Father-Daughter Conflict

How can I make peace between my husband and our teenage daughter? Every day when he picks her up from school he either starts a fight or delivers a lecture about how she's not measuring up academically. Then she calls me, angry or in tears. Grades have always been a problem for our daughter, and I understand that we need to do everything we can to encourage her to stay on top of her schoolwork. But at this point her dad is just making her feel like she's not "good enough." Can you help me?

It’s obvious that you feel caught between a rock and a hard place. You love your husband, but you can see that his behavior is harming your daughter. Naturally, that tears you up inside. The first thing we want to say to you is “take heart.” You can’t force your husband to change, but as a wife you can exert a great deal of influence over him.

It seems safe to assume that he loves your daughter just as much as you do, and that he’s very concerned about her future success. That’s a point in everybody’s favor. To the best of your ability, we’d encourage you to tap into that love and leverage it to change the situation. Start by affirming your husband and telling him how much you appreciate his obvious interest in your daughter’s welfare. Many dads aren’t nearly so involved in their kids’ lives, and he needs to be commended on that score.

Once you’ve made this positive beginning, you can go on to explain that his preaching and criticism are having an effect precisely the opposite of what he intends. Rather than spurring your daughter on to apply herself and study harder, he’s seriously harming her self-concept and confidence. Not only that, but there’s a good chance that he will permanently damage his relationship with her. Once she’s old enough to leave home, she may want nothing more to do with her dad. He needs to be aware of this possibility and take it to heart.

As you have the opportunity, we suggest you gently approach your husband with some carefully phrased questions calculated to get him thinking about whether his way of handling the situation is working. Rather than telling him he’s wrong, ask him if there might be a better way to achieve the goal of inspiring your daughter to take her school work more seriously. You might say something like, “I wonder if your strategy is helping or hurting?” Avoid perpetuating what’s referred to as a communication “triangle” between you, your daughter, and your husband. While you can empathize with how your daughter feels and support her, you should also encourage her to take her concerns directly to her dad. She needs to be able to tell him how she feels when he criticizes her. Teach her to use “I statements,” such as “Dad, I feel worthless inside when you talk to me that way.”

You didn’t mention whether or not your husband is a Christian. If he is, help him understand that the Bible commands us not to “exasperate” our children. Instead, God calls us to guide our kids lovingly and patiently. The Lord is much more concerned about instilling godly character qualities in our children than pushing them to get straight “A’s” or become the captain of the soccer team. If your husband trusts and respects your pastor, you might ask him if he’d be willing to sit down and discuss this conflict with him.

If you’d like to discuss your concerns at greater length with a member of our staff, call Focus on the Family’s Counseling department for a free consultation. They’d be pleased to assist you in any way they can.


If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

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A Father’s Influence in His Daughter’s Life (broadcast)


The Importance of Fathers to Their Daughters

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The Husband and Father’s Role

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