Cracking jokes with your little one is great fun until they stop respecting you.
There’s been a power struggle going on at home recently that, frankly, I didn’t see coming and didn’t know how to deal with.
My status as the ‘man of the house’ has been challenged by our son, and it’s a problem of my own making.
It took me some time to realise that your relationship with your kids can change in the blink of an eye, and you need to be prepared.
If you’re raising a young lad of your own, then hopefully you can learn from my mistake.
To bring you up to speed, we were a family of four for a long time – me, my wife, and our two little darling girls.
I had always had my heart set on having a son, but after two daughters I can honestly say that I had worked it out. So much so that I was probably even leaning towards wanting another girl for our third.
Out first two had been such a pleasure, and I secretly enjoyed being the only man in the house, with lots of me time to watch the footy and game on the Xbox before stepping in as a hair and/or make-up model. (Dads with girls will know the feeling.)
Anyway, fate would dictate that our third child would be a son and our little family was complete.
As I’ve found out though, bringing up boys is VERY different to bringing up girls, and some of the choices I’ve made as a dad have created the ‘power struggle’ I referred to earlier.
Put simply, my son and I are now in direct competition to be “the alpha male” in the house. He’s now six, and I’m 45 years old.
We had what I thought was your typical father-son relationship. It grew from the natural nurturing of a newborn through to the fun of the toddler stage and everything that comes with that.
Unlike my daughters (who are older), my son liked a bit more ‘rough and tumble’ interaction, which was completely normal.
The best way I can compare our three kids is through their reaction the tried and true ‘pull my finger’ gag.
Our daughters thought it was mildly amusing at four years of age.
But our son? Well, he almost wet his pants with laughter, and any parent will know that your child’s laughter is music to your ears…
Turns out I’d found my sweet spot with him, which I mistakenly exploited for the laughs.
They kept coming, until one day I lost my son’s respect as a Dad and became his competition.
I can pin down the exact moment, too. It was the moment I called him a “poo-head”.
Hear me out here. My son has inherited his parents’ wicked sense of humour, so poo and wee jokes in our house are gold.
One day, during a particularly tense parenting situation, I blurted out to my son that he was a poo-head. I must have been trying to filter down what I really wanted to call him.
In any case, it got the response you’d expect in our house – side splitting laughter – and it became our thing for a while. And not just inside our four walls at home.
We had such a repertoire going that it became a bit of a sideshow for a while. Whenever we got a new audience, the banter would start up, the laughs would come, and the joke continued.
But he didn’t know where the boundary was and he had stopped listening to me as a dad.
We started butting heads over such trivial things as bath time, eating vegetables, and going to the toilet, and it had become so bad that my wife and I had to sit down and work out where it all went wrong.
It didn’t take long. With all the name calling, banter, and back and forth, my son had stopped seeing me as his dad, and more like an idiot mate he could knock around with.
A drastic solution was required, and thankfully it has worked so far.
I immediately stopped with the banter and the name calling, and both my wife and I called him out whenever he would start it up.
We had to explain on numerous occasions that: “Daddy should be treated with more respect. Daddy works hard for the family and loves us all very much.”
(The poor kid … he just wanted to roll out some gags and instead got a lecture on how ‘precious’ his dad is.)
I’m glad to say that some three or so months on, our relationship is close to where it probably should be. There’s still the odd struggle, but for the most part he’s listening to me again.
After all, I am his dad, and he’s going to need me to be exactly that for a little while yet.
The lesson for me has been that there’s still room for a bit of fun and knockabout with my son, but it’s imperative I identify when the line is about to be crossed and rein it in before it goes too far.
If you do push it too far – like I did – then there’s a bit of work in winding back the relationship to where it should be.
As a parent you tend to look back in order to look forward, and my Dad and I have a brilliant relationship. He’s truly one of my best mates.
But he was more like my ‘Dad’ and not my ‘mate’ during my formative years, and that’s something I have to keep at the front of my mind as our son grows older.
After all, I want us to enjoy a similar relationship to what Dad and I enjoy now.
There will be plenty of time later on for us to be ‘mates’. And then the poo-head banter can flow long and free.
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