I'm tired of being the bad guy – what do I do?

PA post imageQ – I have been divorced for several years. My teenage son thinks his father can do no wrong. I’m always the bad guy. My Ex doesn’t pay child support, doesn’t keep promises to our son and has a history of  disappearing without warning for long periods of time.  Now he’s back. I know my son loves his Dad, which is why I’m trying hard to be supportive.  My son never gets angry with my Ex anger but argues with me constantly. I’m so tired of being the one who lays down the law. Yesterday, my son told me he’d rather live with his Dad because they never fight. I feel heart broken what do I do?                                                                                                       

A – First, I applaud you for taking the “higher road” and putting your son’s needs first. It’s tough to support of a child’s relationship with a parent who isn’t doing their part. 

Parenting teens is never an easy job. When divorce is part of the picture, it becomes even more challenging.  In your situation, it sounds like there are several issues going on.  Since your Ex hasn’t been a consistent or dependable figure in your son’s life, your son may be worried that if he’s rocks the boat with Dad, it may mean losing Dad permanently.  It’s also very normal for a 14-year-old boy to want to have more time with his Dad, which may make your son’s need to have Dad in his life more intense.

While it’s no fun to deal with an angry teen, if your son is getting angry with you, chances it’s because he feels safe with you. Your son knows no matter what, you’re not going to stop loving him. He knows he can depend on you to be around even when he’s mad. Although it doesn’t make it easier, take heart you’re doing your job as a parent.

Most important, when you’re having a disagreement, talking about where your son lives is not a good idea. If your son knows it’s a touchy subject with you, he may bring it up as a way to sidetrack you or get you to back off a little.  In the future, if he brings up living with Dad when he’s angry, do your best not to react. Let him know if he’s interested in talking about changing the arrangements you’ll be happy to talk about it once he’s cooled off. However, it’s not something you will discuss when you’re having a disagreement or upset with one another.

Lastly, make sure you offset the problems with positive one on one time.  Consider calling a truce and put energy into  finding some common ground. Make time to go see a movie together, take a road trip or do something you both enjoy. It’d been said relationships are like bank accounts. Be sure you’re making some deposits with your son, not just withdrawals.