A Son Seeking Father's Approval: "Disney Dads"


A Son Seeking Father's Approval: "Disney Dads"
Early in life, boys learn to identify with their fathers.

Early in life, boys learn to identify with their fathers - a recent article in the New York Times brings up the Oedipul issues that arise from this (http://nyti.ms/HvBnDr). As this complex plays out, the boy will continue to seek approval from his father throughout his life, while looking for someone like his mother for companionship.

Marriage and family therapist Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil explains: "The boy often 'leaves' his mother too early in life in order to more fully identify with his father. This can cause problems and compromise men later in life in the way they deal with intimacy in women." Dr. Bonnie discusses this in her book, Make Up Don't Break Up, in which she looks at the wounding caused when a boy leaves his mother too early. "The reason men don't want to depend on women once they're adults," she explains, "is that they had to leave their mothers too early in order to better identify with their fathers, whose approval they sought and continue to seek."


Dr. Bonnie calls this the abrupt schism - when a boy leaves mother abruptly while he's still dependent in order to identify with his father and become more like his old man. "This can leave the boy still yearning for his mother's affection years later," explains Dr. Bonnie, "the mother is usually a pursuer, but the father is usually a distancer."

Boys don't make this transition gracefully and the wounds they incur affect their relationships with women for their entire lives. Some mothers have a hard time litting boys go - which means that later in life a man will disappear from a relationship if a woman makes him feel guilty about not meeting her needs; or he will feel that he is never good enough. Men struggle with this issue of never feeling good enough which can play into their own relationship with their children: Playing "Disney Dad" (taking kids on fun outings, buying them toys, and giving in to their whims) in order to buy their kids' affection.

This provides another glimpse into the reason why men are more reticent to open up - if they do so, they worry they will then need the woman with whom they open up; and they're reminded of how hard it was to leave their own mother. The New York Times article points out that this is the Oedipul myth in play, even today. "Men still go out on their own with the aim of seeking their father's approval," explains Dr. Bonnie.

But sometimes, the opposite happens, and the fathers end up attempting to gain approval from their children. Dr. Bonnie points to issues of divorce or separation, where the kids don't live full-time with the father. "In this instance the father feels he has to make it up to his kids, and he will attempt to receive their approval in a variety of ways." One of the most common ways can be when the father attempts to buy his children's favor by lavishing them with gifts or an overabundance of fun experiences.

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Dr. Bonnie Weil


Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil
Relationship and Family Therapist

Location: New York, NY
Credentials: PhD
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