Dad prioritizes his hug over son’s punctuality

It’s not his job, though, to keep his dad from getting upset.

  • Monday, August 5, 2019 1:30am
  • Life

Dear Carolyn:

I drive my son to school, but beforehand, we drop his sister at their dad’s, where she catches the bus.

We were running late one day, and my son did not want to take the time to go in, hug his dad, and say good morning to him. He felt stressed about getting to school on time. However, he forced himself to go in and do it, because otherwise, his dad gets upset.

Sounds perfectly innocent, right? A good son.

But, in general, their dad tends to prioritize his own needs above all else — even if those needs are that he gets a little visit with a hug and hello when a child is trying not to be late to school. How do I teach my children that their needs are important as well, even if their dad’s needs are not being met?

I can only imagine the roasting I’ll be getting in the comments section; however, this controlling trait does tend to extend to other aspects of his life with the kids.

— How to Deal With Controlling People

You’ll get roasted for what — raising a question with valid implication for your child’s long-term emotional health?

The first thing I hope you do, soon and without flinching, is to explain to your son that it’s not his job to keep other people from getting upset. Not his father, not you, not his teachers, not his friends. Each of us is responsible for our own feelings, and our own choices. His job — everyone’s job — is to know the rules and expectations, to know the consequences of meeting them versus not meeting them, and to make choices accordingly.

So, to apply it to your situation: It’s not your son’s job to manage his father’s feelings. Your son’s job is to know what his father’s preferences and expectations are; to know the consequences of meeting them (possibly being late) versus not meeting them (upsetting his dad); and to make his choice accordingly.

This process of awareness and decision-making will make your son the driver of his own life, versus his dad’s puppet, even if he decides to risk being late by going inside to hug his dad. This is how you equip him to know his own mind and own his own choices, which is how you equip him to deal with people, period — not just the controlling or difficult ones, though it is with them that healthy practices are the most handy.

If you’re wobbly on this stuff yourself, then good counseling could shore you up. It’s also covered concisely in “Lifeskills for Adult Children” by Woititz/Garner.

Re: Controlling People:

The book “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” teaches children to say no. Very useful for kids who may have been raised to never say it.


Re: Controlling People:

The hug-needing dad is a complete control freak and I worry about both of those kids.

— N.M.

The parent who wrote the letter sees through it, at least — that gives them a fighting chance.

— Washington Post Writers Group

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