Relationship Connection: Should I force my daughter to do activities with her dad?

Question

My 14-year-old daughter doesn’t want to talk much with her father or spend any time with him.  She says “hello,” “good morning,” and “good night” and will answer a question if asked.  For the past two years, she’s been feeling like he doesn’t really listen to her, he doesn’t understand her, rarely wants to bend or be flexible on issues, and they’ve had many, many arguments which I believe were unnecessary.

We are married and live together, but don’t have a good marriage. We rarely discuss things in front of our teenage children, but they sense we don’t have a loving relationship. He now wants to force her each month to have father/daughter time alone doing an activity. He believes some of the activities should be based on what he wants even though she isn’t interested in that activity.

My husband thinks children should want to please their parents and that’s what they are supposed to do. He thinks that this will help to repair their relationship and one day she’ll enjoy their alone time.

Should a teenage girl be forced to have father/daughter alone time doing an activity that she doesn’t want to do?

Answer

While I imagine your husband could improve his relationship skills with your teen daughter, I believe your broken marriage is creating the negative impact on their relationship. At some level, I imagine your daughter is simply modeling the distance you’ve established in your marriage.

You’re right that your children sense the lack of a loving relationship. Consequently, they also know to keep their distance if mom and dad aren’t feeling close. I have to wonder if your daughter feels disloyal to you if she has a close relationship with her dad.

Granted, your husband may have difficulty connecting to you or any of the children, thus creating the struggle with her. However, instead of focusing on what she should do with her relationship with her father, I recommend you focus your energy on getting your marriage straightened out. Chances are, if you’re feeling close to your husband, your daughter will feel more comfortable connecting with him.

I imagine she not only senses the lack of love between you and your husband, but she also notices the hundreds of other nonverbal signals that show you are avoiding each other. Are you open to working on your marriage and sending a clear message of unity and connection to your children?

Until your marriage is stronger and your daughter receives the message from you that the coast is clear to connect with dad, I wouldn’t make her relationship with him a huge deal. In fact, I would approach your husband and tell him that you want to work on your marriage because you believe it’s negatively affecting the relationships with the children.

If he won’t work on the marriage, then forcing your daughter to connect with him will be a losing battle. She can learn to stand up for herself and tell him what she likes and doesn’t like. Ultimately, her relationship with him is something she’ll be in charge of, so allow her to decide what she wants to do. While you can do everything you can to strengthen your relationship with him, your daughter will have to decide if she wants to be close to him.

If he expects you to back him up and force your daughter to do things with him, this is where you can redirect the conversation back to the failing marriage. You can tell him that you don’t even feel close to him and want something different. Take charge of your primary relationship with your husband so you can create a climate of connection in your family.

Stay connected!

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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

 

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26 Comments

  • The Rest Of The Story December 4, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Your husband sounds like a narcissist. The thought of “forcing” your daughter to spend time with him doing activities she isn’t interested in is a bit like mental rape, minus the act of sex. I don’t blame her for hating his guts. He sounds like a real jerk. The best thing you can do is leave this creep and get your kids away from him. When she turns 18, she may very well decide she doesn’t want him in her life at all. I certainly wouldn’t blame her. Siring a child–in fact, birthing a child (women)–doesn’t give you any entitlement and the more you try to guilt or force a child into serving as an extension of your own needs & wants, the more the child will dislike you and grow up with problems. Children are human beings with their own lives. If you don’t want to help a child become who they are and who they want to be, then you have ABSOLUTELY NO BUSINESS having a child.

    • The Rest Of The Story December 4, 2014 at 1:57 pm

      I’d add that this is one reason why so many children of deeply religious parents (hello, Mormons?? hello, Fundamentalist Christians??) grow up with so many problems. The parents aren’t interested in helping children become who they are. Rather, they have a pre-conceived image (or mold) of who/what they want and expect children to be and try to force them into that mold. It’s a disgustingly sick way to raise children. This is why so many religions (MORMON included) are patently anti-human, disgusting, vile, and have no place in a civilized/advanced society.

      • ladybugavenger December 5, 2014 at 9:06 pm

        Gotta like the icon

    • Brian December 4, 2014 at 2:28 pm

      You really should have that looked at. It looks like it’s getting infected.

      • The Rest Of The Story December 4, 2014 at 3:22 pm

        It has been looked at and confirmed. Society is infected with superstition aka: religion. However, the good news is that with the advent of the information age, the number of people becoming educated and embracing actual factual knowledge…instead of superstition leftover from man’s primitive days…is on the rise.

        Science will admit when it’s wrong. Religion will kill just to prove it is right.

    • Koolaid December 5, 2014 at 8:54 am

      This is Utah, where men own their women whether it be the wife, the daughter, the concubine, the employee. Isn’t it written in the law of the Utah lands (or Deseret lands) that men own their women? BTW, nice icon.

  • Just Me.... December 4, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Loved this answer!!!! There seems to be a trust issue, or threat of abandonment, in play.

  • Koolaid December 4, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    14 years old? This is Utah!!! What 14 year old Utah girl has time for her father? Shouldn’t you be forcing her into an arranged marriage at that age?

    • Zonkerb December 4, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      I didn’t know they waited for them to turn 14 are you sure its not 12 or 13.?

      • KOOLAID December 4, 2014 at 10:03 pm

        I just know my own mom was married at 14. Guess that says a lot about me, eh?

        • PROTECT THE SHEEP December 5, 2014 at 2:52 pm

          Yeah, it does

          • PROTECT THE SHEEP December 5, 2014 at 2:53 pm

            fake koolaid?

          • Koolaid December 8, 2014 at 8:34 am

            Yep. Fake Koolaid

  • modigliani December 4, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Gotta agree with The Rest of the Story on this one. This guy’s behavior does sound abusive. Is that the reason for the problems between the parents? I’d also consider that there may have been some sexual abuse (doesn’t always have to be physical) in the picture. Daughters in that situation want distance from the father but are not usually able to tell anyone, especially the mother. Leave the girl alone when it comes to forcing her to spend time with dad.

  • PROTECT THE SHEEP December 4, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    Teenage daughters need a strong male role model, and 14 isn’t too old too get a whippin. Worst case scenario is that she resents this father/daughter time so much that a few years down the road she starts dating black men as a way to get back a daddy. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen…

    • The Rest Of The Story December 4, 2014 at 3:07 pm

      As if dating black men is something bad?
      There is nothing wrong with being black, or dating black men.

      • Herd December 4, 2014 at 9:27 pm

        Not according to Brigham Young.

  • Crackmeup December 4, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    Failed/crappy marriage=failed/crappy kids. Some people don’t take marriage and commitment seriously. Kids pick up what, and who you are. There are honest, good, loving, hard working people out there in all religions and belief systems. They will raise good kids. As for the haters that love to questions someone faith, whatever it may be, I’m sure we will you and your kids on the arrest page.

    • ladybugavenger December 5, 2014 at 9:09 pm

      “good kids” that’s an oxymoron

  • Koolaid December 4, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    I wonder how Warren Jeffs would reply to this.

    • Dana December 5, 2014 at 6:01 am

      Warren would say “I Do.”

    • PROTECT THE SHEEP December 5, 2014 at 2:56 pm

      warren jeffs was a big advocate of father/daughter time or uncle/niece time or whatever it is those nasty pligs are calling it now. That’s why they all need to be locked up… Herbert, where u at???

  • Triggerguard December 5, 2014 at 8:58 am

    Yes you should force them but make sure they are SAFE.

  • My Evil Twin December 5, 2014 at 11:02 am

    Come on, this is a 14 year old kid. And just like Zonkerb, she is not going to like anything that any adult does or says. That is just the way it is at that age.
    However, I have to wonder about this case. I’m not at all sure that she should be allowed, let alone forced to be alone with her dad.

  • that guy December 5, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER EVER FORCE A CHILD TO DO ANYTHING AGAINST THEIR WILL!!!!!!!!!
    That being said come let us reason togather. A little psychology goes a long way, threats and force never do much good and offten end with ill will and resentment on both sides. Why does Daddy need alone time with the daughter? One can always spend quality time with a child even in a family night out setting.

    • PROTECT THE SHEEP December 5, 2014 at 4:50 pm

      u gotta learn when to let off the ctrl+v keys 😉

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