An 18-year-old boy and his mother stepped into my office. He was a large, strapping young man, and they had been referred by a physician who worked in the same hospital as the mother where she held a high administrative position. Mother and son were quarreling as they walked in, the young man complaining to his mother “You’re always on my back! Just be quiet and leave me alone!”
As per DOLF protocol, I saw the mother and son together for the first 15-20 minutes to determine the on-going situation and make a diagnosis in my mind about the distribution of love in the family. I then alternated seeing each of them one at a time, and when my opinion was formed in the final session, saw the two together. Treatment was completed in two sessions.
With her son present, mother explained that she wanted him to focus on his studies, noting he had been a very good student until recently. However this year he had begun to socialize with friends who were not from his familiar group in private school, but would come to the door and call for him. She said that despite her objections he would go out with them and stay out for many hours without telling her where he was going. Besides wondering what they were up to, she expressed she was worried about his future, since she wanted him to be either a doctor or a lawyer, had told him so, and was adamant that he achieve this goal. The boy listened quietly as she spoke, mainly looking downward, but on occasion looking up at her angrily. Wondering about the father, I asked why he hadn’t come, and was told he is retired and tends to stay at home. They said he didn’t think it was important for him to come because he was not part of the fighting at home, since the disagreements were mostly between his wife and his son.
When seen alone, the mother confided she had married late and was overjoyed when she finally had a son, her only child. She said she had pursued a career at the hospital, working hard all her life just to make enough money to send her son to the finest private schools from a young age, and keep up his education. She did not display sadness, though she seemed very concerned and determined to find a resolution to the problem. She added that the fights at home were becoming quite intense, and in one instance her son had thrown a chair at her, but fortunately she was not hit.
On interviewing the boy alone next, he expressed that he is well aware of his mother’s educational goals for him, but that he was fed up because “she’s always after me, checking up on me, asking questions about my homework and what I did in school every day.” Obviously irritated he added “She keeps tabs on me no matter what I do, and it’s none of her business!”. He seemed to be an intelligent boy, and wondering whether he felt she was his Prime Love provider, I asked him who he felt closer to, his mother or his father, to which he replied without hesitation, “My father!” In contrast to his mother, he described his father as a gentle, quiet man who deferred to his wife, and rarely disciplined him or took sides in his arguments with his mother.
Now referring to DOLF theory, my reasoning took the following course. I wondered whether I could be dealing with an angry young man, but my considered response to this question was negative. There were at least two factors that indicated this young man was probably quite a fine character. First he was an only child, doted on by two caring parents, which would significantly increase the likelihood of his having a warm or “Favored” personality base. The second factor was that he had been the recipient of an excellent education throughout his life, indicating he had probably formed a good personality base of interdependence between his emotional and intellectual abilities, which would indicate a good personal internal adjustment. In line with this outlook, I felt that for his age, he had adequate maturity and sufficient good reasoning skills. I did not have to guess which of the parents was the Prime Love provider, as he had told me it was his father, which seemed to be supported by my own observation that his mother is a strict disciplinarian.
My solution to this problem came at the conclusion of the first session, which I chose to communicate to them immediately given the potential volatility of the situation at home. After speaking with the son, I saw the mother alone for the final 10 minutes. I explained to her that her son is a fine young man, and that I can well appreciate her eagerness to groom and educate him properly, to prepare him for a productive future. However, I gently suggested that in order to win back her son’s allegiance, she should relax her requirements somewhat, be a little more passive, and make room for his father to move in and deal with him more directly. I mentioned that she should notify the father too of this change in their parenting policy toward their son, and that the father should not hesitate to step up and play a little more active role in the child’s life. I informed her that her son would be more inclined to listen to his father’s demands than if she alone continues to try to get the son to comply with her wishes.
A few days later, mother called to make another appointment, noting that even though the situation had changed dramatically for the better, she still wanted to come “to make sure all will be okay”. She acknowledged that her son was no longer seeing his negative group of friends, was compliant, and the family was getting along well. The son expressed that he didn’t know why he had to come back, since all was going well and while he was quite pleased with the home situation. Although he smiled a little, he declared he had just come to the appointment at his mother’s insistence.