Recently I spoke with one father who confessed to having difficulty liking his son. Clearly his son was rebellious and had some behaviors that most parents would find offensive. The son rarely did what he had promised. He blew off chores. He had trouble backing down and he thought he never made a mistake.
When I pushed the father to tell me something he liked about his son, he reluctantly admitted that the boy was a pretty good student, didn’t get in trouble at school, had a great sense of humor and a rather endearing smile. The trick for me was to get the father to focus on his son’s attributes at least some of the time. This would allow the father to feel good about his son as opposed to always feeling negative.
The first thing I did was to ask the father to bring me a list of fifty things he liked about his son even if he had to go back in history and remember some of the experiences from his son’s childhood. Although the father dutifully made his list he couldn’t wait to tell me how his son had messed up that week.
The father’s next assignment was to only comment on the positive things his son did. The idea was to get the father to change his focus from looking at the negative to looking at the positive. This assignment did not work either.
I then came up with the idea that every time the son messed up the father would say in his head,“At least he’s alive.” When I told the father this he said, “You do have a point.”
The following week when I saw this man he said that the assignment had worked. For the first time in almost three years he felt some genuine closeness toward his son. He no longer saw his son as an incompetent. What he saw was a boy struggling, some- times inappropriately, for his own identity. As this father left my office that day, he grinned a little and said,“You know, I really do love that kid.”
If you’re having trouble loving your kid because of his hard-to-deal with behaviors, why not experiment with one of the previous homework assignments?
Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World,” “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide,“ and “Thin Becomes You” at Doris’ web page: http://www.doriswildhelmering.com.
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