Dear Dr. G.,
My 15-year-old daughter has been having problems getting along with my husband. Maybe I should reverse that and say that my husband is having trouble getting along with my daughter. I have to tell you that I am feeling so out of sorts and upset about what is going on in my home. My daughter and husband got into a screaming fight this weekend and my husband called the police on my daughter. My daughter came home from a party late and clearly had been drinking. As far as I know this is the first time that my daughter has broken curfew, been this insulting toward my husband and come home in this intoxicated condition. My husband called the police against my will because he thought that my daughter's behavior was out-of-control and he wanted her to be scared straight. My husband is really big on the kids being respectful toward him. For the most part the kids are respectful toward him but he and my daughter do have a history of getting into screaming and verbally nasty fights. I think that my daughter thinks that my husband is a bit of a bully. I guess he can be at times.
I am mad at my husband for calling the police. The police were very calm with my husband and daughter but,in my opinion,their presence at our home did nothing but increase the tension between my husband and daughter. My daughter told me that she thinks that my husband is a lunatic. My husband tells me that our daughter is a brat. I don't know where to turn. What do you think, Dr. G., is calling the police on your own teenage kids a good idea?
A Mother in the Middle
You sure do have a rough situation on your hands. Being in the middle of this sort of conflict is one of the trickiest places to be. In response to your question about whether or not a parent should call the police on their teenage kids I have to say that I am generally NOT in favor of this. I feel that calling the police on your kids can both traumatize the child and further destroy the quality of the parent-child relationship. If,however,there is clearly an episode of violence and personal safety at hand then a parent may have no choice but to contact law enforcement. In the situation with your husband and daughter I do not believe that the police needed to be contacted.
I would certainly recommend that your family get to a therapist to work on the turmoil within the household. Clearly, emotional tension is extremely high and nothing good happens in the context of such emotional dyscontrol. I am not sure what is and is not going on between your husband and daughter but my guess is that without family treatment things will only get worse. Also, I suggest that you redefine your role in the family. It may feel like you are simply a witness to the problems between your husband and daughter but it is my experience that the other parent's behavior somehow plays a role in the conflict. A good and experienced therapist will equip you with skills to help shake up the family system and achieve what you want, which I am sure, is a happier home life
I wish you the best of luck. Please get back to me and let me know how things work out. I will be silently rooting for your family.
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