Dear Dr. Bill,
Every day when my husband picks up our 16-year-old daughter from school, he either picks a fight or lectures her. She then calls me, angry or in tears. She feels like she can’t please him and doesn’t want to be around him anymore.
Our daughter has struggled with academics since Kindergarten, but now her dad has made her feel like she’s not “good enough.” I’m in the middle here — and I’m wondering how I can communicate to my husband that our daughter’s self-worth is more important than her grades. Please help!
As a wife, you can have a great deal of influence on your husband, but you can’t force him to change. It’s obvious that he is very concerned about your daughter’s future success. Unfortunately his preaching and criticism is having precisely the opposite effect from what he intends.
I’d suggest you gently ask your husband some questions that will cause him to consider whether his method is working. You might say something like “Honey, I wonder if that approach is helping or hurting her school work?” Rather than telling him he’s wrong, ask him to consider if there might be a better way to achieve his goal.
Also, beware of setting up a communication “triangle” between you, your daughter, and your husband. While you can empathize with how your daughter feels and support her, encourage her to take her concerns directly to her dad.
She needs to be able to tell him directly how she feels when he criticizes her, using “I statements.” An example might be “Dad, when you say those words to me I feel worthless inside.”
I’d also suggest you contact my friends at Focus on the Family. They can refer you to a Christian therapist who can work with the entire family on this issue. You can call them at 1-800-A-FAMILY.
Thanks for writing Vicki. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Culture Connection page.