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Daughter Wants To Live With Father

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?

J.

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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.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

hi, I thought you might enjoy and/or recommend a little book called "that's Just The Way It Is" by Bobbie Cordero.It can be found on Google or Barnes and Noble
http://www.eloquentbooks.com/That'sJustThewayItis.htm
The originallity of the story comes in the unique angle of a young child of divorce, a situation that can sometimes be divisive and yet in this story, the father is so caring and nurturing that he and the little girl are in a highly productive relationship.
This story is designed to show that both parents usually love their children equally and that even though everyone suffers when custody is an issue that a father's impact can remain constant and positive in the life of a child.
I feel that this book honors the great fathers who sacrifice evrything to be equally good parents to thie children.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark, on the other end of the spectrum to the heartfelt story above, we have a father with mental health issues who refuses to arrange for our daughter going to school when at his house(has now not been in school since first going to live with him at 13 so ended up hanging out with other drop-outs) and frequently puts her in dangerous situations in a variety of ways such as giving her her every wish to avoid conflict out of guilt for not knowing how to engage with her or paying her the attention she craves, then when in over his head losing his temper and becoming physically violent or giving her to strangers to live, watching porn with her, supplying drugs and alcohol in an attempt to win her compliance and confusing her by wanting her living with him then telling her she is out of his family at whim. We are now in the process of making her a ward of the state as she is very damaged and poses risk to our younger children (who live with their father and myself) and after more chances than you would believe from the department the father has been deemed unfit. She turns 16 in 2 months and has told me that she can choose where to live then and wants to live between her father and I to avoid losing it when she gets angry so she can then go to the other parent for time out. I can't see this working and as much as we all want her home we don't want the other children placed at risk from her angry and often violent outbursts, stealing, drugs, prostitution and dysfunctional friends arriving at all hours but still want to help her. She has a very strong bond with her siblings despite having angry outbursts around them. Is there any way we can help her?

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