My husband resents our son

My husband and I got married just after we both completed college and it has been a great journey so far. We have teenage twins, a girl and a boy. However, my husband has always had a soft spot for the girl and doesn’t seem to care much for the boy. The girl performs well and is always topping her class whereas the boy has some challenges. I’ve tried to talk to my husband about going easy on him but he insists he needs tough love. The thing is, this boy is acting rebellious now and comes home late, drunk and completely out of order. They almost got into a fight one night and my husband had to lock him out. He didn’t come home for two days. I was worried sick. My husband ignored and said he didn’t care if he came back or not. I think he is just desperate for his father’s love. What can I do to bring them closer? How can I help my son realise that his rebellion will only bring him problems? He is close to his sister, so I’ve tried to ask her to talk to him but he always changes the subject when she does. Please

Dear Counsellor,

My husband and I got married just after we both completed college and it has been a great journey so far. We have teenage twins, a girl and a boy. However, my husband has always had a soft spot for the girl and doesn’t seem to care much for the boy. The girl performs well and is always topping her class whereas the boy has some challenges. I’ve tried to talk to my husband about going easy on him but he insists he needs tough love. The thing is, this boy is acting rebellious now and comes home late, drunk and completely out of order. They almost got into a fight one night and my husband had to lock him out. He didn’t come home for two days. I was worried sick. My husband ignored and said he didn’t care if he came back or not. I think he is just desperate for his father’s love. What can I do to bring them closer? How can I help my son realise that his rebellion will only bring him problems? He is close to his sister, so I’ve tried to ask her to talk to him but he always changes the subject when she does. Please
advise.

Eve

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Dear Eve
A good relationship between a man and his son is necessary for the son’s emotional stability later in life. Unfortunately, not every father is nurturing, or has a great relationship with his child, or is aware of the adolescent changes transpiring in the child’s behaviour. Your husband needs some basic parenting lessons. He can’t force respect, but he can demand civility. As an adult, your husband should exercise a good level of parenting both in his utterances and conduct towards the boy, putting in mind that this boy is undergoing adolescence, the worst stage in his life cycle characterised by unreasonable aggressiveness, tough emotional issues, strong self-defense and self-esteem issues. That’s the stage during which a young male attempts to form his own identity hence, rebellion. Fortunately, this stage is temporary and when your son gets over it successfully, he’ll be thankful for your role as parents in helping him get through it.

If you don’t like the way your husband is handling things, sit with him and review your son’s behaviour and what you both hope for the future. Asking your spouse to cool down in front of the boy may have an opposite effect, as it can make him feel undermined.

This father-son fight could also become an issue for you which could ruin your marriage. You and your husband need to be on the same parenting page, and then you can go after the behaviour of your son.

Try and listen to each other’s views without interruption or judgment. Your own relationship needs to be strong. This will help you mediate.

After you are done talking to your husband, have a chat with your son and find out what sets off that kind of behaviour in him. Tell him that you are willing to help him transform into a responsible and respectful person. The idea is to soften his defense. Avoid arguments by giving each other time to speak. Ask your son how he feels about privacy and the things he wants to do, and together, set boundaries that he should respect.

Then give them both some time to talk and strengthen their relationship. Create family events like picnics, football matches or family vacations.

Encourage conversations on topics that are not controversial or personal, for instance; technology. Also, organise sessions with a therapist to help you all play your roles well and put an end to this dysfunctional relationship.

Your feedback

How can Eve fix the relationship between her husband and son?
Readers offer their advice.

Is there a possibility that your husband didn’t have that close connection with the boy from the start? As a parent, he should be there for both his children no matter what. Seek advice from a counsellor before he ruins the family.

Francoise Ishimwe, Parent

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Your boy needs his father’s love

Children need guidance from their parents, so being hard on him will only eat away at the relationship and this will make him misbehave even more. I believe your son needs love from his father which he is not getting.

Fabrice Nyirimuringa, Mentor

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Give him the attention he needs

Your son needs love from both of you, that’s why he is misbehaving. You need to re-connect with him to make him feel loved again, without this; you will end up losing him due to the dangerous path he has chosen.

Eliud Hakizimana, Bus driver

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Consult with his friends

You shouldn’t give up on your family. I advise you to pray to God that everything works out well. On top of that, try to inquire from his friends what he normally shares with them to find the way forward.

Patricia Umuhoza, Mother

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You need to communicate

Let your son open up on how he feels and what he really wants from you as parents. Your husband on the other hand should also be honest as to why he treats him that way. I believe good communication is the key to this problem. Solange Gwiza, Entrepreneur

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