A Strong Couple's Relationship and

United Parental Front Builds a Better Home-Life

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Copyright 1999

I want to know an effective way of getting children motivated in helping around the house. I find myself doing more yelling and finally I end up doing it myself. I have to admit when my children and I had regular scripture reading together things ran smoother. I was just wondering if there were some other things I could try in addition.

Also, I was born and raised a member yet I don't feel like I know as much as I should about the church. Maybe I do know it, I just don't feel comfortable in my answers to questions asked for fear I may be wrong. Anyway, my children are becoming older and are starting to ask questions that I can't answer. Any suggestions for what I can do? I don't want to give them a wrong answer and I don't want them to think their mom doesn't know much about the church.

Here's another one for you. I have been married for almost 12 years. During those 12 years I have constantly been emotionally abused by my husband to the point I feel very intimidated by him. I have had five children (9, 7, 4, 3, & 2 mos. ) and was diagnosed with manic depression a year ago. At times I wonder why I put up with this, yet I can't help but hold on to my marriage. I am on medication now and have to relearn how I handle everything. How do I handle my husband? I am finding that I can stand up to him a bit more now, but I don't think he can handle it. Any suggestions on how to bring the love back that we had while we were dating?

I look forward to your answers. Thanks!


Dear Sister,

I'll answer all your questions but in a different order. First your husband.

You wrote that he emotionally abuses you continually and that since you have gotten more emotionally stable since being on bipolar meds, you have begun to stand up for yourself, but you thought that your husband couldn't handle you doing this.

You're right! More often than not, people who abuse others, do so to control others because they do not or will not control themselves. You will most likely see that this is a learned behavior. Children that grow up with abusers tend to become abusers themselves because this is what was modeled for them and becomes the norm. Your children are learning this behavior now!!! The girls are learning to be doormats to become abused in the future. The boys are learning to be abusers because that is how they see they are to treat women. If these children are to see any other behavior you will have to show it to them.

It is not very often that a male abuser will choose to change, because you are talking about changing his whole character. That's a lot of work and takes SELF CONTROL. This is something he has little or none of. Second, males are seldom seen in counseling unless they are court ordered.

1. Your sweetie needs a good Mormon psychologist to help him change. This takes a great deal of time, about a year or more of real work. The LDS Social Services maybe be tasked for this. A referral can be gotten through your Bishop. They are cheep and often very good. You need one for yourself, to make it through this.

2. Your sweetie will probably say you have the problem not him. The average abuser would rather die than admit that he had a problem to anyone, especially the Bishop. After all he is controlling everything, right? (NOT!)

How will your sweetie take it when you are telling him how to do things that I'm suggesting you to do? He would have to buy into the fact that things need to change. There needs to be change between him and you as sweethearts and change between you two as parents and the children. The average abuser will probably be angry that you told anybody that you needed help. The things that I have to tell you are great because they will bring about good change if both partners are willing to work together and be consistent.

I have talked it over with the Lord and this is your prescription for awesome change.

1. You need to make your relationship with your husband stronger/closer.

2. The both of you represent the parietal (parent) front. The parietal front has to be united and strong. This is the front or force that is the wall or boundaries that your children will constantly test or hit when they choose to see if the rules still have consequences. Children need these boundaries and so do the two of you, especially when they reach teenage years. They will run right over you if your wall is not strong and the both of you are not unified.

How to accomplish #1.

1. Have a "Date Night" at least once a week.

2. Have fun alone and enjoy each other's company.

3. You don't have to spend money, necessary, to have a date. Go window shopping, go for a walk in the park, go hiking, cloud watch for fun shapes, star gazing, farm out the kids and have a home candlelight dinner for two. Dress up for dinner and include romantic music.

4. Whatever you do you both need to be on your best behavior. no arguing and no put-downs!

5. No kids allowed. Make arrangements with other couples that need a date night to swap baby-sitting for each other.

How to accomplish #2.

1. Make joint rules that you both can support 100%.

2. If you already have some rules that you both can support then make set consequences to go with these rules. Consequences are those sanctions or punishment that will be carried out every time that the rules are broken. Natural consequences are usually the best. Example: Rule. You are responsible for what your friends do in our home. Consequence: If friends vandalize our home then. they are not welcome in our home and you will pay or work off the cost to replace the damage. So choose your friends wisely and don't let them do things they shouldn't. Explain the rules to them. Don't let them be alone in our home to do damage while you are elsewhere. You may ask for them to pay for the damage. You are grounded until the damage is worked off or paid for. Accidents do happen. We do not charge for honest accidents but we do for vandalism and accidents that are the result of doing things you shouldn't be doing.

3. Work on rules that he likes that you can't stand or visa-versa. Bring them to the bargaining table along with ideas or solutions to make them workable, livable, and enforceable.

Making a Job's List Book

1. Get a three ring binder with plastic protector pages.

2. Have a master book for yourself and one for the family.

3. Put a section in the book for each child.

4. In each child's section in the protector pages should appear a list of things the child is to accomplish to have his/her work done for the day.

5. In the last section is the Jobs Descriptions section. For example: Clean the bathroom. Would have under it. Clean the toilet with a disinfectant. Listed under this would be: clean the top and sides of the tank, clean the top and bottom of the seat, clean the bowl inside and out, clean the base of the toilet and the floor around the toilet. Each item would be on a separate line so they would distinctly stand out and could bee seen in a glance. Each item to be cleaned in the bathroom would be written out just like it was done for cleaning the toilet.

6. Instead of just giving the list to the child, the child receives on the job training. S/He cleans while you sweetly supervise the first time. That way the child knows exactly what clean looks like to you.

7. In your family each day's work can be different or Monday through Friday can be the same with Saturday having extra responsibilities that can be saved for Saturday or done through out the week as time presents itself. Have the children come up with they're way to split up the jobs and when jobs rotate to another child.

8. Deciding when the jobs will be done is a good thing for the children to decide democratically. That way they feel they have a say. This helps them buy into the whole process. It is their plan. This plan can change if the children wish it to. Your children may like to keep the same jobs for a month. Others like to have it change weekly or daily.

9. It really doesn't when the jobs rotate as long as the work is done and checked off daily by a parent. This must be done consistently by both the children and the parents.

10. Set a deadline for work to be done each day. Set consequences for its not being done.

See: The Family Job List Binder

How to Carryout the Consequences

1. There will be no more yelling! Just matter-of-factly say to the child, "I am sorry you chose to break the rule. Now ____________ will happen (the consequence). Then do it. There is not more reason for screaming. You're not frustrated, wondering what to do because you already know what to do. If you forget what the consequence is for this infraction just go look at the children's copy that is posted or your own copy.

2. You may choose to help facilitate the child's ability to get through the consequence, but never do it for him/her. Example: Rule: You cannot go out with friends until your daily work is done. The child has not taken out the garbage and mopped the kitchen floor. Child's friend is at the door asking your child to come out to play. You say to your child "Billy is at the door and wants you to go biking with him. You haven't had me check your work yet, let's go do that now." You and he go look. Take the book with the list of what has to be done. You can see that some things are done and other things are not. Dwell on the positive and play down the negative. You say, " I can see that the cupboards are cleaned off and so is the table. They look really good. Thank you! The dishes are put away. I know that chore is not one of your favorites. I'm glad you chose to do it early. Congratulations. Well, all you have left then is moping and the garbage out. Look, I know Billy is in a hurry to go so how long will it take you to get the garbage out in the can? About two minutes? Then all you have left is the moping. Look I know a way for you to it well and it doesn't take very long. I'll go get my favorite rag. It always does a good job, while you take the garbage out. Then we will have you out of here in minutes and Billy won't have to wait long either." You have just positively reinforced what the child did well or right and gave him a positive boost into finishing the rest painlessly for both of you. When he does finish praise him for doing is well and quickly. Give him a pat on the back. You both leave with a smile. That is positive facilitation.

3. Before you levy a consequence take time to check out the whole story. A child's point of view may be wildly fabricated to let you hear what they think you want to hear. Do not let the first story you hear be the only point of view you have to act upon. At least 50% of the time you will be sorry. There is always time to seek out the whole truth. Then you can wisely levy the consequence. The child will not like it but s/he will know that you were fair and that s/he can get be treated fairly in the future, although they may not admit this out loud.

4. There will be times that you have searched for the truth and there still seems at least two stories. Study it out the best that you can then make a decision. Then tell the children that you will be back in a few minutes that you will take it to the Lord. You should have them do the same. Then come back and discuss the results together.

You also stated that you wanted to find other ways to stop the yelling. Use:

1. Scripture reading

2. Attend church together.

3. Family Prayer

4. Family Home Evening

5. Have Family Councils as needed. See the article "Family Council" under the section: Healthy Families.

6. Be consistent in enforcing the rules and the consequences.

7. Read the section for families in the synopsis of conference talks in the article:

A Parent's Guide for Raising Children

It is a perfect outline for what parents should do to help them get back to Heavenly Father, consequently it helps them be better people in your home and therefore less screaming.

You also asked what to do when you have LDS questions that you don't really don't know the answers to.

1. Pray for inspiration to know where to go to get the answer.

2. Look in the scriptures in the topical guide for the answers. It should not be an embarrassment for you to say to your children, "Let's go look in the scriptures." It is good for your children to know that they can go look there too. You are showing them how.

3. If you are not satisfied there, call your husband into it. He is the head of the house. If you do not feel his answer is the correct one, or you need further knowledge, call your Home Teachers and Visiting Teachers and ask them. They are always there to help you with these matters.

4. You can even ask your Bishop if need be. He should not be consulted unless you have done all of the above.

5. Now that you have studied it out, make a decision as to the correct answer. Now have the children and you take it to the Lord privately in prayer to find out if your decision was the correct one. This is the most important step as the Lord knows the correct answer for you at this time. It is also important that the children learn early that they can get answers from God and that He is there for them. It is important for the children to know what the burning of the bosom and the stupor of thought is like. See the article:

How to Make Good Decisions

If your husband will help you do the things to help himself , your family and you to be better people, then he is a keeper. If all he wants to do is put you down, and destroy his family's future, he is not. Test him and see. A good test would be if he will do the things listed above. I'm afraid that if he is the average abuser it will only be his way, or no way! This is not the way the Lord has told priesthood holders to act. No priesthood holder will hold unrighteous power or dominion over his family or those he is put over.

You never mentioned that he was a member or not. Whether he is or not does not matter. if he is abusing you verbally and emotionally, he is not only destroying your self esteem, but destroying your children's and grandchildren's chances at a happy life. No matter how lousy home life is it becomes the template of what home is. When the child looks for a mate, subconsciously s/he searches for the opposite part of the equation that will reenact the home life atmosphere. Example: The little girl sees mother verbally and emotionally abused. Father abuses her the same way. She subconsciously searches for a mate that will abuse her as Father did, even though she desperately wants to get out of her home of origin because of the abuse. This is because this is what normal home life looks like to her. She will be abused and feel worthless and her children will learn these behaviors and continue the cycle.

You need to test him. Then use the article:

Making Good Decisions

to decide whether it is prudent for your children and you to stay in this situation. Whatever the decision, ask the Lord if you are correct. Then ask Him to help you to stay and get things worked out or to go. Which ever He commands, do it and you will be blessed.

Best wishes,

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

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