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October 24, 2014 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Relationships

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Father - Daughter Relationship

Question:

I was a daddy's girl. So I find it natural that my daughter and her father are close. The thing is, I'm worried my daughter is becoming too dependent on my husband. She cannot sleep without him lying with her until she falls asleep. When I work nights, she sleeps on my side. She is now 13 and when we try to put her to bed alone, she gets really upset, on the verge of tears.

Can a daughter be too close to her father? When we tease her that she'll be in college still wanting dad to lay with her, she responds with, "You say that like it's a bad thing." Is this healthy? I work nights for 6 months out of the year, and she likes to sleep on my side, and he won't argue with her and send her to her own bed. Isn't this bad for her? Please know that he and I have a very good/healthy sex life. But I'm afraid she's becoming too attached to her dad. Should I have her see a therapist?

Lola, 46-year-old woman

Answer:

Dear Lola,

You are right to be concerned. This is beyond the limits of what is "normal" and is potentially harmful to your daughter. She is now in puberty, and it is important that her sexual feelings should focus outside the family. She may in time develop seriously pathological ways of thinking about sexual issues.

There are also more subtle consequences to her actions. She has developed the idea that if she can't have her way it's a tragedy and terrible and she can't possibly cope. That is very handicapping when she faces the rough and tumble of real life outside the family. You and your husband need to help her develop a mental toughness that allows her to cope with frustrations, and to get what she wants without undue emotional upset.

The situation arose because, without realizing it, the two of you have rewarded certain actions from her when she was little. However, now, it's more the other way. When your husband does as the girl wants, the two of you are rewarded by a contented child. When he attempts to do anything else, the two of you are punished by her being unhappy, and "not being able to sleep."

That sleep pattern is a habit that has been established, strengthened and maintained by this schedule of rewards and punishments. It is not going to go away while the current pattern of rewards and punishments continues.

You and your husband have a choice: face some short-term unhappiness whereby you can set her on the right path, or continue to give in to her demands, and risk her happiness and well-being for life. I suggest you seek a family therapist who is competent at cognitive-behavioral therapy, and modify the way the family does things.

Of course she will be "unable to sleep without daddy there" at first. But she, like all people, is perfectly capable of changing habits. Make the changes in a way that is respectful and loving to all three of you, but be firm. Show her this message. At 13, she should be old enough to understand it.

Good luck!

Bob

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 31 years experience as a psychologist and is registered with the Australian Psychological Society. He practices in Australia. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith".

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