4

I am a bad father. I punished my son for something he did not do as it turned out that his friend broke the china plate.

Because I punished my son he did not get to go to his favorite band's final concert since this was their last concert ever. He'll never get another chance to go again, and he did not deserve to miss it or get grounded in the first place.

I have tried to apologize to my son and make it up to him but he yelled at me "You can never make it up me" and he doesn't want to do anything with me. All he does is listen to that band's older albums and cry.

My mistake messed up our relationship. I need to fix it.

  • 7
    How old is your son? How is your relationship in general? How did you try to make it up to him? Finally, do most of your 'punishments' fit the crime (a china plate?) Thanks. – anongoodnurse Jun 13 at 3:54
  • 3
    The fact that you recognise your error, do care less about it and want to even try and make it right means that you are definitely not a bad father. – bigbadmouse Jun 13 at 7:28
  • Give it a bit of time, and then apologize again and offer to make it up with tickets to another concert he likes, or some other compensation that shows you care about your mistake. It sounds like your son is a teenager; their emotions run wild. One mistake won't ruin your relationship forever if you're honestly concerned about fixing it. – Pascal Jun 13 at 11:33
10

Before making it up to him, you need to fix what went wrong here, which means an open, mature discussion acknowledging the mistakes, and a commitment to doing things different in the future. If done well, this should be a significant event in building a relationship with your son, and a change in your parenting.

I suggest openly clearing these points with him:

  • it was a mistake to punish him when he denied doing it and there was no strong reason to believe he was lying about it not being him
  • the punishment was too severe, even if he had broken the plate. Apologize clearly and to the point
  • You should have never made him miss his favorites band last performance, regardless of what he may have done

Do not grovel to your son, ask his forgiveness, or push the conversation. Just be open about where you see the mistakes, and commit to making an effort to making sure next time it will be different, and allow him to correct you in the future on these points.

Keep it as an open issue how you might make it up to him in the future. Leave that for a follow-up conversation, after he has gotten over the worst feelings, and your relationship is feeling more positive.

  • 6
    I think the answer is solid, BUT: Hindsight is 20/20. It doesn't seem so obvious to me that the punishment was unwarranted or too severe. The OP doesn't state what kind of china plate, and what sentimental and/or financial value it held, and whether this was a a once-in-a-lifetime thing or whether the punishment came after a long string of bad behavior. Also, my kids often deny having broken something even when it's obvious one of them has to be the culprit... – Pascal Jun 13 at 17:41
  • 3
    @Pascal - If you have a better answer, please post it. The OP has not given us any clarification. Your comment is no better in the guessing department than the answer you comment on. – anongoodnurse Jun 14 at 4:56
  • 1
    As I've said, I think the answer is solid - I just thought it could be improved by one or two sentences that acknowledge the assumptions inherent in it. I'm not guessing in my comment, I meant to point out that the "the punishment is too harsh" thing depends on the circumstances, which we don't know, so making these assumptions explicit seems like a good idea to me - the answer is very good when the assumptions turn out to be true, and may not apply, or apply only partially, if they're wrong. – Pascal Jun 14 at 11:58
8

Before you deal with your relationship, you need to deal with yourself.

First, know that just because you've made a mistake, that doesn't make you a bad person, or even a bad father. We're all bad fathers in some ways... and good ones in others. The best we can do is try and learn from our mistakes, and build on our strengths. One of the best gifts we can give our kids is showing them how we recover from our failures and learn from them. When we model that, we teach them how to grow, too.

Second, you need to fully acknowledge the nature of what you did, and own it. Taking responsibility is the first step to growth. Again, I emphasise that your errors don't make you bad. They are just errors of judgement, and as such are an opportunity to grow.

Now, I don't know enough about your situation to be sure what happened, but it sounds like you made several mistakes:

(1) Kids break stuff; that's just part of the deal. (This is especially true of teens and near-teens. The stereotype of clumsy teenagers is accurate.) When a kid's body grows, it takes a while for their nervous system to readjust to their new dimensions, and they get clumsy. In addition, kids are also learning how to regulate emotions, deal with complex social demands, learn to take responsibility, deal with school pressures... its no wonder they make mistakes, sometimes. Even when they do their best to be careful, they break stuff. When we have kids, we just need to accept that, hard as it can be sometimes.

So, if the plate was that valuable, sentementally or otherwise, it should have been kept somewhere safe, and it it wasn't, that's on you, not your son. Alternatively, if it was just a regular plate, then it was just a plate. It isn't the end of the world that it got broken. Annoying, sure, but not the end of the world.

(2) You have made a plate more important than your relationship with your son.

(3) You need to understand that, for many kids, music is a significant part of their identity. As a result, the fact that this band isn't performing again isn't very different from him loosing a loved one. So, the pain he is feeling isn't just about missing a concert, but is also grief for the band itself. Your mistake was to deny him the opportunity to attend the band's "funeral" (last concert).

(4) You've accused and punished your son without good evidence, and that has damaged your trust relationship with your son.

What can you do?

  1. Appologise. Don't just say sorry, but be specific about what you're appologising for.

  2. Acknowledge your son's feelings. Name them, e.g. anger, loss. Show. That you want to understand him. Acknowledge that you don't understand how he feels, but demonstrate that you're trying to.

  3. Tell your son what you plan to do differently in the future. Admit that you may make mistakes again, but that you'll do your best.

  4. Admit that you can't "make up for" your son's loss, and explain that you want to learn how to be better in the future. Give examples, e.g. Find out the facts before making accusations. Be more ready to trust your son because he's a good kid.

  5. Take an interest in your son's music. Listen to it. Find out about the band. Find out what people like about them. When your son is ready, talk to him about it. That will help him grieve, and also show that you're interested in him.

  6. An idea: Have a plate made with the band's name and photo on it, and hang it on the wall somewhere as a gift to your son.

  7. In all this, don't go overboard. Don't try to be "extra nice". The point is to show that you're learning from your mistakes, not grovelling.

  8. Try not to beat yourself up. None of us is a perfect parent. I know I mess up all the time. But we're doing our best, and that's all our kids can ask of us.

3

You're not a bad father. Bad fathers either don't punish their kids (because they don't care) or they go wayyy too far with the punishment - grounding him sounds like a well reasoned out kind of punishment.

I'm going to keep this short because there are a couple of other highly detailed answers. The best thing you can say to your son isn't "sorry", but "I was wrong".

A lot of parents are comfortable with saying sorry, but few are comfortable admitting to their kids that they were wrong. It's like they imagine they have to appear infallible in order for their kids to respect them. That is faulty reasoning.

Actually it is a really important lesson for kids to learn (a) that you are capable of making mistakes, as it makes them feel less of a failure and more willing to talk to you about their mistakes, and (b) that you are willing to admit your mistakes, because that's a good quality for them to imitate.

You can't undo the consequences - he missed the concert. Because the concert was so much more important to him than it was to you, you can see why your "sorry" might not be enough for him - he is way more sorry that he missed it than you could ever be for him missing it. So just say you were wrong. Don't make any excuses for your mistake, just lay it out and see how he reacts. I think you'll find it softens him towards the situation, make it easier for him to forgive you, and in time you'll find a way of making it up to him.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.