In this episode, we meet Carlos: a single father of a 10-year-old daughter and a fifteen-year-old son. We hear about the struggles Carlos has faced in trying to support his son in the midst of his son’s antisocial and sometimes violent behaviour.
One of the biggest issues Carlos has had has been managing his son’s problems with authority. His son has been permanently excluded from school and has had multiple incidents involving the police. He has also caused problems more directly at home: “on a weekly basis, something was going on that was causing uproar within the family…he was always volatile and I was always faced with defiance…the house was getting smashed up on a regular basis.”
Nothing that Carlos did seemed to be able to get through to his son. He was accused by the police of cybercrime and of online abuse, he was also accused of stealing bikes. But problems came to a head when his son threatened his mother with violence and the police had to be called for her own safety. “His mother had taken his phone off him and he threatened he’d use a knife if he didn’t get it back.” As a result, Carlos’ son was taken to the police station. The situation was becoming impossible.
Talking about his own confrontations with his son, Carlos describes how his son once threatened him with a screwdriver: “I called his bluff… partly to let him know that I’m physical enough for him not to try that sort of stuff.” Although he goes on to note that “you can’t physically force someone to change… the person needs to understand why what they’re doing is not right and they need to make different choices.”
With intervention and support from social services, Carlos and his son’s mother started to reflect on their own behaviour in relation to their son as they tried to understand the cause of his actions: “All behaviour is a reflection of someone’s feelings… having feelings and not knowing what to do with them… As young people, they don’t know how to express themselves in any other way, they just know they need to express themselves.”
Carlos learnt that, in order to influence his son’s behaviour in a positive way, he had to focus attention on the positive things his son would do instead of on the negative: “You have to start looking at it from a different perspective… relate only positive things to him, that way, the messages he’s receiving about himself are building his self-esteem not destroying it.”
During lockdown, Carlos had the benefit of being a greater influence over his son as the crowd he’d been spending time with drifted away. “Lockdown, for him, was probably the best thing that’s ever happened… it gave him time to reset.”
During that time he discovered a new passion: computers. He built a computer from scratch and has designed online games and taught himself animation. Seeing this made Carlos realise that his son is “very capable, and, given the right tools and the right encouragement, he could achieve a lot.”
The situation in Carlos’ household looks much more harmonious than prior to lockdown and Carlos’ son’s mother now also feels that she is able to have a positive relationship with her son. Summing up his feelings about his son now, he says: “I’m proud he’s matured and learnt to make wiser decisions, and understands that the path he was on was not the right path.” Without Carlos’ patience and dedication, that right path may never have come to light.