5 Things You Don’t Need to Stress About as a Dad

“How did it go today?” I asked my son as he got in the car and clicked his seatbelt. “Fine. We had a bounce house in there today, and one of the kids kept wanting to put his hands on the blower. I kept having to tell him no over and over. It was like what I used to do with the plants.” My teenage son has been volunteering at church watching the 4- and 5-year-olds. I get a kick out of him corralling kids in the same way I used to have to do with him. But when he mentioned the plants, it brought back how stressed I felt as a young father. We had two plants he wasn’t allowed to touch, and every time he did, I gave him a light smack on his hand. I admitted to him that I would never do that today to a kid who’s a year and a half old. Back then, I viewed every act of disobedience as a threat to my success as a dad. Fatherhood felt more like a war I had to win, and it made me a stressed dad.

Fatherhood would have been a lot different in those early years if I had a different mentality. I could have been consistent and firm without being ill-tempered and occasionally harsh. There are so many things I think we stress about that we can let go. Not only will it make us better dads, but it’ll make the experience more enjoyable for everyone. Here are 5 things you don’t need to stress about as a dad.

Kids are meant to be raised, not controlled.

1. How They Make You Look

Kids are meant to be raised, not controlled. They are their own people with thoughts, feelings, and desires. Your kids are not always going to obey everything you say. They will step out of line, say inappropriate things, throw tantrums, and disrespect you in public. When it happens, people will judge you and your parenting. All of that is out of your control, so don’t let that make you a stressed dad. What you CAN do is respond to your child in those moments with consistency, firm but loving discipline, and well-thought-out teaching and wisdom. Kids are unpredictable, so prepare yourself, be ready for anything, and enjoy the ride rather than caring what other people think.

2. Repeat Offenses

Even if you give wise instruction and follow through with discipline, it will often take kids time to get it. They aren’t adults. They’re kids whose brains are not fully formed. That means they will have trouble comprehending cause and effect and forget things they’ve been taught. I used to think I was doing something wrong or wonder if the things I was trying to teach my kids would ever sink in. Typically, there’s a moment when a switch finally turns on. So if you feel like you aren’t getting through, be patient and keep reinforcing boundaries. They’ll get it. It just takes time and repetition.

3. Money

Having kids is the worst financial plan. They cost money. This was especially true for me when my kids were younger. Doctor visits, diapers, clothes, and equipment can easily empty a bank account and create a very stressed dad. Then they need a lot of attention, so they lower our ability to work overtime or receive promotions and salary increases. But what I’ve experienced is that God has always provided exactly what we needed. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

4. Potty Training (And Other Things They’re Not Going to Get Right Away)

We tried every potty training technique known to man. None of them worked. At least, not the way they were supposed to work. Our kids became potty trained when their bodies were ready for it. Some kids develop quickly and others take time. It doesn’t mean your kids have arrested development. Often, kids will take a step forward and then regress before moving forward again. Whether it’s potty training or learning to read, swim, ride a bike, or something else you expect them to learn quickly, be patient. I know how frustrating it is to have an excitement about moving into the next stage only to feel stuck. I felt like I was going to be dealing with diapers and cleaning up messes forever. But your kids will get there and you may even miss the time period when they had to depend on you. I mean, I don’t, but some dads do.

5. Their Futures

Jesus followed his words about God’s provision by saying, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” The same is true about stressing over our kids’ futures. We have no control over them. All we can do is love our kids unconditionally, train them faithfully, walk alongside them consistently, and prepare them as best as we can. I’m sure there’s plenty I’m missing, but my point is, in the end, it’s their lives. The decisions they make are theirs. So pray for them and release them to God’s care. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” God has prepared a way for your kids. Pray they follow it.

Sound off: What are the things that make you a stressed dad?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What causes you the most stress?”