Hey ladies: you can train your husband like you train your toddler!!

This article was e-mailed to me, and I knew I was in for a good one when I saw the title: “Parenting techniques to try on your spouse”. I automatically knew that spouse really meant husband, and as I read the article… I saw that I was right!!

The other day, as I stood in front of the open freezer waiting for a dinner idea to strike, I noticed that the ice tray on top of the stack was empty. So I took it out. The second tray was empty too, as was the tray beneath it, and so on until the sixth and final tray, which held a single cube, spotted with grains of coffee.

My husband had evidently been at it again.

I was gearing up for a tirade when I heard a calm, reasonable voice in the back of my mind say, “Choose your battles.” I stopped short. I knew this voice; it was the voice of every parenting expert whose books I’ve avidly devoured since the birth of my first child seven years ago.

This same voice had talked me down when my kids yowled for candy in the supermarket checkout line, screamed at the sight of the hairbrush, or flat-out refused to even try the lovely broccoli I’d cooked especially for them.

But how could my parenting gurus possibly have anything to do with what was destined to be a purely marital spat? “Choose your battles,” the voice repeated as I ran cold water in one of the trays. Well, it was worth a try.

When Greg walked in the door that evening, late again, I bit my tongue and avoided any mention of ice, trays, or irresponsible husbands. And the evening turned out to be much more pleasant than it would have been otherwise.

The next day, I considered the matter in detail. Could it be that the same tactics I use on my two sons — one in second grade, the other still in diapers — might work on my husband as well? Would, say, a cranky toddler and a cranky 34-year-old scientist respond to the same things?

The author then goes on to explain various child-rearing techniques to try, such as rewarding positive behavior.

Good behavior rewarded leads to more good behavior. But would my husband take the bait?

I decided to find out on a Saturday, one of my precious days to sleep late. At 9:30 that morning, when I staggered downstairs to the kitchen to find my older son, Zander, using his spoon as a Cheerio catapult, 10-month-old Thad elbow deep in the dog’s water bowl, and my husband buried in the sports section, I took a deep, cleansing breath. “I really appreciate your letting me sleep in,” I began.

“The baby wakes up so much at night all week long that staying in bed on Saturdays keeps me from going insane. Thanks again for all your help.”

My husband lowered his newspaper. “You’re welcome,” he said, looking me firmly in the eye. “You know, I wouldn’t mind sleeping in occasionally myself. Maybe we could trade weekends from now on, so we both get a chance to relax.”

Disaster! A few snappy retorts came to mind, but I had a sinking feeling that this particular battle was definitely better left unchosen. What I needed was another time-tested parenting strategy.

This lady sees trading weekends as a disaster? Really? I’m guessing she sees it that way because she wakes up early to take care of the kids every day. But I’m assuming he does too, for his job. So maybe I’m just missing the explanation of how it’s a “disaster” to take turns sleeping in. I would have thought that his suggestion was a perfectly good suggestion, but then again, I’m not a woman who thinks I need to “train” my husband like I “train” a toddler.

But wait, it gets better. She even advocates giving your husband a time-out!

Monday began badly. I had foolishly permitted Thad to fiddle with our bedside clock during a diaper change on Sunday, so the alarm didn’t go off. Zander missed the school bus, Greg left in a hurry, and I missed my morning opportunity to shower and collect my wits.

I spent the day feeling harried and unproductive, and by the time my husband got home (37 minutes later than he promised — but who’s counting?), I had managed to feed and bathe the kids, but that was it. The house was a disaster. There was nothing for us to eat. “Where have you been?” I hissed.

Things went downhill from there. I mentioned loudly that my day had been so hectic that I hadn’t even had a chance to shower. Greg countered by listing the many ways in which his day had been hectic, and he wondered whether I’d managed to accomplish anything during his absence.

I pointed out that a bracing shower in the morning often helped a person feel like accomplishing things. My husband remarked that in a household that always runs late, a person with places to go can hardly be expected to stick around while another person indulges showering whims.

I took exception to the implication that the running late was my fault. He pointed out that it wasn’t his idea to let the baby play with the alarm clock. “Oh, sure, blame the baby,” I said bitterly. “Probably it was the baby’s fault you were 37 minutes late getting home tonight, too.”

“I wasn’t late,” he said, wounded. “I said I’d be home around 7.”

“Around 7 is not seven 7:30!” I cried. “Go to your room!”

Greg stared at me. Oh, dear. In my excitement over my great baby-gate success, I’d forgotten to consider whether the time-out needed modifications for adult application. With all the dignity I could muster, I turned on my heel and marched up the stairs to my office.

If I couldn’t send my husband to his room, I’d just have to go to mine, shut the door — and let him cope with feeding the kids and getting them both to bed.

I almost felt like she should’ve added in a SO THERE! at the end, and stuck her tongue out at him as she retreated.

While there were some other examples of toddler-training techniques she gave that you could use that are not included here, she concluded
that hey, husbands really DO need to be trained like babies!

So, did the week of using parenting skills in my marriage work? Absolutely. For one thing, it was tremendously refreshing to see these strategies actually get results. (Grown men are amazingly more responsive than children, I thought one night as Greg picked up all the towels while Zander ignored my exhortations to get out of the tub.)

It turns out that trying to find the best way to relate to your kids (who certainly put all kinds of new stresses and strains on your relationship) can actually help you relate to your spouse.

Articles like these just kill me, and on so many levels. I’m not even a man, and my blood is boiling. I can only imagine what my male readers must be thinking. Particularly insulting was the example in which her husband, after the kids were in bed and the chores were done, wanted to play Scrabble with her. He was cheerfully following her around the house, asking her to play a game with him. She wanted him to, in her words, “just leave her alone”. So she spent fifteen minutes with him to get him off her back, after which she was able to escape the clutches of her dreaded husband into a bath. By the time she was done, he was already asleep.

Just for fun, let’s imagine that a man had written this article about his wife, and recommended that husbands train their wives using these same manipulative skills. How quickly do you think the outcry would come?

I think the first issue here is the obvious contempt and condescension she has for her husband. Anyone who looks at their significant other as someone they need to train has a serious problem, and it’s not their spouse. This woman so clearly lacks respect for her husband, it’s sickening. And not only does she lack respect for him, but she’s proud of it. She’s proud of the way she feels, proud enough to write an entire article about it and tell other women to emulate her behavior. The “men are so stupid” attitude is on full display here, telling other women that they need to train their stupid, obnoxious husbands as if they were animals at the zoo. Men are idiots and easy to manipulate, and thank God for their brilliant, savvy wives who can train them to be better.

Well, here’s my advice to the woman who wrote this article, and the women who read it. Try not to be such a condescending, obnoxious bitch as a start. Treat your husband with respect. Maybe then you’ll be respected in turn. If you want something, you give it first. If you want your husband to love you, then shower him with love. If you want him to respect you, show him respect. In relationships, you get what you give.

Is all of the advice in the article necessarily bad? No, some of it is good advice. Choosing your battles and rewarding good behavior are great things to practice. But the condescending attitude ruins any of the goodwill that her advice might have held. Relationships and marriages are about partnerships. You should treat your spouse as if they were your partner and your equal, not as if they were someone you needed to train.

Sadly, the comments section in the article just goes to show that this is not a one-woman issue. The men were, unsurprisingly, insulted and indignant. The women thought the advice was fantastic. One woman even ventured a theory that men are really only “grown-up babies”. It kills me to see men so easily demeaned and disrespected in our culture today. Why do so many women feel they are so above men?

It is never healthy to treat an adult as if they were a child. Again, marriage is about partnership and communication. Women need to stop acting like spoiled children who look at their husbands as pets or children they can train and manipulate to do their will.

Cross-posted from Cassy’s blog. Stop by for more original commentary, or follow her on Twitter!

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