Parenting --Teens/Re: Ask
I am writing regarding my relationship difficulty with my son. I have raised him since he was a baby as a single father and have given him and his twin sister my best financially and emotionally. Also both of my children were able to spend time with their mother regularly there were no fights or disagreements between their mom and I she decided to move away when they were 5 years old but saw them regularly.
Both my son and his twin sister graduated from College and are very intelligent, after my son graduated I have opened a small business for him which he seems to enjoy and make a good living from it and I do not get anything nor expect anything from him or his business however I am having a very difficult time with my son in our relationship he appears to out of nowhere almost daily basis unload his anger and is extremely abusive towards me in any conversation we may start which ends up him exploding almost as if he has rage within as if he has Bi-Polar type symptoms.
I have always lowed and shown compassion both of my children throughout their life but it is very disappointing for me to be subjected his abusive behavior and complete disrespect after all of the sacrifices I have given for past 23 years.
I have suggested for both of us to see an independent therapist to guide and counsel both of us to better our relationship but he continues to think it is me and I am the problem and will not see a professional.
I would appreciate your suggestions as to what to do since I have asked my son repeatedly not to be abusive or take his anger out on me but with no success. I have many friends and they all adore me and are very respectful towards me over many years I am just not sure what the issues are with my son I am at a point to distance my relationship with him he brings out the worst in me.
Look forward to your guidance. Thank you for all of your help and time in advance.
As the single parent of, over the years, 13 foster teens and an adopted son, I certainly understand and applaud your commitment to your kids and to the sacrifices you have made along the way. It sounds like you did a good job. Both of your kid are college grads. Your son is set up in a business he enjoys and is making a good living. I would say that your work as a parent is both successful and that phase of your being a parent is done.
Unless I missed something or there was something you left out, like your son still lives with you or the two of you work in the business or share and office, I don't understand why you are interacting with him on a daily basis. He is a young adult, with a business, doing quite well, so it is time for you to back off and let him figure out things for himself. I firmly believe that most fights parents have with their teens and young adults are caused be parents who have not yet recognized that once kids get past about 12-13 years old, and they put their hands on their hips, look up and ask "why?" the days of being an authoritative parent are over. From then on I believe you can only parent by permission (for a full explanation of this concept go to my blog, http://TheParentsCoach.com/blog
and read the lead article).
By Parenting By Permission, means that the only time that you can effectively do any parenting is when you are asked to be in that role. I learned that lesion from my son. He was already an older teen when I finally adopted him and he started to live with me. He was used to being quite independent. When I gave unsolicited advice, even when it was just what he needed to hear. He would react negatively by arguing, totally shutting down and stop talking to me for long periods of time or actually splitting and staying away from the house for a while. I learned that either I could give some unsolicited piece of advice and then walk away, saying, "if you need me, I'm in the kitchen" or something like that, or I just had to wait until he asked for assistance. The latter was always the most effective. Even when he asked, I still had to let him lead the pace of the conversation and be very aware of when he was no longer interested in my services.
This is a tough role, especially when my world was centered on him. I just had to understand that as he got older and even more independent, my role in relation to him continued to evolve and that I had to accept that that involved less interaction with him than I was comfortable with. He was fine with that and functioning quite well without me. It was me who missed that daily contact and wanted and needed it to fill the gap that his not being around much left. Once I understood that, I could back off and let him be the one to initiate the contact.
Sometimes it is hard to write these replies when I do not have all the information. Hopefully, my assumptions were correct and you get something out of this. If I am totally off base, please reply with more details so I can address them. I do have another suggestion. There is a book that a friend and associate, Diana Sterling wrote called "Parent as Coach." I think that is must reading for parents of teens and especially parents who are having the problems you describe. It is short, inexpensive and I guarantee that reading it will change how you interact and converse with your son, for the better. You can find it on my website under the "Parent Resources" section. Clicking on the title will take you to Amazon. There are two printings of the book. Choose the more recent one.
So the bottom, bottom line, here is I would think the best thing you can do right now, immediately, is exactly what you suggested in your second to last paragraph. It is time to back off a bit and give him some space. He needs to be able to feel that he can be successful without any constant guidance from you. Eventually he might ask you why you haven't called in a while. Your reply ought to be something like, "It seemed to me that you needed a breather from me so I decided to give you some breathing room. I have total confidence that you can do quite well on your own and I know that you have my number when you think I can be of assistance or when you want to say hello."
A caveat: Under no circumstance do you lay any blame or guilt trips on him. Just say something like I suggested and shut up. Let him lead the conversation. You can ask how he is doing, etc. but be real aware when you are starting to get push back and back off. My mother used to say, "it takes two to tangle!" and you are the parent and need to take the more noble road. She also used to say, "Discretion is the better part of valor." Know when to not engage.
By the way, he just might not call for a while. Just sit tight and wait. He needs to make the first move. If he communicates through his sister, like she asks you how come you are not calling her brother, it is OK to tell her what I suggested above. Then wait for him to call. He ought not get a message from you that you are not calling him because you are upset, angry , etc. that will just continue this war of wills. The message is "I love and respect you and decided you needed that space." He can't fight that sentiment.
Last point, I do not think that the two of you need to do therapy. Do what I suggest and see if that improves the situation. If he has these rages with others, then he will need to decide that he needs assistance. He is an adult and needs to take responsibility for his self.
Let me know what happens.
Jason Wittman, MPS