parenting mistakes

3 Mistakes Dads Make When Approaching a Serious Subject

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“No, you can’t wear that. No, your friend can’t come over this weekend. No, you can’t watch that. And have you noticed the dishes piling up?” It’s normal to deal with all these things as a parent on any given week. But sadly, I’m quoting myself in a rant I gave my daughter all while quickly passing her in the hallway.

Your talks as a dad don’t have to be like this. You don’t have to make the same mistake I did. You can do better. You just need to avoid these parenting mistakes. Here are 3 mistakes dads make when approaching a serious subject.

1. You haven’t properly warmed up.

If you haven’t connected relationally with your kids, it’s best to hold off on addressing the serious stuff.

If you haven’t connected relationally with your kids, it’s best to hold off on addressing the serious stuff with them. Maybe you’ve been working hard and haven’t spent the last few evenings present and engaged. Point is, you need to prime the pump. If your kid’s young, take him for ice cream. If she’s older, take her for a walk and talk about lighter stuff like what’s happening with friends, movies, you name it. Your relational investment now will reap future dividends making it easier to cover serious topics when they arise.

2. Your timing is off.

Timing is everything. If you or your kid is stressed out, exhausted, or preoccupied with other priorities, stay away from serious subjects. For example, I’ve needed to talk with my oldest daughter about a tough topic, but over a span of a few days, I realized she had a project due at school, a track meet, and a school banquet. It was the wrong time to pile on and add more stress simply for me to “get something off my chest.” While the conversation was important, it was more important that we were both ready for it.

Approach a tough topic at the wrong time, and you’ll make any number of mistakes, from not listening to saying something you shouldn’t or using a tone you normally wouldn’t. When you are mindful of your kids’ physical, mental, and emotional state when approaching a tough talk, the conversation will flow, and you’ll be able to cover what you need—helping you and your kid approach this talk and future subjects more easily.

3. You don’t encourage future talks.

When my kids come to me with a question, I do my best to let them know they can talk to me about anything at any time. I’ll say, “Thank you for coming to me about this. I know it’s tough. Come back if you need to talk more.” It’s important your kids know your door is open and they can talk to you about anything. Help your kids be comfortable by asking questions like: “Mind if I check back with you on this later in the week?” or “What did I miss? Do you feel like I answered your question?”

Sound off: What’s one parenting mistake you’ve made when trying to talk to your kid about a serious topic? 

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What’s the most interesting thing we’ve ever talked about as a family?”