Single dad needs kids to pitch in

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  April 8, 2011 06:00 AM

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So glad I found your website! My son who has 3 teens of his own + 2 stepsons (teens also), has custody of his children because he is such an awesome father (mother not)-- he has a demanding job, spends all his off time taking kids to and from ball games, coaching, scouting, etc. He has also spoiled them -- they have everything plus more! They all adore him. Last night he called me from one of his boy's games, and told me he was totally exhausted, and more than anything, frustrated. He gives and gives of his time but his kids don't appreciate it in any way. He sounded so desperate and sad. His college teen is doing the party scene, getting tickets, etc. I think my son has finally realized he was caught up with "keeping up with The Jones" and tried to do too much for them. Perhaps it was because of their mother (he was trying to make up for her treatment of them). He doesn't sleep at night (work worries and children worries). Is is too late to get these kids back on track -- they are really very good kids, well mannered, etc. but just never learned to show their appreciation and empathy for what their dad is going thru or sacrificing for them. Any advice would be helpful. Thank you so much.

From: MsRhae, Houston, TX

Dear MsRhae,

It is never too late -- repeat, never too late -- to make changes in parenting style. Because these kids are all teens, they are need to hear the truth. My advice is for dad to call a family meeting and tell everyone that he's exhausted, over-extended at home and at work, and needs their help. He needs to avoid blaming statements ("You don't appreciate me.... Why can't you kids...."). This isn't about the kids, it's about him and how he parents.

First, he needs to state the problems ("Im not getting enough sleep, I need help with x, y, z...."). He wants to make changes. He can say, "I feel like I've made some mistakes, that I shouldn't have stretched myself so thin....." He can ask for their suggestions. He can also ask them to help in specific, concrete ways -- "I need someone to volunteer to take out the trash and bring it in every Tuesday;" "I can't get to sleep until I know Tommy is home, so I need you, Tommy, to be home by curfew so that I can get the sleep I need." Lastly, there need to be consequences -- that he will enforce -- for lack of compliance. Settle on consequences collaboratively ( "What's a good consequence, Tommy, if you're not home by curfew?" "What happens if someone doesn't clean the bathroom when it's his turn?" ) rather than dad announcing what they will be. The kids will be more likely to buy into the solution if they are part of creating it.

Change takes time and it's gradual. But I'm betting that these kids do appreciate dad and will be willing to step up.

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3 comments so far...
  1. Sadly the behavior of these children is running rampant in our society. As a psychotherapist in practice for over 30 years, I have watched the deterioration of children's mental states and behaviors. American parents have become increasingly over-indulgent and children have consequently become increasingly self-centered, entitled, and narcissistic. Parents need to educate themselves - it takes love and discipline to raise the most well-adjusted child. Over-indulgence will create unhappiness for all.
    Sheri Noga, MA
    author of "Have the Guts to Do it Right: Raising Grateful and Responsible Children in an Era of Indulgence"
    www.grateful-child.com

    Posted by Sheri Noga MA April 8, 11 05:40 PM
  1. Isn't being unappreciated by teenagers exactly as it should be? I get that it is frustrating, and agree that they should be addressed about Dad's well-being, but I wouldn't expect miracles. Teens are teens are teens. The good news is they won't be teens for ever.

    Posted by lala April 11, 11 03:54 PM
  1. "Sadly the behavior of these children is running rampant in our society."

    The behavior in the letter is that the dad does so much but the kids don't realize how much he does for them; they adore him, are "good kids" and are "well-mannered," according to the LW. They just don't understand or have empathy for their father's efforts.

    So I'm not sure exactly what behavior you think is running rampant now among children that is any different than it ever was.... I think perhaps your own biases about parenting are causing you to read a little much into this letter.

    Sounds like dad has overextended himself -- that's on him, not on his kids, and really doesn't illuminate much about their behavior. He just needs to start being more open and honest with them about what his limits are, and what he needs from them. If they are in fact as good and well-mannered and adoring as the LW says, this will not cause a terrible eruption.

    Posted by jjlen April 12, 11 11:30 AM
 
3 comments so far...
  1. Sadly the behavior of these children is running rampant in our society. As a psychotherapist in practice for over 30 years, I have watched the deterioration of children's mental states and behaviors. American parents have become increasingly over-indulgent and children have consequently become increasingly self-centered, entitled, and narcissistic. Parents need to educate themselves - it takes love and discipline to raise the most well-adjusted child. Over-indulgence will create unhappiness for all.
    Sheri Noga, MA
    author of "Have the Guts to Do it Right: Raising Grateful and Responsible Children in an Era of Indulgence"
    www.grateful-child.com

    Posted by Sheri Noga MA April 8, 11 05:40 PM
  1. Isn't being unappreciated by teenagers exactly as it should be? I get that it is frustrating, and agree that they should be addressed about Dad's well-being, but I wouldn't expect miracles. Teens are teens are teens. The good news is they won't be teens for ever.

    Posted by lala April 11, 11 03:54 PM
  1. "Sadly the behavior of these children is running rampant in our society."

    The behavior in the letter is that the dad does so much but the kids don't realize how much he does for them; they adore him, are "good kids" and are "well-mannered," according to the LW. They just don't understand or have empathy for their father's efforts.

    So I'm not sure exactly what behavior you think is running rampant now among children that is any different than it ever was.... I think perhaps your own biases about parenting are causing you to read a little much into this letter.

    Sounds like dad has overextended himself -- that's on him, not on his kids, and really doesn't illuminate much about their behavior. He just needs to start being more open and honest with them about what his limits are, and what he needs from them. If they are in fact as good and well-mannered and adoring as the LW says, this will not cause a terrible eruption.

    Posted by jjlen April 12, 11 11:30 AM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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