Looking for ideas on parenting and communication

My husband and I have two children. My husband and one of my children has ADHD. I am wondering if people on this forum have some good ideas about the following scenario which happens quite a lot in our home.

We really try to make all child-rearing decisions regarding scheduling and discipline together. We have pretty similar parenting styles, but we do slightly disagree in some areas. (I am more strict about standards for homework and cleanliness, but more lax about bedtimes and privileges.) Regardless of the decision, we usually talk for a pretty extended period of time about what to do and at the end of each conversation, I try very hard to sum up the decisions we have made so that there is no misunderstanding. Sometimes the kids are part of the conversation and sometimes they aren't. Regardless, afterwards, one or both of us goes to the children and tells them the decision. This process is pretty painless.

If the decision is something like whether a child can go to a friend's house or do something that is immediate, all is well. The result of the conversation is executed immediately. But, if the decision is about something that will happen later in the day, the next day, the next week or is a new family rule, we run into problems pretty quickly. In these cases, my husband often has a very different memory to the rest of us and he will often insist that a different decision was made or that a final decision was never made. In some cases, he even insists that he was strong-armed into making decisions. 

(A note on the strong-arming--I recognize that early in our relationship this did happen, at least from his perspective. We would have discussions for which I was completely prepared and for which he was completely unprepared. I am pretty quick at coming to solutions and he needs more time to process. For many years I did not recognize this and I would push conversations to the point of a decision before he was ready. I later found out that he often just capitulated due to not wanting confrontation. I have since realized that he needs more time and I have been working very hard to make sure the conversations go at his pace, that he has his entire say, that we break the conversations into several sessions if needed and that he is a part of summing up the decisions.)

Now back to the issue at hand--several times a week we have situations where we have told the children about a decision (we will go here on Saturday or you may have your friend over on Friday, etc.), but when the time comes to execute on the decision, my husband is suddenly balking. He sometimes wants to have the entire discussion over again (discussions which may have lasted hours over several days) and he gets quite irate that we are "pushing him". He sometimes wants to change his mind completely, throwing in new information or just switching gears. ("I know we said we'd go to the mall today, but I want to take everyone to a movie now. I mentioned that last week one time and now I want to go.") If I remind him of our decision and remind him that we discussed the movie and decided to do that on another day, he gets very upset and says I am mis-remembering. If all of us tell him this then he comes up with all kinds of theories, including that I have told the kids to tell him these things and that we are ganging up on him.

I realize that this (mostly) comes from a faulty memory of what was discussed and that he is truly confused in most cases about what was decided. (He mis-remembers other things in pretty shocking ways as well.) He feels defensive and upset, both because he worries about his memory and sometimes because he probably truly doesn't want to follow up the way we all agreed we would.

I am looking for advice on what to do about this. I have suggested writing down these decisions when they are made, but he really sees this as offensive and always says he "doesn't want it to have to come to that", what ever that means. In quiet moments he will admit that sometimes his memory isn't great, but he insists I am blowing it out of proportion. In the "heat of the moment", even hinting that he might be remembering something wrong is like setting a match to dry tinder.

I have found myself, at times, breaking promises to the kids just to keep things quiet. I hate this, and I think it provides a very unstable environment, especially for our son with ADHD. I have also found myself asking the kids to tell him what they remember, which of course is a terrible thing to do, although he believes them way more than he believes me. It is not fair to drag the kids into the situation.

I am looking for completely neutral ways to handle these situations and hope people here have some ideas!

Thanks in advance...

Holy crap!  How stressful for

Holy crap!  How stressful for you and your family! 

I am going to go out on a limb and say that he's not on meds?  At the very least, they are not doing their job!

A lot of this is on him.  Truly.  You have the discussion, you summarize the discussion, then he forgets, which is not his fault, but then blames you and your children (which is) and has no system in place to remember what has happened.  As is typical, he is not learning from his mistakes, has NO IDEA (and I mean NOT AN !#^$(%@ clue) how often this scenario replays, what his role in it is, and how ridiculous he sounds.  He needs to to get into therapy in addition to being treated for his ADHD.  I have a wonderful therapist who gives me great suggestions for how to be more successful in light of the fact I have ADHD.  Your husband needs someone who REALLY understands ADHD.  I am a teacher, read about ADHD all the time, and am literally floored by how well this wonderful human being gets me and my issues. 

  • meds, or better meds
  • cognitive behavioral therapist for your husband who understands ADHD and will give him sound advice (he has to want it, though).  He might take a neutral third party's suggestions to heart more readily, because right now, his pride is running the show, and it seems the audience is ready to throw tomatoes at him!
  • YOUR HUSBAND needs to summarize what he thinks he heard during the conversation, perhaps by writing it down as you discuss, and periodically slowing the conversation to clarify before going to the next point.  I for one would die without my smartphone.  I use the calendar app and write down so many things in it I need to remember.  I would forget things like that as well, but now I know better than to have a ridiculous argument about my short-term memory.  I KNOW I FORGET!  Paper gets lost, but my trusty phone goes everywhere.  I can set an alarm so it can remind me of things.  Tell him you would prefer you both take down notes to avoid the fight, and even if he doesn't, you will, just so you can have it in writing.  My husband and I go over the week together each week.  We both write it down.  Post it somewhere that the objective of the notes is so you both know you are on the same page and stay that way.  It needs to be posted because he will argue you are "out to get him".  Maybe with a label maker. 

A lot of this is out of your control.  He needs to step it up.   You are being perfectly reasonable...  I'm so sorry you are going through this. 

  • you ought to consider a therapist with a serious understanding of ADHD and how you can deal with him better.  He sounds like he's compensating for feeling inadequate by bullying you and your kids.  I'm not saying he's abusive, but I agree with your assessment that this is not healthy for any of you.
  • Maybe your husband feels like he never has any say because his perspective is so skewed due to his porous memory.  That's why he's battling you to change the plans.  I'm not saying it's your fault.  He's just entered into a power struggle because he's embarrassed.  His pride is at stake, he's losing face with you and the kids, and he doesn't see himself as he is, so continues to fight about stupid shit because he wants a win.  He doesn't feel like a winner because he has the vague sense that his memory is crappy, he knows