Since the dead of his father, my son refuses to obey me.

Since the dead of his father, my son refuses to obey me.

My eldest son, 14, is jealous of the 11-year-old cadet, whom he constantly tickles. I suffer all the more because my mother preferred my sister. Moreover, since the death of his father, he makes the man at home and prevents me from going out. However, I refuse and tell him that I now play the role of father and mother, and as such, he must obey me. Elsa, Chartres

Claude Halmos



Your son would certainly need, dear Elsa, a little order be put in his life, because he obviously does not know what is his place.

On one hand, he makes his brother look like a 3-year-old boy, while at his age he should be more concerned about his friends, his girlfriends and his life than about this younger child . And he does it all the more because you are unable to put an end to this situation, because you imagine him as unhappy as you have been yourself, which he undoubtedly plays, unconsciously.

On the other hand, he plays to be the husband - even the "guy" - of his mother and to take the place of his father, who is no longer there. And, in relation to that too, your attitude is ambiguous because you spend your time trying to prove to him that you love him. What's more, you say, hugging him, which, given his age and the situation, is not necessarily, you will agree, a good way for him to find himself.

Finally, icing on the cake, you explain that, his father being dead, you are now "both roles" ... This is not possible, Elsa. To be a father, to be a mother, these are not roles, because life is not a theater; they are places. If a father (or mother) is no longer there to occupy his place, it still remains and we can talk about it.

So it is not only to you that your son must obey, but also, through you, to what his father would have said if he were there; what all fathers say to their sons when they want them to grow up. Your son needs that his father's place remains marked. As a barrier between him and you: that of the prohibition of incest. And as a landmark for himself. Talk to him in. It will probably also allow him to talk about this father and the pain of having lost him.

Psychoanalyst, author of "To speak is to live" (NiL, 1997), Claude Halmos responds each month to four letters selected from an abundant mail, of which we publish extracts.


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