Dealing with the intricacies of human interactions can get tricky, and knowing how to handle tough situations doesn’t always come easy. Thankfully, The Full Moxie is pleased to introduce to you our newest series, “To Whom It May Concern.” Our respondent, “Yours truly,” is a relational and communications expert with a Masters in Communication, and is also an experienced university instructor on the subject.
Submit your own anonymous, burning questions here.
To Whom It May Concern:
I am a first time parent to an infant daughter, now 8 months old. She’s such a sweet baby, but she is also easily frightened and can be shy/timid. My husband is sort of a rough and tumble guy who has a tendency not to recognize his own strength. In my opinion he is too rough with our daughter (changing, dressing, playing by tossing her in the air and catching her). I know a little horseplay with dads is normal, but he has literally left marks (completely unintentionally) and I feel our daughter may be timid in part due to this. When I started to correct my husband, he seemed to be so embarrassed that he has almost stopped interacting with our daughter now, I guess because he doesn’t want to do the wrong thing, and he gets defensive and upset with me for pointing out the issue.
So, now what?
-First Time Mama
Dear First Time Mama,
Avoid correction at all cost. Do you remember when momma said “It’s not what you say but how you say it that matters?” On the positive side: you got what you wanted. On the negative side: you didn’t get what you wanted the WAY you wanted.
What needs to be understood is that in most sensitive cases, as the one you are in, avoiding You Language is encouraged. You Language increases defensiveness while also shutting further communication down. Some You Language examples include, “You play too rough with her” or “You should be careful, babe, I don’t want people thinking we don’t know how to treat our kid.”
It’s absolutely essential when children are involved that we do all we can to keep them safe and in a healthy environment. From what you have shared, this is NOT a case of child endangerment or abuse of any kind, merely a lack of self awareness on your husband’s part. I also hear that you attempted to resolve the situation how you knew best and now have an even more complicated situation. Parenthood is a difficult and exciting time. I recall questioning almost everything I did when it came to my little one and often found that my husband caught on quicker than I did to the needs of our first child. I also admit to being fairly insecure when it came to my capabilities to parent when I would watch my husband’s comfort and ability to parent. I would compare my insecurities to his abilities. I know that if my partner said, “Be careful how you burp him” or “Oh, don’t do that, try this instead,” my insecurities would have been amplified internally and likely have responded in what would appear to be some irrational way despite my husband’s best intentions. Parenting is hard, especially when it’s your first time and your partner seems to have it all together, let alone when they attempt to “guide” or “correct” you in some way.
I’m sure you meant well and only had your child in mind when you said something, but to be fair, it’s not easy to be told you’re doing something wrong by anyone, let alone someone whose learning along side you. I would encourage you to avoid criticism; instead, encourage what he does right. (i.e. “I love how much you enjoy being with her,” “You’re such a great dad, so many dads don’t want to father or be involved, I’m so thankful for you.”) In addition, it’s beneficial to find ways to own your emotions and process them in a way that avoids defensiveness (i.e.”I enjoy watching you play with ‘little Susie,’ however, she bruises easily, should we wait a few more months before we toss her in the air? What do you think?”). This provides him the space to process the options without feeling like he’s being told to do something, plus you are also expressing your concern about her well being without finger pointing.
At this point, it is unlikely that you will have to worry about him being too rough with her again. As for your husband’s reaction, we get defensive when we are “defending” something. It’s likely that he felt his identity as a “good dad” or “competent dad” was being challenged and is now reacting in order to “save face.”
To Whom It May Concern;
I have a friend whose eyebrow shape is rather odd. It’s not a natural shape, she’s plucked and penciled it that way. I think she would look even better if she shaped her eyebrows a little differently. Is there a nice way to tell a person this? Or just let it go?
Where do I start… Oh, I know, Brooke Shields. You heard me, if you are too young to know who she is, Google her. Now, if Brooke had been my friend pre-Blue Lagoon, I would have been all, “Girl, we’ve got to talk because what is going on above your eyes is just not cool. Those caterpillars are out of control!” and my opinion could have caused the societal loss of such classics like Blue Lagoon and Suddenly Susan.
Are you hearing what I’m saying? Not that your opinion could essentially cause your friend the loss of future success, likely it won’t. However, unless your keen fashion sense and clued-in eyebrow taste is requested, some undesirable results could ensue. Some people are fully embracing of the truth (or at least they say they are) and if your girlfriend is one of those then that is definitely an option to just come out and admit that the faux eyebrow look is so 1994 and kindly suggest an alternative via your vast eyebrow knowledge. Some girls will act okay with your voiced opinion of their face and then cry themselves to sleep and avoid you like the plague for at least a few weeks if not indefinitely. Others are very capable of getting physical over that kind of statement. You’ve seen these people — they are on Jerry Springer… frequently.
Then there is always the indirect route, in which you bring up the fact that you are going to get your brows done and invite her to join you or something along those lines, not directly implying that she needs to go but providing her the opportunity to discuss her brows with you or just join you and get those girls fixed.
Finally, I would suggest waiting till she brings it up with you (if ever). It’s just not that detrimental. Only you know the implicit rules of your friendship (there’s rules and roles in every interpersonal relationship we know them when we violate them) and only you know what you can and can’t get away with and to what extent it will affect your friendship. Telling her she needs to deal with her eyebrows is not the “truth” it is merely your opinion or preference and I have to wonder if it’s worth possibly offending or injuring a friend over?