Dear Miss Emily:

I have joint custody of my daughter.  She wants to live, full time, with her father, because he has no rules, and I do.  She contacts me as little as possible and only when she needs something.  She is mean to me and her sisters, and I blame a lot on her father.  She has a boyfriend who goes to a different school than she.  Now she wants to change schools (she is in her junior year), and I am against it.  The school she attends is excellent, and the one she wishes to attend is academically one of the lowest scoring in the U S.  In order for her to do this, she must use my address. Her father is on her side, but I think this is a horrible decision.  There is much more to this story, but I need advice on this particular situation.
At Wits End 

-------------------------Miss Emily’s advice--------------------


Dear At Wits End:

One of the uglier sins of bad parenting is ignoring the wishes of the other parent in order to look like, in this case, “the good guy.”  What a horrible message this sends to the child. If this is truly the case, you cannot betray your principles and agree to this new demand. However, ask these questions:  Can your daughter legally use your address, because there is a court order regarding joint custody?  And if she can use your address, are you willing to go to great lengths to challenge this based on her, now, full-time residency with your ex-husband?  Can he threaten to go after child support as a bargaining chip?  These are legal questions only an attorney can answer.  If this is not the case, I repeat, stand your ground, but do it without being defensive. I think, in time, she’ll realize that you did what you thought was right and not hold you emotionally hostage for the rest of your life. For now, you’ll just have to refuse to listen to her verbal abuse. Never regret rational discipline in raising your children.  To set no boundaries for rules and behavior in childhood puts a selfish, petulant person into the real world making it difficult for them to adjust to the standard rules and norms of society --  not to mention the failed relationships that result from not always getting their way.  I have mentioned this before, in my column, but here is a good book to get.  Positive Discipline for Single Parents: Nurturing Cooperation, Respect and Joy in Your Single Parent Family, by Jane Nelson (Amazon).