My son's father and I were together until my son was 6.5. We broke up because I found out he had been abusing heroin and stealing thousands of dollars in cash and items from my mother, his friends, myself, and my son.

He continued taking advantage of my niceness after we broke up by talking me into driving him places (that of course he never told me where I was really taking him with our son in the back seat, and more often than not they were places that were too dangerous for us to be involved with) and "loaning" him money, because he knew I would do it for my son's sake.

He did drugs around my son many times (not in front of him), left us sitting in a scary motel room for 4 hours while he took my car to go get drugs (he of course lied to me and said he was just running to the gas station), he took my son with him to get drugs while I let them hang out, and he tried to use my son to get sympathy from people so they would give him money. Over the last 4 years he has been in jail way more than he's been out, and I know he relapsed at least twice since he originally "quit".

So many times I drove my son to places to meet with his dad so they could go hang out, and so many of those times he would either not show up, or he would get there and use the time to try to get something out of me, whatever it was he made it obvious that he wasn't there to hang with our kid. I tried for so long for them to have a good relationship. So many times my child would cry in the backseat of my car as we would turn around and drive back home.

He got out of jail the last time at the beginning of December. He asked to speak to our son, and my kid said he didn't want to speak to him. Of course my ex immediately blamed me, saying I put him up to it or that I was lying. Now he keeps pestering me to talk to our son and get him to speak to him, and that he's his dad so my son "has to talk to him".

My question is, should I force my son to speak to someone who has repeatedly let him down? I don't want to make the wrong choice here, my son has already been through so much, I don't want to do him anymore disservice. Any advice would be welcome. Thank you.

  • 1
    How old is your son now? Jan 19, 2015 at 20:22
  • 6
    Not an answer, not a criticism, but genuine, heartfelt compassion: Your son has better instincts than you do - trust him on this.
    – Stephie
    Jan 20, 2015 at 11:24
  • @Stephie: I doubt it. Children learn whom to trust from the people around them. What I think is much more likely is that Melanie unconsciously projected her (well-founded, I hasten to add) reservations onto her son. That's a very common thing.
    – sbi
    Jan 20, 2015 at 18:50

4 Answers 4


Simple answer: No. Absolutely not.

In your question, you haven't given a single reason why your son actually should talk to him ever again, but you've given a thousand reasons why he would never want to talk to him, and why talking to him wouldn't be any good for your son anyway. You would do your son a great disservice by not respecting his feelings and forcing him to talk to his father.

You don't say how old your son is now; but even though he probably isn't an adult yet, please read this article to get an insight what having an abusive parent means, and how dire the consequences can be. (Additional reading below.)

The best thing you can do is protect him as much as you can from any contact with that guy, and by reassuring your son that he has every right to choose who is in his life, as well as who isn't.

When Parents Are Too Toxic to Tolerate by RICHARD A. FRIEDMAN, M.D.
The Invisible Scar


No, you do not need to force your son to speak to his father. Barring some sort of legal document, such as a current custody agreement, there's no law saying that your son is required to talk to his father.

Arguing that his son has to speak to him is not mature behavior, and illustrates to me that he's still not ready for any some of relationship, no matter how minuscule.

If the father was truly repentant and seeking to make amends, he'd realize how terrible an impact he had on your sons life and would be understanding of the fact that your son doesn't want to speak to him.

Don't give in because he's harassing you. You also do not need to force yourself to speak with this man.


Of course my ex immediately blamed me, saying I put him up to it or that I was lying. Now he keeps pestering me

Your ex is still intimidating you and that is not alright. From the information you provided there is no indication that he is clean or that he has been through any kind of domestic violence classes to help him with his addiction to violent behavior. The cycle of violence continues.

The best thing that you can do right now for your son is reach out to your local domestic violence shelter, or call toll free either 1.800.799.Safe(7233) or 1.800.787.3224(TTY) so they can put you in touch with some local resources to help support you in learning to make safe and healthy choices for yourself. Providing a stable environment, both emotionally and physically is a parent's job. Sometimes that means needing to tell the other parent "no." And if you're at all fearful of what may happen if you do, then don't do it alone. Law enforcement is absolutely there to help you.

I know. I'm a survivor. And you are too.


Your son has some human rights as defined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

You need to pay attention to article three. You also need articles nine, twelve, eighteen, nineteen, thirty-three and thirty-six.

Thus, your child probably should have some kind of contact with its father, but this must be carefully controlled and supervised to protect the child from harm. The father needs to be made aware of the child's human rights and the need to protect the child from harm. The father needs to know that exposing the child to drug use is putting the child in harm's way and jeopardises contact with the child. The father might need to use a specialist supervised contact center to assure safety of the child.

The child has made their views clear. Children under 18 might not be able to fully control what happens to them but you need to pay attention to what they say. (Although you need to be careful not to project your feelings onto your child. The way you have framed your question gives me pause).

  • Could you explain why you think that the child should have some kind of contact with its father? Jan 19, 2015 at 20:59
  • Why the double link? Jan 19, 2015 at 21:20
  • 2
    I hardly think rape should be a starting point for criteria advocated to avoid a parent. Jan 19, 2015 at 23:43
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    This question isn't about whether or not the mother should allow contact, but whether or not she should force contact. There's a huge difference. Rights are not forced upon you. You choose to exercise them. In the convention you linked, these are only policies concerning governmental intervention and policy concerning children, nothing to do with parental decisions. Even if you apply it towards parents, the convention supports the mother if she ever decides to refuse to let her son contact his father.
    – user11394
    Jan 20, 2015 at 1:51
  • 1
    @anongoodnurse preventing a child from having contact with a parent - even an abusive parent - violates the rights of the child and the rights of the parent and must be a measure of last resort. Drug addiction is not a suitable reason to prevent contact - although it is a reason to protect the child from harm. Assuming that you can prevent contact just because a parent has an active addiction is likely to cause distress when courts order some form of contact with the father.
    – DanBeale
    Jan 20, 2015 at 15:26

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