The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas


November 2, 2012

ASK DEBRA: Guilty parent

PALESTINE — Question: My brother and his wife are divorced. My brother gets his daughter on the weekends. He did not want the divorce. His wife filed against his will. She was having an affair and has married the other man. My brother was heartbroken, and now he gets to see his daughter on the weekends only. He is a good father, but he is letting his daughter get away with manipulative behavior, and he isn't disciplining her like he should. She is turning into a demanding brat when she is with him. I have tried to tell him, but he refuses to listen. He says he only gets to see her two or three days a week, he feels bad that he can't be with her all the time, and he wants their time together to be positive. But he's gone from positive to over-indulgent. He's not doing his daughter any favors! I don't want this to cause a rift in our relationship, but I also feel compelled to tell him the truth.

Answer: It sounds like you have told him the truth, and he refused to listen. In this situation, I'd advise you to make the issue a matter of prayer, and release it to the Lord. Your brother does not sound like he is willing to see the issue. If you continue to press the subject with him, I suspect there will be definite friction in your relationship and a chance that long-term damage will be done.

    Perhaps the following observations will give you some insight into your brother's turmoil. Your brother has had his heart broken, he feels lost, and is probably afraid of losing his daughter, like he lost his wife. He is also probably experiencing guilt and may even feel sorry for his daughter because she's been separated from him. Furthermore, your brother can probably see some things he did wrong in his marriage, and he may even be blaming himself for his wife's choices. These issues are common problems when people have undergone a traumatic experience such as a divorce.

    Whatever the case, it sounds as if he is allowing guilt to drive his relationship with his daughter. This is too often the fallout of a divorce. Unfortunately, there are times when grandparents even join in the dysfunction and pity the child to the point of hindering his or her character. While children of divorce do need kind and understanding parents and grandparents, they also need the balanced discipline that any other child needs.

    Unfortunately, you can't fix the situation your brother is in. The best thing is to pray daily that your brother can find emotional healing, freedom from fear, and a release from the guilt. Then, he will be able to parent his child in a more balanced fashion.

The author of 54 books, Debra White Smith holds an M.A. from U.T. and is the featured relationship specialist on the Fox News Radio Show, “Plain Jane Wisdom.” She and her husband, Daniel, co-pastor Palestine Church of the Nazarene. For more information, visit Got a problem? E-mail Debra at


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