Fathers treat their sons and daughters differently—research backs this up.
When talking to daughters, fathers tend to lean towards analytical language and use words like “much” and “better.”
On the other hand, fathers use words related to competition and achievement like “win” and “top.”
Fathers tend to be more open to talking about emotions with their girls while roughhousing seems preferred with boys.
What’s interesting in the above observations is that it’s simply not clear why that is the case. However, it definitely is something fathers should take note of.
It’s not surprising, then, to find that boys commonly struggle to develop empathy and emotional intelligence.
For gay men, the struggle could be twofold. For them, father-son relationships are already a struggle as it is. They deal with some sort of shame from fear that their fathers may not approve of their sexuality.
Masculinity is oftentimes associated with “hating on” femininity, and therefore it’s not uncommon for gay men for their emotional expressions and fulfillment to be negatively feminized.
That being said, we can’t deny that dads do matter. They have a crucial role in the family unit, which yields a butterfly effect in societies.
Research shows that behavior problems, delinquency, depression, substance abuse, and overall psychological adjustment are all more closely associated with dad’s rejection than mom’s.
Fathers also instill in their kids the value of “stick-with-it-ness” or persistence. Kids with good enough fathers are less likely to be delinquent and, in turn, do better in school over time.
Again, it’s not clear why fathers have that kind of effect. But we are in a time when the nurturing that fathers give their daughters is slowly becoming similar to that which is given to their sons.
Masculine traits are associated with aggression, authoritarianism, and emotional repression, but if abused, sons later in life get all sorts of problems with their careers and relationships.
So why are fathers mean to their sons?
Why are fathers mean to their sons? Here are 10 reasons.
1. These fathers have unresolved childhood trauma.
If there’s only one reason, then this should be it. I believe this is where a lot of mental and emotional issues spring from.
These fathers most likely also got the “mean” treatment (or worse) from their fathers. And they have not taken steps or commitments to overcome this because, unfortunately, childhood trauma is not that recognized yet, unlike cancer.
2. These fathers get their expectations all wrong.
These fathers think that being mean or hard on their sons can make them more competitive, reliable, and generally more “manly.”
I would argue that they can achieve all these things without that toxic behavior. Most likely their sons would even become more “manly” than they expect without it.
Fathers can stay calm, composed, and stoic in the face of rough times.
3. These fathers are generally insecure and frustrated at themselves.
Especially true if their sons are enjoying some level of success, and that success barely associates with the upbringing they had.
Not feeling content, whole, and confident with themselves, these fathers cannot stand the thought of their sons doing better than them, and their only outlet is to give them a hard time whenever they could.
Sometimes they would even credit themselves for their sons’ success. Isn’t that ironic?
4. These fathers subscribe to toxic masculinity.
How unfortunate it is for a gay or bisexual man to have a toxic father!
Masculinity is already associated with “fight” stuff like aggression, competition, and strength, and don’t get me wrong, these could be used for the good if channeled properly.
But add “toxic” to it and you get all the unnecessary and energy-sucking negativity that only causes complications in relationships, especially that between a father and a son.
5. These fathers have poor communication skills.
The right words go out of the window. And being mean to sons is how these toxic fathers think is the normal way of communicating with them.
Having been treated that way by their fathers, too, they just stopped to explore what better ways there could be, and just accepted that’s just the way life is.
The world is already a dark place, but they don’t bother and wonder how they can be a light to it.
6. These fathers think they’re seeing traits or parts of themselves that they don’t like in their sons.
Growing up under the same roof, sons absorb a lot of things their fathers show or tell them.
While a good father will be proud of that, toxic fathers won’t, and perhaps subconsciously they don’t really like themselves, but now they get a living reminder: their sons.
These fathers need a higher level of self-awareness.
7. These fathers are not open to their sons’ ideas, interests, or life.
It must always be about these fathers. They simply don’t care about what their sons like, treasure, or value.
They could hang out together, but then hanging out with a toxic father isn’t really a good idea.
These fathers are self-centered and that’s precisely why they’re mean to their sons.
8. These fathers are simply narcissistic.
Or these are people suffering from some form of mental illness, especially one that has never been diagnosed. If you suggest with a pure heart that they should get checked, they refuse and give you drama instead.
It might take more patience to deal with these fathers but with empathy, making them realize they might have psychological issues could be the first step to actually making progress.
9. These fathers are jealous of their sons.
Similar to a previous point above, these fathers are left with nothing to do but be jealous of their sons, who obviously look better than them as men, especially when there’s a desirable level of acceptance by the society. (For example, the son is a church leader, a community official, or a doctor).
This has now gone from a conflict between a father and a son to that between a jealous man and a man living the good life.
10. These fathers have simply lost faith and stopped improving themselves.
It takes a level of closed-mindedness for these fathers to just be arrogant and think they always know what they’re doing.
This is really sad considering that their sons depend on them to grow as men rooted in rationality, levelheadedness, and excellence (instead of toxic masculinity).
Do fathers have to be mean to their sons?
No, fathers do not have to be mean to their sons. As a rule of thumb, there’s probably always a better way to handle things. Fathers can always choose to deal with their sons in love, wisdom, and rationality.
The only instance fathers could be mean to their sons is perhaps in an exercise of role-playing in which fathers intend to teach their sons a lesson.
Let’s say a father wants to instill the value of doing good work even if they’re working for a horrible boss (temporarily, we hope). By all means, fathers could do all the meanness they could in this scenario.
It also applies to younger sons (say, below 18 years old).
However, as always, the sons must understand why their fathers get mean.
We’re not even talking about the good enough dads that simply lose it from time to time. They are humans, after all. It’s out of the question.
But in my opinion this meanness or harshness fathers give their poor sons should stop. Men can be very masculine and at the same time be gentle, loving, and calm.
What is a toxic relationship between father and son?
A toxic relationship between a father and a son evolves from a long period where the father has neglected his masculine role and abused his power as the stronger male. The son, in turn, won’t learn how to be a good man, and the cycle continues.
A toxic relationship is where the father refuses to learn timeless lessons on fatherhood, especially in this day and age where information is freely and abundantly available.
This concept might be controversial, but note that fathers (or parents in general) chose to bear their sons. It is only logical to presume that they are 100% responsible for their sons’ wellbeing.
I believe that most of the time, the responsibility goes back to the fathers. If fathers raise their sons right, then everything else will follow.
A son can grow up to be a good man, even if he came from a toxic and dysfunctional family, but the father-son relationship would still highly depend on the father, if they both want to maintain it.
Yes, there are “delinquent” sons (even if sometimes they came from healthy families). But still, all sons need a male role model, and we can’t deny that’s the father’s responsibility.
- Dads need to give sons the same nurturing they give their daughters. The Washington Post.
- How Dads Treat Their Daughters Differently Than Sons. Time.
- The Science of Fatherhood: Why Dads Matter. Live Science.
Image Credits: Photo by Xia Yang on Unsplash