Charlie lay in his room quietly, wishing his dad would go to bed. His stomach was in knots. The pots clanged again with more yelling. It was 1 in the morning, and his dad was in the kitchen trying to make himself something to eat. Several hours of whiskey didn’t satisfy his appetite, and he was angry he couldn’t find the frying pan he needed. Charlie’s dad became easily agitated and unpredictable when drunk. He was worried his dad might start an argument or possibly do something worse. This was a regular Saturday night routine, a routine Charlie hated. An hour later, he listened to his dad’s footsteps saunter to his room. It was finally quiet, but it was another 15 minutes before the boy calmed down enough to sleep.
Are you creating family tension in your house? Our kids’ emotional well-being is largely determined by us. Our temperament, character, and behavior can provide kids with a sense of security or a world of internal chaos and turbulence. If it’s the latter, it can cause significant emotional and psychological damage. That’s why we need to work to establish stability by avoiding that type of behavior. Here are 5 ways dads cause family tension.
The other day, my son left his socks in the living room after I told him to pick them up. When I had to remind him, he anxiously said, “Oh, no! Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry!” as he ran past me to the living room to pick them up. Yes, he said sorry five times. His reaction was shocking to me. I wasn’t mad and had spoken calmly the whole time. It made me think back to all the times I yelled or spoke harshly to him for similar things. It’s made me wonder how much anxiety I have caused him. Is he afraid of how I’ll react? When our reactions are volatile, it makes our kids walk on eggshells. It can produce fear of failure, social anxiety, or hesitance to try new things.
2. Substance Abuse
Like for Charlie’s dad, substance abuse makes a person unstable. Kids are already vulnerable. They have surging emotions and little control over their lives. They lack a core identity, and their friendships are tenuous at best. They desperately need stability from their parents. Having a father in a drunken state is dangerous, adds to their confusion, and gives them greater anxiety. It’s a burden they are unable to carry, and we should never put them in that position. If you have an addiction, seek help immediately.Inconsistency from a parent is like making kids live through an earthquake every day.
Inconsistency from a parent is like making kids live through an earthquake every day. As I said in the last point, kids need stability, structure, and parents who are reliable. One of Adam Sandler’s characters said, “It’s gotta be boring how reliable parents are.” He’s talking about consistency. Our kids should almost take for granted how dependable we are. They should know we’ll be there, that our love will never go away, our boundaries are solid, and our follow-through is firm. All of it gives kids the assurance they need.
4. Applying Pressure
Kids live in a world of increasing expectations. They have enough pressure on them from teachers, coaches, bosses, peers, and themselves. Kids don’t need more expectations and pressure from their dads. All it will do is contribute to their feeling more alone and anxious. Trust me, they will retreat from you. What they need is love, support, encouragement, guidance, and training.
Fatherhood is not for the faint of heart. It’s a huge responsibility, and there are a lot of physical, emotional, and financial demands. Worrying about how to pay for things, how our kids will turn out, or figuring out solutions to the thousands of problems that hit us each day is natural. When I look back at the early years of parenting, I wish I hadn’t worried so much. When we worry, our kids worry, and it has a negative effect on their overall health (and ours). Being concerned is healthy. Being worried is not.
During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talked about worrying (Matthew 6:25–34). He said, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Worrying doesn’t add any value to our lives. It strips it. Jesus goes on to say that God knows what you need. He is willing and able to provide everything you need, practically, emotionally, and spiritually. All you have to do is seek Him out and ask.
Sound off: What other things cause family tension?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Have I ever made you feel anxious? If so, when?”