Luke stood on the maintenance catwalk, fighting for his life. Although he’d put up a good fight, the red lightsaber crashed down on him, severing his right hand from his wrist. As Luke began to inch away from Darth Vader, Vader pleaded for Luke to surrender. Luke clung to the antenna at the end of the catwalk and declared firmly that he would never join Vader and that he knew Vader had killed his father. It was then that Luke heard the most shocking words of his life. Darth Vader replied, “No, I am your father.”
It’s not hard to see how what Vader did is counterproductive to a healthy relationship between a father and son. Their story is like many of our own stories. While we may never have cut off one of our children’s limbs in a quest for galactic domination, many of us do simple things that push our kids away. Knowing what these are can help us work at healthier connections with our sons and daughters. Here are 5 ways we sabotage our relationships with kids.
1. Making Constant Comparisons
Kids go through life looking for answers to basic questions, like “Do I have what it takes?” Part of our responsibility as parents is to help them answer those questions. At times, we do the opposite—we compare them to others. When we measure our kids’ value against others, we leave them feeling like they have to reach a certain standard and earn our love. This makes them less likely to trust our love for them.
2. Putting Our Phones First
Whether it’s incessant notifications, a desire not to miss out on the latest news, or that we’re simply distracted, it’s far too easy to spend our home time looking at a screen instead of at our kids. If we continually put that little screen ahead of our kids—especially at a time when we’re all trying to teach our kids healthy phone habits—it shouldn’t be a surprise when we alienate them.
3. Being Away From Home
There are times when, due to work or other commitments, men have to be away from their families for long periods of time. If, when we’re away, we neglect to use tools like postcards, texting, and video chats to maintain a relationship with our kids, that absence can have negative consequences. Our kids are likely to think about us less and can seek to fill the “dad” space in their lives with something or someone else.When we hold our kids’ mistakes against them, they’re going to push us away.
4. Holding Our Kids’ Mistakes Against Them
Whether it’s flippant words or something more serious, all of our kids are going make bad choices. When these choices hurt us, we might find it tempting to remind them that they screwed up in hopes of keeping them on the straight and narrow. Dads often think they’re teaching their kids but they’re actually rubbing their noses in their mistakes. When we hold our kids’ mistakes against them, they’re going to push us away.
5. Disrespecting Their Mother
It’s been said that one of the best things a man can do for his kids is to love their mother. But like any relationship, a marriage goes through its ups and downs, and some marriages break up. When we talk down to or about our wives (or ex-wives, if we’re divorced), our kids instinctively feel the need to protect them. If our kids are protecting their mom from us, we are now the bad guy and we’ve done harm to our relationships with our children.
Sound off: What are other ways we sabotage our relationships with kids?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are your favorite things to do with me?”