5 Things You Cannot Control As a Dad

I got the call from a friend. “Your wife is taking your daughter to the emergency room. Her blood oxygen level is dangerously low.” My tender 1-year-old daughter was battling bronchitis, so my wife took her to the doctor. You know it’s bad when your primary doctor tells you to take your baby to the ER. As I drove to the hospital, all I could think was, Is she going to be dead by the time I get there? One thing was certain—it was one of those things you cannot control. I walked quickly down the hospital hallway with a paradoxical mix of dread and hope. Turning into the room and seeing her smiling face was the greatest relief I’ve ever felt.

I like being in control. I’m sure you do too. But there are things as dads we’ll never be able to control, and the more we try to grab the reins in those moments, the more damage we can cause. With that in mind, here are 5 things you cannot control as a dad and what to do instead.

1. Our Kids’ Behavior

We can influence our kids’ behavior, but we will never be able to control it. Don’t try to control your kids’ behavior or you will make yourself and them miserable. They need your guidance, not your control.

What we can control: Model the right things, hold boundaries, and be consistent. Be accountable yourself. When you fail, admit it, and apologize.

2. Others’ Perception of Your Parenting

People are going to judge you and your kids. It’s not worth your time focusing on what other people think of your parenting. Take constructive criticism, and use it to become better, but don’t parent to please others. Check out the All Pro Dad Podcast episode at the end of this post for a discussion about that.

What we can control: Doing what’s best for our children. All children are different, as are their needs. Focus on what their needs are and how to meet them.

3. The Struggles Our Kids Face

Our kids are going to face struggles. It’s a certainty, and I would argue that it’s actually good. Struggles create strength, character, and maturity.

What we can control: Whether or not we add to their struggles. Notice I didn’t say take away their struggles. There are times to do that, but for the most part removing barriers will only hurt them in the long run. So, use wisdom. The healthier you are, the less you’ll add to your kid’s struggles.

4. Our Kids’ Futures

This may be one of the hardest things for us to let go. I’m sure you’ve had dreams for your kids from the first day you held them. But it’s their lives, not ours.

What we can control: All we can do is do our best to set them up well and then release them. So, be present today. Take every moment to love them, listen to them, and guide them. Treat every day like it’s the last one you’ll have with them. Pray for their futures. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Release your child’s future into God’s care.

5. Misfortune

We can certainly avoid the calamity that we create and there are some ways we can prepare. But ultimately, this is an unsafe world and we can be hit by misfortune at any time. As scary as that is, it’s reality.

What we can control: Cherish every moment. Ernie Found lost his teenage daughter and wife within 10 days of each other, his wife to cancer and his daughter to a moped accident. His response: gratitude for all of the years he had with them. Every day you have with your kids, live out Psalm 118:24, which says, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Sound off: What are some other things you cannot control?

Check out the All Pro Dad team discussing how to avoid parenting to please others on this podcast episode:

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are some things you can control? What are some things you can’t?”