My father is pleasant to everybody except his family

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a male corporate employee in my 30s. I’ve run out of patience with my self-centered, egoistic father.

He’s a retired schoolteacher who was in managerial posts for a long time. Until his retirement, he was work-oriented and had no interest in his family. He never attended events involving his children. However, he’s pleasant and voluble with everybody except his family, so he’s well-regarded by his colleagues and neighbors.

At home, he speaks to us in an authoritative tone. If we don’t obey him, he gets angry. At the same time, he can’t look after himself in his daily life — the mere act of getting pajamas ready is beyond him. My mother is so restricted by my father that she can’t even go out when she wants to. She told me she’s considered divorcing him many times.

One day when I was a middle school student, my father took me to the hospital. He parked the car in the parking lot of a nearby commercial facility without permission. When the parking lot manager noticed, my father tried to gloss over his bad deed by shamelessly saying, “Who are you?” to me as I carried a bag of medicine I’d gotten at the hospital. I was deeply hurt and disappointed in him.

He says he’ll participate in a jumping competition next year, even though he has no previous experience. If he breaks a bone or gets some other injury, it will simply annoy us.

When will he stop behaving so selfishly? It’s so disgusting I want to break off family relations with him.

K, Tokyo

Dear Mr. K:

Yes, some fathers are that problematic, particularly men with backgrounds similar to your father’s and who are over 60 years old. They’re proud of themselves and try to look good to other people except their families, but they’re totally insensitive regarding the opinion of their families and other people close to them. I’m afraid I may be like that, too.

So I think it’s best for you to try, as much as possible, not to oppose such people, but treat them with respect except on extraordinary occasions and wait for them to have a bitter experience outside their home and voluntarily reflect on their behavior.

The more self-confident and arrogant these people are, the greater the shock when they have a bitter experience. So if they decide to change this or that for self-improvement, they can do it successfully.

To promote the change, family members should regularly advise or warn him regarding his problems not openly, but in a mild but persistent way, while pretending not to recognize he notices these problems by himself. How about this strategy?

Fortunately or unfortunately, your father is bold enough to enter a jumping competition for the first time at his age. He will probably come to know himself. For a man in his 60s, breaking a bone probably isn’t fatal, I assume. But what if he doesn’t fail? Well, the next opportunity for your father to know himself will probably come soon.

Taku Mayumura, writer

(from July 12, 2015, issue)Speech

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