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by Abigail Van Buren

Husband's Bullying of Young Son Leads Wife to Consider Leaving

DEAR ABBY: I have a 4-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl and I'm worried. My husband bullies our son, "Jake." We often go to a park with swingsets near our home. Jake runs to the swings, gets on, and then my husband pushes it so hard, Jake screams in fear. People sitting on the benches stop talking and turn toward us. If I do what I can to stop this, my husband pushes me. I see him giggling low and his eyes flash with his head bent slightly down.

My husband is not a young father. I'm worried he will continue to bully Jake in other ways as he grows. My husband is a small man with feminine features and a shy demeanor. He has told me how some of his older brothers bullied him, and how girls in the neighborhood called him derogatory names.

I suspect he bullies our son to get even with what happened to him back then. Knowing him, I don't think counseling will be an option. I feel I must either live with him at my son's expense, or leave. Do you have any advice for me? -- ANONYMOUS IN THE U.S.

DEAR ANONYMOUS: Talk to your husband and tell him his behavior is hurting the boy and it must stop. Does the bullying only occur in the park? If so, avoid going to the park with Daddy.

I'm concerned about your statement that he "pushes" you if you try to intervene. If you mean it literally, that is spousal abuse. Deliberately frightening a child is also abuse, which may indeed escalate as the boy grows older. Some sessions with a licensed psychotherapist could be helpful for you in determining what your next steps should be. Divorce may be the surest way to protect both of your children.