Q. My husband and I argue a lot. Although he has never hit me or been physically abusive in any way, he puts me down in front of the children, and screams at the top of his lungs when he gets upset. I don’t feel this is good for our children, ages six and 11, but I also think it would be even harder on them if my husband and I split up. I feel that I ought to put up with it for the sake of the children. What does the panel think?
The first reaction to the question by the panel was that children do what they see, and the father is their role model and is setting a bad example for them.
“It is important for this parent to find a professional to talk to,” said panelist Mike Daniels, “not to have any specific intention or expectation to split up, but just to have a sounding board; someone who is aware of family dynamics and the effects on children of parental behavior.” Daniels said this would help the parent “to explore what the options are because there are many different options here, not the least of which is having a life where she doesn’t have to put up with being treated badly.” Panelist Denise Continenza said she hoped at some point that the couple would consider counseling. “It doesn’t sound like the father recognizes there is a problem and how it is affecting his children. “Reading this question, it seems that the parent thinks ‘Unless he hits me it’s OK,’” Daniels said. “I think we need to actually use the terminology. Based on what the parent has written here, she is a victim. “Certainly, it’s not physical abuse, but she is experiencing uncomfortable, if not problematic behaviors. She is experiencing some victim-like situations. If she is being called names and belittled in front of the children, by definition, that is domestic violence, and we need to call it that. Then where is that line where enough is enough?,” said Daniels. Panelist Pam Wallace referred to the comment by the parent that she is putting up with the treatment for the sake of the children, but the parent doesn’t recognize that it is not good for them to grow up this way. Daniels added that what the father’s behavior is projecting to the children is “Daddy wins because mommy’s a victim, might makes right, and all those things that are unhealthy with a family.” Continenza said it was all right for parents to argue. “Healthy, productive arguing can show children how to resolve conflict.” The panel discussed counseling options. If the parent is working, there might be an employee assistance program available, or she could talk with a pastor.
Most communities also have a domestic violence program. Other suggestions were Turning Point in the Lehigh Valley (turningpointlv.org), where she could go for help, or be referred to another appropriate agency. The phone number is 610-797-0530. There also is a 24-7 hotline at 610-437-3369.
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, Program Coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor; Wanda Mercado-Arroyo; educator and former school administrator; Denise Continenza, Extension Educator, Food, Families and Health, Penn State Extension, and Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, CTS. Have a question? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Family Project weekly column is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.