My husband and I have been married for 8 years. We have 4 kids (2 are from previous relationships.) My daughter is the oldest at 14. Her biological dad isn't around, so my husband is the only father she knows and she calls him dad. We're both new to teenagers. He's kind of the enforcer, and I guess you could say I'm the good cop.

We recently left her and her 13-year-old brother at home alone so we could take our twins to the store for their birthday. While we were gone, she invited one of her friends over (she wasn't supposed to, and she knew it, yet she still did it.) She's never broken the rules before and is usually very responsible.

My husband and her got in to it when we got home, and he grounded her for 1 week but it ended up 2 weeks because she kept on with her back talking. Well it's been about a week and they have barely said two words to each other. Today they got in to it again and he said if I don't do something he was going to leave. We usually present a united front when it comes to the kids due to the fact that they outnumber us. I told my daughter I needed her to quit running her mouth and it's got to stop.

Now he's not talking to me, and my daughter doesn't understand what's wrong and why she's grounded. I don't like being in the middle and don't know what to do; if I don't do anything my other kids will begin to speak the same way to us and my husband might leave.

Any advice would be appreciated.

  • 5
    Hi and welcome. Can you clarify a few things? Why doesn't your daughter know she's grounded (does she think her talking back wasn't that bad, or is there some other reason?) Why isn't your husband talking to you now? Has this been an ongoing issue (people don't usually threaten to leave after one stressful event)? It's not clear from your post. Thanks. Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 19:10

2 Answers 2


So there is a lot going on here.

I'm going to set aside the fact that he's not her biological father - this is something that teenagers do to any authority figure, biological or not. (They actually do it at any age, they just get better at it as they get older...)

Let's start with your daughter: what she's doing is extremely typical. It's stressful, but you should be relieved to know that it's perfectly normal and, in a way, isn't a bad thing. I mean, you don't want her going through life always taking orders and never pushing the limits, do you? And if she's going to push too far, wouldn't you rather it be with people who love her like you and your husband do than with someone who will hurt her emotionally, physically, or financially?

That's not to say that because it's normal you should let it continue. On the contrary, what's great about this is it helps her to learn real cause and effect. Speaking of causes, while this is normal, it doesn't just happen out of the blue. You have to find out why she's doing this and get to the bottom of it. Keep in mind it might be something trivial, blown out of proportion, or simply a misconception about how the world works, so try not to be judgemental when you really get to the bottom of what's going on. Asking little bro what is going on might give some insight, too, just don't push him too hard because you don't want her to lose trust in him if she has it.

Now, to your husband, I completely identify with him. I'm the 'bad cop' to my two daughters, while their mother is the 'good cop'. (It doesn't help that the spoilers-in-chief, grandma and grandpa, live in the basement, but that's another story ;-) ...) He needs to open up to you about how he feels, and I can tell you this isn't easy. Not to get any lectures about stereotypical gender roles, but us bad-cop-dads have been trained for years by our society to hide our feelings. It's something I have spent the last six years trying to fight and change with my wife's support, but it's really really hard. So be very understanding and expect some venting from him.

You said that normally you two have a unified front - why is this situation any different? Find out from him how he feels and come up with a plan. Having a calm meeting between the three of you might help too. Having a game-plan for you two going into it is probably a good idea, but don't script the whole thing: you don't want her to feel like you two are ganging up on her.

Now, to you - I know you said you hate being in the middle of it all, but if they're fighting, someone has to bring them together. I noticed your question is a little jumbled. It isn't really structured which leads me to think you might not have had the chance to really process this all. Take a time out, breathe deep, and remember: you got this. This could be much, much worse. There's no violence, there's no running away, there's no law breaking. Not to sound too mushy, if you keep cool and bring the family back together with love, you'll all get through it together.


[on phone so excuse misspellings]

As corsiKa pointed out, there are a lot of feelings and complexities and personalities in play here. It is hard to answer your question without more information. Some very general thoughts:

He's kind of the enforcer, and I guess you could say I'm the good cop.

1) He may be tired of always being the "bad guy".

2) He may have wanted you to step up for a while, and is finally boiling over.

my husband and her got into it when we got home, and he grounded her for 1 week

Where were you while this was going on? I'm guessing your position is encapsulated in this statement right here:

she's never broken the rules before and is usually very responsible.

Your position seems to be one of secret defense of your daughter. You agree that she should not run her smart-mouth off ("I told my daughter I need her to quit running her mouth and it's got to stop.") but in the secret places of your heart, you think your husband is overreacting on the no-friends-over thing. (I.e.: Yes, she did a bad thing, but she's mostly pretty good, so no biggie, right?")

Now he's not talking talk to me, and my daughter doesn't understand what's wrong or why she's grounded.

Of course she doesn't. She's a teenager, and they always believe that they are the wounded party in every situation, always. And if I'm right about the above, she detects a soft stop in you, and is working that distance between you and your husband to her advantage, reinforcing herself as the wounded party.

Conclusions? Here's my best guess, given the information at hand. Your husband probably feels like he is alone in hostile territory. He has a teenager rolling her eyes and complaining about how unfair he is (and depending on her maturity level, stomping her feet, and bitching on social media about how mean he is, and possibly saying hurtful things like, "you're not my dad!"). Teenagers are stressful and emotionally exhausting and have zero self-awareness at how hurtful their actions can be. And, he may additionally feel some angst and self-doubt because she is not his biological child.

On top of that, his wife does not have his back. Oh, sure, you are trying to remain neutral, but to quote a Latin truism: "Qui tacet consentire videtur," or in English, "Silence implies consent." Your possible silence on the matter of her inviting friends over implies your consent to her behavior.

His ultimatum is extreme, but he probably feels overwhelmed and alone in enemy territory. It sounds like communication is not his strong suit.

Recommendations Again, without more details, it is difficult to make recommendations. There is some communication that needs to happen between you and your husband. Your husband's initial punishment is firm but not extreme. He's possibly afraid of worst-case scenarios like that she is going to invite boys over when you guys are gone and have sex (and get pregnant, move into a trailer, and go on welfare, etc) or whatever. He's possibly trying to nip things in the bud. Especially if he was wild when he was a teenager / snuck into girls houses when their parents were gone.

One technique to try to understand his position is to do some "perception checking". There are lots of resources on the web on how to do perception checking. But basically describe the behavior you don't understand in a neutral, non-judge mental manner, and then ask questions. Don't defend or justify yourself; try to get to the bottom of his thoughts and feelings before you respond (with love).

Additionally, if your husband is so frustrated with the situation that he feels he needs to leave, then this has probably been festering for some time. Consider marriage counseling. If that is impossible, then consider getting some books about marriage self-help (eg men are from Mars, women from Venus, etc). In the meantime, try to make him feel your support him as much as you can.

  • 3
    I agree that the sentiment that "his wife does not have his back" is a big part of the problem here. It's the biggest pitfall of good cop/bad cop-it implies a division between the two authority figures, and ultimately pits thrm against each other, which is exactly what happened.
    – Jax
    Commented Aug 6, 2016 at 14:36
  • Wish I could upvote more. When I first read the question my reaction was to be indignant at the husband because of his threat. But as I read this answer I realized that was because my husband always backs me up when my son behaves disrespectfully or backtalks me. I'm the "bad cop" in the family, BTW, if there is one. Even if we disagree over a punishment, we do not disagree over the fact that our kids must behave respectfully toward their parents. If that didn't happen I might have found myself in the husband's position and I might have resorted to that threat if I felt I had no choice. Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 14:51

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