Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC,
There were probably good
reasons why men were the ones who were out hunting big game
for dinner while their wives
stayed at home many centuries ago.
One reason is that men probably threw spears
with a little better velocity. Another is that women seem a
comfortable in the midst of the emotional turmoil that
constitutes family life.
Things would be easier
for fathers if they could just leave or push a button when
things got emotionally
truth is that most men don't want to deal with a lot of maintenance
when it comes to their families. If the family's been doing well
in the past they feel it should
continue to do well. They enjoy being with their families
when things are going smoothly, but they struggle when
there's emotional turmoil.
And when there's emotional
turmoil, men have a tendency to "leave" emotionally.
While staying away from
the emotional episodes in the family would make it easier on
fathers, it also tends to
keep your kids from really feeling accepted by you. The
message you give to your child is clear: I accept you but
only if you act or behave in a certain way. If you don't
behave in a way that I approve of, I don't accept you.
(Remember that this is the interpretation made by a child.)
Fathers have all sorts
of escapes that they can use when they're uncomfortable with
life at home, including
excessive working, TV watching, golfing, or just puttering
around the house. While these activities can give fathers
temporary relief, they don't do anything about the major
issue-their own ability to handle the difficult times with
How you deal with these
situations, and whether you become more nurturing in general
as a father, are issues that will
determine whether you have close relationships with your
Since a high percentage
of fathers say their own fathers were emotionally absent for
them when they grew up, this is
a difficult issue for many. When you haven't been nurtured
by your father, it's more difficult to be nurturing to your
Many fathers simply haven't
learned the skills.
While it's easy for fathers
to show their love for their kids when they're acting "good," problems
can occur if they
don't show them they care when their behavior is below par.
This is often under the mistaken assumption that if they
nurture their children or show they care while their kids
are struggling or crying, they'll encourage more of this
behavior in the future.
The problems can happen
when your kids respond by suppressing their "bad" feelings
and lose an important part
of themselves. Emotionally well-rounded kids have access to
all of their feelings, not just the "good" ones.
Nurturing fathers have
learned to allow and accept all of these feelings. This doesn't
mean that you're encouraging
your kids to whine or cry. It's entirely appropriate for
you to kindly ask your child if they can talk in a different
voice when they're whining. This is quite different from
leaving whenever they whine or harshly asking them to stop.
The difference is in how
your child perceives your acceptance of them while they're
struggling, and this
perception is often quite accurate.
So how do you learn to
be more nurturing and to be more accepting of your "entire" child?
Here are some ideas:
* Figure out the pattern
that now exists in which you're
falling short as a nurturing father. What are your
triggers? How do you react? Having enhanced awareness is
always a good place to start.
* When your kids
are struggling, think in terms of what
your child needs. Notice how easily you can become critical
of your child. Consider a hug or positive attention.
* Get to know the intimate details of your child's life:
who their friends are, what they do in recess at school,
their favorite toys, etc. The more you know about them, the
more likely they'll be to share feelings with you.
* Find ways to nurture
yourself. If you don't know how,
start to experiment. What is it that relaxes you and has
you feeling rejuvenated? Reading a book, time with friends,
or getting a massage might work. If you don't know how to
nurture yourself, it can be difficult to know how to
nurture someone else.
* Make a concrete
plan for yourself. If you normally avoid
your daughter when she's whiny or crying, look for
opportunities to jump in and "be there" with her during
those times when she's not at her best. Remember it's
crucial that she knows you accept her, in both good times
Don't be surprised
at the depth of the feelings that are
produced when you start to nurture. It can produce shame,
anger, and sadness in fathers who haven't had much
nurturing themselves. Consistent attention to this will
improve your skills and possibly have your children
wondering what happened to dad!
Fathers who continue to
avoid their children when they're not "behaving well" are
missing out on a chance to experience real closeness with their
This is a learning opportunity
that's simply disguised as a pain in the rear.
MA, CPCC, is a certified personal
coach, speaker, author, and workshop leader who
helps men to create balance in their lives and to
immediately improve their family relationships,
guaranteed! He is the author of "Fix Your Wife in
30 Days or Less" http://www.markbrandenburg.com/saveyourmarriage.htm
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