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. Here are my 5 biggest parenting regrets.
1. Choosing Work over Kids
This one falls into the category of “I’ve made this mistake too many times to count.” Repeatedly over the years, I’ve chosen to work nights, mornings, and weekends instead of spending 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 prioritize email, phone calls, or texts from work over time with my family.
Solution: Create cleaner lines between work life and home life.
2. Saying Hurtful Things
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 told them they’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 your words carefully.Remember this proverb: A harsh word stirs up anger, but a gentle answer turns away wrath.
3. Having a Harsh Tone
Tone can be defined as your overall posture and attitude toward another person. I’ve told my kids not to yell or scream at each other. But with a raised voice, I’ve scolded them for talking back to my wife or to 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 this proverb: A harsh word stirs up anger, but a gentle answer turns away wrath.
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. Appreciating each kid’s uniqueness is part of good parenting.
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 could yell, scream, or slam a door, too. But 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. We can still model examples of good parenting. I hope you can learn from my regrets as you parent your kids, and I hope you can celebrate many wins along the way.
Sound off: What is your biggest regret as a dad?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is one way you think I could be a better dad to you?”