Dealing with my father
August 29, 2021 5:56 AM   Subscribe

My parents just came to visit for a week. They are age 62-63ish. My dad's behavior throughout the week has been inexcusable. They are visiting again in two months. Can you give me advice on how to make this situation better?

My dad has bad, untreated adult ADHD. He works from home and doesn't do a lot of social things. We live across the country, and they just left after visiting a week. My dad likes "getting away with things":

1. He climbed onto the bus's open doors in the back to avoid paying a fare.
2. He jumped the subway gates (by following right behind my mom), right in front of an employee, to avoid paying a fare.
3. At the art museum, he walked in through the exit, to avoid paying admission. (We proceeded to buy him a $5 ticket anyway).
4. Inside the art museum, he rudely pretended to not know English, to try to talk himself into the monet gallery past the ticket person. He doesn't care about Monet. It was one of the most embarrassing things for the entire family. He says he apologized afterwards but my guess is that the person was not very forgiving.
5. He has a travel blog and sometimes contacts venues ahead of time for free tickets. (This is less sketchy, but still fits within the pattern).

I haven't witnessed literal shoplifting, it's usually under social engineering that he likes to get away with things.

I tried to talk to my dad about this topic with my mom. I mentioned that his behavior about getting away with things didn't just annoy us, but that the main reason my mom is hesitant about a trip they are planning to Thailand is because she can't trust him to not get jailed and her to be stranded. He wasn't very receptive to the discussion, but he acknowledged that the "big picture" aspect was one that he hasn't considered. He walked away mid discussion.

This feels like thrill-seeking behavior. When not actively misbehaving, he seems sensitive and remorseful. He doesn't get pleasure from a lot of things in life. He feels like it's part of who he is. But at the same time, it makes my wife and mom extremely uncomfortable. He's always behaved like this but the behavior is more frequent. In addition to this, he tries to follow house rules, but frequently breaks them even with reminders (like agitating the dog).

What do I do?

Do I scold him like a child? Do I tell him I'm going to pay double for anything he asks for/gets away with, regardless of if he gets it or not? Do I tell them not to visit in November? Do I do the above, but talk to him more directly about the consequences of his actions? Do I try to find things he enjoys doing more, if he does these things out of boredom?

I just want to say, though long, he did lots of helpful things too. They fixed up things around the house and were happy to cook and go to restaurants and put dishes away and walk the dog for us and sold all our extra furniture. I can't help but empathize with him, because I also enjoy getting away with things and often have bouts of boredom/mini-mania. I'm hesitant to cancel the visit, because that feels like it would be a big knife in the closest family connection we have. But it's obvious his behavior for the last week is unacceptable and I'd love any advice/anecdotes you might recommend.
posted by bbqturtle to Human Relations (45 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
It sounds like he’s only a problem in public. Can you keep the visit, but hang out at home the whole time - order takeout/delivery, watch movies, maybe go on a walk - but no public transit, no museums, nothing where he has the opportunity to pull that kind of shit.
posted by insectosaurus at 6:18 AM on August 29, 2021 [29 favorites]


This really sounds like a medical issue that he needs to see a doctor about, if you can trust him to be truthful, or with your mom if she is prepared to advocate for him. As well as the possible ADHD, this might be a sign of some other early onset neurological issues. How is his memory? Is he showing any signs of confusion or trying to cover up lapses in thinking? How often do these manic episodes occur? It really sounds like he needs to be evaluated by a professional at some point, especially if this behaviour is getting worse and starting to actively endanger him or others (the fact that your mother is actually concerned he might commit a crime in a foreign country without any thought to the danger to her is very worrying).

In terms of the next visit, I would just try to limit the opportunities he has for this sort of behaviour. No art museum visits, no subway rides. Tell him that it's because you can't trust him and you're scared for him and your mother. I would also just stop covering for him. If he breaks the rules, let him suffer the consequences. He seems to know what he's doing and how you feel about it, but he does it anyway. He's a grown adult and this is, as you said, unacceptable. This attitude of "getting away with things" is something most people grow out of when they're a teenager, not continue doing into their 60's. It sucks that he feels bored but it's not your responsibility to make sure he's not acting out.

I would also see if you can get some time with your mom if she needs space to talk about how he's making her feel and if she feels safe at home with him.
posted by fight or flight at 6:22 AM on August 29, 2021 [16 favorites]


Response by poster: Not going to threadsit, but, I would love anecdotes on if this sounds like early onset neurological issues.

He seems very clear-minded, and can research things online, negotiate for business, organize gatherings, etc.

He has always said he has terrible memory, and while he doesn't seem confused, he does use that as an excuse when trying to "get away with things". I think this is thrill-seeking, not genuine confusion. He reads the entrance sign and exit sign and leaves the family to try to go through the exit, while "looking like he knows where he's going" or not making eye contact, whatever he would do to sneak in.

However, the obliviousness to how his behavior is inappropriate (to the family) is increasing. But, I'm not even sure I could say he's choosing riskier times to do this - he obviously doesn't try this at TSA checkpoints or around actual authority. He almost never gets ANY negative consequences, and as much as I'd like him to be thrown in jail for a day, to "learn a lesson" I'm not sure that would ever happen or make up for the 100s of times he gets away with things.

It's more like he just cares less about what the family thinks.

I don't think he would be very receptive to getting professional help, though, if someone has an anecdote of "all of this sounds exactly like (insert neurological issue here)" - it's definitely an avenue I would pursue.
posted by bbqturtle at 6:35 AM on August 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


You've said he's always done this, so I would suggest that it's a character trait, not an illness. He's not likely to stop. So the way to deal with it is by identifying and enforcing your own boundaries around it -- not inviting him to come at all, not inviting him to join you on family outings, etc. Paying for him or continuing to take him places just communicates that he CAN get away with it without consequences. You've said you consider his behavior unacceptable. So stop accepting it.
posted by shadygrove at 6:44 AM on August 29, 2021 [57 favorites]


Also, guessing that part of the thrill for him is "getting away with it" with and in front of you, his family. (Does he do this behavior when he goes places alone?) He likes communicating that he's a savvy guy who can beat the system, unlike you uncool rubes. Being (calmly) unwilling to tolerate it might take some of the thrill away for him.
posted by shadygrove at 6:47 AM on August 29, 2021 [17 favorites]


I wouldn't talk about his behaviour directly. He knows what he's doing and choosing to do it. What I would do is focus not on him, but the effect on other people. People with him are embarassed, people don't want to do activities with him, he makes others deeply uncomfortable. Point out that that behaviour is fundamentally selfish and not cool.

Your poor mother, this is just awful.

I would map out a list of activities for the next visit, and explain that if he can't behave during one activity on the list, you are all just not going to be willing to do the next activity on the list. And then don't.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:49 AM on August 29, 2021 [17 favorites]


I have a colleague who is in most ways brilliant but also does a number of self-defying things that are very serious and will one day lead to a very bad situation. His friends protect him, but it can't hold, and when it blows up, I will have to deal with it and thus I have tried to research the situation. I am pretty certain that he suffers from a form of Tourette Syndrom. I am deliberately writing about my colleague and not your dad, because one can't diagnose from a distance. But it might be worth looking into. Tourette normally appears as simple tics, but can also have more complex forms.
posted by mumimor at 6:55 AM on August 29, 2021 [3 favorites]


Assuming this is not a neurological or medical issue, what he's doing sounds non-trivial. I imagine it's actually really effing annoying, inconsiderate, and christ just reading this, I feel so sorry for all the customer service employees he's dicking around.

This is what I'd do.

It seems like there is a consequence to his behavior he doesn't enjoy, which is having a serious conversation about his actions and their meaning. You said he walked away mid-conversation, while you were trying to discuss it seriously with him. If the conversation is that unpleasant, then make the conversation the consequence of bad behavior and use it as the deterrent.

You've said that you think what he is enjoying is "getting away with" bad behavior. So every time it happens, make it so he doesn't get away with it at all, but has to endure some unpleasant consequences.

As soon as he does something dickish like skipping paying for the bus, you stop everything and force a conversation about it, in public, that includes him having to admit and apologize. Immediately in the moment, there in the middle of the bus, saying "Dad, why did you do that? Tell me what you're thinking right now, about why you did that? Do you remember that we talked about this before?" Taking him to the front of the bus to pay for his ticket or see you paying for it, and explaining to the bus driver "I'm sorry my father tried not to pay. We've talked about it before with him and are working on trying to fix this behavior."

I assume this will be excruciatingly embarrassing and uncomfortable for your dad. Treating him like a misbehaving toddler (or like an elder developing dementia) is probably going to sting his pride, and that is the point. Hopefully it will be so uncomfortable, the "getting away with it" behavior will stop being fun.

I'm coming at this from the perspective of how we currently work on misbehavior with our 6 year old kid. The principles are: 1) address and 'discipline' the problem immediately, so the connection is made between problematic behavior and punishment/consequence, 2) be calm but firm yourself, and don't acknowledge that what he did might have been amusing or funny, 3) be consistent, so that every time he does the problematic behavior there is always the same consequence, 4) the consequence has to be as directly connected to the 'crime' as possible.

So go with: 1) as soon as he does an inappropriate thing, you still stop what you are doing and force him to talk to you about it right away, 2) it's going to be embarrassing for everyone and that is the point. Stay calm and reasonable, and let him be the one who gets upset. 3) he'll realize he can't pull this shit with you only if he's pulled up on it everytime, otherwise half the game will become seeing if he can get away with you not reacting. 4) the consequence of trying to get away with something stupid is not getting away with it.

And finally, an important thing is how you initially react when he does it. Don't be mad at him or scold him. Just switch into parent mode and stay calm and rational. "Dad, why did you do that? Do you remember what we talked about? Ok, we're going to go up to the front of the bus and pay now."
posted by EllaEm at 7:01 AM on August 29, 2021 [58 favorites]


I'd think hard and creatively, and research research research, about ANYTHING else he could get positive attention/feelings from. Dance lessons? Karaoke? Insect identification? A cat? Like, even, find SOMETHING you can positively reinforce him for - Fashion? Hats? Socks?

I've got it (but heaven help his classmates): improv. Let him be funny and fun and enjoy the attention that only a good improv class cultivates.
posted by amtho at 7:02 AM on August 29, 2021 [6 favorites]


What do I do?

You cancel your parents' upcoming visit. His behavior is both embarrassing and potentially dangerous. I would not want to host a person who acts this way as a visitor in my city.

Perhaps his family setting real boundaries about his behavior (and not just scolding him in a scenario where he can walk away) will help communicate that this is a real issue. Show that these ways of acting are unacceptable by refusing to accept them.
posted by ewok_academy at 7:18 AM on August 29, 2021 [11 favorites]


Do you have children? If so, would appealing to the need to set good examples for them reign him in? It's also handy as a boundary setting device which you, as a parent, must enforce and that then results in consequences: activities like going to museums as a multi-generational family are now off the table.
posted by carmicha at 7:18 AM on August 29, 2021


“Dad, you’re acting like a dick. It’s embarrassing.”

But don’t pathologise or infantilise. He’s a grown adult, and it demeans you both if you lecture him or call him out in public like he’s a naughty child.
posted by rd45 at 7:34 AM on August 29, 2021 [4 favorites]


I get him. Waiting in line for buses and museums is really boring. Maybe get him to listen to heavy metal or a podcast/book on his phone when you're in places that could stir up boredom.
posted by Coffeetyme at 7:44 AM on August 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


Does any of this resonate? With FTD, memory isn’t usually an issue unless another process is happening. Definitely second an evaluation by a doctor.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:01 AM on August 29, 2021 [6 favorites]


I get him, too. Can't believe he's gotten to age 62 without a serious, behavior-changing encounter with the authorities -- he's overdue, and that's what it'll take, to make him see the error of his ways. I would also avoid hosting him again, until this happens. Boy, will he be sheepish then (and maybe even, in custody). But in another ten years, he may get a pass, on account of dementia.
posted by Rash at 8:23 AM on August 29, 2021 [4 favorites]


This may well not apply in your case, but older male relative of mine used to do similar things, and his adult children had a lot of success pointing out how it was really just an utter abuse of his privilege as a white man. Seeing that he wasn't "getting away" with things so much as putting underpaid people in the position of chosing between their jobs and his potential retaliation really took the thrill/joy out of it for him, as did understanding that it went well beyond embarrassing the kids in an "oh dad" way to actually being disgusting to see happening in the world.
posted by teremala at 8:25 AM on August 29, 2021 [95 favorites]


Ruling out any mental illness - he's not a kid and no woman should ever have to raise their own father or their husband.

1. I agree to scold him in public. He needs to be publicly humiliated. I would actually actively report him to security. Don't pay for him at all. It's his responsibility. If security mention it to you, tell them to talk to him. He can do that nonsense on his own if he wants to but he needs to know that if he is with you, there are consequences. Sorry if it's harsh but people who "get away with things" make my blood boil, especially because no girl or woman would ever get away with this sh1t. Edit - on preview, what Teremala said.

2. Please encourage your mother to visit Thailand on her own. It might actually be a great experience for her. She gets to have her own adventure without having to worry about his behaviour. I've been to Thailand alone and it was fine. It is most definitely not a country to mess around in.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 8:29 AM on August 29, 2021 [19 favorites]


He is way overdue for consequences to his actions and if that involves getting arrested, so be it. As for what you do, I would recommend treating him like a toddler: advise him that he is misbehaving by actively seeking to break the law, if he doesn't stop he is going to get in trouble by being arrested, and you are not going to ameliorate the consequences for him.

I also agree that your mother should ditch him and go to Thailand on her own. Or if he insists on going, she is well prepared to get out on her own if he is jailed and he is well aware that she will leave him there.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 8:42 AM on August 29, 2021


2.5 Make sure that your mom knows how to not get stranded in Thailand. She controls the passport. She has a phone of her own that works there. She has a phrase book and knows that she can call you for help. She has control of the tickets, etc..
posted by amanda at 8:43 AM on August 29, 2021 [34 favorites]


Best answer: My dad has always done this kind of thing, maybe a little less blatantly, and we just don’t take him anywhere, ever. Probably not the ideal solution but was less stressful than trying to reform him.
posted by sepviva at 8:46 AM on August 29, 2021 [10 favorites]


This is maybe me being avoidant, but... if he upped and walked away when you were talking to him, can you send him an email or letter where you lay out some of this, in a way that means he has time to read and reflect upon it without feeling the discomfort of being shamed face-to-face, which just makes him run away?

It doesn't have to go on forever, but perhaps a succinct few points about how it's an abuse of privilege; how his "fun" comes at a serious cost to low-paid service staff; how his behaviour is causing his family genuine distress that he seems not to care about; how the situation is so serious that your mother doesn't want to go on holiday with him in case he gets arrested, that you're seriously considering whether you don't want him to come and visit you any more.

Give him time with nobody staring him in the face to read and absorb and reflect on all of that, and see if it works?
posted by penguin pie at 9:40 AM on August 29, 2021 [2 favorites]


It's more like he just cares less about what the family thinks.

Could it be that it's actually exactly the opposite, and that he's doing it entirely because it bothers your mother? Does he do this when she isn't present? Some men are like this and it's a form of psychological abuse.
posted by heatherlogan at 9:47 AM on August 29, 2021 [40 favorites]


I don’t think you should try to “parent” him or otherwise educate him (although I could be biased because of my own childhood history with parentification). He know what he’s doing is wrong; as you’ve observed that is why he likes it.

If it were my dad, I would tell him once that I would never tolerate this behavior again, and then I would literally leave him every time he did it. Squeeze in behind someone on the subway? I’m turning around and heading back up to the street and taking the bus home. Enter the exit at the museum? Turning on my heel and taking Mom out to lunch instead. Agitate the dog? Next visit he’s staying in a hotel and I only meet them out in public.

The only thing you have control of here is your own actions. The only consequence you can provide that doesn’t make you his minder (and one that he can get a secondary thrill out of disobeying!) is to remove yourself from the situation entirely.

He’s a grown man with all of his faculties. He’ll respect your boundaries, or he’ll decide moderating his behavior isn't worth it to see you, but either way it’s outside of your control.
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 10:00 AM on August 29, 2021 [38 favorites]


I agree with the others that a medical examination might be warranted, depending on the specifics. If that resonates with you and your mom, who have the full picture of his behaviour, it would be worth pursuing.

But... taking that out of the mix for the moment, because I have seen this dickish crap from a number of proudly non-conformist, edge lord types over the years, I suggest that you switch the focus less from trying to control and change his behaviour and more on preserving your own inner peace and positive experiences for you and the rest of your family, including your mom.

So, if he can't be relied on not to act like a jerk in public, then the next time he visits, he's not invited to any of those activities. "Sorry Dad, but we can't trust you not to try to pull something on the ticket-taker at the museum, so you're not invited on this outing. This one is for Mom and the rest of us." If he somehow shows up on his own, act like you don't know him. Even better, maybe it's time that a whole visit wasn't for him. Can you invite just your mom next time around?

As for the trip to Thailand, I agree that helping your mom make sure she controls things in a way that ensure she isn't stranded if he pulls his crap is a good idea. However, I also think it's important not to infantilize your mom either in all this--she's the one who needs to talk to her husband about her concerns, and she can decide where her own boundaries are. You should not be getting in the middle of that.

The bottom line is that you need to keep the monkey on the right back. The behaviour is his, as is the decision on how to act, as are the consequences. You should not be working harder on this than he is. Don't get into a big discussion with him, or try to provoke any specific emotions in him. Just look out for yourself and let the consequences of his actions land squarely on him. I'll bet he figures it out.
posted by rpfields at 10:09 AM on August 29, 2021 [11 favorites]


CtrlAltDelete says it better than I did!

You might also find some inspiration/tips related to Shamu training.
posted by rpfields at 10:12 AM on August 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


I'd be extremely embarrassed and frustrated by what you're describing. My own father is unbearable in public in other ways, and talking to him about it has never done a bit of good. I had to force myself ignore it and keep going in cases where it doesn't directly affect me, and it took a lot of effort and time to learn to let it pass. Very difficult and stressful at first.

1. He climbed onto the bus's open doors in the back. This really has nothing to do with you. If he gets it trouble, it's his problem. If the driver makes him get off the bus, stay seated and continue without him.
2. He jumped the subway gates (by following right behind my mom), right in front of an employee, to avoid paying a fare. Pretend you don't know him. If he gets fines, so be it. If he gets stopped, just keep walking to the platform.
3. At the art museum, he walked in through the exit. Pay his admission if you want to, but his behavior doesn't reflect upon you. Ignore.
4. Inside the art museum, he rudely pretended to not know English. So hideous. Again, just separate yourself from him.
5. He has a travel blog and sometimes contacts venues ahead of time for free tickets. Doesn't affect you at all. You don't need to use a free ticket if he gets one for you.

It would be great if you can get your mother on board with this approach, but you can enact it by yourself if she doesn't want to. I know what it's like to feel judged for my father's behavior, but in actuality people are either judging just him, or they're not paying attention.
posted by wryly at 10:46 AM on August 29, 2021 [2 favorites]


You can sometimes manage behavior, but not in week-at-a-time visits 2x a year. I would say something like That's quite rude and walk away. If he gets caught and is asked to pay, let him deal with the consequences. If he crashes an exhibit, don't join him. My brother-in-law is similar, I won't do stuff with him because he'll hijack a pleasant walk to a long march to see something only he is interested in, or a drive to a shop becomes an afternoon expedition, etc. He can be fun sometimes, but it's his way or the highway, and he can be that way on his own.
posted by theora55 at 10:48 AM on August 29, 2021


Rpfields, I have the NYTimes Shamu article linked in my profile, didn't realize it's been expanded into a book. Thanks.
posted by theora55 at 10:50 AM on August 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


If this is just a game to him, let him win. Tell him to test it. When he goes in the exit, come back out and tell you how he did it. When he tailgates into the subway, have him go back out and swipe in. Ask him how he did it. Let him tell you the story, but he has to undo it and do whatever the way the rest of society does it afterwards.

But, if it were me, I would write the name and phone number of a good lawyer and tell him that WHEN, not if, he gets arrested or otherwise in trouble, do not call you, call the lawyer.
posted by AugustWest at 10:51 AM on August 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


I think teremala has it. The way he treated the gallery employee and ignored you and your mom's concerns is far worse to me than the $15 he skived on. It's definitely not your responsibility to reshape your Dad's behavior, but I also wonder if you could turn this thrill-seeking into something fun for both of you? There are lots of ways to sneak about and do good or at least do no harm instead of annoying underpaid employees and embarrassing the fam. His behavior is exhausting.. but I hardly think it merits the violence of a night in jail. He's not going to suddenly develop a new personality.. but maybe he can learn to better channel this one. For example, social engineering is a great skill set for setting up nice surprises for people who like them! Maybe he'd be into urban exploring or city foraging?
posted by lloquat at 10:56 AM on August 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


Simply paying his fare and/or admission matter-of-factly might be enough to curtail the behavior around you if he gets the drift that he won't be 'getting away' with anything but rather playacting. It's probably better than amplifying his delight by dramatizing the transgression. Likewise with hanging around to be mortified by association when he does something particularly awful.

Past that, if he won't stop and you can't ignore it then you just stop taking him places.

I don't think it's your responsibility to figure out if he's safe to travel overseas. Your Mom needs to decide not to go if she can't trust him. You can then support that decision.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:58 AM on August 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Nthing the people who encourage you NOT to try to parent him out of his obnoxious behaviour-he is fully aware what he’s doing if he only does it in situations where he is not dealing with ‘real’ authority.

If he chooses to misbehave he simply no longer gets to join in public outings with you and your family. Take your mother, he can go off and do his own thing. If he turns up at your destination he is not invited to join your party.

People are responsible for their children but if he gets kicked out, fined, banned, arrested that’s all on him and for him to solve.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:09 AM on August 29, 2021 [7 favorites]


I would love anecdotes on if this sounds like early onset neurological issues.

It may be. But, speaking as someone who had to deal with a close family member who developed FTD, it is better to try first and deal with this as a behavioral issue.

Why? FTD is incurable like most if not all early-onset dementias and diagnosis in early onset is not only difficult (as the patient is quite capable of faking through any exam) but won't really accomplish much. In later years (late 60's) only anti-psychotics were able to keep him somewhat under control.
posted by vacapinta at 11:54 AM on August 29, 2021 [2 favorites]


Your dad doesn't need to be scolded like a toddler and/or embarrassed in public. He is an adult you suspect of having an undiagnosed ND condition. If you are correct, he needs radical acceptance and help.

I'm not saying ignore it, I'm not saying these petty thefts are ok. You can set a limit and say you are not going to go out with him because of this behavior. But your job is to help him to get the help he needs, not to change him/fix him/punish him. You think it's ADHD. Find someone who specializes in ADHD/ASD in adults; getting that diagnosis is the first step towards actually helping him.
posted by cape at 1:32 PM on August 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


(Also I do not recommend scolding toddlers, either).
posted by cape at 1:32 PM on August 29, 2021 [2 favorites]


Agree with the people saying not to make a scene. Any attention for this behavior is “good” attention for your dad. All that you can control is that the attention isn’t from you.

Also, this kind of behavior reads like a *choice*. He wants to be rude and transgressive. He doesn’t want to make outings easy and peaceful for you, your mom, or anyone else in the family. There is no way to logic him out of a position he did not get in to by logic. He’s not being reasonable, he’s deliberately lacking empathy.

Scolding him just wraps you deeper in the stress of the situation. Paying for him on the sly is enabling and signals your implicit approval. Your best bet is to put your sanity first and disengage, disengage, disengage. He may “act confused” and say you’re over reacting, but you have it from many internet strangers that you’re not. Don’t let him gaslight you and manipulate you when you are not comfortable with his behavior and don’t want to be around him.
posted by itesser at 1:54 PM on August 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Goodness, I feel for you, and especially for your mom. I was literally wriggling with embarrassment, reading this.

I have observed that there are plenty of folks who see anyone in a position of minor authority, even if it's a clerk at the 7-11, as someone to best. (And as you pointed out, they don't do it to folks with real authority.) Maybe, possibly, if you point out to him that he's not fooling anyone, and not winning anything, but just crapping on someone's day - would that get through? Like the turnstile guy is not getting paid enough to come chase him down, but it's still a nasty form of aggression against the turnstile guy, who just wants to get through his day without agita. Can he see himself through the turnstile guy's eyes? Can he see how ridiculous and gross he looks, pulling that stuff at 65 years old?

Agree also with doing whatever you can to not provide opportunities for this stuff, like public transportation and entertainment. And tell him why. And also - though this goes against my instinct - agree with advice to try to be less invested in this. I know, easy for us to say! But seeing it through the turnstile guard's eyes: the turnstile guard probably sees twenty of those guys a day. And your dad's behavior doesn't reflect on you. You don't have to stand there while he babbles nonsense at the exhibit docent.

As a practical matter, if you do go to places, you can try buying your tickets in advance. Surely your mom would assist if necessary.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:02 PM on August 29, 2021 [2 favorites]


ADHDer here, and I have to plan shit out massively for me to have a successful trip.

Would he be amenable to these suggestions:

1. Planning out an itinerary in advance.

2. If there's things he wants to do that require admission, he pays in advance for a ticket. HE pays. Not you, and not his partner. If he's unwilling to do so, then he doesn't get to do that thing. If he tries to do the thing anyway, doesn't pay, and gets in trouble, he gets to suffer the consequences.

3. A lot of public transit systems have 'visitor' or 'day' passes that can be purchased online ahead of time, or day of at a kiosk. Again, HE pays for this. Not you, and not his partner. If he is unwilling, then again - he can suffer the consequences of his actions.

This may not mitigate the "getting away with things" urge, but may mitigate some of the financial damage that his actions cause to the establishments and transit systems. Plus, he is going to look ridiculous going through the back door of the bus to avoid paying fare....when he has a fare pass in his pocket.
posted by spinifex23 at 3:55 PM on August 29, 2021 [2 favorites]


My dad has bad, untreated adult ADHD

This feels like thrill-seeking behavior. When not actively misbehaving, he seems sensitive and remorseful. He doesn't get pleasure from a lot of things in life. He feels like it's part of who he is. But at the same time, it makes my wife and mom extremely uncomfortable. He's always behaved like this but the behavior is more frequent. In addition to this, he tries to follow house rules, but frequently breaks them even with reminders (like agitating the dog).

I also enjoy getting away with things and often have bouts of boredom/mini-mania

ADHD (diagnosed and awaiting treatement) person here too. I think you have kind of answered your own question just there in that last quote.

It very much sounds to me like this is how he (literally) gets his kicks. He's taught himself to get a dopamine hit from this behaviour, which he's not getting anywhere else.

You say he's untreated - is actually getting his ADHD treated an option? Are there ways of maybe helping him to take pleasure/reward from other things? Do you tell him when he's being helpful or does a good thing? I know that I respond much better to the carrot than the stick when my family are trying to shift behaviours of mine.

FWIW it seems to me that there's been some degree of understandable agreement in the thread that he's an embarrassing dad - sure, but let's not forget that he is also neurodiverse and untreated.
posted by Chairboy at 7:06 PM on August 29, 2021


Let him get caught and arrested. He has no reason to change because he’s never had consequences. Time to fix that!
posted by Jubey at 9:11 PM on August 29, 2021 [1 favorite]


Hm, I do wonder if you treated it like he's just lost or mistaken - calling out "oh, dad, wrong door, come up here with us!" - if it might suck some of the fun out of it. ("Is he... He's saying he doesn't speak English? *Worried look* come on, dad, we'll get you out of here.")

Condescending? Infantilizing? Yes. Deserved natural consequence that might take the fun out of "winning" because you're being treated like an unreliable child now? Ooh, yes.

I also like the idea of nudging him to find ways he can surprise help people - can you talk this stranger into giving a homeless person $10? Can you pay the person behind you's admission without them noticing? Can you identify one person on this train who looks like they need a seat and try to find one for them? Still a puzzle but one that isn't based on sticking it to a "the man" that doesn't exist.
posted by Lady Li at 12:54 AM on August 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


(hey folks, op is my brother and the dad in question is my dad too. I'm also concerned about his behavior and grateful to the hive mind for helping us work through this. I know this is a little unorthodox for askme, so I ran this past my brother before posting.)

I'm reading "managing to change the world" and "conflict is not abuse" right now. I think we can ask him to treat us with respect, while also respecting his own dignity.

I think we can be firm yet gentle, and tell him both what he is risking and what he can achieve. He is risking having people invite him over maybe once a year instead of four times a year. He can achieve really amazing family time where everyone is delighted, instead of only him.

We can use as an example
- How much everyone dislikes visiting his mom because she doesn't reign her strong personality in when we visit.
- How awful it would feel to actually follow the advice in this thread and scold, report, ignore, and abandon him.


Unlike you and I, who have had years of AskMe to help us learn to be a little more better, he's been on his own. I talked to him about the long lasting effects of his parenting style, and he took it... Not well. Didn't walk away, but told me he was feeling overwhelmed and needed time to think. You know, he's not so philosophical and introspective as you and I, but he is a smart man who is able to make wise decisions about how to get what he wants.

Building up resentment against him, and unloading it all at once in a demand that he change his behavior, is not a good idea. It might work as a "wake up call", but it's not as good as compassionately working along side him to construct the next level of our family life.

So my opinion about what you should *do* about this is - ask him to work with you to find a solution that will satisfy everyone, instead of laying out rules and punishing him. More like couples therapy, less like parenting.

In the end, it's up to him if he wants to change or not. So I think the respectful thing is, instead of trying to manipulate into changing through altering consequences, we should try to convince him that changing is in his best interest.

I guess my question is, and has been for a few years now, how? What's the best way to talk to someone about this? I don't want to overwhelm him, or be hostile, or make unreasonable demands. I think he would listen, if I could figure out how to do it right. That's why I've not brought it up before with him. But, it's starting to affect my household too.
posted by rebent at 7:50 AM on August 30, 2021 [5 favorites]


rebent, some of what you wrote made me think about Harriet Lerner's work on family systems and how to adjust unhealthy dynamics and set boundaries. One thing she emphasizes is that it's not a one time thing but an ongoing process of establishing and reinforcing boundaries while also nurturing the relationship in a way that's appropriate to the goals.

Her first book I think was the Dance of Anger and many of them are named in that theme. That first one is very old and somewhat dated in the specific content now, though I don't think the actual approaches are outdated. You might find it helpful to check out some of her work and pick one that seems most appropriate to you.
posted by Salamandrous at 11:44 AM on August 30, 2021 [2 favorites]


If your parents do travel to Thailand, your mom should have everything she needs to take care of herself if he does get in trouble with the law.
posted by spindrifter at 4:44 AM on August 31, 2021


Thailand is a country that takes it’s Lèse-majesté laws very seriously. If your father thinks it would be “funny” to insult the Thai monarchy during his visit, he could very well end up spending the rest of his life/years in a Thai prison.

Honestly, I think an intervention and/or some sort of clinical diagnosis from a mental health professional is well in order. His entitled-white-man “jokes” are going to wind up getting him (or worse, someone else) hurt, killed, or incarcerated.
posted by blueberry at 10:01 PM on September 1, 2021


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