Monday, September 8, 2008

Fathers and children

We fathers, it goes without saying, have quite a responsibility when it comes to our children. Now, take a case I am aware of as an example, of a man who loves his child but who is, I sincerely believe, building up a future problem for this toddler.

I know that he has had an issue with his father. The treatment he experienced as a baby and young child – rough handing, and being held down and tickled until he lost his breath, reached such a point that to avoid it he retreated, ran away and tried to hide from his father. This irritated his father who called his son ‘disobedient’ and ‘naughty’ and a ‘trouble maker’. These labels have stuck, even though that child is now a father himself. Unfortunately that young boy did not get the emotional support he craved and needed from his mother (for a variety of reasons which many women will pick up on). He grew up knowing that the only ‘demonstration’ of love that he would ever receive involved something that he considered unpleasant, being rough handled and held down, powerless and then being tickled until he could not breath.

He is a kind, generous and highly intelligent young man, but, this (borderline) treatment, which he experienced, he is now perpetuating with his young child. The family situation is, fortunately, quite different in that the mother is very loving and supportive and has a very calming influence on the father. However, the little child, who is also highly intelligent, with a sweet nature, is now running from the father, which irritates him. The child has learned (at 20 months old) that to fight just provokes him to do some more, and if it does not respond or cries then one of two things happen. Either the father stops, which is good, and/or it brings a supportive response from the child’s mother, which is also good. But what is not good is that the child, who loves the father dearly, does not then get the attention needed and craved for, from the father. This also gets him frustrated, because he loves his child, but, for the reasons explained, he can only resort to the limited range of appropriate responses in his repertoire.

Already at this tender age, one can see a calculating look in the little child’s eyes. “Do I let him love me in his way, because I love him, even though what he does is really against my wishes?” The concern is that it will grow up with a distorted knowledge of ‘love’. We can never be careful enough with our children and the way we treat them. What we do lives on.

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