While it’s safe to say it’s not a parent’s goal, the US has the highest rate of children living in single parent households, and children are 5 times more likely to live with moms than dads. But is this kids’ first choice? What should parents, moms particularly, do when a son wants to live with his dad over his mom?
When a mom says, ‘my son wants to live with his dad,’ she should try not to take it personally. In reality, sons want to live with both parents, but in situations where that’s not possible like divorce, sons often prefer living with their dad because dad represents the most trusted male role model.
Since my husband and I have been married decades, this is a subject I haven’t dealt with personally. However, as a mom of three sons, I do understand the importance of dads and how devastating it is for sons not to have a strong relationship with their father.
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It’s with this perspective that I tackle the issue of ‘my son wants to live with his dad’ in this article. I’ll explain what it means when toddler to teen sons prefer living with dad, and reasons it’s a good thing, as well as reasons it’s not. If this is pertinent to your family, please keep reading!
- What Does It Mean If Your Son Wants To Live With His Dad?
- Reasons Your Son Should Live With His Dad
- Reasons Your Son Should Not Live With His Dad
- The Takeaway for Your Son Wants To Live With His Dad
What Does It Mean If Your Son Wants To Live With His Dad?
You may remember the 80s movie starring Dudley Moore and Kirk Cameron called Like Father, Like Son (the male version of Parent Trap with Doris Day or the Lindsay Lohan film). What’s it actually mean for sons to want to live with dads, and of course, what context makes that tricky, hurtful, or problematic?
Sons who want to live with their dad over their mom don’t love dad more. Instead of looking at it like they don’t want mom, just look at it like they identify with dad more. Dads are their son’s first male role model, and sons identify with their dad as the person to teach them how to be an adult.
Let’s look at some different ages where this might happen and how moms and dads both can best deal with the situation where sons choose to live with dad. For purposes of balance, I’ll address 3-year-olds (the toddler stage); 7-year-old sons (the elementary school age); and 15-year-olds (the teenage stage).
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If Your 3-Year-Old Wants To Live With His Dad
It’s certainly unfortunate when parents don’t stay together. Yes, there are outlier situations where it might be better to be apart, but in most cases it’s extremely difficult on children. So what should moms do if their 3-year-old wants to live with dad instead?
Three-year-old sons who want to live with dad over mom is usually because they see dad as the more fun parent. Dads of toddlers are often less strict about cleaning rooms or bedtimes and like to play wrestle and roughhouse. Also, toddlers look to dad as their protector, so dad makes them feel safe.
Situations where three-year-olds want to live with dad over mom is often a result of divorce. But sometimes parents were never married, and it’s a context of two adults who have a son but don’t live together no longer, or never did.
In this sense, then, moms should not feel bad that their son prefers living with dad. Moms could try to change and be more ‘fun’, but really it’s important for parents to be true to their natural role and personality.
It’s tempting to have young sons this age ‘trade-off’ weeks with each parent. For instance, the toddler may live one week with mom and then the next with dad, however, I caution you to rethink this option. It’s very confusing to kids, especially when they’re little to move back and forth so much.
If Your 7-Year-Old Wants To Live With His Dad
Seven-year-olds who want to live with dad over mom usually look up to dad as a hero-figure. Dads loom large in their life and provide a sense of security and strength. As well, sons at this age often focus on sports and outdoor activities and usually dad is involved in this, not mom.
Since dad is often the one who is associated with this focus, maybe even acts as the little league coach or Boy Scout Troop leader, elementary-aged sons prefer to live with him.
Moms with kids like this shouldn’t take offense and feel sad that their sons prefer living with dad over them. Moms should appreciate that their sons feel they have a dad they love so much and want to be with them.
As well, moms in this situation -as hard as it may be- should do their best to stay connected with their son when they’re not together, and when they are, enjoy that time to the fullest.
If Your 13-Year-Old Wants To Live With His Dad
There are some common reasons 13-year-old sons want to live with their dad instead of their mom. One is that teen sons look up to their dad as a role model to emulate. Also, living with dad might provide more independence and opportunity for freedom, since dad may work long hours away from home.
Reason 1 reminds us that sons identify with and even idolize their dads, even if they don’t necessarily admit it, especially as teens.
Reason 2 can be both good and bad. Since dads work a lot, sons may want to live with them so they have ample opportunity to spend limited time together. Often dads at this stage in their life are very career focused and work a lot, so if dad and son live apart, they have very little time together otherwise.
Of course, this could also be a more ‘covert’ reason too. Since dads in this situation aren’t home much, sons living with them are given a lot of freedom and independence, and teen boys are apt to take advantage of that.
Reasons Your Son Should Live With His Dad
Now that we’ve looked at why sons may prefer to live with their dad over their mom, let’s think about whether or not it’s a good thing. Is it better for sons to live with dad or to live with mom? And if it’s good for sons to live with dads, why?
Well, to be perfectly clear, sons should ideally be living with both parents. However, when that’s not possible, in most cases, sons are better off living with dad. Unless sons are nursing newborns, a dad is the better parent to raise sons full-time.
Here are some of the main reasons for sons to live with dads.
Dads Are Role Models
One reason sons want to live with dads is because they view their dad as a role model. And in this case, this is also a reason sons should live with dads instead of moms.
Dads are the best role model for sons because they can teach sons, by their example, how to be good men. Women can’t do that, as much as they might try.
Dads are the first role model for their sons. From birth, they teach their sons how to act, how to play, how to work hard, and how to treat women. Again, no matter how much moms try or how great moms are, they can’t teach their sons these things.
Living day to day with each other is no better way for dads to show sons how to be, either.
Sons Need A Dad’s Discipline
Dads naturally provide discipline in the home. And sons need this, too. Even the smallest dads are viewed as strong and ‘tough’ by their sons, particularly when sons are younger, and a dad’s voice is often all that’s needed for a son to know the line’s been drawn.
When our oldest son was little and he’d give me trouble, all it would take is for me to dial his dad’s number (at work) for my son to straighten up and listen to me. He’d immediately say ‘I will!’ Some times I hung up the phone but other times, if he’d been especially ‘bad’, I’d hand the receiver (this was pre-mobile devices) to my son, and he’d be in tears.
He had a healthy fear of his dad, because his dad represented discipline to him. He knew his dad meant business and he better toe the line.
And this wasn’t because his dad (my husband) was abusive. It was because his dad followed through with consequences and his dad also had that stern male tone that put power behind the words.
Dad Provides Stability
Being a product of a single-parent home can’t be easy on kids, sons in this case. It feels unstable, and that can obviously bring about additional stress.
So when it comes to living with one or the other, sons often prefer dads because of the two, dad feels more stable and secure. A dad’s strength is overly elevated for kids the younger they are, giving dads an almost ‘superhero status‘.
Little kids get scared…scared of the dark, scared of unusual noises, scared of strangers. So it makes sense that living with dad makes them feel, well,…a bit less scared.
Reasons Your Son Should Not Live With His Dad
That being said, unfortunately, there are cases where sons should not live with dads. So here are the main reasons when it’s better for sons to not live with dads.
Dad Is a Bad Role Model
If dad is not a good role model, they should not be the primary caretakers of sons. If dads are ‘deadbeat dads’, sons are much better off with moms (providing moms are not ‘deadbeat moms.’)
‘Bad Dads’ are dads who are criminal; unemployed; or abusive and neglectful.
Sons living with ‘bad dads’ won’t learn to become good men by living with them. In almost all examples, sons should not live with this kind of dad. It’s more harmful than good.
My husband had a deadbeat dad. His dad and mom divorced when he was five years old and his dad was pretty much absent after that. However, because of the character of his dad, my husband was much better to not have him in his life.
If your son’s dad is not a good person, he should live with you, the mom. It’s not to say that sons should never see, visit, or talk to his deadbeat dad (you may not have a choice to stop it), but it should be supervised and kept to a minimum if at all possible.
Sons Are Looking For Trouble
Sons should not live with dads who are ‘easy’ or absent most of the time. Sons may opt to live with dad because they can get away with things mom wouldn’t allow like staying out late, drinking alcohol, or skipping school.
If sons are just looking for opportunities to rebel or act out by living with dad, then moms should do whatever they can (legally of course) to prevent this.
Sometimes dads will be understandable about this when mom brings this to his attention, recognizing that he lacks discipline or is away too much to properly supervise their son, so discuss it together as parents which placement is better for the son.
Other times, dad might be resentful and deny this, feeling threatened. However, if your son’s safety is at risk, then you may have to have outside intervention like taking it up with a lawyer and children’s court.
The Takeaway for Your Son Wants To Live With His Dad
The main takeaway about sons wanting to live with dad is that it’s actually the best situation for him (in general). While outliers and special cases always exist, most sons do better living with dad as he is the best male role model for sons to emulate.
Moms should try to not feel slighted when sons choose to live with dad. It doesn’t mean sons love dad more.
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