Skywalker hated his dad too. But they got on in the end, once they spent some time together
The question to ponder is whether there’s a good reason why your child doesn’t like you, or feels safer with their mum. And before you reply, don’t even start to tell me raising kids is a woman’s job.
First, ask yourself: are you friendly, patient, playful, tolerant, quietly spoken, encouraging, amusing, helpful, a good sport and listener? You’re not? Hmm. Wonder why your child shies away…
Secondly, how much time do you spend with your children? Is it 80 per cent of their day? Or less than ten per cent of their day? Face simple facts. Even if work prevents you from being the active carer, any child will respond best to the adult who wipes their bum the most. For instance, the Queen’s older children were always closer as infants to their nannies than their globe-trotting parents.
Thirdly, how much of the time that you could spend with your children do you actually spend with them? Surveys vary, but it’s not so long ago (2006 to be precise) that one study found the average figure for fatherly participation was an inglorious 19 minutes a day. I don’t accept that the time it takes me to get served in my local bank is quite long enough to establish a loving bond between father and child, but you can try.
I labour the point, but the truth is that with kids you get out what you put in. Barring one or two cases where children themselves have personality deficits preventing attachment, that is most of the story.
How to turn it round?
Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you’ve been a grumpy workaholic desperately starting your own business for the past two years it is unreasonable to expect your children to warm to you this afternoon.
To compensate, you need to become more important to them, more familiar, more central to their lives and concerns. It is proving your value week in week out rather than conjuring up a spectacular treat that counts. If you were their favourite cook, for instance, that would put more credit in the Bank of Dad than dashing around Alton Towers one Saturday and disappearing the next.
I believe in sitting next to children and watching their terrible TV with them. You need to know what they know. If they always want mum, why not copy what mum always does? Kids are practical.
And when it comes to problems, don’t claim to have all the answers. Don’t just compete. Use the moment to give them a personal boost: “I wonder how we can find out?” or “You know more about this than me – what’s your opinion?”
Being a parent is a relationship. If you don’t invest in your relationships, they die.