Print Parenting Is Difficult Almost all parents will tell you that child rearing is much more difficult than they had anticipated. Before your first child's arrival, your fantasies involved playing with him or observing him proudly.
The scenes were always pleasant, always gratifying. You did not anticipate colic, tantrums, "I hate you," defiance, disappointment, or purple hair. While it is true that "the years fly by," when you are going through a taxing developmental period of your child's life, time can move very slowly. Whether it is the sleep deprivation and resulting crankiness you experience during your child's infancy or the anxiety you feel during your child's adolescent forms of rebellion, fathering is stressful as well as joyful.
By the time your child leaves home forever, you will have made thousands of decisions affecting his or her life, and you will have agonized about whether those decisions were the right ones. Fathering does not occur naturally or easily. But you can learn to be more patient, more giving, more loving, more generous, and more forgiving than you ever thought you would be. It can begin when you first put your hand or your ear to your wife's bulging abdomen, when you participate in childbirth classes, or when you view the ultrasound image of the fetus.
Unfortunately, many men view infancy as a time of closeness between mother and child. They may not want to "interfere. Oftentimes, men do not view their children as fun until they can play and become involved in activities which the father enjoys. The relative lack of early contact with your child has a circular effect.
The older your child becomes without a bond having been established, the more awkward you and your child will feel when you are together. And the more awkward you feel together, the less you will want to engage each other again.
The more time you spend with your child, the more you will enjoy that time. You and your child will build familiarity, a closeness. In addition, you won't have to deal with your child's resentment because of the lack of time you have devoted to him.
When a father infrequently plays with his child, the child's resentment over his feelings of deprivation hamper the quality of the encounter. He is angry and impatient with you, which causes you to feel impatient and alienated from him, which causes him to feel even more deprived and angry with you, and so on and so on.
This is one of the reasons fathers are so disappointed when, after having failed to spend time with their children for protracted periods of time, they plan a special day together and it bombs.
You may come with the best of intentions, full of enthusiasm and energy. But your child greets you with old hurts. Don't postpone your fatherhood. I don't want to play now. But certainly you would agree that, just because you found the time to play with your child at that particular moment, it is unreasonable to assume that your child will necessarily want to interrupt what he may be involved with in order to respond to your unexpected overture.
He may also be reluctant to accept your offer for fear of being disappointed once again because your interest will not last very long. Don't let your ego interfere. Instead of walking away and shaking your head after your child says, "Not now, Dad," simply respond with "Okay, let's make a specific date for another time. What do you think might be fun? When would you like to do it? They already feel tired and overwhelmed by other obligations and worries. Perhaps they are unable to effectively compartmentalize their lives.
They are unable to leave their work at the office. They are unable to prevent their marital frustrations from spilling over into their relationships with their children. They are unable to cease obsessing about their financial straits. Or they may simply see themselves as inadequate, awkward fathers and wish to avoid the anxiety associated with this perceived deficiency.
The more competent you feel as a parent, the more joy you will derive from fathering. Obviously, the less "baggage," the fewer burdens you bring to your fathering, the freer you will be to spontaneously and enthusiastically play with your child.
Fathering can provide an arena for personal growth. When you are actively fathering, you will develop aptitudes and sensitivities which will serve you well in the myriad of other roles you play in your world.
Your Children Seem to Have Arrived from Another Planet The music they listen to, the clothes they wear, the language your children speak may all seem alien to you.
You have forgotten how wide a gulf you perceived there to be between you and your father when you were a child. You can't relate to any of it, so you don't take an interest in any of it. And so you imagine a much wider gap between you and your child than actually exists. Your child may act differently, talk differently, dance differently, or eat differently than you did when you were his age. But he has the same emotional needs that you had. He needs your affirmation, your understanding, your love.
He needs a close relationship with his father. 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. 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.
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. You Feel Financial Pressures After the arrival of your child, your sense of overwhelming responsibility as a father and as a provider really kicks in.