“You’re the worst dad ever!” How do you respond?

As fathers, kids can bring many different challenges our way, and often they test our patience and frustration level. It’s especially true when they get to be teenagers. They’re old enough and smart enough to think they have it all together and know what’s what, but in reality there’s still a lot they don’t really understand. And as we know, some children enter this phase at much younger ages.

As an example, we heard from a dad named Aaron whose 14-year-old son said,

“You’re the worst dad ever; you don’t do anything for me.”

It was an impulsive statement in the heat of the moment, but that’s the kind of thing a dad doesn’t forget.

So Aaron sat down and created an invoice for money he has spent on his son during his life so far. He itemized equipment and team costs for four different sports, trips and vacations, clothing, school supplies, toys, computers, food, and on and on. He also listed “dad’s hours,” but as he said, there’s no price on those.

The total was just under $850,000, and we could all probably come up with a similar figure. And most of us with teens and pre-teens have felt the same way.

It’s “kids these days” … right? Many of them don’t appreciate what they have.

They’re immature and ignorant in some ways. And it’s completely understandable if a dad feels unappreciated and taken for granted, and wants to defend himself and teach his child a lesson. Maybe that will involve taking away a privilege until the child changes his or her attitude. After all, that’s how the real world works: if they disrespect or smart off to their bosses someday, there will be consequences. That’s a lesson worth teaching.

But, as with most parenting situations, there needs to be a balance to this.

As adults, we have a longer-range perspective. We know that a few years down the road, young people get a bit wiser and usually realize how dedicated their parents were and are. So sometimes it makes sense just to smile, maintain our self-control and continue to do what’s best for our kids, knowing they’ll likely grow out of this immature point of view.

As dads, we have to find that balance between “teaching them a lesson” and maintaining an overall calmness as fathers. The “calmness” side of the equation recognizes that the closeness of our relationship with that child could be hanging in the balance, and it may be better to back off this time or make sure there’s plenty of encouragement along with the lesson we’re teaching.

Sometimes we do need to bring about tough consequences and teach them important lessons. Other times, we can remember that they’re good kids for the most part and they’ll figure it out in time. Finding the right balance between love and rules, encouragement and correction, is what keeps all dads on our toes.

Hang in there, dad. Kids do cost a lot!

Let’s make sure we tell them they’re worth every penny and all the effort.

Have you had a similar situation to Aaron’s? Share about it with other dads on our Facebook page.

Action Points & Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  • What’s the most rebellious-sounding thing your child has ever said to you? How did it make you feel? How did you handle it?
  • How do you respond when a child disrespects gets sassy with you? Talk with your kids’ mom to find a positive approach and make sure you’re both on the same page.
  • Think five, ten, fifteen years down the road. How do you want your child then to remember how your relationship is now? How should that affect how you relate to him or her?
  • How would you rate yourself as a dad when it comes to balancing love and limits, or encouragement and correction? Ask your kids (and/or their mom) how they would rate you.
  • Tell your child how much you spend on him or her for a particular need or pursuit. And be sure to include, “And you’re definitely worth it.”
  • Or simply find a new way to tell them how much they mean to you.

Watch the replay of the Fathering Breakthrough Event

Join Dr. Ken Canfield and a handful of friends and partners as we give an update about our efforts to inspire and equip fathers all over the world.

There may be no more important work than turning the hearts of fathers to their children, and that’s what this is all about. We’re seeking to repair, rebuild and restore effective fathering for the benefit of children and families everywhere.