Is it ok to cover his mouth?

[deleted account] ( 15 moms have responded )

My husband has done this twice now - the last time was tonight - my son (3 1/2) was getting upset because he wasn't getting what he wanted so he was starting to cry and scream, and it was just escalating. My husband grabbed him and covered his mouth to stop him from being too loud to wake up our youngest, who is 7 months. I had previously told ds#1 to not wake up ds#2 or else I would be very angry, but he went on to be very loud.

I told hubby to not do that, and he got all upset at me...

Fast forward - I put ds#1 to bed, and just finished a talk with dh - who was basically saying that I was implying that he was being abusive and evil and a bad parent...which I was not...I asked him if his dad ever did that to him when he was growing up, and he got all defensive and said 'yes'..but it never lasted more than a few seconds and I was able to breathe, etc....he says he was not trying to stop our son from breathing (which I never said!)

He was also upset at me because I told him to stop in front of our son, which he feels undermines him, he says I do that all the time. I'm sorry, when he grabs our son and covers his mouth, that is my first reaction!!

My husband thinks that I am extra-sensitive to this because I was abused as a child. Do you think I am being sensitive, or am I being reasonable in saying this isn't acceptable behaviour/parenting??

I am beside myself...I feel we are at an impasse.

Thanks, ladies.


Sherri - posted on 04/30/2010




As long as his nose was clear I honestly don't see a problem with it. Your son is old enough to understand and is a little old to behaving in that manner. I don't mean to be harsh but it sounds to me like you need to be a little stickter with your son. I have to agree with your husband on this one.

Stacie - posted on 05/09/2010




I have done that to my daughter but only in extreme circumstances, like in a hospital or nursing home. But I whispered in her ear to stop so we could talk and that as soon as she would stop screaming, we would go calm down together, Everytime, it worked. Because I whispered in her ear, she had to stop screaming to hear me. I tend to talk to my children more often that any other form of discipline. So if I have to do something like that, they know it is serious. But I did not do it hard or for more than a few seconds. It was more a way of quieting things for others and holding her still so I could whisper to her. But the most important thing is for you both to agree on what to do next time...

Jamie - posted on 05/03/2010




Children need to be taught appropriate behaviors and inappropriate behaviors need to be punished and not tolerated. However, you and your husband need to come to a firm agreement on what forms of discipline you are using. Being raised in a firm but loving home does not damage a child, but makes them more secure because they know boundaries and right from wrong.
I don't disagree with your husband's actions, but he should be sensitive to your past and considerate of your feelings. To tell him to stop in front of the child, when the child was not in immediate danger, does teach the child that mom will get mad at dad if he punishes me. There are places where you need to quiet your child immediately (funeral, church, library, weddings, etc) while your are removing them from the location; so I see nothing wrong with a hand over the mouth until you can get to a spot where you can better address the behavior.

Charlotte - posted on 12/05/2013




my son couldn't stop crying and asked me to put my hand over his mouth; I did so, gently, not covering his nose of course so he could still breathe, and he immediately stopped his hysterical crying and became all perky. It reminded me of when I was a child and found myself physically unable to stop crying over something trivial that had built up into something big in my mind. Done gently in such circumstances, must be harmless as long as the child knows you're trying to help

Corina - posted on 05/06/2010




Hi, I do not think you are being extra sensitive in this situation. I would never put my hand over my son's mouth to stop the crying or screaming (he does this sometimes when he does not get his way). My son who just turned 4 does scream and throws tantrums a lot, we have used time out. Usually when my son starts to scream, we give him a warning and if he continues we would send him to time out. After about 1 minute he stops screaming and I than talk to him why he was put in time out. However, my husband and I have came to an agreement on how we would punish our children. Time outs has worked for us. We also try to figure out what is causing the breakdown. A 3 year old can communicate his or her frustrations, and they tend to mimic everything the parent shows them about punishment at school or playground. Both of my children tell other children if they are fighting to go to time out that they are not being children are ages 4 & 2 years old. If your husband is getting upset with the screaming he should walk away which is the best to clear his mind. Never punish a child behavior when your emotions are high, it is not good for the parent or the child. Always talk to your child why he or she is being punished and explain the correct behavior.


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Susanne - posted on 05/11/2010




i dont agree with your husband putting his hand over your sons mouth, although i can understand his frustration, the only thing i can think of when you have a young child in bed & the other screaming the house down is to take him outside, the noise wont seem so loud in the garden, so i'd make him sit on the doorstep if it is safe. Fresh air is very good for calming young children down & also he's not getting the attension he is wanting. Only when he is calm would i allow him back into the home, and if it is cold he wont want to be out there for very long. then sit him down & tell him its not acceptable & tell him of the concequences of his actions.

Alison - posted on 05/06/2010




My husband sometimes does this and I really don't like it either. I have been on the receiving end before and it totally stresses me out. It is not the right way to deal with it.

However, if you start freaking out about it right in the middle of it, it will freak out your son and aggravate your husband. It is not a life and death thing. It is best to address it once the moment has passed.

I understand the struggle when you have two little ones like that. You expect your oldest to comply, but he/she is not ready for that responsibility yet. Let him be a two-year-old and you as the parents must deal with the consequences (awaking the baby) because you are the parents.

Hope you are able to come to an agreement with your hubby!

Sarah - posted on 05/05/2010




I don't agree with covering the mouth. it's not abuse, but it is a way of trying to force the crying/emotion to stop, and I think most parents know that it just doesn't work that way with toddlers. you can beat them (completely not acceptable), bribe them (works right now, but wait 5 years to see what you end up with), or you can do something like immedialy remove them to a place to calm down and then explain why they were doing something wrong and then do kisses and hugs. We send our 3 1/2 year old to her bedroom or make her stand in the corner until she has calmed down and stopped crying. If it is public, we take her away from the masses until the crisis is over. Doesn't happen that often, usually only when she is tired, often get complements on her, so I guess we do okay.

Jessica - posted on 05/05/2010




I always try to think about these situations as: would child protective services feel this was abuse? I do agree with the person who stated you could put your hand over their mouth (provided they can breathe thru their nose) only long enough to get to a better place so you child can scream without disturbing your other son or a special event. I also like the idea of just putting one finger over his mouth. The biggest thing you can do though is be consistent with whatever method you choose and even if you and your husband have different ways of parenting you need to show a unified front when your kids are around but do not forget to discuss it later or do not hesitate to ask your hubby to speak with you in another room to discuss it but whatever you do, do not yell at him for his parenting method in front of the kids. I also suggest you speak with your husband about this at a time when it is not an issue as when your son is throwing a fit, tempers and emotions run very high! You both may even discuss this with your son and warn him ahead of time what will happen if he throws a fit such as next time you will be put in time out and have him practice, bad behavior and the consequenses and then practice good behavior and those consequences (such as a high five, a snuggle or perhaps even a special treat and of course a very happy mom and dad which is a great motivator for my kiddo). Oh and mostly you have to remember the screaming is a means to get your attention and get his way so when possible put him in time out and completely ignore him. You need to nip this in the bud now though as I have an older child whose father buys her whatever she wants especially if she starts crying so imagine how embarrassing it is to have a 10 yr old throwing a tantrum at the store. good luck!

Wendy - posted on 05/05/2010




I think its borderline...Im on the fence. But he knows how you feel about it now, so make a plan for the next time -how you can handle it without covering the mouth. also, meet him half way by apologizing for the undermining his authority in front of your son and that you will discuss discipline arguments in private.

[deleted account]

i'm with you here. i believe i would react the same way if my husband did the same thing. and i was abused as a child too. most important thing your husband should realize besides the fact that it is not right, it also makes you uncomfortable. i think you should sit down with your husband and explain why you feel it is unacceptable, and how uncomfortable it makes you that he does this. try to have some alternate reactions on hand that you do feel is acceptable so he doesn't feel out of options. and also work on your son during the day when ds#2 is awake.make a game out of learning when to be loud and when to be quiet. for example open the front door. walk just outside it and be kind of loud and goofy.. tell him this is my loud OUTSIDE voice, i only use it outside. then hop back inside and quietly say this is my INSIDE voice, i can use it anywhere i want, but have to use it inside. you can also work on conflict resolution with him, and appropriate ways to show he is upset.

Crystal - posted on 05/02/2010




I do not think your gut is telling you its wrong for no reason, this is not a proper way to teach a child to calm down. You and your husband should try to come up with another way to try to comfort your son. Covering his mouth when he is trying to tell you something, is not the way to handle a situation. Though I only have 1 child, I do not try to stop her from having her feelings. I do not want to teach her that the feeling she is having are not acceptable. The child does not need to scream and lash out, but you also do not want to teach them that what they are going through is not important enough to have their own feelings about. I believe that shutting them up instead of letting them work through the issue is heading for desaster in the future. That would be like saying that if someone did something to harm them, they would not be able to find comfort in being able to talk with you about it. You can try talking with him and asking him what it is that he wants. and try to come up with a compramize for that. They want to stay up late, well temper tantrums are not ways in which that we get what we want. I do not reward bad behavior. You and I can discuss your bedtime being changed when you are able to handle staying up later without all the water works. I do not believe that telling him you would be angree if he wakes up his sibling was such a good idea either. This just told him that what he was going through was not important enough. Your other child was put in front of him and his actions. He truely got what he wanted even though that was not the best attention to get. He had the attention of both you and dad. Even if negative. It was all about him. Then he seen the two of you disagree in front of him about the issue. That is unhealthy. Believe me I am no expert on children, my daughter and I have our issues. I am all she has though, and she is what I truely wanted in life. Unconditional love, that is not perfect, but a learning experience along the way.....

Talk with dad and try to come up with a better avenue for this, try not to hush him when he is dealing with something like that. Try to help him learn from it and grow. Thats what life is truely about isnt it..... Nothing changes until something changes.....

Gail - posted on 05/01/2010




I do not think you are being hyper sensitive. Covering a childs mouth is right up there with grabbing them by the scruff it is intimidating and usually the action of a frustrated adult. I have had to intervene when my husband has imitated his fathers parenting techniques and it is the one area where we occassionally disagree. I strongly urge you to let your husband know how you feel and try to agree on a response that you would both be comfortable with. You have my sympathy and I hope it all works out.

Sabrina - posted on 04/30/2010




I do not think that you are being exta sensitive. I don't think that he should be covering his mouth. If your husband was angry and started to yell I dont think that he would want you to cover his mouth. I would find a place to bring your son when he does this so he does not wake your other one up. Even if it's in the bathroom or the garage and sit with him till he calms down, then explain to him why he's there. I would talk to your husband in private and tell him how you feel. You kind of have to make a stand and tell him not to do it. Hopefully he will see how much it bothers you and stop. If he gets mad then that is something that you have to decide if it matters to you or not. My husband has spanked my daughter only like 4 times and she's 4. I just told him the other day that he is not to spank her anymore. He did not like it or agree but I told him that's to bad and not to do it again. Sometimes I feel bossy but if it's something that you trully believe in then put your foot down.

Decolua - posted on 04/22/2010




I wouldn't use my full hand to cover the mouth, he could inadvertently suffocate him. And when children scream their breathing is really fast so becateful. hubby is on the right track! Use the index finger to firmly place it over his mouth. Remebered at this age kids are more likely to do what you ask if you tell them why he can't scream. Once you have told him why. And he is still screaming place your finger over his mouth and tell him that is not ok, place him in an area away from anything he wants and tell him to use his nice voice ( demenstrate if he does t know what that means) tell him that when he is ready he can get up only if he is ready to use his nice voice. Repeat this until he stops crying and asks you whatever he wanted in his nice voice. When he does definitely show him how much you appreciate the change in behavior. But no rewards! He will choose to be good when he feels he needs one. You never want to parent with your emotions. It can be hard. If you feel your emotions are getting in the way leave the room.

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