One of the imposing responsibilities of being a dad is the irreplaceable way I impact my kids’ lives. There is very little that is more rewarding than seeing the best parts of me come to life in my kids. It has been among my greatest joys to watch my daughter share in my love for music and to see the son I just taught how to cast for fish do the same for his little brother.
Unfortunately, it’s not just the best parts of me that they imitate. I believe there is little more humiliating than seeing my kids imitate the worst parts of me: patterns of weakness, selfishness, and immaturity. I’m not sure even the best among us are immune to this experience. Here are 5 negative effects of fathers on their kids.
Bringing Our Baggage
No one grows up in an impeccable home with a perfect upbringing. To some extent, all of us bring baggage from our childhood into our adult lives. It often can be seen in the coping mechanisms that have gotten us through hard times, the unfulfilled dreams we project onto our kids, or the consequences of abuse and addictions. If we don’t unpack it (which sometimes requires the help of a counselor), one of the negative effects of fathers on their kids is this: Our baggage will create baggage for them.
No dad likes to see his kids hurt. While it may seem like a rite of passage to take your kid to the emergency room for a cast or some stitches, we’d all rather not go there. That being said, there’s a fine line between not wanting your kids to suffer and attempting to shield them from all of it. When we protect our kids from every potential negative consequence, they may not develop the ability to handle adversity.
Kids are unpredictable. In many circumstances, this is a blessing—when we see them demonstrate wonder, creativity, and compassion in extraordinary ways. But in the same ways they can amaze us, they can frustrate us by their immaturity and irresponsibility. Inevitably, we will find ourselves on the verge of losing it when they put a hole in the wall or spill cranberry juice on the white carpet. If we give in to the temptation to lose it, we shouldn’t be shocked when our kids imitate this behavior either by treating their siblings the same way or by becoming unreasonably hard on themselves.
Kids should know they can count on their dads. If we tell them we’re going to take them out somewhere or play a game with them and don’t follow through on it, they may get upset with us and start to believe we can’t be counted on. If that’s the effect not following through on little things can have, imagine the impact on our kids when we lie about more serious things. If kids can’t trust their dads to be honest and upfront, the effects of fathers on their later lives can be disastrous.
Excusing Our Own Bad Behavior
Wouldn’t it be nice if at the moment we became dads, all our bad behaviors simply disappeared? Unfortunately, habits ingrained in us are generally harder to shake. As a result, we find ourselves swearing in front of our kids or they catch us sneaking a lustful glance at the waitress while we’re out for pizza. The temptation in these moments will be to explain away the behavior. But the effects of fathers who do this can be harmful. Instead of taking responsibility and admitting our weaknesses, we are teaching them that hypocrisy is the norm in our homes.
Sound off: Where do you need to work at being a better dad to your kids?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do I do well as a dad and what can I improve?”