Are you a per­fec­tion­ist, ex­pect­ing your child to be the best at ev­ery­thing, or a doting fa­ther always avail­able for your kid? Ex­perts talk to Chris­tine Field­house about daddy is­sues and how to over­come them

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Ev­ery dad is dif­fer­ent. Wiesia’s fa­ther phones and texts her ev­ery day no mat­ter how busy he is at work.

On the other hand, Maya’s dad is very for­mal. When she was grow­ing up, he was always out, work­ing or play­ing golf and ten­nis. Now, years later, when her mum calls her for a chat and hands the phone over, Maya’s dad just asks how she is be­fore hang­ing up.

Over the years Maya, a beauty ther­a­pist, has thought he’s com­pletely dis­in­ter­ested in her life and, at times, felt re­jected.

Whether good or bad, healthy or not, ex­perts agree that our re­la­tion­ships with our fa­thers are im­por­tant ones, im­printed on our minds long af­ter child­hood.

‘Our par­ents are our first role models and they’re the big­gest core in­flu­ences in our lives,’ ex­plains Becki Houl­ston, a life coach based in the UK. ‘Our fa­thers are our first male role model. When we are ba­bies, we watch them and see how they deal with stress and in­ter­act with other peo­ple, for ex­am­ple.

‘Our sponge-like brains learn from ev­ery­thing they do, even though we may not un­der­stand it. And we take what we’ve learnt from our par­ents into our own lives and re­la­tion­ships.’

Un­der­stand­ing our­selves and the choices we make, then, has much to do with fig­ur­ing out our par­ents. So, what type of dad you have?


This dad may be phys­i­cally re­mote and work­ing long hours at the of­fice or away from home, or he may be emo­tion­ally dis­tant, and put up a bar­rier be­tween you and him.

‘He pri­ori­tises work above ev­ery­thing else, be­cause that’s where he feels most com­fort­able,’ says Dr Sal­iha Afridi, a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist at The Light­House Ara­bia Cen­tre for Well­be­ing in Dubai. ‘He tells him­self and oth­ers he does this for the fam­ily, and when peo­ple sug­gest that he slow down or spend more time with his chil­dren, he de­fen­sively says that some­one has to pay the bills. He points out that they don’t com­plain when he’s pay­ing for fam­ily hol­i­days in Monaco.

‘Even when he’s with his fam­ily, he’s dis­tracted, and din­ners and car rides are in­ter­rupted fre­quently by calls and e-mails that he claims are ur­gent. Fam­ily time always gets pushed to a mag­i­cal place called later. Be­cause of his guilt at not spend­ing time with his fam­ily, he pro­vides all that money can af­ford – lux­u­ri­ous hol­i­days, cars for the chil­dren when they’re old enough to drive, and un­lim­ited funds for his wife.’


‘You reap what you sow,’ says Dr Afridi. ‘No one who is old and frag­ile has ever said: “I wish I’d worked more”, but many have said: “I wish I’d loved and lived more”. There will always be things that are ur­gent so where pos­si­ble, pri­ori­tise your time with your fam­ily.

If this is your fa­ther, ‘telling him that you’d like to spend time with him and that it’s im­por­tant to you is a good place to start’, sug­gests Dr Afridi. ‘You might call his sec­re­tary and sched­ule lunch with him. Try to speak his lan­guage – use e-mails and or­gan­ise 30-minute meet­ings and keep as con­nected as you can un­til he learns that his fam­ily is im­por­tant.’


This dad started crit­i­cis­ing you as soon as you were old enough to un­der­stand

If you are a DOTING DAD, stop and re­flect for a mo­ment. ‘Your job is not to PRO­TECT your chil­dren or pro­vide for their EV­ERY NEED. It’s SUP­PORT­ING them as they learn to TAKE CARE of them­selves’

him. He fo­cuses on what’s wrong in your life. If you get six As and a B in your ex­ams, he’ll fo­cus on why you didn’t get seven As.

As an adult, if you make him a cof­fee, it will be too weak or too strong. If you’ve dec­o­rated a room, he’ll point out mis­takes. He picks holes in your work, re­la­tion­ships, the way you bring up your chil­dren, even the car you drive. His crit­i­cism will erode your self-con­fi­dence, and it could stay with you through­out your life.

‘Noth­ing is good enough for such a fa­ther be­cause he never sees the good in any­thing,’ says Dr Afridi. ‘He’s usu­ally very rigid and black-and-white in all ar­eas of his life; his crit­i­cism isn’t lim­ited to his chil­dren! He evokes feel­ings of fear and dis­cour­age­ment at work and home, and peo­ple of­ten stop try­ing to please him be­cause they know they never will.

‘Even­tu­ally, kids stop do­ing any­thing around this dad for fear of be­ing crit­i­cised and as­sume a learned help­less­ness.’


‘Start look­ing at the process rather than the end re­sult,’ ad­vises Dr Afridi. ‘Com­ment on your child’s hard work and ef­fort, in­stead of the B he got in Physics. Do daily ex­er­cises where you put on your roset­inted glasses and point out all the things that the peo­ple around you and your kids in par­tic­u­lar, are do­ing right.

‘Also, talk about the things that are go­ing right in your day. This will soon be­come a habit. You’ll be­come hap­pier and peo­ple will be hap­pier around you.’

If it so hap­pens that your dad is of this type, Becki says fight back and ‘ex­plain how bad his crit­i­cism makes you feel. It’s im­por­tant to pro­tect your sense of iden­tity. Tell your fa­ther you feel sad when he crit­i­cises your driv­ing or your clothes, for ex­am­ple. Try ask­ing him if he’s aware that when he points out where you went wrong in an exam or pre­sen­ta­tion, you feel re­ally sad about it.’


From the mo­ment this man be­comes a fa­ther, his chil­dren are the cen­tre of his uni­verse. You’re his princess, whether you’re five or 45, and he’s always there for you. He’ll res­cue you when your car breaks down, bring his tool­box when your tap is leak­ing and trans­fer funds when you have a big bill. He wants noth­ing more than to please you, so his favourite word is yes. ‘This man is present at ev­ery par­ent-teacher con­fer­ence,’ Dr Afridi says. ‘He always orders af­ter his chil­dren at the restau­rant and gets home from work in time to help kids with their home­work.

‘The pit­fall with this type of fa­ther is that they dote so much, it can be suf­fo­cat­ing. He might pro­tect his chil­dren to the ex­tent that it be­comes a hand­i­cap, and as a re­sult, they might not learn to fend for them­selves.

‘Chil­dren need to form their own iden­ti­ties and a fa­ther who dotes on his chil­dren in this man­ner can some­times lose per­spec­tive about what is good for them in the long term.’


‘When you dote on your chil­dren and help them with ev­ery­thing, you could be send­ing them a sig­nal that they are in­ca­pable of do­ing any­thing them­selves,’ ex­plains Dr Afridi.

‘Your job is not to pro­tect your chil­dren or pro­vide for their ev­ery need. It’s en­cour­ag­ing and sup­port­ing them as they learn to pro­tect and take care of them­selves.

‘Even though it feels great to be un­der the pro­tec­tion of your fa­ther, step out of your com­fort zone and take

risks with­out him stand­ing next to you. If he tries to pro­tect you, gen­tly tell him you need to learn for your­self. You may never re­alise how pow­er­ful and re­source­ful you are un­less you take the wheel and be cap­tain of your own life.’


This man has in­cred­i­bly high stan­dards and he puts a lot of pres­sure on you to achieve var­i­ous goals. He’ll push you to be top of your class, the cap­tain of the hockey team and head girl at se­condary school, and if you can rep­re­sent your coun­try at schoolgirl ten­nis or play in an in­ter­na­tional or­ches­tra, so much the bet­ter!

He wants the best for you – the most lux­u­ri­ous car, the best univer­sity, the high­est de­gree. Once you start work, he’ll ex­pect you to climb the cor­po­rate lad­der re­ally fast, and he’ll want you to have the best ad­dress and wardrobe in town.

‘He’s very opin­ion­ated and he’ll tell you ex­actly what exam choices you need to make or how you should de­velop your ca­reer,’ says Becki.

‘He’ll be a high achiever him­self and prob­a­bly try­ing to share his recipe for suc­cess with you. He will try and coach you and there will be con­stant de­briefs about your per­for­mance. Noth­ing short of bril­liance will make him happy.

‘The prob­lem is, he will get frus­trated and im­pa­tient very quickly if you don’t take his ad­vice, and when he’s not around to push you, you might find it hard to mo­ti­vate your­self.’ ‘In­stead of push­ing your am­bi­tions onto your child, talk to him or her and re­ally lis­ten,’ says Becki. ‘Find out what they want from their life, and in which ar­eas they want to achieve. That way, you can sup­port them in re­al­is­ing their own dreams with­out bull­doz­ing them into achiev­ing your am­bi­tions.’

‘If this is your fa­ther, or­gan­ise to just hang out with him. In­stead of hav­ing a pur­pose, go for a cof­fee and wan­der aim­lessly around the shops or a mall to­gether.

‘If you can share some re­laxed fun with each other, you can take the em­pha­sis away from achieve­ment. Even play­ing a board game with him will make him fo­cus on him­self and take his at­ten­tion off you for a while!’

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