Am I getting it right?
I have a 13-year-old, 12-year-old, 11-year-old, and a 7-year-old. Two boys and two girls. And these kinds of questions abound!
Am I doing enough?
Am I scarring my kids for life?
I’m convinced that what I refuse to do as a dad is more important than what I do.
My kids might remember what I do with them and for them.
But they’ll never forget how I behaved toward them.
I want to be a great parent for how I refuse to behave toward my kids and not just for what I choose to do for my kids.
So here are 3 behaviors that great parents refuse to do:
1. Ignore their kids.
Be available, yes (I unpack that more here).
But it’s more.
It’s your attentive body language, facial expression, and tone toward them. It’s taking their calls, texts, or emails always. It’s bed time conversations.
It’s a sixth sense of what’s really going on underneath and speaking love and truth to that place. It’s engaging them in patience, love, and calm when they are angry.
It’s being the soothing voice of reason when they’re unreasonable.
And when they share anything, it’s looking them in the eye instead of at Instagram.
2. Provoke their kids.
Don’t belittle your kids’ feelings. Don’t yell at your kids, put your kids down, or make light of an issue that is a big deal to them. Don’t dismiss their feelings.
Don’t pick on them. Don’t pick a fight or an argument. Don’t laugh at what they don’t find funny at all about their situation, feelings, or relationship.
Don’t recall wrongs that have already been dealt with and put to bed.
Give them the floor to talk or vent instead of shushing them in order to give a lecture.
Don’t say, “Why can’t you be more like…”, ever.
3. Humiliate their kids.
Kids don’t want to be embarrassed by their parents. But they’re quick to forgive those (few!) moments.
Humiliation? This scars.
Don’t yell at your kid in public—especially before their friends. Don’t put them in their place before someone else—even if it’s friends or family.
Don’t post on social media what they’ve declared they want private.
Don’t compare their bodies, looks, achievements (or lack thereof) to someone(s) else. Humiliation and shame are twins.
Dealing with the failures
If you’re like this dad, you read some of the above and gulp. We all drop a ball here or there on the above.
So what to do?
Whether you realize it in the moment, a day, or a week later.
Your kids won’t forget so don’t blow it off.
And they’re more forgiving than you realize.
What to do if this has been the norm with your kids?
Sit down with them and acknowledge where you’ve been wrong.
Ask for their forgiveness and patience as you try to love, serve, and parent them better.
What to do if your kids are grown and out of the house?
Or better yet, if able, sit down with them face to face.
From the heart.
In fact, with the apology share with them the specific instances you recall where you ignored, provoked, humiliated or shamed them.
Speak regret and repentance into that past moment.
Invite them to share.
Then listen. Receive. Apologize.
Ask for forgiveness. And accept whatever their response.
Then entrust all to God.
As parents, we’ll never know if we’re doing enough with or for our kids. But at least we can draw the line on what we’ll refuse to do.
And use heartfelt apologies to bring us back when we cross it.
Perhaps you can go apologize right now.