Yearning for a Proper Father-Son Relationship

21 December, 2016
Q Salamu Alaikom. My father is an older man (he’s 61). He has diabetic and high blood pressure, and is very short tempered. I’ve never felt that he can be a father whom I can go to when having troubles because he has never made me feel that he was open for me to talk to him. We have a family store and I work with him 4 days a week. I very much dislike going to work with him; I have a bad day almost every day because of what he does and says. At the store, he does things that are very inconsiderate such as throwing trash on the ground and he expects me to pick it up. He is always blaming me and everyone else around him for things that go wrong. He always curses me and the other guy who works with us when- and I say this with complete honesty- we have nothing to do with why he is angry. His new “habit” is cursing the religion and cursing God, may Allah forgive him. He always speaks to girls and does bad things. I saw texts from girls, and one day one of them called the store phone. I answered. She wanted to speak to my dad who immediately took the phone and went to the back room and I heard him saying "my son is here now, I’ll call you later". This frustrates me a lot. He also makes fun of everyone around him. I had a job interview the other day and the interviewer was a lady. I told her that I could not shake hands with her because I was Muslim. I sincerely apologized and she was perfectly fine with it. When my father found out that I refused to shake her hand, he was telling me that I was wrong and rude and I should have shaken her hand. Then he started making fun of me in front of everyone. At home, he does pray and reads Quran every once in a while, but he is not very nice to my mother. He is very unappreciative, although my mother does so much for him. But he complains about everything. I am getting sick of not having a proper father-son relationship. The only time he calls me or talks to me is when he wants to yell at me, or he wants to tell me to do something for him which he can easily do. For example, he would call me from my room and tell me to grab him the remote from the table because he does not want to reach for it. By the way, my family does not know about the things he does at work. They all see that I and he have the worst relationship out of all of my brothers and sisters, but they don’t see the side of him at work. He used to complain and yell at me because I barely talk to him about anything and that he always sees me talking to the others in the family so much. I did try to talk to him more, but still he only talks to me when he needs something from me. I try to remember that he is getting old, has diabetes and high blood pressure. I try to remember that Allah told us to respect our parents no matter what, but sometimes it gets hard to do that when he does things that make me feel like he does not care about me. I am sorry for the long letter, but please help me on how to deal with this.

Answer

Answer:

As-Salamu ‘Alaikum dear brother,

Thank you for writing. I am very sorry to hear of the difficulties you are having with your dad. May Allah (swt) reward you for your patience, continued kindness and your perseverance. Be assured brother that your dad does love you very much.

Sadly, parents often take out their own personal frustrations on one or more of their children. This is called “scapegoating” and according to Nambka “Scapegoating is a serious family dysfunctional problem with one member of the family or a social group being blamed for small things, picked on and constantly put down. In scapegoating, one of the authority figures has made a decision that somebody in the family has to be the bad guy.” Nambka further goes on to describe the parent(s) who does this as insecure and states that they scapegoat one of their children to avoid feeling their own internal guilt, shame, hostility, and suffering.

So, in actuality, my dear brother, there is nothing wrong with you, but indeed your father is suffering from some internal pain such as possible depression, fears of dying (diabetes), inadequacy, or any other number of mental health issues relating to the past or his current health condition. Perhaps this is also why you are seeing odd behaviors from him such as cursing God and the religion, texting/talking to girls, making fun of you, or not complimenting your mom. There is something deep within him that is bothering him. You stated he does pray and read Qur’an, so he still does love Allah  (swt) and seems to be seeking help from Qur’anic readings and prayer; however, he may need help from a professional to get at the root of the problem.

As you state, the reason you are writing is because you are tired of not having a “proper father-son relationship”. I am wondering whether you are close to your mom, and whether you could discuss your concerns with her? Perhaps discuss his behaviors which you find contradictory to Islam and as a family man. However, please leave out the “talking/texting to girls” part as that would only cause more problems right now.  I would suggest dear brother that you seek her guidance in trying to get your father some help.

As far as you, you must realize that you do not deserve to be abused emotionally. It is haram for parents to abuse their children. In sha’ Allah dear brother, I hope you realize all of your fine and honorable qualities. I pray that you don’t let your father’s issues become your own.  They are not. I know it’s often difficult to separate your true self from the horrible things said and done to you, but you must understand that it is not you – it is your father. In order to create a loving relationship with your dad, it may take a lot of hard work and further sacrifice on your part. It won’t be easy, especially if he refuses to get counseling.

I would suggest being patient and trying not to argue with him. Don’t bring up his faults at this time. A person who is depressed or angry all the time doesn’t have the capacity to think logically, unless it is under extreme conditions such as you confronting him about his haram behavior with women.

Be a model of good behavior, kindness, generosity, and most of all, show extra respect for your father, and you will be amazed at how much this may impact your father’s behavior. He can’t possibly continue to misbehave and be abusive if everyone around him is smothering him with kindness, respect, and generosity. I know you are already being kind and respectful, but you may have to “go the extra mile”. Try to be as kind, loving and gentle as possible even though it hurts you to be rebuked, in sha’ Allah you will get great blessings from it.

Regarding building a loving father-son relationship, or at least starting positive communication, there are a few ways to approach him. One is a direct way and one is indirect. Concerning the direct way,  I would suggest that, when things are calm, you approach your dad when the two of you are alone and say something to the effect of “You know dad, I really love you and I wish we could be close”  or “dad, I love you, what would it take for us to be close”. By posing a question to him, an answer is required. In sha’ Allah, you will get an answer which is positive towards growing the bonds of communication. If not, approach him another time with your request.

Using the indirect method, you could start building a bond and good feelings by inviting him to go out with you somewhere for coffee or tea. You don’t have to talk about anything in particular. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend talking about work or home, but rather discuss any mutual interests you both may have. Enjoy the special time you both have together with no pressure.

Also, continue making du’aa’ to Allah (swt) that He (swt) heals your relationship and your father. As parental responsibilities to children are taken very seriously in Islam, your father is accountable to Allah (swt) for the way he treats you. In regards to a father’s responsibilities towards his children, one responsibility is to provide a peaceful and loving environment at home that is conducive to the children’s overall spiritual and moral development.

With this in mind, keep close to Allah (swt) for strength and guidance. Also, don’t neglect your social life brother. Enjoy your friends and seek fun times when you can. Life cannot be all about work, problems and sadness. We must have our times of joy as well.

You are in our prayers. Please let us know how you are doing.

Salam,

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About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha received her PhD in psychology in 2000 and an MS in public health in 2009. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. Aisha specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. Aisha works at a Family Resource Center, and has a part-time practice in which she integrates healing and spirituality using a holistic approach. Aisha plans to open a holistic care counseling center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocate for social & food justice. In her spare time she enjoys her family, martial arts classes, Islamic studies as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.