Q: How do we stop our two teenage sons from fighting over a girl? "Jake" (outgoing 16-year-old) has struck up a "friendship" with a girl who "John" (shy 17-year-old) has liked for months. This is a longtime pattern, although not over girls. "John" accuses his brother of stealing all his friends and says he hates him. "Jake" doesn't care and says he's free to befriend anyone he chooses. What can we do?
Jim: I think this is an opportunity for both of your sons to mature. "John" needs to stop blaming and take responsibility for his own friendships. And "Jake" needs to start treating his brother with greater kindness and respect.
I suggest you have a sit-down meeting with both sons at a time when tempers aren't flaring. Reaffirm your love for each of your boys. Then let them know that their self-centered attitudes must change — and that you're going to help them with a system of firm consequences for negative behaviors.
Spell this out in a behavior contract: i.e., specified selfish attitudes will lose certain privileges for a set time period (driving, cellphone privileges, internet use, socializing, etc.). Then enforce the contract firmly. Make sure you're fair. Don't get sidetracked in debates over "who started it." If both boys are clearly in the wrong, they both experience the consequences.
As far as the dispute over the girl goes — ultimately, she'll decide herself if she likes either of the boys. Your role is to set clear guidelines on dating and relationships and to make sure both of your sons treat the girl with respect. You can also teach them discernment skills; for example, help them establish criteria to determine whether this young woman shows enough good character to be worth pursuing in the first place.
We have plenty of tips and resources to assist parents of teens at FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Q: My wife just gave birth to our first child. I love our child very much, but whenever my wife asks me to help with the baby, I get frustrated, especially when I'm in the middle of something else. I know I'm being selfish. How do I overcome it?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Take heart — it's common for new dads to experience some difficulty adjusting to a new baby. Some men feel a bit "left out" when they discover that all of their spouse's time and energy is being directed toward the child. What's more, some guys may find it hard to relate to an infant.
The good news is that you realize what you're up against. You understand that you have to find a way to put the needs of the baby above your own. Your infant is totally dependent upon you and your wife right now. As you're learning, the job of a parent involves a great deal of patience and self-sacrifice.
It's important that you express your feelings of frustration to your wife. If you've been feeling lonely or ignored since the baby arrived, say so. Naturally, most of her attention has to go toward the child for now — that's a fact of life you have to adjust to.
But it's also crucial for new parents to make sure that their "couple" relationship doesn't suffer unnecessarily. Having a regular date night, even with a newborn at home, isn't that hard — just ask a friend or relative to watch the baby for a few hours each week. It will go a long way toward keeping your marriage healthy.
That said — if you find yourself actually feeling true anger toward the baby, there may be some deeper issues that you need to address with a professional counselor. Contact us directly for help.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.