Late in the afternoon, the day before Father’s Day, I was trying to fix my van doors. The part that makes the door roll smoothly had worn down on both doors. I fixed one side in twenty minutes and the second door was close to being done. I was right on schedule. The new part was in place and I was getting ready to connect the wires to it. The only problem is I forgot to turn off the automatic door engage. As I leaned over to grab the wire, I bumped the door and the wire retracted into the wall of the car. Immediately, I knew what it meant. I was going to have to take the entire interior wall off to fix it. My easy twenty-minute job turned into five hours of sweaty work on Father’s Day.
Nothing gets me more frustrated than when I create more work for myself. Unfortunately, sometimes as dads we end up doing things the hard way. Raising kids is hard work and the last thing we want to do is make it more difficult on ourselves. Here are 5 ways dads make things harder on themselves.
1. Being hypocritical.
Getting upset with your kids about their shoes being left out, their unclean rooms, or their chores not being done is fine, as long as you’re taking care of yours. Or how ’bout this one, you expect them to be happy with the life you’re giving them. Meanwhile, you live every day grumpy with a furrowed brow, joylessly trying to carry the weight of your responsibilities. Your kids will see the double standard and your hypocrisy. Your integrity will be called into question and so will any lesson you hope to teach them.
Making things easier: Model what you’re trying to teach and they will emulate your behavior. And do your best to live joyfully in spite of, or maybe even because of, your trials.Never establish a consequence you’re not willing to administer.
2. Making idle threats.
“If you ever do that again, you’re losing a toy for good.” That’s something we told our son when he was younger. He did it again. We made him get his favorite toy and, in tears, hand it over. It was gone forever. I’m not sure who has the bigger scar from that day, me or my son. It hurt, bad. The punishment was just. What he did was bad and he was warned, but it was difficult to follow through on. If I hadn’t though, my word wouldn’t have meant anything. He would know that I don’t really mean what I say. Jesus said, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No'” for a reason. Our kids need to know that there’s power behind our words.
Making things easier: Set clear boundaries and well-thought-out consequences. Never establish a consequence you’re not willing to administer.
3. Not following through.
This is similar to the last one but slightly different. Do what you say you’re going to do. If you set a goal to lose ten pounds, then follow through. If you tell your kids that you’ll play with them in five minutes, then set an alarm and when it goes off go play with your kids. If you don’t, then your kids are likely to lose respect for you. You’ll be seen as undependable and not worth listening to. However, following through teaches your kids that your words have meaning. It teaches them that you are faithful and models that behavior for them.
Making things easier: In Luke 16:10, Jesus said, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.” Be faithful in the little things and your stature in the eyes of your kids will grow.
I try not to overreact, but I can definitely lose it. The problem with overreacting is it will make our kids want to hide things from us. It may be from fear of what we’ll do, annoyance or embarrassment at our response, or a desire to shield us. It’s like a wall going up in the relationship.
Making things easier: If you overreact, admit it. Tell your kids you overreacted and apologize for it. It’s the best thing you can do to win back favor. Then work on controlling your emotions. Write out the things that trigger you and how you’re going to respond differently.
5. Being inflexible.
As I wrote, having boundaries and following through on consequences are important. But there are times that call for dads to be flexible. In our house, video games need to shut down at 8:30. However, there are days when my kids’ friends are online playing after that time. Some days it’s best for them to connect and play with their friends a little longer. Being inflexible will make you seem disassociated from your kids. When I worked with teens, I heard them say over and over again, “My dad doesn’t understand.”
Making things easier: Hone in on what your kids really need. Listen to them and try to put yourself in their shoes. Be willing to bend occasionally when the moment is right.
Sound off: What are some other ways dads are doing things the hard way?