplining, making sure the homework gets done, making sure the "routine" is followed, etc. Time with dad is more about having fun (thus the term "Disneyland Dad" that happens alot with divorced dads). Thus, they're not really that thrilled (at first anyway) about coming "home." I've found that my girls are extra crabby, irritable, mean, etc. after coming home from their dads because it was all about fun with him and now they have to come back to mean old, boring mom. (So unfair, but reality.) Someone once told me to make me feel better about this to think about when you go on vacation ... you have a lot of fun but you eventually want to come "home" ... I'd actually choose to have the place that feels like "home" rather than the "vacation" place if I have to choose between the two. (4) Not sure how good the terms are between you and your ex, but it's important that your ex "side with you" about your son's disrespect toward you even if he's not witnessing it. In other words, if you tell your ex that your son is acting out with you, your ex should let your son know (with you) that it's not ok to treat mom badly even if it doesn't happen at his (your ex's) house. (This type of "support" was not something my ex could give me .. even for the sake of his kids ... but hopefully your's can.) It's important (in an ideal world) for the kids to see their parents working together ... even if they're divorced. (I actually taped a Supernanny episode on this subject that was really helpful .... if you're interested.)

Hope this helps. Like I said ... it's not easy. Hang in there and always trust your instincts.


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