How Can We Make a Father Stop His Hurtful Behavior to His Teenage Daughter?

“My wife and her ex-husband currently have a visitation schedule in place regarding their 14 year old daughter. Her father has recently begun to pressure her to come live with him. She, however, has made it clear to him that she wants the living and visitation arrangements to remain as they are. He will ask her to consider his request, but when informed that she has he will proceed to pout, sometimes weep, and when that doesn’t work he will resort to giving her the silent treatment and eventually begin yelling at her and accusing her of not really loving him. This just really breaks her heart! We’ve always encouraged her to maintain a positive attitude toward her father and when pressured to come live with him to just tell him firmly but lovingly that she likes things the way they are. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult. My wife has attempted to talk to him about this via email and telephone, but he refuses to listen, and insists that his daughter is being coerced to live with her mother. This matter has been addressed in Mediation, and he has been told to cease this behavior with his daughter. It’s not healthy for her or their relationship. But he just will not listen. Is there anything we can do to make him stop this hurtful behavior? He and his daughter have been in therapy for four years so that she can somehow learn to manage a relationship with her father! When is enough, enough? My wife’s daughter is a gentle soul and takes his badgering very hard.”

The behavior you describe basically puts your step-daughter in the middle of the conflict. This is a bad thing. If there is a specific part of the mediated agreement that says neither parent shall discuss any aspect of the case with the minor child, then point it out to the badgering father. Also, while contempt seems like a harsh approach, pointing out the seriousness of contempt and a willingness to employ can be almost as effective.

Michael Oddenino’s “Putting Kids First” is still a classic, and makes a great stocking stuffer. Co-parenting counseling has also been effective for some of my clients to help them get the children out of the middle. It’s not your daughter’s fault, and it is a shame that she is being put in a position to bear the burden of her parents’ divorce.

Recommended Reading (click on the picture for details):
Putting Kids First: Walking Away From A Marriage Without Walking Over The Kids

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