Dear Ms. Vicki,
My husband and I have been married for 16 years. We have four wonderful children. But we have reached a point in our lives where we no longer agree on how to raise them -- especially our teenagers.
I believe it's our responsibility as parents to correct any backtalking they do by punishment (something creative). My husband thinks it's OK to tell a 16-year-old girl that if she can't follow rules, she can leave.
Consequently, my daughter has tried leaving the house a couple of times. My husband thinks it's better to send her to another family member's house for a while or even to Job Corps so she can learn a lesson, but I refuse.
Now, my husband is saying we should all leave. He is talking divorce and says I can't stay in this house.
There is a lot of tension between us. Every day, he seems to get more angry. At this point, I have started packing our stuff to make the 1,800-mile drive back home.
My only concern now is financial. My husband is asking me not to get a lawyer. He said we can do this alone, but I don't know if I should trust him.
-- Confused Wife
Whoa. Whoa. Whoa! Hold on now, Wife. This started out with some differences in ways to parent, but now you and your husband are talking about divorce.
This sounds like the parenting differences were just the tip of the iceberg and that there is a lot of other turmoil beneath the surface.
In your defense, you are right that you can't just tell a 16-year-old to leave the house. It is too dangerous. You will only be building up more resentment and animosity instead of changing the teen's behavior.
The truth is that your daughter is sixteen. Sixteen-year-olds want to push the limit, rebel, talk back etc. It happens every day.
Should she obey? Absolutely, she should. Should your husband provide structure and discipline? Absolutely, he should.
To be more effective, all of your children should see you and your husband work together to provide discipline.
Now is not the time to throw in the towel on your marriage, however. Teen years pass. You can get through this together.
Unless you are experiencing domestic violence (in which case, you should get out now), this is the time for marriage and family counseling to help you work through your marital stressors and to provide some structural and strategic family therapy.
If you do decide to leave, you shouldn't do so until you contact a lawyer and get legal advice. Get your own attorney no matter what.
Please let me know what you decide to do.
-- Ms. Vicki
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