When Should a Father Bond with his Son?

Some people experience bonding with their child during the first few moments of life , or the first months of caring for them at home.  I on the other hand did not.  People describe bonding as an intense emotional connection that they feel with their kids.  More than just loving them, a real sense of attachment that is deeply rooted in your heart.

When Ella was born, she was a very particular baby at bedtime.  By particular, I mean I spent every night holding her in my arms, feeding her, rocking her, reading to her, until she fell asleep and I would have to gently stand up, and slowly lower her into her crib.  Without fail, four nights out of five, the second my hand left her head she would wake and cry only to start the process all over again.  In contrast, Pax has been super easy to put to bed.  We give him a bottle, burp him, and Erica gives him some kisses and I lay him down in his crib, switch on the turtle lamp that plays soft lullabies and turn off the light.  He’s good to go.

But I find that I’m missing something.  I don’t feel as close to him as I want.  I’m probably the only parent you have heard of who is complaining that his kid is easy to put to bed.  But I think that some of the things I had to do with Ella helped me connect with her on a deeper emotional level.  I will also say that it was really during our trip to Disney World this year that I felt Ella and I had bonded even more.

I feel very guilty about this, and so I turn to you for some help.  Searching the internet has given me some tips , but I wonder if there are other people out there who also have experienced bonding at a later stage with their children?  Here are some of the things I plan to do to help me bond with Pax:

Night time – a new nightly routine of rocking and reading books – I figure just because he is easy to put to bed, doesn’t mean I can’t keep him up a few extra minutes to spend some one on one time with him.  Something else I’m going to try is to not read the same books I read with Ella, but to create a totally new experience with Pax.  Sometimes I think the trouble with bonding with my second child is that everything I do with him reminds me of what I used to do with Ella.  So instead of reading Pooh’s 1,2,3 I’m going to read a page or two from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia at night.  I’ll continue to do this until it is obvious that he is not interested.  But I’ve heard of some dads who used to read the Sports section to their kids at night, and reading something that I love may make it a more special time to me…

Play time – some websites suggest teaching your child new things at this age.  I felt like before Pax was pretty much just the baby blob that all kids are and that I really couldn’t have that much interaction with him.  Now though he is really starting to light up when I sit down and play with him, I need to know HOW to play with him in a way that will make a difference.  Some ideas I’m going to try next week are trying to teach him how to build a tower and then knock it down, try to make him imitate me.

Talk time – Something Pax has recently started doing is being able to have converstations with me.  He’ll make a noise, I’ll repeat it.  He absolutely loves this and we go back and forth making and imitating each other’s sounds.

Song time – I wrote a song for Ella when she was a baby, I think it’s time I wrote one for Pax, too.  I want to encourage my children to love music as much as I do.

So those are my ideas, any thoughts?  Anybody out there experience this, too?

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here’s the follow up post ‘Only Child’ Night


17 Replies to “When Should a Father Bond with his Son?”

  1. There are a few things there. I was just talking about it with my wife yesterday. Now that we have a 2-year-old and a 4-months-old, we just don’t have time to experience the wonder of infancy like we did 2 years ago. Our older boy needs our attention, so we just concentrate on making sure the girl doesn’t NEED anything. It’s not the best situation, and it probably postpones the bonding that will happen, but we have to do what we have to do.

    Also, I believe part of love and bonding has to do with the feeling of being needed. An easy baby doesn’t need us as much, which is a great thing, but it also means we pay more attention to the older brother who needs us more.

    All I can suggest is not to feel bad about any of that. Be happy you have an easy baby, make sure to have time just for him, and wait to fall in love.


  2. I think all of your ideas are great, so you seem to be off to a very good start.

    I have two kids also, a 12-year-old and an 8-year-old, both boys. I remember the earliest days of my older son very well but, oddly, I don’t remember those of my younger son quite as well. When he was about six months old, my father became very sick and his illness consumed much of my time and energy, which is in part one of the reasons why I don’t remember as many of the bonding rituals that I had with our younger son.

    As the father of somewhat older kids, though, I really believe that bonding can be an ongoing process. For me right now, this is a matter of knowing what my kids’ individual interests and really paying attention to the times when we can bond over them. My older son is really into sports now, which has never exactly been something I’ve followed, but we had an amazing time at a Phillies game back in June and it was great bonding experience. My younger son’s interests are different (and he is on the autism spectrum, which adds another dimension) and I need to clue myself into them as well. Plus, there is family bonding time for all four of us, but one-on-one time with each kid, is obviously very important.

    Anyway, sorry to leave such a long comment, but it honestly sounds like you’re on the right track with this.



  3. I had the same experience with my first two kids. I spent countless nights rocking my daughter to sleep. My son on the other had just fell asleep as soon as his head touched the pillow. It took a while for my son and I to bond because he was really attached to his mother. But I continued to build our connection and now we are inseparable.


    1. We started reading (Pax and I) at night, and this has helped a lot. But it’s good to know I’m not the only one who experienced it this way. I was really feeling guilty. Thanks for the encouragement!


  4. Lee,
    Kenny and I were the same way. As you know I had Twins and I was so busy I was really grateful I could just put Kenny to bed and focus on Kati or Ken. As he got a bit older I realized I had missed some opportunities with him. Now that I don’t have 2 kids in diapers I’m able reinforce my relationship with him both inside the home and out. I’m a merit badge counselor for his Boy Scout troop, we go geocaching together and I show him how to eat really messy food with out getting it all over… (boys love to eat!).
    My point is, your relationship will grow! As he gets older you’ll be able to do so much more with him. As you know, hang in there, be persistent and believe and it will be…


    1. Thanks Shannon, yes I need these reminders that it will get better. Things have already gotten a little better since I posted this but you’re right, I’m going to hang in there and be persistent and keep looking for new ways to bond as he grows and changes. Thanks for reading and a big thanks for your comment!


  5. Need some help myself. Have two sons aged 4 and 2. The elder one is more quiet in company (more like myself – something i found as being a drawback in myself always). The younger fellow is more conversant with anyone and everyone. My elder son, watches the attention the younger one gets and at times tries to imitate him to gain attention. The younger one seems to be more popular with family and friends. Want to help my elder son get more confident about himself. To be able to talk with others more easily. He can converse for hours with his cousins but is hesitant in class (LKG) n in social gatherings. Please advice.


    1. I’m not an expert but I will do my best to help. It sounds like you may think that your son’s personality is less than desirable, since it is something you don’t like about yourself. But really, to make your son more confident in who he is, you should be sending him the message that its OK to be introverted and quiet. He may be trying too hard to be like his brother because that’s what he thinks you want, but really if he realizes you love him for being quiet just like you, then he actually may open up more, being comfortable in his own skin. Just give this time to sink in that he doesn’t need to be anyone else. Hope this helps!


  6. Thank you for your response. Have never ever thought that being introverted and quiet is OK. But will try and accept that and work with my lad. I do love him more than my own self and I do make it a point to let him know he is is immeasurably loved. But have not shown his that complete acceptability of his nature. So will give it a shot! Thanks again!


  7. Out of 5 love languages, physical touch is only one. Some kids must have it and some don’t. Some kids even resent being held for too long. So cuddling is not for everyone.

    Kids also have different interaction styles – visual, kinesthetic and auditory (later there’s also digital). One likes bright lights, one likes rocking and one likes jingle bells.

    It’s good you are noticing what Pax likes, because that’s exactly how you can bond with him – pay attention, see what works and learn from experience. When your heart is in the right place, you will find the way.

    Good luck,

    P.S. Click above for more on communication styles and love languages and then use the search box or tags


  8. This is a really common question I get from male friends with new babies. So much so I wrote my thoughts on the matter here: http://www.cluelessfather.com/bonding

    Rather than rehash that, I’ll do something stupid and offer my opinions, and these are disposable with no need for recycling:

    1. Count your blessings on being able to easily get your son to sleep. 😀

    2. The father/daughter bond/connection is a much different bond than father/son for who knows why. I feel way more of an emotional bond with my daughter than I have ever felt with my father. Others may have a different experience. It’s a somewhat abstract point so I’ll gloss over it.

    3. Any strong connection to anything comes from involvement and the overcoming of barriers/obstacles. It just sounds like you went through a tougher battlefield with your daughter and are looking for that same experience with your son much as member’s of a platoon or a sports teams always define themselves and their “bond” by the intensity of their experiences. There are other ways to get those levels of involvement but they rarely replace a shared period of mutual suffering that was fought through and overcome.

    I’ve heard a number of parents guiltily reveal that they have a favorite child or a stronger emotional connection with their first child. I don’t have first hand experience on this yet, but hopefully will by next year!

    But I think in the end it comes down to “doing the work” and you’ve listed out a pretty great series of activities to engage upon.

    I’d strongly avoid psycho-babble on the subject as that’s not going to do anything other than make you feel worse.

    I also wouldn’t worry about it or feel guilty about it. If you are doing the best you can, then there is absolutely no reason to feel guilty.

    Look at it this way, no matter how much you love your wife, I highly doubt you feel the same way about her as you do your daughter. Does it really matter why?

    Possibly it’s easier for us to bond with our daughters because we aren’t carrying the weight of our own father/son relationship expectations but even that skirmishes over into psycho-babble so I don’t like saying it.

    You seem like an awesome dad that any kid would be proud to call their father and I look forward to hearing about your awesome adventures with both your kids. Good luck!


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