DEAR ABBY: I'm the father of a 13-year-old daughter, "Shelby," who I'm unable to reach. When Shelby was very young, I noticed that she would be very disrespectful to her mother at times. Of course, I would explain that that kind of behavior was unacceptable, and generally it would stop. Other times, it caused an argument between my wife, "Fran," and me. Fran felt it was just a stage and required no punishment, whereas I thought it did.
Now that Shelby is older, her behavior has gotten much worse. She screams at Fran all the time, calls her names, throws tantrums when she doesn't get her way, does poorly in school -- the list goes on and on. What's more, she's now starting to raise her voice at me when she doesn't get her way.
When I try to explain to Shelby that there are consequences for her actions -- such as grounding or taking away privileges -- she starts screaming and crying, which instantly draws the ire of her mother. Fran is always making excuses for why Shelby behaves the way that she does.
Basically, I cannot discipline my own child because every time I try, Fran and I argue until I get so weary I give in. I have tried explaining that Shelby's unhappiness is due to her not having any limits. I have told Fran I'm worried about the path our daughter is headed down. I have tried to make Fran understand that if Shelby can treat us this way, she'll treat anyone this way.
Can you recommend anything or anyone that can help? -- BEATEN-DOWN DAD IN N.C.
DEAR BEATEN DOWN: I sure can -- marriage counseling for you and your wife. Please don't put it off. If Fran won't go with you, go without her. The dynamics between the two of you are unhealthy, and your daughter's behavior is a reflection of it. Children DO need limits. However, until you and your wife are on the same page as far as raising your daughter, nothing will change.