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Steven Richfield provides articles on many different aspects of raising a child
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IN THE NEWS
Headlines about ADHD, Learning Disability and Mental Disorders
Study on ADD and TV
The recent study published on watching television between the ages of one and
three and the possible link to ADD/ADHD did not take many considerations into
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Parent Coach Archives
Parent Coach: Taming The Struggle Between Father and Son (or Daughter)
Dr. Steven Richfield
A mother writes, "My husband and our 16 year old son have
difficulties in their relationship. Our son complains that his father is always
judging and criticizing him. My husband complains that our son is mocking and
evasive. In my mind the problem is the two of them can't stand each other
because they think the other is so different but in fact they really are very
similar. Any suggestions?
The struggles between fathers and sons are legendary. In the minds
of some fathers, a son holds such promise, offering them an opportunity to
relive an "improved" version of their own childhood. Conversely, in
the minds of some sons, being fathered means carrying the weight of
responsibility to satisfy a father's dreams and destinations. This makes
for quite a combustible mixture especially as the autonomy of middle and late
adolescence kicks in, leaving dreams and destinations in the dust.
Generations might divide fathers and sons but personalities slice
through communication and relationships. Similar personality traits, such as
tendencies to be self-centered, judgmental or stubborn, can be the staging
ground for verbal wars of attrition, wherein no one wins and the father-son bond
is the casualty. To establish a more positive momentum one of the combatants
must stop and see the bigger picture of what's at stake. The job of taking heed
to consider future implications falls upon the adult. Fathers, here are some
ideas to reach one of your most critical destinations: a more positive and
nurturing relationship with your child:
‚ Soften up the criticism so it sounds more like a suggestion and feels
less like an incision. Fathers shouldn't be expected to always withhold their
opinions but just to be more sensitive about sharing them. Resist the urge to
label behavior, such as calling it selfish or idiotic, since such words leave a
stinging imprint on the relationship. Take context and timing into consideration
since the best feedback might be dismissed by the insensitivity displayed in
delivery. Make it a habit of prefacing your comments by mentioning the positives
before the negatives. And last but not least, take pains to avoid embarrassing
your teenager or you will certainly live to regret it.
Ÿ Balance debating with validating so you don't always come across as the
opinion adversary. Some fathers have a habit of often taking the opposing
point of view when their adolescent's express themselves. The goal may be to
help kids consider alternate points of view or learn how to assert themselves
but the result can make fathers look like verbal bullies. Overlooked is the fact
that teenagers still require praise and validation from parents. Just because
they might be as tall as us doesn't justify our relating to them as we might our
adult friends when a point of contention is debated. Deep down there's still an
ego under construction, strengthened or weakened by the words that flow from
mothers and fathers.
Ÿ Find common ground topics and activities immune to judgments and criticisms.
Positive, bonded relationships require plenty of time for mindless fun without
editorial content. Make sure you spend time together laughing at Adam Sandler
movies, reminiscing about a favorite vacation, or doing something completely out
of character for you but totally enjoyable for your kid. Turn off your
"critical voice" during these times so that your teen can perceive you
as a regular person who enjoys them and not someone assigned to critique them.
Ÿ Keep an open mind to spousal feedback. Of the people most qualified to
comment upon your fathering your wife may well rank near the top. She sees you
at your best and your worst and serves as a sounding board to your teen. This
probably means that she has more knowledge of what's wrong in your relationship
than you do, and what contributions are yours alone. She may also have some
suggestions for how to build a more positive bond since she has faced the same
challenge and probably learned a few things in the process.
Dr. Steven Richfield is a child psychologist in Plymouth Meeting, PA. His
column appears monthly. He has developed a child-friendly self-control/social
skills building program called Parent Coaching Cards now in use in thousands of
homes and schools throughout the world. He can be contacted at http://www.parentcoachcards.com