The Healthy Family Connections Podcast
Episode 150 · Duration: 00:17:39
My Husband Pits My Daughter Against Me
What do you do when your husband criticizes you when you set limits with your teenage daughter?
We’ll talk about this and more on this week’s podcast: My Husband Pits My Daughter Against Me
And if you have a question you’d like me to address on this podcast, don’t be shy, click here to submit a question. And while you’re at it, download a free copy of the new gift called Parenting Through Your Child's Second 12 Years.
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Parents of Graduates During COVID-19
Before I begin today I want to acknowledge all you parents of high school and college graduates. This is a tough time for you and your young adult kids. This is taking a lot of creativity and energy to recognize their success and the profound transition this represents in their life and yours.
I think keeping vigilant about safe social behavior in this high-risk COVID-19 time is hard on all of us and particularly hard on kids, and parents may need to make some concessions. That doesn’t mean carte blanche. It may mean allowing your teen to have a small group they socialize with while still maintaining safe practices with that group.
I’m not an infectious disease expert so I won’t offer specific advice there but stay mindful, and help your teen stay mindful. Don’t hesitate to talk about the Black Lives Matter protests and give your youth lots of space to talk about their thoughts and feelings. It’s good for us adults to learn what young people are thinking and for them to know we listen. This is a time of change and a lot of need for change is past due so let’s not ignore it and let’s face it with courage and wisdom.
Shaping Your Child's View of Marriage
Now, to our question, Denise from Kentucky writes:
Our daughter is great overall. She can get bratty and disrespectful like any kid. It’s not so bad we are in major trouble but I see she feeds off my husband’s attitude. If he’s visibly annoyed at me getting on her, she’ll feed off that and be mean and hateful maybe all day or longer depending on his mood. If he’s nice and normal to me, she relents and goes back to being sweet with me. I dread correcting or even giving her consequences because of this. I sense that this is creating an unhealthy view of marriage for her and scared she might marry someone just as disrespectful and temperamental as he is.
Thanks for your question Denise, although I’m not quite sure what your question is. I’m assume you’re concerned that she’s going to get an unhealthy view of marriage end up with someone who is disrespectful and temperamental like your husband. So I’m going to guess that your question is: Will your daughter end up with an unhealthy view of marriage and is there something you should do about that.
You don’t mention how old your daughter is but it sounds to me like she is on the younger side of adolescence, I guess 12, 13, or maybe 14.
Yes, there are some real concerns about the situation that we should talk about.
Focus on Your Daughter's Needs
Your daughter is being triangulated in the relationship between you and your husband and that’s a very stressful for kids and there can be a couple of different ways that they deal with that.
#1 They could join a coalition with one parent against the other parent or #2 or they could try to please both parents.
In either case it can causes behavioral and emotional problems in fact it certainly will cause behavioral and emotional problems.
And I agree it can give her an unhealthy view of marriage.
The drama taking place -- even though the parents might be arguing about the best way to discipline her -- is really about the parents and not your daughter. What’s getting missing here is the focus on your daughter’s needs. Those include her needs for support, guidance and limits.
Pausing to Understand What's Working
So Denise what are we going to do here?
Let’s start by looking at some of the positives. You say your daughter is great overall. Well, that’s good! Does that mean she is doing really well in school and social life and recreation? If that’s the case, yes that’s wonderful!
And while your daughter feeds off of your husband’s attitude toward you, you report that sometimes he’s nice and normal towards you, and then she is sweet. Well that’s sweet at least sometimes it’s sweet.
It seems that things go wrong when your husband objects to the way you’re setting limits with your daughter. And for some reason you and your husband have not had a successful conversation about how you want to set limits with your daughter, how best to do that. I don’t know why that is, perhaps your husband is not good at having adult conversations. Denise, are you good at having adult conversations? Because problem solving requires good communication skills. And for whatever reason, that skill set is not showing up in your marriage.
How to Become an Empowered Parent
So here’s what we’re going to do!
Denise, right now you seem to be feeling powerless over the situation, but if you become the true adult in the family, a thoughtful, mature, empowered partner and parent, you could move things in a much healthier direction.
Your husband objects to the way you set limits with your daughter. It might appear to you that he objects to the fact that you set limits with your daughter and I hope that isn’t the case, but let’s you and I assume it’s the way you set limits with her.
Let’s start with self-reflection:
- How are you setting limits?
- Are you clear about your expectations, are you using a firm but positive tone when you set them?
- Are you threatening or raising your voice with anger when you do?
The way we want to set limits is to be clear about our expectations, keep our tone positive and remind our kids that the privileges they have are there because they’ve earned them and they’ve earned them by being responsible, and cooperative and you want them to be able to keep their privileges. Many teenagers require prompts and reminders, and that can be done warmly and positively as well.
Now let’s say you’ve reflected on all this and realize that you’ve been so frustrated with the situation with your husband and daughter, that you hold things in and don’t deal with things until you’re very frustrated and then sound harsher than you mean to.
If that or something like that is the case, there’s a good place to start and now you can go out there and engage with her providing guidance with some prompting, not nagging of course, but prompting and setting limits in positive ways, hopefully supporting and enjoying her as well.
But that’s just the first step. Next you’re going to have a conversation with your husband. A conversation that assumes he cares about you and cares about your daughter and assumes he’s a reasonable person. He may not be, I wouldn’t know, but if we assume he is, we’ll get the best from him.
Having an Empowered Conversation with Your Partner
Here’s how the conversation might go and I’ll call your husband George, and your daughter, Ginger.
Denise: Dear, I’d like to have a conversation about how best to parent Ginger. I get it that you don’t like the way I set limits with her and often you come to her defense. I’m concerned that that puts her in the middle. I’d like to better understand what your concerns are about my limits or the way I implement them.
George: You’re always on her and getting into it with her. She’s just a kid, that’s the way kids are, you need to back off and let her be a kid.
Denise: Okay, I’m hearing you say I’m always on her and I need to back off. Yes, I’m aware that I’ve let my frustrations get the best of me and I’ve been fighting with her and I need to find a better way. She’s so distractible and she needs to stay on track to do her work, and manage her things. I do need to set some limits and the only thing that works with her is taking her phone till she does her work, and too often, that ends up in a fight.
George: All kids are on their phones, that’s the way kids are today. You can’t fight and threaten her all the time.
Denise: Understood. I think we should just have a standing rule that the phone goes away at 9:00 at night and comes back when she’s taken care of her responsibilities the next day. How does that sound to you?
George: We should ask her how she feels about it. I don’t think she’ll like that rule.
Denise: You’re right about that, but if you remember, when she lost her phone privileges for a week this winter, she remembered how to read, draw, and she watched movies with us. When she had her phone, she was glued to it and was always edgy.
She’s still young and needs you and me to step up and provide some healthy structure for her.
George: Yeah, as long as we don’t have all that yelling and fighting it’s alright.
Denise: I totally get that the yelling and fighting isn’t healthy, it isn’t good, and I’ll work on that. I’m not a perfect parent. My concern is that when you get frustrated with my parenting, you call me out in front of Ginger and then she is in the middle and sides with you against me. That’s really bad for her. We can’t pit one parent against the other with her. That really unhealthy.
George: Well what am I suppose to do when you’re on her all the time? I don’t like it and I understand how she feels.
Denise: Good point and good question. When you see it building up, and I hope it doesn’t anymore, but if it does, just talk to me about it, just not in front of Ginger. Or, you can ask Ginger to please stop arguing with Mom and cooperate. Either or both of those would be helpful.
George: She needs one parent to be on her side, doesn’t she?
Denise: Even when I’m upset with her, I’m still on her side; I’m always on her side, that’s why I care about teaching her responsibility. Ginger always has two parents that are on her side.
How about if I work at toning things down and staying more positive and you work at not criticizing me in front of Ginger?
George: As long as you quit the yelling, sure.
Denise: I think if we work at this, Ginger will have a better view of marriage; she’ll see how parents can work together to make each other better, not work against each other. And you and I can feel better and closer and I’d like that too.
George: Yeah, that sounds good.
So Denise, do you see what I’m role-playing here. I’m inviting you to be the leader, not the victim in your parenting relationship with your husband. Raising kids is stressful on marriages and raising teenagers, even more so. It takes really strong communication skills and parental maturity to stay positive not only with our teenagers, but with each other, particularly when we are getting negatives from our partner.Raising kids is stressful on marriages and raising teenagers, even more so. It takes really strong communication skills and parental maturity to stay positive not only with our teenagers, but with each other.Click To Tweet
Next Steps for Empowered Parents
Denise, it will very likely be necessary for you to get some counseling to be present with your husband in the confident, empowered way I just role-played for you. When you do go to counseling, you can tell the therapist not just about the problem with your daughter and your husband, you can say that you want to be a mature, empowered leader in your family so that you can initiate and lead important conversations with your husband and set effective firm limits and standards with your daughter.
So parents, when you find yourself in a pattern of behavior in your family, think big, think positive, ascribe good intentions to others, and bring your empowered confident self to the relationship. Then see what happens. It may take more than once for things to begin to change, but when you bring this version of yourself, you’ll soon elicit everyone else’s best.
Thanks for tuning in and everyone, and special thanks to you Denise for your question and best wishes to you and your family.
During this time of profound disruption, don’t hesitate to reach out for help, your local mental health resources are very much there, mostly using video platforms and that works just fine, phones work too, and sometimes you can be seen in person as well. If you’d like to meet with me, click here for a free 15 minute consultation.
You need it, you truly deserve it, and can I tell you a secret, you’re worth it. Bye for now.