dad fails

3 Common Dad Fails That Are Easy to Avoid

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When my middle daughter was in kindergarten, my wife was pregnant, sick, and on bedrest when school picture day came. I was overwhelmed during this exhausting season, and I forgot something. But I’ll never forget the day the picture arrived in the mail. My wife slid open the envelope, looked down, and without looking up, asked, “Why wasn’t her hair done?” I had sent my daughter to picture day, her first picture day ever, without doing her hair.

I failed that morning. My daughter was too young to realize her hair should’ve been done, and it was my responsibility. Chalk it up to another one of my dad fails. If you’re like me, you could use a list of ways not to fail, especially given some fails are preventable because they’re our own fault. Here are 3 dad fails that are easy to avoid.

1. You’re too passive.

Passivity as a dad can show up in a lot of areas: how you discipline, how you handle tough conversations, how you teach and instill values, and even how you engage in quality time with your kids. The opposite of being passive is taking initiative. Are you taking initiative in areas where you need to? I’ve been known to delay discipline because I had just returned home after traveling for work. I can rationalize not disciplining at that moment while getting picked up from the airport, but I tend not to discipline or to be late to discipline even when I’m home. When your wife is saying, “You need to handle this,” sometimes, it may mean you’ve been passive where you need to take initiative.

2. You’re just plain boring.

Maybe you lecture instead of listening. Maybe your examples and stories are too much from your “good old days” experience and you’re not meeting your kid where he is. Lectures are known for being boring because they aren’t engaging. Do you talk too much? Do you ramble off topic? Instead, slow down, ask questions, and listen. A back-and-forth conversation will always win over a lecture. Maybe you’ve been dying to point out something to your kid. Instead of rattling off a list of things she hasn’t done, ease in by asking, “Hey, have you been struggling with anything lately?” Listen for what to ask in follow-up questions. With practice, you’ll speak less and ask deeper questions. For example, if your daughter says, “Yeah, I’m dreading this test coming up on Thursday,” you might follow up by asking how you can help rather than with a lecture about how she needs to study.

You win when you set standards that you also live by.

3. You’re preaching more than practicing.

I’m writing this on a day when all my kids are home. I just heard my oldest daughter raising her voice out of frustration with her younger brother. Sure, her brother can be annoying, but I was shocked at how quickly she raised her voice. My immediate thought was to shout back, “Why are you YELLING at him like that, he’s SIX. YOU’RE ALMOST 16!” Instead, I realized she’s acting like what she’s seen from me. When I’m annoyed, I’m quick to raise my voice. In these cases, I’m not practicing what I preach. I must learn to show patience and talk through things rather than get loud, or risk my kids mimicking me with the same behavior. You win when you set standards that you also live by.

Sound off: Of these three common dad fails, which area are you weakest in? 

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Do you think I lecture more or listen more?”