There’s a powerful fathering insight that some of us need to hear and take to heart, and it comes from our online search data. Quite a few people come to fathers.com using search terms like:
- “how do I deal with my angry dad”
- “why is my father always yelling at me”
- “angry dad syndrome”
- “my dad is always mad at me for no reason”
Is it a sobering thought for you that many kids are searching for answers about why their dads are so often angry or difficult to be around? Or maybe … could one of your children be wondering about the same questions?
Angry fathering really does affect our children.
One of our mantras at NCF is: “There are no perfect fathers.” We all sometimes fall short. And when we feel like we’re doing okay, one look from a teenager will confirm that we’re not quite on top of things. (And let’s not forget, there are no perfect kids either.)
Still, in our quiet moments, don’t we all want to be forces of encouragement and support for our children instead of confusing them or making them think we’re always annoyed or disappointed by them?
This isn’t a new problem for dads. Even in the Bible there are similar admonitions: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children ….” “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”
What are some common ways dads frustrate or discourage their kids?
- We might continue harping on a child long after we’ve made a point.
- Or make comments that may not be cruel on the surface, but are sarcastic or mildly degrading.
- We might allow pent-up frustrations about other things to come out as anger toward a child.
- We may show more interest in our own agenda than in what a child is thinking or feeling.
- Maybe we focus only on correction at a time when they need encouragement.
- Or we may have high expectations that they can’t live up to.
- We may demand behavior from them that we aren’t modeling ourselves.
- We may refuse to apologize when it’s clear that we were wrong.
All of us can probably recognize ourselves in some of these behaviors. (If you don’t, maybe ask your wife for her input.)
But really, this isn’t about beating up dads or exposing the ways we’re expressing inappropriate anger toward our kids.
How can we avoid being that “mad dad” in our children’s eyes—or stop being an angry dad if you struggle with this?
Since this probably involves changing habits and patterns of behavior, it won’t likely be quick or easy. But here are some steps to consider:
Remember your priorities.
Often, frustration and anger are the result of misplaced or forgotten priorities. Your relationship with your child is likely more important to you than a silly argument or minor irritation, but it’s easy for the silly and minor things to blow up and do damage. Remind yourself every day—or several times a day—how much your children mean to you, and decide that their priority in your life will show up in your words and actions.
Be a listener.
A know-it-all dad frustrates his child. Show your child that you want to understand her viewpoint completely before sharing your ideas. That honors her and builds her confidence in you.
Even the most cool-headed father occasionally blows his stack. Be prepared with a better response for the next heated conversation. Maybe you step back, say a prayer, and remind yourself how much you love your child before saying anything. Another great idea is to get your wife’s perspective on how well you’re able to stay calm with the kids. *For more insights on this, click here for our self-scoring profile on Calmness.
Seek first to understand.
Similar to a father who doesn’t listen, it’s frustrating for a child when his dad makes hasty judgments or gives advice before fully understanding the situation. He may think he’s solving the problem, but the child will probably just go to someone else for answers. Learn the art of asking questions—and then, of course, listening carefully to the answer.
Communicate without attacking.
It may help to make “I” statements instead of “you” statements. For example, instead of saying, “You’re lying to me,” you might try, “I’m confused because the facts don’t line up.”
It’s a process, dad, but one that’s worth committing whatever time and effort is needed to retire the “toxic father” and the “mad dad” and move toward something better with your kids.
What have you done to improve in this area? Share your ideas with other dads on our Facebook page.
Questions for Reflection & Discussion:
- When is the last time you were difficult for your child to be around? What did you notice in his/her reaction to you?
- Is handling anger an issue for you? Ask other family members or someone who knows you well.
- How can you tell that your child is frustrated or discouraged?
- What’s one of the top ways you need to grow as a father?
- Where do you see yourself in the above list of ways dads discourage their kids?
Also: Use our self-scoring profile on CALMNESS for fathers.
It will help you work through how well you do in this area, and has more questions for reflection & discussion.Download Calmness Assessment