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by Abigail Van Buren

Son Yearns to Find a Way to Connect With Critical Dad

DEAR ABBY: I have a father who's always mean to me. He finds reasons to yell at me -- for example, the trash isn't taken out or the dishes aren't washed. He isn't involved in my educational life at all. When my teachers request a conference with my parents, he almost never shows up. When I graduated from elementary school and middle school, he didn't come to either of the ceremonies.

I'll talk to my dad about these things sometimes, and he says he's sorry and the next day he'll buy me something to try and make it up to me. He can be really nice when he wants to be, but most of the time he's a mean person. He is always putting me down, calling me an idiot and saying I'm worthless and a good-for-nothing son. I really want to become friends with my father, but it seems he doesn't. What can I do? -- WANTS A FATHER IN SOUTH CAROLINA

DEAR WANTS A FATHER: You may not be the perfect son, but you are not good-for-nothing, worthless or an idiot. What you have described is sad, because this may be a "parenting technique" your dad learned from his own father. I don't know whether he's an alcoholic, a workaholic or what other reasons there may be for his absence and his guilt. But "Father of the Year" he's not, and if you want a male you can look up to, you will have to find one elsewhere. Talk to your mother about this if you haven't, and ask her to guide you. You have my sympathy.