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It’s Normal: Every Child Would Find the Parent of the Opposite Sex Attractive at Certain Stage

It’s Normal:  Every Child Would Find the Parent of the Opposite Sex Attractive at Certain Stage

“Mom, I love you. I want to marry you,” your three-year-old son says, planting a kiss on your cheek. Your heart melts. Then your husband comes home and that same endearing little boy launches an angry campaign against him, all the while sweetly holding your hand. Has your son suddenly become a tyrant with a split-personality disorder?

Relax. He’s simply displaying an Oedipus complex – an essential developmental phase every child goes through. The Oedipus complex is a normal childhood stage of psychological development that occurs between the ages of 3 to 5. This phase comes after your child has partially detached themselves from you, setting out to find his own identity. He tends to develop a deep affection — and even physical attraction — towards the parent of the opposite sex and a rivalry towards the same-sex parent.

The Origin of the Term “Oedipus Complex”

Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud coined the term “Oedipus complex” after the play Oedipus Rex, written by Sophocles in 429 B.C. In this Greek tragedy, the king of Thebes is told by an oracle that his son Oedipus will kill him. As a result, his wife deserts baby Oedipus on a mountain to die. Unbeknownst to them, the baby is rescued and raised by the King of Corinth.

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When Oedipus becomes a man, he is told by an oracle that he will kill his father and sire kids with his mother. To avoid this horror, he leaves Corinth and the people he believes to be his parents, and heads to Thebes where he meets the Thebian king (his biological dad) and kills him in a fight. He goes to the palace and wins the hand of the widowed queen (his biological mom) and marries her.

It’s totally accidental. Oedipus is not a bad guy. He ran from the “kill Dad and marry Mom” idea. When they learn that Oedipus is actually the queen’s son, she hangs herself. Oedipus finds her and with shame and guilt, he blinds himself and wanders thereafter as a tormented soul.

Recognizing the Signs of Oedipus Complex Phase in Your Child

Freud asserts that the Oedipus complex stage is a natural phase and avoidance of this crucial stage could prove detrimental to a child’s psychological development.

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How do you know if your child has entered this stage? There are signs you can spot.[1]

  • Deep affection for opposite sex parent: Your child may become overly loving and even try to kiss you “like daddy does.” He may demand constant attention — only Mom’s.
  • Indifference or harsh attitude to same-sex parent: He may become mean towards his dad and act out when he’s around. He may resort to the silent treatment around his father. It may seem like he doesn’t love his dad at all.
  • Jealousy of a possessive nature: Your child will exhibit a possessive nature towards Mom. He may get angry when Dad tries to show affection to Mom and when Mom shows affection for Dad! During this phase the child wants Mom for himself.

The Psychology That Causes Oedipus Complex

The boy focuses his affections on his mother because she is his caregiver. When his feelings become powerful and overwhelming — an infantile sexual awakening — he becomes aware of the difference between male and female. He takes note of the relationship between his father and mother and views his dad as his rival. He becomes possessive of his mother and jealous of his father.

The Appropriate Attitude of Parents

This is a natural process. Richard Boyd of the Energetics Institute says that it’s the parents’ responsibility to be aware that this is a normal stage of development. During that time, it is essential that “a child should not be rejected, used, punished, or shamed for having natural impulses of the heart and sexuality.”

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While it would be good if you could sit down and have a heart-to-heart with your child about this topic, at ages three to five it is doubtful he would listen or comprehend the subject, let alone sit still that long. Instead, try these tactics:

  • Love your child unconditionally, even if you are the dad and suffering the brunt of your child’s jealousies.
  • Don’t criticize, tease or shame your child for exhibiting these behaviors.
  • If your child crosses a boundary that you feel uncomfortable with (such as trying to kiss like Daddy), divert and redirect his attention elsewhere.
  • Remember that you are dealing with a young child.
  • Know that this is only a phase and it will pass. Be stoic and hang in there!

Exiting the Oedipus Complex Phase

Your child is traveling through this stage of development in order to learn his own sexual identity. When your child reaches the end of this phase, he abandons his sexual attraction towards his mother and begins to identify more with his father, stepping down to let his father win their rivalry. At this time, the father begins to bond more with the child, aiding the development of his masculinity.

Oedipus Complex Is a Natural Stage of Growth for Both Boys and Girls

Young girls do not by-pass this phase. They go through a similar stage in development called the “Elektra complex”, based on another tragic Greek tale.

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It is imperative that all children successfully pass through this stage of development in childhood. Repercussions from punishments and criticisms during the phase can lead to psychological problems in adulthood. It’s far easier to face the overt affections of a 3-year-old than surmount the troubles of a 35-year-old!

Reference

[1] Changing Minds: Oedipus Complex

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Sally White

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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