Super dads and their sons

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Super-Dads are fathers who are perceived by their sons to possess qualities and achievements that are unattainable by the child

By James P. Krehbiel, Ed.S., LPC
author, freelance writer, and cognitive-behavioral therapist practicing in Scottsdale,
Arizona. His personal growth book, Stepping Out of the Bubble is available at James can be reached at
Super-Dads are fathers who are perceived by their sons to possess qualities and achievements that are unattainable by the child. Super-Dad`s
past or current performance seems overwhelming and larger than life. Sons put
their Super-Dads on a pedestal and believe that they will never be able to measure
up to their father`s expectations.
Super-Dads have a tendency to over-parent and have expectations for their sons
that mirror their own achievement. Super-Dads, in an effort to keep their boy
in line, will often parent through the use of power and control. When a Super-Dad
sees his son straying from the right path, he will typically increase his pressure
in an effort to gain compliance. He may lecture, use moral injunctions, or employ
“cheerleading” techniques in an effort to get his son to mirror his own behavior.
Often, I may see a depressed and angry teenage boy for counseling at the request of the Super-Dad. However, the presenting problem
may be the critical, intimidating behavior of the father. I once counseled a
high school senior who was terrified of communicating with his Super-Dad. The
father had been a star basketball player and he wanted his son to excel at the
sport. The son, who was an average player, confided that he hated the sport and
wanted to drop out of competition. However, as trapped as the son felt, he kept
going to practices and games. He believed that his father would be crushed if
he knew how much he despised playing. He tried exploring his feelings with his
father, but Super-Dad insisted that the son continue on the team. The son believed
that his desires were being discounted. He was afraid to take the matter into
his own hands and quit.
At times, a Super-Dad who excelled academically can overwhelm a son by continuously
focusing on school success to the exclusion of other aspects of the son`s life.
Super-Dad and son may engage in power-struggles over school performance issues.
The Super-Dad will talk to his son through lecturing, advice-giving, chastising,
and moralizing rather than exploring issues. The Super-Dad may be oblivious to
the fact that his son`s compliant responses are in reality an effort at avoidance.
Super-Dads, in an effort to clone their own behavior through their child, may
actually foster conflict and passive-aggressive behavior. Super-Dads efforts
may go unrewarded as they sabotage their own goals with their sons. Their son
may learn to resent their father`s way of conditionally communicating, and find
passive-aggressive ways to pay them back.
Case in point may be the interpersonal pattern of communicating which exists
between our current president and his father. President George H. Bush was an
exemplary student, an excellent athlete, and a President who made notable positive
contributions to foreign policy during his administration. He surrounded himself
with talented and knowledgeable statesmen who paved the way for a successful foreign
policy, including his mission in Iraq.
I believe that President George H. Bush`s pattern of communicating with his son
tended to mirror the Super-Dad syndrome. The harder George H. tried to reach
out to George W., the more distance he created with his son. It was not intentional,
but the pattern evolved into a self-defeating manner of interacting. It is my
belief that President George W. has never been able to live up to his father`s
expectations. He has indicated that he never wanted to be President. He started
to become rebellious during his adolescent and early adulthood years, and he has
continued to demonstrate on-going signs of reactivity and resentment toward his
It appears that President George H. and George W. have a strained relationship.
President George W. may have created insurmountable wreckage during his presidency
as opposed to his father`s successes. In George W`s efforts to compensate for
his own insecurity, he has turned his back on his father`s values and ideals.
Political analysts believe that he has ignored his father`s warnings, advice,
and input. He has detached himself from Dad`s support as he chooses to go it
alone. It seems that Super-Dad, George H., grieves the loss of his son, but feels
helpless in his efforts to save his son from his own demise.
How do Super-Dads make peace with their sons? They accomplish this by developing
unconditional involvement with their sons and explore problems in a non-evaluative
manner. Super-Dads encourage their sons to follow their own dreams, not the goals
and aspirations of the father. They encourage their children to be authentic,
and support them in their vision for the future. Only then can the pattern of
relationship wreckage be broken.

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