Carolyn Hax: Dad wants to solve all problems - now

Dear Carolyn: My 14-year-old son said to me this morning, “I guess I will learn to rant to you and not Dad,” after a frustrating conversation the night before where Son wanted to tell us about football frustrations and Husband insisted on trying to fix the problem, including calls to the coach, principal, you name it.

While his desire to be an active, engaged dad is great – and very unlike his own dad – he doesn’t know when to back off. Son’s comment confirmed what I’ve feared (and found myself doing): that the kids won’t tell him about problems for fear he'll jump in inappropriately.

This comes from a real strength of his – he is not afraid to take on a difficult conversation or battle and wants to advocate for his family – but sometimes we all just need to have a sympathetic ear. I try to fill that role for the kids, but I hate to see them not talk to their well-meaning dad.

Sympathetic Ear

That “real strength” – does your son think the same of his dad? And if so, is it a strength your son would like to develop himself (albeit with better awareness of the off switch)?

He can do this by waiting till he’s calm, and then approaching his father about the frustration he felt last night. “I realize you just want to help me, Dad, I appreciate that. And you’re good at handling things like this – but I want to get good at it, too, and that means I need to come up with my own answers – even the wrong ones sometimes.”

By doing this, your son will address not just his relationship with Dad, but also the football problem or whatever one follows that. He'll be developing the skill of having difficult conversations, which will then teach him to advocate for himself.

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