“Gabby, do your chores.” Pretty much every night, my middle daughter is repeatedly told to do her chores. Her job is to remove trash from the bathrooms and clean the floors. She knows to complete this task by 8 p.m.
Visit my house around 8 p.m. nightly and you’ll find me frustrated with my kids. I’m reacting to my kids’ behavior, letting myself be controlled by their actions rather than doing what I know to be right. But we need to act rather than react. That starts with knowing the ways dads should not react. Here are 3 deadly reactions dads must stop.
1. Shutting Down
When kids disrespect us, break a rule, or don’t listen, some dads resort to shutting down completely. This can be by having Mom deal with the kids, neglecting to address issues by becoming passive, or giving the kids the cold shoulder. But if you shut down as a dad, it makes your kids feel cut off.
There’s no communication of what they did wrong and there’s no training, so they’ll walk around on eggshells, confused and filled with anxiety because you’re suddenly unavailable to them. Resist the urge to shut down. Instead, address the issues one at a time so they don’t build up.
2. Getting Physical
Just because you don’t become physically violent or abusive doesn’t mean your physical reactions are OK. Maybe you aggressively grab whatever’s in your kid’s hand or you pound your fist on his or her locked door out of annoyance. Guard against getting so frustrated that you react physically all the time. It’s OK to be annoyed with your kids when they don’t listen to you, but it’s not OK to react physically in anger. It won’t necessarily inspire your kids to behave, but it will inspire them to stay away from you.
Instead of getting physical, get compassionate. Work on being tenderhearted, sympathetic, and gentle, especially when you’re annoyed or frustrated. Even if your kids do bad things and require discipline, you can teach with compassion rather than out of anger. One reaction draws your kid closer; the other pushes him or her away.There’s a difference between sternly giving a direction and yelling out of frustration.
There’s a difference between sternly giving a direction and yelling out of frustration. Reacting this way is never helpful and only creates a wedge between you and your kids. Instead, we need to ask for forgiveness and stop shouting. Shouting will ultimately strike fear in your kids—and make your kids afraid of you. If they’re scared, they might spring to attention and do what you say, but scaring them hurts your relationship.
When you shout to get good behavior from your kids, you sacrifice your connection with them to get it. Later, your kids will avoid you rather than engage. Yes, your kid may complete the task you’ve asked of him or her to avoid feeling your wrath. But that doesn’t help your kid grow, learn, or take responsibility. Instead of shouting, seek to discuss what you need calmly so your child behaves but his or her relationship with you stays intact.
Sound off: What are some other ways dads should not react to their kids?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What’s the best way to respond when you’re feeling frustrated?”