Be a Good Dad: Keep Opening the Door for Your Teen

 

“Dad, aren’t you going to open the door?”

One morning not long ago, I heard that from my fifteen-year-old son, Chance.

We have several routines we go through every morning before he leaves for school. One is sitting together for a few minutes to read some wisdom and maybe talk for a minute. We’ve been doing that probably seven or eight years.

But lately there’s another routine that’s been taking place not long after that, and it’s really no big deal … or so I thought.

So that morning, we finished reading and then Chance left the room to do whatever else he does to get ready. After a few minutes, I heard him say from the front of the house, “Dad…?”

“Yeah?”

“Are you going to open the door?”

I said, “What’re you talking about?”

And he said again, “Aren’t you going to open the front door?”

I was thinking, You’re almost sixteen; you’re as tall as I am now. I’m pretty sure you can open your own door!

How to Be a Good Dad Keep Opening the Door for Your TeenI’d forgotten about the other part of our morning routine. He leaves pretty early, so I usually turn the light on there by the front door, open it, kiss his forehead, give him a hug, and say something like, “Hey, you’re a winner. And you have a great life and great responsibility ahead of you.” Some word of encouragement that’s on my heart that day.

I guess I flash back to my days playing football, and imagine giving him a positive word before he runs out the tunnel and on the field before a big game. In many ways, we do send our children out to battle every day.

Anyway, he reminded me about that, and it struck me as a sign that he places some value on it. He wanted his dad to open the door!

He didn’t need me to. He could have turned on the light; thank God, the electric bill was paid. And as I said, he could have opened the door … but he wanted me to. For my son, there’s something significant about his dad opening the door and sending him out into the world.

Maybe it’s a sign that he still needs me and wants me to be part of his life—even as he gets older and more independent. For me, it affirmed my role as a dad.

And often with teenagers we have to grasp for any kind of affirmation we can get. Teens might not say “I love you” or “Thank you” as often. But sometimes they do say, “Hey, Dad, can you help me check the oil in my car?” Or, “Hey, Dad, can you take me to practice?” “Dad, will you open the door for me?”

Maybe they just want some help, but sometimes I believe they also want our presence. They want to be reassured that we’re still watching out for them and taking care of them.

Adolescence is often a confusing time for teens and for their fathers. Sometimes it seems they don’t want to be seen with you or have anything to do with you. And many times it would be easy to just give up. But don’t do it. Right now your teenager needs your love and acceptance—maybe more than ever before. And believe me, you might need a few good times to think back on as you navigate the ups and downs that often come during the teen years.

ACTION POINTS for Dads on the Journey

  • Find or come up with an encouraging saying or quote or Scripture verse to leave your child with as he or she walks out the door to school each day.
  • Want to be closer with your teenager? Flexibility might be a huge factor. You may have to participate in some odd-seeming activities—and maybe at odd hours—to be part of his or her world.
  • Really try to relax and bring humor to the daily interactions and challenges of having a teenager. It will make a difference!
  • Also really try to notice and point out the positives in your teen. He/she really needs your validation and encouragement.
  • Take the courageous, loving step of apologizing to your child. “Katie, I know I’ve been busy in my own world recently, and I’m sorry.” “Brandon, I know I’ve been under a lot of stress from work, and I’ve been short with you. It’s the wrong approach. Will you forgive me?”

We want to hear from you. What has helped you connect with your teenager? Please join the discussion below or on our Facebook page.

 

The 21-Day Dad’s ChallengeDuring the month of January, we’re offering a special price on our most recent book, The 21-Day Dad’s Challenge. It would be a great “challenge” to take in your fathering this year, and it’s perfect for men’s groups—especially in churches—with specific action points and follow-up activities for you and the other guys in your group. (There’s also find a free discussion guide you can download.) Now only $9.99 for orders in quantities of 3 or moreClick here to find out more and place your order.

 

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers who to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.

Laptop Destruction, or How to Be a Dad with Poise

 

You have probably seen the video that’s everywhere on the Internet and featured on many news outlets …

Earlier this month, a 15-year-old girl posts a profanity-laced complaint about her parents on Facebook, thinking only some of her friends would see it. But her dad does discover it, and responds by making a video for the daughter and her friends (and eventually all the world) to see.

“Are you kidding me?” the dad says in the video. He reads her message and responds to it point-by-point, adding his own comments about her lack of gratitude and respect. He tells her, “You’ve got it easy, but it’s about to get a whole lot harder.” She’s lost all privileges until college, etc.

Then he finishes by destroying her laptop with nine rounds from his .45 pistol.

Please be warned … the video contains profanity.

People have had strong reactions to this dad’s approach to “tough love.” Some say the daughter’s message warranted that kind of response; good for him for holding her accountable and teaching her a memorable lesson about real-world consequences. I heard one man say with a chuckle, “I would have used a 12-gauge.”

And others, while admitting that kids today need to hear those points, are appalled by the dad’s actions. He went too far; he’s being a bully and doing permanent damage to the relationship.

I know I would never go to that extreme. And though we’ll never know the whole story of the relationship, I have to wonder if this dad is burning bridges with his daughter at a key point in her life.

More importantly, dad, I hope this video quickly turns your thoughts to your own fathering. How do you handle it when your child shows disrespect or loses her mind in some way? How can you be a good dad even during those “Are you kidding me?” moments with your children? I’ve surely said and done some things in the heat of a battle with a child that I later regretted.

For me, these four thoughts come to mind:

1. Keep practicing Championship Fathering. For me, it always comes back to those basics, because they are grounded in solid research. In just about any situation, we can ask ourselves, Am I showing love to my child—truly doing what’s best for him? How does this challenge provide opportunities for me to coach my child and help prepare her for life? And am I being a good model—conducting myself in a way that I would want my child to emulate?

2. Especially when it seems like your kid is out of control, focus on self-control. If you try to exert strict control over your teenager, the chances are good that you’ll drive him away or turn him into an enemy. Instead, realize that your child will occasionally put you on some emotional roller-coasters. Expect that, and don’t go ballistic on him. Demonstrate self-control; be a calm father.

3. Keep a long-range perspective. Remember the end goal of your fathering: a responsible, well-adjusted adult. Ask yourself, What do I want my child to remember about this day—and my behavior—five or ten years from now? That perspective may help you relate to your children with an extra measure of patience, calmness, and acceptance.

4. Be ready to say, “Sorry.” We all overreact sometimes. I know I have. A genuine apology should be a natural and quick response. Be an agent of healing. Recognize when you’ve hurt your child and take the initiative to go to her and say, “I was wrong. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” (Practice those words out loud, so they’re easier to say when you need to.)

Here are more Action Points you can use:

  • Revisit your household rules for Internet use, email, social media, YouTube, etc., and discuss those as a family. Remember: “There’s no place like home.” Agree with your children to never take complaints public—online or otherwise.
  • If your kids are older, watch the video with them. Ask for their thoughts about the daughter’s comments and her dad’s response.
  • Identify an area of life where your child needs some instruction or greater maturity—responsibility, a work ethic, money management, etc. Come up with a plan to invest yourself in building up your child in that area. Beware of any storms brewing. Commit to lines of communication now that will head off the storm. Restate your expectations and show mercy as much as possible. These are kids.
  • Ask your wife to help you identify when your tone of voice becomes harsh when you’re talking to your children—and what effect it has on them.
  • Count to ten! Give yourself time to think through the most positive, reasonable response. Understand your own temperament. Even words can create lasting impressions—and wounds. Write out your thoughts; record your videos … and then sit on them. Maybe get feedback from another dad. Think carefully about the long-term impact of your actions.

I know many of you dads out there also have great experiences and wisdom on this. Please share your thoughts below.

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers who to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.