Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Toddler Uses Foul Language She Learned From Her Dad

DEAR ABBY: Although he has never hit me, my husband has been emotionally and verbally abusive ever since our wedding five years ago. One of his favorite names for me when he's angry is "F----n' B----." I know this is my fault because I have tolerated it.

Today, my 2 1/2-year-old daughter (who is usually a good girl) threw a tantrum and called me the same name twice. I try to discipline her, but she doesn't understand that she's saying something bad if Daddy can call me that. How can she? He blames me for her talking that way, saying he hasn't called me that in a month. (He called me that last week. I don't use that language.)

I have suggested marriage counseling in the past, but he refused. I can't leave him because I am seven months pregnant with our second child. How do I get both of them to respect me? -- DISRESPECTED IN THE EAST

DEAR DISRESPECTED: You know that appointment you wanted to make for you and your husband with a licensed marriage and family therapist? Make one for yourself, right now, because what's going on isn't healthy for you or your little girl.

Your husband demeans you because from the moment you married him you have allowed it. Your 2-year-old isn't being disrespectful when she calls you what her father does. Children her age want attention, and they are mimics. Giving them attention when they use bad language reinforces them to do it more.

Please do as I'm suggesting before you conceive a third child. From your description of your relationship with your husband, his verbal abuse and the disrespect it conveys WILL be an example for your children that will follow them into adulthood.

Read more in: Abuse | Marriage & Divorce | Family & Parenting