Getting My Kids to Listen to Me While Dad Is Away

Updated on May 01, 2007
J.E. asks from Camarillo, CA
11 answers

My husband left for deployment to Iraq about a month ago. I have an 11 year old daughter and a 9 year old son. We just found out we have to move, starting May 5. I work a full time job and a part time job a couple evenings a week. Since my hubby left, my children have decided that they don't have to listen to me and they don't want to help around the house. They leave dishes on the table, won't pick up after themselves, homework is a fight, they won't help pack or sort things out for trash or a yard sale (they refuse to part with anything and I have had to literally rip things out of their hands) and they won't go to bed at night. Plus, they have regressed into preschool behavior. My daughter wrote on the dashboard of her father's car in permanent marker, and my son threw wet wads of toilet paper onto the bathroom ceiling the other night for entertainment. They are not bad kids, and they have never been like this before. My husband handled most of the discipline before he left, because of my work schedule, and I admit he wasn't great at it, but now they are out of control, when I really need them to straighten up and help out. I am at my wit's end and totally stressed with everything going on. I need some advice quick!

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answers from San Luis Obispo on

Dear J.,

Well, for one thing, give up your night time job. You need to spend time with your kids, they are very angry children, and feel deeply hurt and abandoned by their Dad and by you. So, take a breath, and make a few jokes, things are getting heavy at your house. Have some fun with your children. Take them places just to be together and enjoy the day. They will give you a bad time, but you need to try to regain their trust and respect. Don't give up and don't yell.

One time a little girl in a class I was teaching, told me that she thought that I didn't like her because she was black. It surprised me so much that I got a tear in my eye and before I could say anything else, she saw the tear and said "never mind, I was wrong". Then she became a really close friend and got better grades and acted more relaxed in school. So there you go, love really helps. Lots of it.

Tell them how much you miss their Dad, and do things that Dad would do with them. I think that it is funny about the toilet paper on the ceiling, he probably saw some kids do that in the school bathroom. Stop making every thing a biiiiig deal, after all their lives have been split and hurt by their Dad having to be gone. Give them a break, and yourself too.

If you can get on their side, you will be the winner too, and so will they.
Good Luck, C. N.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Hi J.,
I know EXACTLY what your going through. My husbands in the army and the last 3 years he has been home maybe 6 months. First he was deployed for 15 months. luckily that time he was only up north at camp Irwin and then he was in Texas training the troops to go to Iraq. Then he was home for 3 maybe 4 months and got orders for Iraq.
so right now my husbands also in Iraq. He has been there for almost 18 months.He is due back in July.
My two youngest children are 13 and 7 and they suddenly became the worst behaved kids I ever saw.At first I tried to just ignore it, I told myself they are just upset over dad leaving again... but soon it became apparent that they were not going to return to the sweet loving children they use to be unless I put my foot down. so I sat them down and told them ok... I understand your dads gone and Yes we will miss him very much. I also told them that I know that it really sucks he had to go away again so soon. but that doesn't mean we can just act like wild out of control brats .I reminded them that their dad loved them and that he missed them very much too. I told them that he will call us whenever he can and he will email us. I told them we would send their dad homemade cookies and other goodies and that they could put pictures or report cards or whatever they wanted to show their dad in the care packages too. I then asked them when daddy gets the chance to call and asks how things are going,if they thought their dad would be proud of them or be very happy to hear about all the things they were doing.,..( I know some of you might think I was being mean to tell them their dad wouldn't be happy to hear about their behavior but it was just the wake up call my kids needed) They both started crying and promised to be good. They even begged me to pleeeeeeeeeeeasssssse not tell him about how bad they were being I told them ok...I will not tell him but only if it stops today..and since then we have had a few problems but they defiantly have been behaving a lot better.
When my husband was home he always took the boys to the monster truck shows and to nascar races. so this year I took them to those places and let them get posters and other things signed by the drivers for their dad and we packed up all the racing things they collected and sent them to their dad. For me the hardest part is having him gone during the holidays,I don't mean just at christmastime. I mean all of the holidays are hard. For some reason we just cant seem to get into the holiday spirit when he's not home, so, this year At Christmas we decided instead of staying home by ourselves. we will take a trip. we went to Chicago and saw family then we went to Colorado and saw friends.. (although our trip was a little longer then I originally planned because while we were in Denver a big storm hit so we got snowed in) but, its ok becuase we really had a great time and the kids thought it was great to fly on airplanes and to see people they do not get to see very often. It really helped to keep the kids spirits up during the holidays it helped cheer me up some too.
so my best advice is.. just try to be strong and try to keep their routine as close to the way it was before their dad left as possible. also,whenever possible try spend as much time as you can with them just hanging out or doing fun things
(yes even if that means the house isn't as clean as you would like or dinner is not always a full 7 course meal or that dinner is ready right on time. ( I mean honestly who will know you didn't clean today or that you had pancakes for,) after all dad isn't going to come home tonight and see the house is a little messy nor will he be home at dinnertime looking for a big dinner. so try to relax and enjoy the in fact my kids thought it was cool to have pancakes and sausage for dinner every so often. so let the dishes and laundry wait...just go have fun with the kids .. take a lot of pictures of you guys having fun and send then to dad. also maybe you can let them help bake cookies or pick out some special treat they think dad will like to send their dad. also let them send dad all the pictures they drew and even the report cards and awards they got from school (I suggest photocopy's over originals)
I do understand that its hard but do not worry somehow it will all work out (it always does)... I hope maybe some of the things I mentioned might help you or maybe it will give you a idea of something you and the kids can do.. please remember If you ever need to talk I'm right here.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Wow J., you have your hands full! My guess is that your kids are acting out because they're scared and angry that their dad is gone. They're old enough to hear about the war and people dying and I'd be terrified if I were them! It sounds like you need some parenting support. I would try to find a support group or parenting class (I know - you don't really have the time BUT if you don't change, your kids won't either). There are also some great books out there. One of my favorites is "How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk" by Faber/Mazlish (spelling?). It's hard to be consistent and loving when you're at your wit's end but that's probably what they need the most. They also need to understand the consequences of their behavior (which is a slightly different concept than punishment) - which is where the consistency comes in - which is REALLY hard. You might also want to have your kids see a professional counselor/therapist for a short time. There are lots of places that will see them on a sliding scale so that it doesn't drain your pocketbook. Having a safe place to get their feelings out may help them a lot. Good luck and I hope your husband comes back safely and soon.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

Hi J.;

You need to sit your children down and talk to them and try to make them understand that while dad is gone you are the disciplinarian. You need to set ground rules and let them help you make them, if they help you make the rules than maybe they will follow them and when they don't there needs to be serious punishment. You may want to try taking something that they really love away like a stereo or the like.

I hope that this helps you and good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

I truly feel for you! I have been reading al lot of the responses, and it hits home for me. I am a navy wife, and I have 4 kids all under the age of 5! Their dad was gone ALL THE TIME! It was hard on them, and man did they act out!

The first round was that I felt sorry for them and was easy on them, which was not the solution. It occured to me that I am the mom and the dad. And just because dad was not home, did not mean they can act or do what they wanted. PUT YOUR FOOT DOWN! They are angry and upset that their dad is gone. And all they are doing is testing you to see what they can get away with! They are old enough to understand that this behavior is not acceptable. And they are old enough to talk to you about what is bothering them! I do suggest letting them know that when you are able to talk to their dad in any way shape or form, that you tell him what is going on at home. That does put an impact on them! My little ones hated when it was time to report to daddy! So they tried very hard to do things that would make him proud! And he would praise them for all the good things they have done. But he let them know when he was disapointed in them. My eldest daughter pulled some stunts on me that made me want to scream. But she realized how serious I was and how it affected her dad to hear of the these things, they stopped real fast!

I also suggest going to base and find support groups. Fleet Family Support Center will be your best bet to find information!

The best of luck to you and your family! My prayers are with you!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Stockton on

Wow! You sound like an amazing lady! My prayers are with you and your husband. I really cannot give you any advise since my children are 4 and 6. But my friend who has kids about the same age as yours takes things away from them. Not just things, the things they love the most! She brings them to my house or takes them to work. So far, she has removed the TV from thier room, repossessed thier i-pods, nintendos, etc.
It works with her kids



answers from Los Angeles on

Hi, I went through a similar experience until I decided, enough! My husband is gone a lot because his work requires it. I had to really toughen up. Your kids need to mind and respect you. They need to be reassured that Dad will be back. They are experiencing a type of trauma.

It is hard being a single parent and that is basically what you are in his absence. These are the things that I did that helped my kids.

I had my father take over the role of Positive male role model. This is very important. Is there any body that you can talk to that would be willing to help?

I filled our house with family pictures so that he was always present.(watching)

I took over some of the special things that he did with the kids. Was there anything special that he did with them that was suddenly stopped because he had to leave?

I opened a new chapter in their lives.
Music is a great release! I started both of them in Guitar lessons. They picked their own instrument. It is kind of spendy but worth every penny. Initially it was expensive because of the cost of the guitars and amps. Acoutic guitars are cheaper. The lessons cost me $20 for each of them a week for a 1/2 hour lesson. My son plays electric guitar, and my daughter plays bass guitar. The students of the school play quarterly concerts. They feel great about themselves.

The instructers that my kids have happen to be positive male role models, so that helps.

I also found that less TV and more music playing in the background at home helps. I think that music is Magic.

If there is any way that you can swing the instrument, do it. Take them into a store filled with different instruments first to see what they might be interested in. You don't have to do the privite lesson right away, Just get them something to goof off with to start.

If new is too expensive, look for something used.

I hope some of these ideas help you.




answers from Fresno on

Your children sound like good kids, but their father being deployed sounds like it is affecting them in a negative way. They are obviously rebelling. I know I had an attitude when I was young, and the only thing that got my attention was to have things taken from me. Grounding didn't work, so my parents started taking important things away like volleyball games. Volleyball was my life and to miss a game was a huge deal. Think of something that they have or do that they can't live without and threaten to take it away, or just take it away. If that doesn't work, I would empty out their rooms so they have nothing but a bed, pillow and blanket. Then maybe they will take you seriously. I don't know how your finances are or why you have a night job, but if it won't break you financially, I would think about giving that up. It seems like they are hurting for attention. Good luck.



answers from Fresno on

Wow! you really have your hands full! Everyone in your house is under a lot of stress. Having dad gone and in Iraq has to be really hard on you and your kids. The acting out is probably more to do with that stress and the fact that you can't be home much. Can you have a family member move in with you while your husband is gone? like your mom, having another adult around may help. Go to the base and ask if there are any support systems for families of deployed service men. Maybe there are other moms going through this. Talk to your kid's school counselor and see if they have some ideas. They may need to set your kids up with a counselor for a short time, There may also be a peer program for kids who have parents deployed, so they can get together and talk. Can you get your kids in a Big Brother and Big sister program, so that they are getting a lot of extra attention for awhile. I think they are scared and lonely, and that is the reason for the acting out.
Good Luck



answers from Los Angeles on

I feel for you girl. You are a basically a single parent. Your'e kids are acting out big time..Have you ever thought of changing jobs so you can spend more time with them. They really need it. Do you have family support? Maybe move to where you can have a support group to rear the kids,like grandparents,aunts,uncles,etc...That will help tremendously.Maybe look for groups to get involved in that will make them more secure like a youth group or a big brother or sister program. Hope and pray you find the answer. Parenting is NEVER a easy job.

p.s. You can always call super nanny or Dr.Phil they might help? Oh and if you believe in prayer get on your knees and pray for your babies like you have never prayed before, i believe in the power of prayer it worked for my out of control teen. Here's a book to get: The power of a praying parent..It's a good one...GOD Bless



answers from Houston on

You sound just like me! My hubby just left with yours I guess and my 3 yr old decided to start acting up as soon as we got home from saying goodbye! Seriousy! I've been trying to keep her in line and we have our good and bad days but I just wanted to let you know I'm going through the same thing. (Except I have a 3 yr old and an 8 month old.) I know it's not quite the same but my girl acts like a teenager already! I just tried to nip it in the bud from the start cuz there's no way I'll be sane by the time he comes home if the behavior stays like this! Good luck!

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