[This letter has been condensed. BFM]
I am concerned about my 18 month old daughter and 3 year old son.
About me quickly, I am mostly a good guy, I am a gentleman, kind, caring, thoughtful, empathetic, emotionally available and passionate and loving toward my wife, which I am sure is why she puts up with me. I need you to first know this, as I suffer depression, anxiety and histrionic personality disorder, which sometimes heightens my aggression beyond any reasonable level, heightens my imaginative state and lowers my rationality and decision-making skills....I am sure it affects our family.
I am aware of it and now know the warning signs, but sometimes when we are in the car, I cannot walk away from an argument with my wife, and I go through the roof, yelling at her, swearing at her sometimes, and saying irrational things....harassing her to a point of her becoming confused....and she cried a couple of times, which my son has seen me do. ....Which brings me to my main issue.
I am highly concerned about our 3 year old son. He has a Peter Rabbit toy which he hurts, sits on and pulls his arms etc, nothing verbal, all physical, and when I ask him about it, he smiles awkwardly and says, "I can't tell you." This scares me so much. My instincts are telling me this is a massive warning sign. On another occasion my son wrestled his baby sister to the floor by her neck, which I have read is very normal, but I saw it as bullying and in a moment of stupidity, I did the same thing to him to show him how it felt. My wife was with me and immediately corrected my actions, she is a primary school teacher.
I immediately hugged him and appologised, telling him that what I did was wrong, and that I love him very much. Whenever my wife and I fight, we usually try and make up in front of him...but kids don't have the ability to understand what has happened, "sorry son, daddy is sick and gets cranky sometimes," is the best I can do, which is sad at best, as he is such a good kid, they both are...
My point is, I know I can change what I do today and tomorrow, but what about yesterdays mistakes, will they stay deep in his psyche, and mold his later years? I saw my parents fight a lot, and I want to break the cycle, any advice you could give me might make all the difference.. ..My son and I have a healthy relationship outside of the arguments he witnesses, we cuddle in front of the TV, we play in the park, he loves me very much, we read books, he instigates fun play with me. The only thing that makes me question his mental state is the way that he treats his Peter Rabbit ( and he loves rabbits by the way). He also ran a little plush toy over today with his toy train, he was doing it quietly and did not want me to see him doing it, when I caught him he felt silly about it, I did't want to make him feel silly, so I let it go.....I want to be a better dad/partner and am taking steps to achieve this.
From: Jonas, Sydney, Australia
When children witness an argument between parents and witness the apology and the making-up, at least one major study shows it can actually be a positive influence and role model. The problem is when they don't see the apology. With that study in mind, it sounds like you are on the right track.
It's also great that you have time-alone time with your son as well as cuddle and fun time. What's more, I also give you points for getting professional help; that's really important.
What worries me most, then is the repetition of the fighting, its intensity and, especially, that you bring mommy to tears. This is troublesome. Here's where your professional counseling ought to be helpful in guiding you to recognize your triggers so that you can catch yourself before you blow. I hope you're putting in the time and effort you need to develop a number of strategies. In the meantime, perhaps you need to avoid altogether situations that are likely to set you off. You mention the car, so I would consider not having the kids in the car with you until you get this under control.
That your son is beating up on Peter Rabbit, however, doesn't worry me as much as it does you; it's healthy for children to use their stuffed animals and other toys (the trains) as an emotional outlet. My suggestion is to try engaging him in some dialogue: "Oh! I wonder if Peter did something naughty for you to be so angry with him....." See where this takes you but certainly don't be unhappy or chastising him for these behaviors. Getting emotion out in the open is always better than bottling it up.
What I would worry about are signs that he thinks he's to blame for the fights you and your wife have. This is called magical thinking. It's irrational and, if we could get inside a child's head, it might sound something like this: "I was bad and that's why dad and mom had a fight."