Nobody is above mistakes, not even dads. My friend’s son had called to tell his dad he had lost the election and to explain what his classmate had done. My friend snapped back over the phone, “He can’t do that! That’s unfair.” A colleague on the trip with him, an older man with grown kids, heard the whole call. When the call ended, the older gentleman told my friend, “I know it’s none of my business, but I think that was a mistake.” He explained to my friend that he was making excuses for his son’s failure when he should have walked his son through how to respond in the midst of loss.
None of us is perfect, especially at fatherhood. We need all the help we can get to learn what our blind spots are, make fewer mistakes, and get better. I probably have more blind spots and make more mistakes than most. In fact, I could probably call this “The 3 Most Common Mistakes I Make.” But I’ve observed many other dads doing the same things. Here are the 3 most common mistakes dads make.
Table of Contents
1. Thinking We Don’t Need Help
Being a good father means loving your kids well and being engaged in their lives. It doesn’t mean being perfect, having all the answers, and always responding the right way. One of the greatest gifts you can give your kids is the gift of humility by seeking others’ wisdom and receiving feedback well, just as my friend did on that business trip. He thanked his colleague and put the advice into action.
2. Being Overly Critical
When teaching our kids, we have to choose our words wisely, especially when pointing out that they have erred. Our kids need to know that we are their best ally, not their worst critic. You don’t need to have a discussion about every mistake they make. Instead, ask them questions about how they feel and what they think they might have done differently, and then give them encouragement. Tell them stories of your own failures at the same age. Listening and empathizing will earn you currency. Also, make sure you get excited and ask a lot of questions when they experience success. That will be their favorite subject.
3. Thinking There Is a Fix for Everything
Sometimes, life is just plain heartbreaking. Every time my kids express sadness, my initial response is, “Yeah, but…” I’m always looking to fix the problem or give them some silly silver lining, often minimizing their pain in the process. Yes, there are times they need a perspective shift, but too often, I miss an opportunity to provide a much needed safe space and empathetic hug. Sometimes my response is even worse. I’ll get upset because of the pressure I put on myself to make everything OK. That can be exhausting and cause me to make the next mistake.