Advice | Dad insists on lectures that drive teens away. Hax readers give advice.


We asked readers to channel their inner Carolyn Hax and answer this question. Some of the best responses are below.

Dear Carolyn: My husband and I have two teens. They’re great kids with good heads on their shoulders (so far!). My husband has taken to giving them long-winded unsolicited advice, and the kids have gone from politely listening to glazing over to now directly telling him they aren’t looking for advice to getting mad when he persists to avoiding him completely.

He gets mad and says he’s obligated as a parent to provide “guidance,” and if the kids need to get mad at him in order to be “motivated,” then he’s fine with that. I only give advice to the kids when asked or when they are thinking of doing something that has serious negative consequences — hence they tend to talk to me about their lives.

I’ve told my husband he’s pushing the kids away, but he justifies it as good parenting. I’m so tired of this cycle. What can I do?

Tired Parent: There isn’t a lot you can do. But step one is to sit your husband down at a happy time and tell him you have something important to discuss. Ask him to stretch himself to listen with an open mind. Then spell out the cycle as simply as you did in your letter. Ask him to reflect on what you’ve said, if there is any part he can relate to. If he is open to the idea of accepting your influence, you could come up with a lighthearted code word (Polonius!) to let him know he’s doing it.

That’s it. You’re done. One of the axioms of life is that we can’t control other people. He may continue to offer copious guidance and the kids may avoid him. It’s frustrating, but families survive worse. And to moderate your frustration, you can always remind yourself that your teens are all likely tolerating annoying and predictable behaviors from you, too!

Tired Parent: You can accept that you can’t change him and focus on your own relationship with your kids. Stop worrying about his relationship with them. Make up your mind to let the consequences fall where they may. Although you may be affected by those consequences, they are between him and the kids. Once you accept that, you can step back, take a breather and stop worrying.

That’s what your kids need from you — someone who’s focused on them, not on what your husband should or shouldn’t do. You probably aren’t doing your kids any favors by letting your husband’s behavior upset you.

Tired Parent: When my kids were teens, my husband began a group text thread with them he called Life Lessons. They were general guidance texts. They included things like the lesson of compound interest, or why never to lie, or how to speak up for yourself, together with a quick related story from his life. He sent one every few weeks. Occasionally he got a response from them, usually just a “thumbs up,” but he never asked for or expected one.

Years later, the kids told us how much they loved that thread, that they read every single text (maybe not right away), often shared the advice with friends, and still reread it now that they are adults. I believe they especially loved the personal stories he’d attach to them. He still does it, although much less frequently.

Tired Parent: Parents tend to be overbearing when they’re scared of something. I know I am! It’s tempting to go into long explanations about something, but I’ve realized that’s more about making myself feel better that I’ve explained something to them versus knowing what the actual best way is to share information with them.

So one thing to ask your husband: What is he scared of? Or worried about? As a parent, most of the job is worrying. We have to figure out if what we’re doing to address these fears is for us, or for our kids. And addressing your husband’s fears can help him be less overbearing — and you’ll learn something helpful, too!

— Parent/Therapist in CO

Tired Parent: You can try to keep a good relationship between father and kids by encouraging family events that don’t involve lectures. All of you could go to a professional sporting event, a rock concert or the movies — anywhere talking is virtually impossible. Get your kids involved in planning and ask them what they would like to do with their dad. Then, when they are past the lecture stage, your kids will also have some happy memories with their dad.

Every week, we ask readers to answer a question submitted to Carolyn Hax’s live chat or email. Read last week’s installment here. New questions are typically posted on Thursdays, with a Monday deadline for submissions. Responses are anonymous unless you choose to identify yourself and are edited for length and clarity.



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