Dear Mr. Dad: My husband and I have been married 12 years, and have a 7-year old son. The problem is that my husband is a terrible role model. When he’s angry, he throws things around the house. Our son has already picked up on this and now does the same when things don’t go his way. My husband is also verbally abusive and curses me in front of our son. He blames everything on me and now the boy has started doing the same. He opposes every household rule I set. I tell our son to brush his teeth and take a shower, dad says it’s okay not to. I could go on, but you get the point. I’m considering divorce and I want to know whether my son would be better off without his father.
A: Sounds like you’re in a terrible–and possibly dangerous–situation. The short answer to your question is that I don’t think your son would be better off without his father. He may be a bad parent and an all around jerk, but the boy loves and needs him.
That said, keeping things the way they are isn’t a good option. Do some research and find yourself several therapists who deal with difficult family situations. Then tell your husband that you think it’s important for the two of you to see someone together. Don’t make it seem as though you’re blaming him or that he’s done anything wrong. Present the problem as a joint one, and tell him you want to do what’s best for your son.
Hopefully he’ll go with you. If not, your next step is to talk alone with someone who has a lot of experience helping parents come up with more effective parenting strategies. There may be some things you can do to ease the situation. I don’t have a lot of hope that that will work, though.
The last step would be to meet with a divorce attorney to discuss your options. Again, the goal is not to separate your son from his father, it’s to do what’s best for him. Bottom line, unless you truly feel that you or your son are in physical danger, do as much as you can to help them maintain a relationship.