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Dr. Linda Nielsen: Children may pull away from dad after divorce because he’s the parent willing to discipline them

Los Angeles, CA–In cases where the mother continually excuses and tolerates the children”s infantile, aggressive, or inappropriate behavior, then the father can come across as much too uptight, inflexible, or demanding.

“Especially as teenagers, children in such situations sometimes pull away from their father after the divorce in part because he has higher expectations for them and is willing to discipline and to stand up to them when they are out of line.“– Dr. Linda Nielsen, President of the American Coalition for Fathers & Children

ACFC President Dr. Linda Nielsen, author of the book Embracing Your Father, wrote an academic paper for the Journal of Divorce & Remarriage called Disenfranchising, Demeaning, and Demoralizing Divorced Dads : A Review of the literature¬†several years ago. One of the paper’s most interesting sections is about the differences in parenting styles between mothers and fathers. It is excerpted below.

Nielsen has many citations to support her arguments–I have removed them but they can be found on page 6 of her paper.

Mother”s and father”s parenting style
Dr. Linda Nielsen

The father”s relationship with his children can also be influenced by how different or how alike his style of parenting is to their mother”s. When both parents are similar in terms of setting limits and disciplining the children, then the father isn”t as likely to end up being criticized or shunned. But in cases where the mother continually excuses and tolerates the children”s infantile, aggressive, or inappropriate behavior, then the father can come across as much too uptight, inflexible, or demanding. Especially as teenagers, children in such situations sometimes pull away from their father after the divorce in part because he has higher expectations for them and is willing to discipline and to stand up to them when they are out of line.

The bad news for many divorced fathers is that many mothers abdicate too much power and control to their children – especially if the mother hasn”t remarried and especially if the child is a boy. And sadly, these children often end up less socially mature, less self-reliant, less self-disciplined, and less psychologically well-adjusted than their peers.

These differences in parenting styles after divorce are not especially surprising, however, since it is often the father who is primarily responsible for setting the limits, encouraging self-control, and disciplining the children in married families. Moreover, even well-educated mothers with ample money after their divorce often provide too little supervision, household order, and discipline as single parents.
 
And regardless of income, education, or marital status, the woman who did not have a secure, loving relationship with her own parents while she was growing up is the most likely to be overly indulgent and overly submissive with her own children. This certainly isn”t to say that divorced mothers are always more indulgent and more lax than divorced fathers. In fact, whichever parent feels the guiltiest about the divorce is often the one who does the worst job when it comes to setting limits, saying “no’ to, or disciplining the children. And whichever parent is guilt-ridden often goes to great lengths to deny that a deeply troubled child has any problems whatsoever.

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