I know this older dad. He has a 20-something-year-old child and was looking back with regret. He said, “We just don’t communicate.” I can still feel the pain in his voice as he questioned everything he did or didn’t do. He wondered if it was too late to connect with his kid. Maybe you’re wondering the same thing.
As dads, we look at relationships and think, “We just don’t communicate anymore.” But this is never true. We are communicating all the time—in what is said or not said. We’re simply communicating badly. Communicating poorly is one of the common mistakes parents make. We need to recognize our mistakes so we can improve. Here are 4 mistakes you must stop making with your kids.
1. You don’t speak up.
Ephesians 4:25 says to put away lying and instead speak the truth. The emphasis is on speaking. In order to be honest, you must speak up. Sure, we know getting angry and blowing up is bad. So, we’ll often do the opposite and clam up. Sadly, I’ll go to my wife and talk about the kids. “You know who didn’t do her dishes like we’ve told her a thousand times,” I’ll say. But this isn’t helpful because it sets up a bad scenario.
What’s my wife supposed to do with this info? Am I to leave the disciplining to her? Am I assuming she’s going to jump up and take care of it? How is that helpful? Or, worse, am I just complaining? If I don’t speak up and bring the issue to my daughter myself, then I’m not being honest with my daughter. Whether I’m exhausted from saying the same thing for the thousandth time or not, my role is to lovingly speak up and confront if needed.
2. You let problems fester.Getting quiet or letting things fester isn’t taking the high road—it isn’t honest communication.
You wait and let things build up rather than addressing problems one by one. I’ve improved with this over the years, but it’s often still difficult to resolve things quickly. I’ve heard dads recall that when they were kids, their own dads got quiet when they got mad. But getting quiet or letting things fester isn’t taking the high road—it isn’t honest communication. When you don’t work to resolve issues quickly, you’re opening the door to resentment, bitterness, and ultimately, letting hatred creep in.
3. You attack the person rather than the problem.
Thankfully, I don’t have a habit of this one. But I’m not a saint here either. I’ve never said, “You’re stupid for doing this or that.” But I have accidentally said things in the moment like, “Why do you always do this or that?” The point is to guard against using words that are biting or cutting. Stick to the issue at hand and strive to speak lovingly and call out the problem instead of the person. When the discipline is done, the kids should know they are loved.
4. You react rather than act.
Be careful that you’re not always reacting as things happen. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable, but reacting is rarely helpful. Watch out that you don’t become bitter, explode in anger, or constantly yell. Seek to handle issues as they arise properly. Learn to act calmly, kindly, and with love. Over time, acting rather than reacting will become a habit. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.” If both parties involved are always reacting, there will be arguments.
Sound off: Which one of these four things do you do the most?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What’s the best thing to do after you realize you’ve made a mistake?”