Fatherhood is a calling not everyone receives, but most of the ones who do will agree that it is a blessing. And that it is not an easy one. There are no job descriptions, there is no guide or manual. There are joys and moments we would not trade for the world as we see out little ones grow and mature, but there are low points too. Screaming babies, rambunctious toddlers, arguing teens and frustrated young adults. There is no perfect father (or mother). There is no perfect parent. We are all improv-ing. (And hopefully, improving.) But, like every human, dads make mistakes.
The key is to learn from them, and always set an example. Still, it would not hurt ot check in and be aware of your actions. Let’s explore seven mistakes some of the best dads make.
We want our sons to like what we like and assume our daughters will not.
We dream about our kids when they are young. We imagine what they will be and what we hope they will be. Maybe your son will play baseball in college like you did? Maybe your daughter will run a business like your mother did? Ah, but there is the problem. We limit our kids by placing gender binaries on to them. Maybe your daughter will be an excellent softball player. And go farther than you ever did. Maybe your son will take after his grandmother. Guide them and let them be who they are – outside of those dreams you had for them.
Let them like the things they like. Let them dream the things they dream.
We mistakenly teach that strength is the same as bullying and physical aggression.
Bullying is hard and teaching your kids to be strong can be difficult. We want to encourage their expressiveness, but we do not want them picked on or in any harm. We lead by example. The more compassion and intelligence you show the more they will pick up on it. The more you celebrate violent or aggressive wins, the more they will internalize those as acceptable behaviors.
Fighting is not about who wins the fight, but who could have avoided it.
We lose our patience.
It is a a mistake every day will make, but how we handle is everything. Discipline is about teaching, not about enforcing law (though it might require that). It is never about intimidation.
We think there is a difference between fathering and mothering.
There are major differences between mothers and fathers. Mothers, especially, can provide sustenance and have bonded with a child in utero. However, gone are the days when a father’s responsibilities were supposed to be at work. Any parent should be able to nurture, discipline, care for and love a child. Whether you are with your child’s parent or not, you MUST work as a team. And you must not limit the scope of the parent you can be. Good parents do it all.
We try to be friends with our kids.
You can be friends with your kids when they are adults, if you are a parent to your kid when they are a kid. Hopefully, you have created an awesome and dynamic human who will meet a ton of friends on her own. Let her do that. But you are her parent. Act like one. Sure, this might mean more fighting, more frustration and more reaction, but she will be grateful after the lessons are learned.
We cannot balance father, husband, work and self.
It’s a difficult balance, and no day will go by when it is perfect, but we must shift and prioritize as appropriate. We need to take care of our family – provide, care and love. But that can not come at the sacrifice of the relationship you keep with your partner, or your happiness at work or your ability to care for yourself and invest in your individuality.
It’s an impossible balance, but we must keep trying.
We do not follow through on promises, for good or bad.
“If you do that one more time, you will be grounded.” If he does it again, ground him. The second you do, you lose all credibility. Lead by example. Do not make empty threats or say intimidating things you do not mean. That will get you nowhere.
Same goes for the good stuff. If you promise her a bedtime story, you have to be there to deliver.
We assume we can do exactly what our fathers did.
No matter how awesome your dad is, we cannot be him. We have different lives, different partners and create different children. We cannot do what he did. We can learn from him and try to emulate him, but we cannot be him.
Because, beneath the surface, he was also making mistakes.