6 Mistakes I’m Making as a Father
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6 Mistakes I’m Making as a Father
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6 Mistakes I’m Making as a Father

My kids could tell you more but these are the primary issues I confront on a daily basis.

by

I’m starting to get submissions for Father’s Day and it got me thinking about the mistakes I’ve been making as a father. (Don’t worry – my kids are not scarred for life.)

My wife and I have five kids, ranging from ages 21 to 3, so that gives me a chance to keep on making the same mistakes until I get it right. It’s like the film Groundhog Day applied to parenting.

So in no particular order, here are the primary mistakes and issues I keep running into as a parent.

1. I need to be way more patient. As a Type A personality, this is one of my daily life challenges – to slow down and patiently, happily, good naturedly deal with my kid who has inexplicably become an immovable mass sprawled out on the kitchen floor just as the school bus is pulling up.

You’ve got to love God’s sense of humor; He blessed me and my wife with a son who has Down Syndrome. Apparently He saw that I needed a greater challenge to get me to work on becoming more patient. Thank God our son is a terrific, high-functioning kid, but he can be incredibly stubborn and has a different notion of time than I do. I need to constantly remind myself to stop, listen, validate, calm down and parent with love, not anger. It’s by far the longer shorter way.

2. I need to respect my kids’ free will. I cannot control them. My job isn’t to make sure they do everything I think is right. It’s to inculcate them with the Jewish values that will give them the best shot at making their own right decisions. Each one is their own person, and I need to allow them to make mistakes and grow, and help them bring out their own potential. That means they will make decisions that I think are ill-advised. I can hash it out with them, tell them what I think, but at the end of the day, it’s their choice. That’s how you raised independent kids. Deal with it.

3. Be a cheerleader, not a critic. Kids flourish with positive encouragement and loads of love. It’s not my job to point out every single thing they are doing wrong no matter how important and insightful I think my criticism is.

4. Parenting is a joint venture; make sure you and your wife show a unified front. Trust me, this is way harder than it seems. Even if there is a significant disagreement between us regarding our child, it’s more important to show my kids that I respect and love my wife and that we are on the same page, than to have my way. So talk out the issues with your spouse, keep your disagreement private, and then listen to your wife. Chances are she’s right.

5. Great parenting stems from a great marriage. Make that your priority. (Thank God I don’t think I’ve made a mistake with this one!) We all know this is true but in the daily grind it can be hard to put in the real time necessary to nurture your marriage. It’s a must. Ranks up there with taking a shower and brushing your teeth. You’ve just got to do it otherwise it can get pretty nasty.

6. Don’t take out your frustration and anger on your kids. Why is that sweet child who only wants some of your love and attention to blame for your problems at the office?

I’m sure my kids could rattle off a dozen more mistakes if you’d ask them, but these are the ones I confront on an almost daily basis. God bless Donald Winnicott for “good enough parenting.”

A suggestion to dads: to gear up for Father’s Day, take a moment to think about the common mistakes you’re making as a father, and what you can do to work on them. Feel free to share them in the comment section below.

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Published: May 25, 2014


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Visitor Comments: 4

(4) Bobby5000, May 30, 2014 3:13 AM

Recognize your accomplishments

I have one son who is extremely successful. I did relatively little to help him. Another son had a difficult time in school but is now doing well, happily married. I take a lot of credit for that. We persevered, showed love, and dealt with some difficult situations. Your success as a parent will be measured by how you deal with the challenges in life.

(3) David Alt., May 29, 2014 3:32 PM

All true, but did you miss something?

Your points had to do with your own character growth and were essentially passive: Recognizing your limitations and sharing responsibility. Nothing here about the useful aspect of masculine assertiveness. Masculinity can be abused (as can almost anything) but that does not invalidate it. Why not include providing a model for courage? Or the need for discipline, even in rare cases to be administered rigorously? Again, nothing wrong in anything you wrote, but your list "feels" like the current academic, secular approach.

(2) Judith, May 27, 2014 8:22 PM

Fatherhood

Welcome to reality Rabbi. This is the Reality Show in your lifetime and you are doing it very well. It is called growing together as a family and a parent. Keep up the good work for when we stumble and fall and feel like we could have done better and that usually occurs in hindsight, look at most of it all in good humor. You will be glad you did. Congratulations on taking the first step into fatherhood. That in itself takes courage and a good help meet.

(1) Lisa, May 26, 2014 11:09 PM

Yes, your kids are more important than " that" phone call!!

Talk to your kids!!
Don't just say how was school!!
Even if sports is the only topic your child cares about....use it as a segue to other topics!
I know many fathers who " act" the part, albeit just can't get a real connection.....keep trying!!

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