Out of Wedlock: What Do You Say to Your Child

by Kevin Leman

Here’s a question I am asked occasionally…Here’s my podcast with Doug: 

Guilt drives a dad to worry about how to explain to his daughter that she was conceived before her parents were married. A mother worries about her son is using his verbal tic to get his way. In this podcast transcript, Dr. Leman answers their questions and more.


Alright. This is from a Dad and he says,

“I have read The Birth Order book, A Difference a Daddy Makes and then currently Be The Dad She Needs You To Be. They have changed my life, my parenting, and my marriage completely I will say.” And then he gives me a long paragraph and basically says he fell in love with his high school sweetheart and the parents of the girl would not recognize that they were in love.

He gave her an engagement ring, they did not recognize it. They ended up getting too lovey-dovey and had a baby out of wedlock. Quickly run and get married they have now been married for three and a half years, and they are about to have their second daughter. He goes on to say up until he have read What A Difference A Daddy Makes, he knew nothing about raising a daughter, he was an only child, there is divorce all around him, and he does not know how to do this.

His question is this: “As far as the question, how do I approach the fact to my daughter and others that although my wife and I were engaged and set to be married, we conceived her out of wedlock? This is something we came to terms with. But now, how do I tell my daughter when she comes of age when I myself, could not wait one more year?” How does he address this issue with his daughter?

Dr. Leman:          Number one: You are letting guilt get the best of you. Let us start with that. Quite frankly, you are asking the question so I am going to answer it. But you are ahead of the game here. You have already been married for three and a half years. That question is going to come up when your daughter begins to date during the high school years or maybe even the college years.

The fact is that you did the right thing, you married. You were in love. There were situational factors in your family that made this all the more difficult for you as a young person to wed. When you were engaged, what would have happened if the parents did the right thing? That is your parents did the right thing and said, “Oh my goodness we are so happy for you. We are so happy that you found the person that you love and you want to share the rest of your life with them. Tell us more about that.”

If they engaged you in conversation along that way, I’d like you just to think this through. Doug used the term you got a little lovey-dovey. He is more eloquent than I am. You got her pregnant. You had sex before marriage which is not late breaking news by the way. If you take a look at what is happening in America that is the norm.

But the point I would like to make is: Do you think you really would have gotten her pregnant if the parents would have done the right thing? My guess is the answer would be no. I think the seeds of rebellion were enhanced by them reacting negatively to you.

Now back to your question. If and when that comes up, that may come up when the kid figures out that your anniversary might not match up with how old she is. She might ask the question or you might choose to bring that up. But I certainly would not bring that up in the early years.

There is a time and a place for those things, but it is certainly more in tune with the late teenage years or even in her early 20s. She may not want to bring it up. You may want to bring it up as a teachable moment where there is an opportunity to say, “Hey, there is a lot of things we did in life that we regret.”

Even Frank Sinatra said, “Regrets, I had a few. But then again, too few to mention.” Do not let guilt run your life. Be thankful that you love each other. Be thankful that you want to be a good Dad. I am so glad you have read that What a Difference a Daddy Makes, and “Be the Dad She Needs You to Be”.

Be The Dad She Needs You to Be is quite frankly a better book than What A Difference A Daddy Makes. But nevertheless, you want to be a good Dad. You want to be a good husband. Be that husband, be that Dad you need to be. Do not worry about the past. The past will take care of itself.

As you present that to your daughter someday, and you do it in a very matter of fact way, you do not make it the biggest thing in the world, it is not going to be the biggest thing in the world to your daughter. Got it? That is the answer.

Doug:                   Thanks.

Andrea:                Thank you, Dr. Leman. The next question is from Allie. She says,

“Our seven year old son has developed a verbal tick over the past five weeks. Much of the research we have done suggests that we need to make a more calm environment for him so he is not set off.

To me, this seems like we are being too permissive, too helpful in getting his chores and daily tasks done, and too easy on him not expecting too much. How can we still be authoritative parents while working through what we hope is a transient tic?”

Dr. Leman:          There are such things as transient tics and there is other ticks that tend to remain in life. I do not know the genesis and the prognosis of ticks other than they exist. I think even the experts in neurology have different opinions on this.

Again, you have already done the research so you are probably ahead of me on that. I would give one general warning is you walk your way through this. I would say remain the authoritative parent you are trying to be. Do not allow the disorder or the tick to be an excuse for behavior that is inappropriate. I would just work on consistency.

And I would guess that this child is a first born child. I am assuming that this child is subject to stress in their life. Aren’t we all? But who produces the stress in his life? Again, if you’re little guy or if you’re a little girl, I cannot remember if we are talking about a boy or girl here.

Andrea:                It is a boy.

Dr. Leman:          Oh, a boy. If your little guy is a first born, you have to remember that his models in life are adults. I would say to you be careful about shooting on him. I would be careful about over correcting him. I would try not to correct him quite frankly.

In other words, he is doing something I would say something like, “Honey, excuse me. Would you do me the privilege of sharing with me where you are going with this? I am a little confused.” Let him explain to you what is happening and say, “Oh, I see. Well, that is the plan. I can see that. Hey, have you ever considered this?”

In other words, if you are going to correct him, I would correct him mildly. Be as approachable as you can be and as honest and open with him as you can be. That will take some of the internal pressure off. But just remember that this little guy sees you guys who are much more capable than he as his models.

Being the first born, those guys get a double whammy of unfulfilled dreams and wishes that you may have, that you have subtly or not so subtly placed upon him. I would talk with him softly, gently. I would be very careful about a critical eye. If one of you, his parents is an engineer, an accountant, an English teacher, anywhere where perfection is paid off, you may have to do a little self inventory and figure out that you may very much be a part of putting kerosene on this little fire we call a tick.

Some self examination and some conversation between the two of you as adults would be an order. But again, the key thing I want you to hear is, do not let that tick become an excuse for you to accept unacceptable behavior.



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