In a few weeks, my twins turn 13 years old. We’re making the hard turn from children to adolescents, and I must admit I’m terrified (partly because I remember what I was like as a 13-year old!). As I think back on almost 13 years as a dad, I recognize and acknowledge plenty of good parenting, but also a good amount of mistakes along the way.
As much as I hate to admit these regrets, hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes. For whatever reason, the way we parent might be the thing we’re most sensitive about in life. Sometimes it helps to remember that we’re not alone and we’re not the only ones who make mistakes. What are My Five Biggest Parenting Regrets in 13 years of life as a dad?
1. Choosing Time At Work Over Time With My Boys.
This one falls into the category of “I’ve made this mistake too many times to count.” Repeatedly over the years, I’ve chosen nights, mornings, and weekends over more time with my kids. The project at work takes priority too often. There are even more times when I’ve chosen to be home, but get caught up in the tyranny of the urgent. In the process, I choose email, phone calls, or texts from work over time with my family.
Solution: Create cleaner lines between work life and home life.
2. The Hurtful Things I’ve Said.
When I was a new dad, someone told me to not tell my kids that they’re brats or that they’re annoying. Rather, they said, tell them they’re acting like brats or that their behavior is annoying. I followed this counsel for years and have said things like, “you’re acting like a pain” instead of telling them that they are a pain. But, I have learned that in their brains, there is no difference. All they hear is that their dad disapproves.
Solution: Don’t condone bad behavior, but choose words carefully.
3. The harsh tone of my voice.
Remember the proverb – A harsh word stirs up anger, but a gentle answer turns away wrath.Tone can be defined as your overall posture and attitude towards another person. I’ve told my kids not to yell or scream at each other. With a raised voice I’ve scolded them for talking back to my wife or me. Sometimes my words might be appropriate, but my tone is not. In the process, my children can be afraid of their dad.
Solution: Remember the proverb – A harsh word stirs up anger, but a gentle answer turns away wrath.
4. Comparing my kids or my parenting to other kids and parents.
Comparison is a game you and I will never win. Whether we compare our kids to other kids or the way we parent to the ways others parent, we can’t compete. When we do, we either become prideful or insecure. Along the same lines, I’ve regretted comparing my kids to each other. I get frustrated when one does better than the other in academics, athletics, or behavior.
Solution: Learn from others, but don’t compare. Appreciate the unique ways each of my kids is made.
5. Responding as they respond.
It’s last on the list, but highest in importance. In fact, this one sums up every other regret. When I make poor choices, say hurtful things, or speak in a harsh tone, I’m stooping to their level. All of my regrets come down to matching their reactions instead of acting like their father. When they yell, scream, or slam a door, I can yell, scream, or slam a door. Every time I stoop to their emotional level or maturity, I regret my decisions.
Solution: Act like a 44-year-old, not a 4-year-old.
Yes, I’ve made many mistakes and have many regrets as a dad. Fortunately, I don’t let my mistakes define me and neither should you. I hope you can learn from my regrets as you parent your kids, and I hope you can celebrate many wins along the way.
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is one way you think I could be a better dad to you?”