Care and Feeding

My Daughter Is Copying Her Father’s Most Exasperating Habit.

It drives me up the wall.

A little girl looking devious as she holds a mug
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband is grumpy in the mornings. He’s always been this way. At first I found it rather endearing; then I got annoyed and resentful. Now I just sort of ignore it. He wakes up groggy and gruff, offering one-word answers and comments in a snarky tone. He takes about an hour to have his coffee and truly “wake up” before he turns into his usual happy, kind self. I try to engage as little as possible in that hour before coffee so that I’m not subjected to unpleasantness. Here’s the problem: Our 4-year-old has started to mimic this behavior, down to not being happy until she has her “coffee.” (It’s obviously not coffee—just some warm decaf tea I make for her since she wants to feel adult.) She uses a similar tone and manner of speaking to my husband. And for some reason, it drives me up the wall. I feel awful when I spend my morning taking care of this tiny human and am treated with pure disrespect. And I know the behavior is learned, not natural. When we went on a “girls trip” with my mother (no husband involved), and my daughter wasn’t seeing my husband’s morning shenanigans, she was tired but perfectly pleasant in the mornings. What in the world can I do to nip this behavior in the bud? Would it require getting my husband to stop his morning behavior too? How do I get my husband to understand how annoying my daughter’s behavior is when he does it as well? Please help.

—Miffed in the Mornings

Dear Miffed,

My first thought is your husband needs to grow the hell up and understand that his behavior is affecting everyone in your household, including your impressionable daughter. The first step is bringing this to his attention (probably at a time when he’s in a pleasant mood). Tell him that being a monosyllabic caveman in the mornings isn’t going to fly anymore and demand that it stops. Notice how I didn’t say you should ask him to stop. You need to flat-out tell him that you’re done with it.

Maybe this is something he can handle on his own once he becomes aware of the negative impact it’s having on you and your daughter, which would be the best-case scenario. If he dismisses you for being too sensitive or pulls the “that’s just how I am” card, then I would continue by saying, “Well, then it looks like we’re going to therapy, because I refuse to continue like this.”

Once he realizes how serious you are about this and how much it’s affecting your life, he’ll have no choice but to change if he wants to be the husband and father your family needs and deserves. I would also tell your daughter that her behavior is unacceptable and needs to stop, stat. She’s young, but it’s important that she understands how to treat people. Your husband also needs to be on a unified front with you and relay the same message.

Life is hard enough without dealing with that kind of nonsense every morning, and you deserve better.

—Doyin

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