There are many important aspects to caring for and raising a child and all of them will play an important part in your child’s development and how they eventually turn out. Most of us realize that we need to provide food and shelter for our children, to nurture their intellectual development, and to give them the opportunity to socialize and develop their interpersonal skills.
One of the most important aspects of raising a child that perhaps doesn’t always get the attention it deserves is simply making sure that child is loved. If a child is loved then this will provide them with confidence, the capacity to love back, and happy childhood memories that will give them an optimistic and unconquerable view throughout the rest of their life. If they know love growing up then this will drastically improve their chances of finding it in older age. On the other hand those who are not loved as a child will often feel bitter resentment toward the world, will likely have low self esteem and be unhappy in themselves, and will likely struggle to build meaningful relationships later in their life.
This is why it is so drastically important that you love your child and that they know it – so what happens if you don’t like your own child?
The Effects of Not Liking Your Child
The thing is that we are all highly sensitive beings and we are all highly astute when it comes to emotions – even in childhood. If you don’t love your child, if you resent them, or if you ‘love’ them but don’t ‘like’ them, then they will pick up on this to a certain extent through your mannerisms and the way you act toward them – just as you start to suspect something is wrong in a relationship before you get dumped. While you might try and hide your feelings then, this will not be enough to ensure your child grows up happy and confident as they will still sense themselves as being disliked or the ‘least favorite’ and that kind of insecurity can stay with you forever.
What’s important then is that you make sure to understand why it is that you resent your child, whether in fact you really don’t like them, and then address the issue and try to resolve the problem.
Common Reasons You Might Not Like Your Own Child
The first thing to realize is of course that feelings of resentment or even fear towards children are not all that uncommon and at the end of the day a child represents a huge change to your lifestyle, a massive responsibility/burden and the catalyst for many changes to yourself.
Many people who end up resenting their children do so because they weren’t truthfully ready for the commitment of being a parent. Perhaps the pregnancy was accidental, or perhaps you rushed into your parenthood. In either case this then leaves you not having had the life experience that most of us would like to have before we settle down. If you always dreamed of traveling then having a child means you can’t do that. If you always dreamed of becoming a rock star then having a child will provide a serious barrier to that dream. At the same time if you wanted to have more relationships and sexual partners before settling down then your current situation won’t allow for that either. The idea is that you now change your dreams and ambitions and that you focus on raising happy children and gain pride and life experience from that – but of course this isn’t how everyone feels. It’s not the child’s fault that your youth and ambition has been effectively taken away from you, but it can still feel that way and they may still be where you choose to direct your frustrations.
Another reason many people grow to dislike or to resent their children is when they become overwhelming and too difficult to look after. This is particularly common when the children are going through their ‘terrible twos’ or if they are going through the equally terrible teen years. It can also furthermore be a problem if the individual is in charge of looking after too many children. While their free spirited nature might be fun from an outside perspective, if you have to put up with it and are constantly being disobeyed then this can be a truly traumatic and distressing time and eventually it makes sense that you might start to resent your children. With teenagers you might find that you are struggling constantly with arguments and that they seem to resent you which can make it hard to be the bigger person and to forgive them.
Finally some parents can struggle to like their children if the children are very far from what they envisaged. All of us had ideals before we had children of what those children would be like – what they would look like how they might share our interests and how they would progress to achieve certain things. Thus it is can be frustrating and disappointing if the children grow to be markedly different from this ideal and if they share nothing in common with the ideal son or daughter you imagined in your head. Maybe you wanted a boy and you got a girl? Maybe you wanted a sporty child who you could play football with and instead you got someone who enjoyed sitting at the computer all day? This might mean we simply feel we can’t connect with the children in the way we would like to, it might mean that we worry how others will perceive the child and how they will fit in (because if you’re judging them then most likely others will too), or it might be that they even remind you of things you don’t like about yourself.
How to Address the Issue
Of course if you don’t like your child for any of these reasons then you need to address the problem as soon as possible and to force yourself to work through the problem. How you go about this will depend partly on the reasons that you feel resentment toward your child in the first place.
If for instance you are finding it hard to cope with the burden of having young children and this is leading you to resent those children (you may also feel depressed with this), then you need to find help so that both you and the children can be happy. This might mean getting a nanny to help you look after your children during the day and this can help you lighten the burden and be less stressed when your children refuse to do what you tell them for the umpteenth time. If the problem is behavioral then you may want to get help from a behavior specialist who can help you to learn to discipline your child in a more effective way without straining your relationships.
Likewise if you resent your children because you feel your lifestyle has been cramped then you need to find new ways to find fulfillment. Book family holidays for instance and travel as a family, start writing a novel, run a website or blog, form a band with your friends and post the music online… there are plenty of ways you can continue to lead a fulfilling life and work towards your goals even if you do have children. You should also try and find fulfillment and ambition in raising your children and start to live vicariously through their achievements – give them the life experiences you didn’t have and then you can eventually start to explore the world together.
And if your problem is that your child is not fulfilling your expectations then the solution is to try and reassess what it is you want from your child. The best case scenario here is not to demand anything of your child but to instead let them be who they are – that’s what’s truly special about having children, you are nurturing a whole new personality with their own quirks and behaviors and they can teach you almost as much as you can teach them. Let them explore their personality and take an interest in what they do. Try to be more open minded and understand that what you might think is the ‘right way’ to be is not necessarily what your neighbors think is the right way to be.
If you struggle with these cognitive shifts then it is important that you get help from trained professionals to make sure that you can be happy in your relationship with your child and can put aside your personal issues and love them unconditionally. Seeing a therapist can help you talk through your problems and most likely you’ll find that the resentment you feel toward your child just comes from yourself. If you are struggling a lot with the pressures of parenthood, then even taking a break to stay at a rehab clinic can be a great way to get some distance and to get some perspective. If you are suffering from a form of depression and this is just one of the symptoms then you might need to address these with more sessions and treat the symptoms with antidepressants so that you can be there for your child.
In some rare cases however your instincts may be picking up on something that is wrong with the child. It may be for instance if you are struggling with severe behavioral difficulties, that your child is struggling with ADHD in which case you will need to rethink the way you react to their misbehavior. Alternatively if you feel ‘disappointed’ with your child, it may be that they are coping with a developmental disorder such as ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), or a growth hormone deficiency. Your child might seem unlike you, or not the way they ‘should’ be in your eyes because they have some kind of development disorder – taking your child to a specialist where they can receive a formal diagnosis can help you greatly to understand their difficulties and overcome them. Know though that in any case, if your child is suffering from such conditions, or if they are just different, then they are going to need your love and support even more. Remember: you are a team and you are in this together.