Fathers usually wish to have a boy. Research indicates that fathers touch their infant sons more than their infant daughters. Throughout the child's formative years, fathers spend more time with their sons than their daughters. Those fathers who have a very strong masculine identity, who perhaps are very athletic, demonstrate a clear preference for spending time with their sons than their daughters. Those fathers who fervently hope that their sons will follow in their footsteps as physicians, lawyers, businessmen, will also stay close in order to plant and fertilize those seeds.
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On the other hand, those fathers who also identify themselves with their sensitive, emotional side will more likely feel comfortable with daughters than men who adhere to rather rigid stereotypes about how a male should behave. Having a closer relationship with your daughter will facilitate the development of your interpersonal sensitivities and emotionally empathic capacities. Your daughter can push you to more fully realize all aspects of your self. Is he really mine? Fathers are often confronted with children whose interests seem to be completely different from their own.
Athletically inclined fathers are terribly disappointed when they face sons who perhaps prefer music, art, or computers to the rough and tumble, competitive world of sports. But you can always find a way to relate to him. Even if there is no seeming "common ground," take this opportunity to expand your own horizons and diminish your feelings of estrangement from your child. You must move into his spheres of interest. Your child will be happy to share his activity with you if he perceives you to be genuinely interested.
Having a different temperament from your child provides you with a challenge and an opening. The stage will be set for you to "stretch" your self-concept, to experience parts of yourself which you previously had dismissed or never even discovered. Difficult children are difficult to be with. Instead of pleasure, they often provide stress and frustration.
Instead of offering joy, they cause you to wish you had a different child. You find yourself being continuously critical of him. You believe that he can't do anything right. It is natural to want to withdraw from interactions which are painful and unrewarding. Before I had my own children, I believed that our socializing environment was predominantly responsible for who we become. Particularly after having my second daughter, who from day one was so temperamentally different from my first daughter, I began to fully appreciate the predominant influence of our unique, genetic blueprint.
There is no getting around it. No matter how effective, consistent, or patient a parent you may be, some children will prove more problematic, more troublesome, more stressful to be with, more volatile in their moods -- in short, more difficult, or to put it in a positive light, more challenging than others. Ironically, it is the more difficult child who needs you the most. He hears your constant criticisms. He sees your looks of exasperation. And he feels terrible that you think those things about him, for he is desperate for your love.
He is desperate for you to tell him he is not the bad person who he suspects everyone including himself believes him to be. He needs your encouragement. He needs you to believe in him. He needs you to go the extra mile. He needs you not to give up on him. He needs you to love him no matter what. How do you not lose patience with a difficult child?
By relating to his insecurities. Your child is so bossy because inside she feels so powerless.
Your child is a brat because inside he feels frightened and out of control. Your child does exactly what you just told him was not permitted because he feels worthless and anticipates your rejection. Your child doesn't allow himself to hear your words of praise because he feels so unlovable.
His insecurities, therefore, may be an ongoing part of his life. But you can ease his burden. You can keep his insecurities from destroying him.
There is no one in the world who has more power and potential influence to help your child feel better about himself than you. And there is no one in the world who can better teach you how to be more patient and self-sacrificing than your own difficult child. The patience, self-control, and generosity you can ham from raising a difficult child will also help you better deal with the most problematic, most troublesome people you will inevitably encounter in your lifetime.
After the arrival of your child, your sense of overwhelming responsibility as a father and as a provider really kicks in. Some men almost feel a sense of panic and want to run away. To make matters worse, perhaps your wife stopped working or drastically cut back her hours. Even though you may want her to be home with your new baby, her lack of financial contribution increases the load you feel. Ironically, just as you should be diverting some of your attention to your newborn, you feel the pressure to work longer hours in order to give your family what you want them to have. Furthermore, as your children get older and reach an age when they may need you the most, you are moving through your thirties and forties, your "professional prime," a time when you feel you must give your career all of your efforts in order to obtain a certain level of status and security.
The more children you have, the more justified you may feel in not devoting more time to them.
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You feel even more financial pressure. You work even longer hours. You're tired and you say to yourself, "I work hard all week. I've already fulfilled my responsibilities to my family -- and then some. Oftentimes it is difficult to distinguish your drive to succeed in your career from the realistic financial obligations you must meet.
It is more socially acceptable to invoke the latter than former in justifying your absence from family life.
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It appears less selfish to blame your financial responsibilities than to acknowledge your more narcissistic strivings for success when you work on weekends or arrive home after your child's bedtime. Your children need you. They need your attention, your encouragement, your wisdom, your physical contact, your affirmation of how important they are to you. And you need to be with your children so that you can develop a healthier perspective and balance in life. You may believe that parenting comes more naturally to your wife than to yourself. She's got the maternal instinct.
Mothers raise children. That's what my mother did. Women just know what to do with children, how to be with them, you believe. And so you rationalize your relative lack of involvement with your children by subconsciously saying to yourself, They're better off with her anyway. Furthermore, many men believe that parenting is mostly the female's responsibility.
If you accept this notion, then you may not feel completely comfortable being an actively involved father because you will have entered a feminine domain. Fathering might actually detract from your sense of masculinity. Until you incorporate nurturing and attachment to your children into your male ideal, you will feel that attention to these aspects of life will actually weaken you.
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Have you noticed that when most men get together in order to bond and affirm their manliness, they speak about four topics -- sports, money, work, and sex? Children are what women talk about, you assume. Unfortunately, the quality of your relationship with your child does not garner you the esteem of your peers. Will you be strong enough, secure enough as a man, to fly in the face of convention?
Perhaps you have asked your child, "Would you rather go with Mom or Dad? It may indeed be the case that your child would rather spend time with your wife than with you. But perhaps that's because your wife is more enthusiastic, more appreciative, or more attentive than you are when interacting with your child.
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