I was in a discussion session on the role of mothers in the home. The mothers were vehemently criticised and admonished on areas that improvement was expected. Towards the end of the discussion, a question was asked on why mothers “gang up” with their children against their fathers. All the contributors ended up strongly expressing their feelings on what they termed evil deeds by the mothers. It was condemned in strong terms and the only solution they proffered was that mothers should repent from their sins.
Well, a comprehensive approach to any issue would always produce better results. Proper diagnoses would deeply analyse and give attention to every possibility. In interpersonal relationships generally, factors that determine whether a person will get close or avoid another person include the love and care he receives from that person, the availability of peaceful personal interaction and his/her perception of that person from the comments that others make about him.
I have had real-life experiences of the attitudes and feelings of fathers, mothers and children in families where such accusations were made and my observations are as follows:
- Children get closer to the parent who is more available and responsive to their needs. Mothers, especially the stay-at-home ones have all the time to care for their children. This is why most children tend to be closer to their mothers. This does not necessarily imply that they are not close to their dads. It is just that they are closer to their mums. Ordinarily, this is harmless to the dads. It does not imply a gang-up by the mothers!
- Children get closer to the parent who is more skilled in the parenting function. The traditional role of a father in our environment, as the police who receives reports of offences by the children, and metes out punishment, has worsened this situation. The little time the dads have with their children are spent in agony and pain. When children in this situation resent and avoid their dads, it is not a gang-up by the mums. Great dads can still correct and guide their children using effective parenting skills.
- Children get closer to parent whom they perceive as fair to the other parent, especially in situations where there are marital conflicts. The perceptions of the children concerning marital squabbles by their parents are influenced by what they see as well as the parent’s comments about each other. For instance, words of commendation and praise by a mother for her spouse will encourage the children to get closer to him, while negative comments will discourage them. Also wife-battering and lack of attention for a wife by her husband will create negative sentiments by the children towards their dads. In peaceful homes, children should ideally be close to both parents.
Fathers who are anxious about children getting closer to their wives should just translate their anxiety to action by creating time for their children. It is necessary that dads also partake in feeding the children, bathing them, taking them to school and bringing them back, assisting in their school homework, buying their books and clothes, visiting them in their schools, reading bed-time stories and so on. Dads that excite peaceful and purposeful relationship with their children will always enjoy enduring close relationship with them.
-Uchenna N. Nduka