mental strength

10 Mental Battles You Must Win as Dad

Life, to varying degrees, requires mental strength. Or, as Yogi Berra once said about baseball, “Ninety percent of the game is half mental.” As men, we can get tripped up all the time by “mental errors.” Things like jumping to conclusions, negative thinking, assuming we already know what a spouse is going to say about an issue, making snap judgments without enough information, and losing our concentration at a critical time.

Marriage and parenting are not easy. We have to have our heads in the game. To be forewarned, a proverb says, is to be forearmed. So let’s pay attention and be ready for 10 mental battles you must win as a dad.

1. Making Foregone Conclusions

How often have you listened to the first half of your wife’s story and then lost your cool before she finished? Make sure you know the full story before making judgments, and definitely before speaking.

Make sure you know the full story before making judgments, and definitely before speaking.

2. Not Listening

It’s so easy to be distracted when our kids have something to share. “Listen to me with your eyes, Daddy,” one 7-year-old said. Concentrate and listen well.

3. Being Governed by Your Appetites

As men, we’re hardwired for pleasure—see, like, consume, move on. We may have gotten by with eating every donut in sight in high school, or pizza four nights in a row in college, but now we’re grown and it’s time to tell all our appetites, for everything else we just want to see, grab, and have, that they don’t run the show.

4. Playing It Safe

Some of us are afraid to take risks in relationships. Here’s the reasoning: “She seems to like the way things are going, so why rock the boat?” If you’re a golfer, that means shooting for par and never winning tournaments. Men who park their imagination when they get home end up in stagnant marriages. Shoot for birdie once in a while; show her you care.

5. Listening to Your Ego

The ego doesn’t always send out the best “dad” messages. “Because I said so” needs thoughtful parenting to back it up. Life is not exclusively about me anymore. It’s about the family. It’s about training through leadership.

6. Getting Revenge

Did one of your children embarrass you in front of your friends? If you are married, did your wife “zing” you in front of the neighbors? We may not be in junior high anymore, but the temptation to play eye for an eye is still just a stray word away. Don’t be that guy. Have the mental strength to forgive and move on.

7. Not Caring About the “Losers”

As men, we seem to have an instinct for wanting to win. Look at sports—additional innings, extra time, shootouts. Calling it a tie? We don’t think so. We tend to approach disagreements this way at home. Argument? I win, you lose. However, if you win an argument with your wife, there are three losers: her, you, and the kids.

8. Dominating Others

Might does not equal right. This is a tough mental battle. It’s easy, especially when things don’t go your way, to default to the “I’m the strongest, so I win” response. Physical domination is shorthand for “I don’t have the skills to _______ (fill in the blank) effectively, so I’ll rely on brute force.”

9. Putting Yourself First

It’s not reasonable to expect that we will ever get to the place where we automatically think of others first, whether spouse, children, friends. Yet this is required for relationships that work. The last shall be first and the first shall be last.

10. Maintaining the Status Quo

Every Thanksgiving, Frank insisted his wife cut 10 inches off the ham before putting it in the oven. “That’s how my mother did it,” he said, “And her mother before her.” Eventually, they quizzed the oldest living relative. She confirmed the decree. “But why?” Frank’s wife asked his great-grandmother, Irene. “My grandmother had a tiny baking dish,” the matriarch reported. “It was the only way the ham would fit.” Be open to new ways of doing things.

Sound off: What in your life requires the most mental strength?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What in your life requires the most mental strength?”