Conversation with an Angry Teenager …When a Father Fails

Babawande, 16 is very angry. He is determined not be appeased. He demonstrates his anger by an energetic commitment to reject every advice and plan from his parents, particularly his father. He has lost confidence in his father’s commitment to his life and progress. He sees his parents as his enemies and regrets he ever knew his father. His only anger with his mother is that the mother decided to marry an ‘irresponsible’ man like his father.

The father on the other hand is not sober. He brings all kinds of agitation on the table against his son. He does not see any reason why he should take responsibility for the way his only son has turned out. He declares the child is simply, ‘beyond parental control’ and must be made to face the music of his ‘stubbornness.’

The heat is too much for the family to bear. A friend, who knows about the crisis intervenes and advises the parents to allow me have audience with the teenager. My first meeting with Babawale is well planned. He is not allowed to know I have any link with his parents. He is a bit stiff at our first meeting. By the second meeting, he begins to open up. He begins to express his uttermost disappointment at his father. He tells me in plain language that he loves his father only because God commanded us to love. He breaks my heart when he tells me his greatest aspiration in life is not to be like his father. Amazed, I remind him of his father’s intimidating corporate and social credentials: a renowned chief executive officer and celebrated captain of industry in the country, a respected philanthropist, a socialite of no mean reputation and a Christian.

I anger Babawale by my attempt to reel out his father’s credentials. His response is very simply, how have I benefitted from all you reeled out in term of love, which to me means acceptance and attention? ‘You call them credentials of my father’s success, I call all them distractions to the love I deserved from a father,’ says Babawale as tears stream down his face. ‘If I will gain all these and they make the kind of father my father is to me, I do not think it makes sense to me at all,’ he further says.

Babawale is the only son of his father and the only child of his mother. His father has two other children from another woman. Babawale was born after almost 15 years of marriage. While the family was waiting, the father, without the knowledge of the mother, had two children from another woman. His mother later found out. Babawale says his father is not trustworthy and he is not committed to his mother. With emotion taking over his voice, he says, ‘I can never read that course that my father wants me read. I do not trust him. Someone, who cheated on his wife and did not have the integrity and dignity to wait and the conscience to even inform my mother of his plan to have children from another woman, cannot be trusted.’

He again vents his anger, ‘I feel so much for my mother. I do not know why she keeps sticking it out with this man. This is a man, who abandoned my her when she had very serious health issues. To the public, he is a philanthropist, to me, he is a lie. My eyes are opened and I cannot be deceived anymore. This is a father, who has never sat down with me to have any father to son discussion with me.’ ‘I wonder why people keep talking to me. I wonder why I am getting the kind of attention; I have not gotten in 16 years. I wonder why all of a sudden my father claims to be worried about me. Hmmm, is it because for the first time I decided to take my destiny into my hands and refuse to give him the pleasure of directing my life? I am surprised that they cannot read the simple hand writing on the wall that I will not bow to the desires of my father. The most painful part is that my mother is on the side of my father. Please, I do not see any basis for any discussion. I am not fighting them. I am just saying, whether they allow it or not, I have taken my destiny into my hands. If I fail and if I succeed, let it be my own decision. I am not ready to give in, not at all,’ he emphatically concludes.

As I speak to Babawale, I see a child, who represents the acute ignorance of his parents, particularly the father. It dawns on me that this is a child, whose father has woefully failed to inspire. Trust, which is built by love, has never existed between them. Love is established by acceptance and attention; the father never understood and gave them. I see a child who has been provoked by the father, contrary to the admonition of the Holy Writ not to provoke our children. It has been established that one of the ways we provoke our children is to say one thing and do another. When a man cannot keep his marriage vows to his wife because, they do not have children early in their marriage, he passes a simple message to his children that he cannot be trusted.

I see a child whose father does not understand that the home front is the primary place to lead by example and demonstrate fidelity, integrity, character and humanity. As John C. Maxwell puts it, if it is not working at home, there is not point exporting it to the world. I see a child, whose father does not understand that the greatest heritage and legacy a father could bless the world with is a child properly trained. I see a child, who father does not understand that a child, who is not trained will squander the estate we take time to build. I see a child, whose father does not understand that he has the inevitable responsibility of mentoring, modelling and moulding towards his wife and children. I see a child, whose father does not understand that raising children demands knowledge skills and attitude. In summation I see a father, who does not understand that the psychology of a child is determined by his sociology.

After my meetings with Babawale, I seek audience with his father for a heart-to-heart talk. He welcomes me his palace-like home. My meeting with him is very brief. He walks into the spacious and well decorated sitting room. He thanks me for my efforts and laments the crisis he has with his teenage child. He blames everyone and everything but himself for the crisis he is having with his child. As far as he was concerned, he had done his best as a father. He registered his son in the best private school in the country. He sent him abroad for holidays and shops for him regularly.

After listening to him, I look at him straight in the face and tell him he needs to take responsibility for the present state of his son. The crisis with his son is nothing but his failure to play the role as his father. I tell him to that he must not only take responsibility but he must humble himself to open a discussion with his son. I make the father see the fact that at this point, the child is not the one making any move for peace and he is the one. He is the one, who wants to win the heart of his son and if he is the one, he must be humble enough to lead a humbling peace talk. I tell him he must at this point abandon force as his tool of getting his child to do his own bidding. He should be more interesting in winning the heart of his son than winning his will. If he wins his will without winning his heart, he has still lost his son. I tell him that at this point he does not need parenting skills but damage control skills and in damage control, facing the reality of the situation is fundamental to achieving any level of result. I tell him that until the child knows he cares, he (the child) does not care how much he desires. I ask him to be full of prayers because the impact of wrong upbringing is eternal except there is divine intervention.

I end my admonition to the troubled but now sober father asking him to be patient with Babawale as it took him 16 years to raise the son he has in his hand now and he will not have another son overnight. He must understand that it will take time. Time to care…Time to win the child’s confidence…Time to reunite…Time to pick the lessons of his failures as a father and become better…Time…Time…Time.

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