Face Your Daddy Issues: Part I

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Whether you’re dealing with your own daddy issues or trying to raise a kid without them, you’re on a valiant mission. Kids with healthy father-child relationships often develop into high-functioning adults with successful intimate relationships AND careers. Those with unhealthy father-child relationships? Well, they tend to struggle. But how do you know if you’re dealing with daddy issues and/or creating a child with them? Here are four common relationship styles that often result in daddy issues:

The enmeshed dad is overly involved and the child appears to like it. They are “best friends” even through adolescence, when teens should be more independent. Typically the dad wants to be the hero, coming up with the right and best answers to please the child. These children often have trouble developing normal social skills and truly intimate relationships.

The controlling dad makes every decision for the child, despite the child complaining or rebelling. A controlling dad’s self esteem is usually too dependent on being “right,” and, therefore, struggles to let his children make and learn from their own mistakes. Children of controlling dads often have low self esteem, have difficulties controlling themselves, and can be abusive or tolerate an abusive spouse/partner.

The abandoning dad does not typically step in because he falsely believes his children want to and can make all of their own decisions. He sees his child floundering but minimizes or denies the struggle and makes excuses for not parenting. These children have trouble with trust, difficulty generating the constructive aggression needed for a successful career and family, and tend to wander somewhat aimlessly in work and relationships.

The clueless dad doesn’t step in when a child is rebelling and clearly needing (almost demanding) boundaries. He usually becomes paralyzed by his child’s aggression, puts his head in the sand and hopes it will go away or someone else (another parent, teacher, or police) will step in to do his job. These children tend to have difficulty with bosses, the law and other authorities, and often gravitate toward strong-minded or even abusive spouses.

Here’s what it looks like when things are functional:

The healthy father-child relationship goes beyond providing for or getting along well with your child. Good fathering starts with completely taking ownership over the care of the infant and then slowly letting the child take the reigns as he grows up. This is a tricky process that requires balance — you have to know when and how much to pull back. To complicate matters, there is no “right” answer. If you’re struggling to strike a balance, pay attention to the child’s reaction when stepping in and pull back, be flexible and adjust as needed. A professional therapist or coach can further help you examine your own life and modify your style if you’re unsure how to move forward.

Next week we’ll dive into strategies for dealing with daddy issues — a journal perfect for those who identify with the children in the unhealthy relationship scenarios above and wish to mending their relationship with dad.

To your emotional health,

Dr. Dabney

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