Country artist, Faith Hill, famously sang, “A baby changes everything.”
She may not be Socrates, but what she’s saying is exactly right. A baby really does change everything – our priorities and our perspective on life.
There’s no manual or map that tells us exactly what to do and when. We kind of have to figure it out on our own. And because we have to learn as we go, we are bound to make mistakes. Parents are never perfect… unless you happen to be the second coming of Jesus… which we’ll assume is not the case.
Fortunately, we are all in this together and can learn from each other. We’ll never be perfect, but we can at least work hard toward becoming the best Dads we can be.
So, with that in mind, here are 5 mistakes every parent should avoid.
Doing things for the kids
If you are a human being, you have an innate desire to help children, to stop them from crying, to give them what they want. It’s like we’re all just grandparents at heart!
This compulsion to help is well-intended and comes from a desire to see our kids succeed. Resist that compulsion!
But if we’re not careful, we can become micro-managers and, as a result, develop children who are dependent on us for every tough decision or to bail them out when life gets difficult. We become micromanagers, and as a result, our kids remain dependent on us and were having a hard time standing on their own.
Instead of doing things for your kids, give them time to try and fail. Give them time to try and succeed. But don’t step in before they have the opportunity to see what they’re made of. Kids who grow up in a family without micro-managers turn out like this:
- Intelligent and capable
If you want your child to have these qualities, give them room to grow.
Invalidating their feelings
The temptation is to forget that we used to be kids. We forget how heavy and how tough our feelings were when we were 8-years old. Think back to when that other kid bullied you, when that girl said she didn’t like you, or when that kid wouldn’t play with you. It was the end of the world… or at least it felt like it.
Don’t forget that your child’s feelings are legitimate even if the situation feels petty to you.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when your kids bring a problem to you:
- Don’t react emotionally. Don’t give them any reason to think you are bothered by their feelings.
- Do not judge. Don’t tell them that they shouldn’t be feeling so strongly about things.
- Validate them. Tell them you understand and that you’re thankful they shared their thoughts and feelings with you.
We all want to be heard. This is true for kids and adults. So, don’t forget your children need validation as much as you do.
This one might sound a little extreme. If you’re taking the time to read this post, you probably aren’t the type of parent who purposefully neglects their kids. But let’s be honest for a moment. We live in a world of distractions. Because of our phones, we never just leave work at work and focus solely on our family when we’re at home. So, it’s possible to go an entire day without ever shutting down work-mode and being present with our children.
A child who grows up in a family in which there is neglect can show these characteristics:
- Increased anxiety
- Inability to interact with peers in a healthy way
- Propensity to make risky decisions
If you’re in a situation right now in which you can’t be fully present the entire time you’re home, or you aren’t able to attend every sporting event or school program, block out time in your calendar. It may be that your job requires a lot from you. But it could also be that you could spare two hours every evening to be fully present with your kids. Then, when they go to bed, turn on the computer and get to work.
Your kids won’t remember how much time you spend with them. They will, however, remember the quality time you spent with them.
Lacking Proper Boundaries, Structure, and Limits
I mentioned earlier that we are all just closeted grandparents who secretly want to spoil the kids in our lives. Unfortunately, some parents let that part of them influence how they parent. And the end result is not good. Instead of letting your children run free, giving them everything they ask for, and letting them discover their limits on their own, you need to set up some guardrails.
We define those guardrails – boundaries, structure, and limits – like this:
- Boundaries – Honoring and respecting the emotional space between each other.
- Structure – Consistency in routines and schedules.
- Limits – Deciding on what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior in your household.
Every child craves boundaries and predictability. Contrary to what you might think, they actually thrive when they know what not to do. It gives them the freedom to explore the appropriate playing field.
Podcast Ep. 131 The Biggest Parenting Mistakes Dads Make
Comparing and Criticizing
One of the biggest mistakes a parent can make is saying these types of things to their children:
- “I wish you were more like the other kids in our neighborhood.”
- “Why can’t you be more like your brother?”
- “You are stupid. If you just worked harder, you would get better grades.”
In the heat of the moment, when our emotions are heightened, we can say things that have a huge impact on our kids. We may not even realize what we’ve done, but when we compare our children to others or call them names, we are telling them that they aren’t good enough. When we compare and criticize, we are letting our kids know that our love and acceptance is conditional.
Be careful with your words – even when you’re upset or your kids continue to do the same annoying thing over and over again.
In the end, parents are bound to make mistakes. There’s not a dad on this planet that is perfect. So, when you do mess up, keep pushing forward and remember that every day is a new day. The mistakes you make today can be repaired tomorrow. You’ve got this!