3 Ways to Learn From Your Father’s Parenting Failures

When my dad died in 2021, we were not on the best terms. Despite thoughts of some sort of reconciliation, his sudden passing made that impossible, and it made the terms we’d been on instantly regrettable. My dad was always the life of the party and could light up a room with laughter and conversation. Growing up, I had front-row seats to watch the master salesman at work. But I often resented it. My dad always seemed focused on everyone but me as a kid. Although he would take me to great places like ball games or the movies, I never had his attention.

His parenting gaps created a wedge between us as I became a father, and I was committed to not building those obstacles with my own kids. Knowing how those failures impacted our relationship, I set out to learn from them and do better. Here are 3 ways you can learn from your father’s parenting failures.

1. Remember how he made you feel.

I loved how my dad took my brother and me to baseball games. It became a way to bond even during the difficult teen years. It always made me feel important. Yet, my dad constantly talked to others around us at the games. His search for validation from others made me feel alone despite being at the game with him. But from that, I learned the gift of being present for my kids when we experience things together. Dads need to focus on their kids’ needs and show them they will always be there.

2. Consider how your dad was raised.

My dad was abandoned by his birth father at just 2 years old and his stepfather was a good man but not present enough. When my father grew up, the traditional male role model was a provider. So he grew up with an example of a man who put food on the table but wasn’t emotionally involved in his kid’s life. To his credit, my dad was more emotional than his own stepfather and did his best to express love and appreciation to his kids often. Once I learned this, I had more empathy for him, but I also vowed to be even more emotionally available to my kids than he was to us.

3. Remember to forgive.

We need to accept that our dads didn’t have the capacity to give us everything we needed. They probably did the best they could. It’s critical to recognize that, thank him while he’s still around for whatever he did do well, and forgive him for anything we feel angst or anxiety over. By offering forgiveness, we free ourselves from the pain and anguish his lack of skills caused us and can focus more on being the best dads we can be to our own kids.

Sound off: What have you learned from your father’s parenting failures?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is your favorite memory with me?”