Dear Mark...I need some advice...My 14 yr old daughter has been at her dad's all summer. In talking to her she says she does not want to come home and wants to stay with her dad. She says she likes it there, no one is bitching at her all the time and that if we make her come home she will make our lives a living hell. How do you respond to that?
I get this question a lot...
I always recommend that the former parent [you] allow the child to stay with the other parent [dad]. However, what usually happens is the dad eventually experiences the same parent-child conflict that the mother did, resulting in his request [or demand] that the child move back to mom's.
Bottom line: The more you convey that you "need" her to live with you -- the more she will feel a sense of what I call "retaliation gratification" [i.e., a feeling of exacting revenge against "the bitch"]. So, you should "act as if" you are comfortable with her staying a dad's. This is a paradoxical intervention. The more she feels you are "o.k." with her living at dad's -- the more she will begin to miss living with you [although she will never acknowledge this].
Say, "I love you and will miss you -- and you are always welcome to come home. Good luck at your dad's." And check-in with her every week or two [i.e., call or email].
If you force her to return -- then you will have successfully engaged in a power struggle that you will not win.
Warning: Be prepared for her eventual return [behavior contract in hand] -- but do not allow yourself to sink into a depression if she does not return.
Mark Hutten, M.A.