Worried Mom writes:
My 12 yr old and her step father can't seem to get along. My husband will consistently criticize my daughter, keep telling me that she will not do well in school, will do drugs, get pregnant and drop out of school. She has a 76% grade average. She has promised me that she will work harder to bring up her marks in school. I have been seeing how hard she's trying lately, but my husband doesn't see it.
My daughter hates her stepdad, because of his negative thinking towards her, and because she has heard us argue many times about these things. My husband is very judgmental towards her. He feels that I'm too easy on her. Well maybe i am, but she knows how important it is to get a good education, i remind her of that all the time. He makes me feel that i am not doing a good job.
I also have a 17 yr "A" student. I believe that my 12 yr old will also become an "A" student. She would much rather hang out with her friends and spend time on the computer then homework. She has a certain amount of time on the PC and has to be home at a certain time. I have plenty of rules.
My husband's 17 yr old (not living with us) is not an "A" student. His youngest for the past 3 yrs has had to attend summer school to bring his marks up. So i feel like...How dare he judge me about my daughter? I also feel that my 12 yr is just screaming out for a "Father figure." Her dad is in another province, and her stepdad is not giving her the affection she so desires from him. How can i bring these 2 together ?
I feel that if i could just get him to love her, then she would have such a totally different outlook on life. She seems so depressed. But there's only so much that i can do. i spend time with her before bedtime, our alone time. I know that helps, but she needs more. He never wants to do anything as family fun either. Please help me to help my daughter and husband to get along and respect each other.
Dear Worried Mom,
You are absolutely right to be worried. Children respond to the messages they receive from the adults around them. They are just figuring out who they are, and they assume we know. So if a parent figure, including a rejecting stepdad, gives negative messages, you can count on a child to live up -- or down -- to those messages. Your husband almost certainly does not realize he is endangering your daughter, and may even think he is being constructive, but he is actually programming her to get pregnant, do drugs, and drop out of school.
You say that your daughter seems depressed. Twelve is a pivotal age, when kids are deciding where they are most likely to get their needs met -- their families or their peer group. If your husband doesn't ever want to do fun family activities, and constantly criticizes her, why on earth would she be looking to her family for support and belonging?
It's terrific that you spend time with your daughter each night before bedtime. However, I think it is important to also create family time every weekend. If your husband won't join in, then leave him out, but make sure that you and your daughter have something special to do together, whether it is as simple as going out for an ice cream cone and a walk, or making a festive dinner together.
Your husband needs some basic parenting lessons, but I suspect he wouldn't be interested. If his concern for your daughter is genuine, then a good family therapist would be able to help him articulate his concern for her more effectively, and help your daughter articulate her hurt, so the two of them could begin to build a bridge. If he refuses to see a family therapist with you, or to change his way of relating to your daughter, it would be an indication that he isn't willing to care about her and do what's best for her -- which would be to make some changes in his way of relating to her.
If that''s the case, you have a tough choice to make, because letting this situation continue really is endangering your daughter. You are a brave woman to have confronted this reality in your own mind and have written to me. I hope you can find the courage to stand up to your husband and protect your daughter. Your willingness to do that may be exactly what is required to shift this precarious situation.
If you need help finding a referral in your area, please don't hesitate to contact me. I wish you strength and every blessing.