I have two daughters aged nine and eleven. From the moment they were born I felt desperate for them to love me and I’ve bent over backwards to be the perfect father. I’m very protective; if they fall over I sympathise and hug them until they feel better. I also try to sort out any problems they have big or very small. For example my daughters often fall out with other girls in their class. My wife tells me this happens with girls quite a lot and I should let them sort it out themselves, but sometimes I can’t and I speak to their teacher on their behalf. They are also both competitive and can get quite jealous if, for example, their sibling wins a game. The one who has lost sulks and claims: ‘it’s not fair’.
The result of my dedication has not at all been what I expected. They show me little respect. Instead both of them order me about as if I am some low grade employee. They demand I find their shoes, homework or anything else they have misplaced. They tell me off. ‘I’ve told you again and again that I don’t like scrambled egg. How many more times?’ They do still, I’m pleased to say climb on my lap and as for a cuddle.
My wife is sympathetic but tells me I shouldn’t put up with their bad behaviour that they need boundaries. But it’s easier said than done. My father undermined me throughout my childhood, so it’s been a struggle to build my confidence. I just don’t want them to feel about me what I felt about him. I know I must do something before they become teenagers, but I don’t now quite what. Can you help me please?