All of us at fathers.com have a collective confession to make: We’re far from perfect as fathers. That probably isn’t shocking to you. As it turns out, thinking and writing and speaking about how to be a great dad and working to help other dads is very different from living it out every day with our kids.
Is fathering a high priority for us? And are we doing all we can to be the dads our children need? Absolutely. But we fall short in many ways, and so do you. It’s just part of the human condition.
There are no perfect dads.
We all have areas where we need to improve. Maybe we didn’t have a dad growing up—or he was present, but uninvolved—and now we have a lot to overcome as we figure out how to be a father ourselves. Or maybe some other life challenges have made the fathering role more challenging—like a divorce, personal issues, health concerns, employment challenges, and so on. Maybe it has simply taken time for us to line up our priorities with what’s best for our children.
To some degree, most of us are falling short of what we want to be and what we’ve committed to be as dads. We are imperfect role models. We lead by example, and it isn’t easy. We can all point to imperfections and weaknesses in ourselves. Sometimes we don’t keep promises; we may correct a child too harshly; we may “lose it” over some trivial matter. This doesn’t mean we should go to the other extreme, where we’re telling ourselves, “Man, I’m a terrible dad. I’m pitiful.”
We can never be perfect dads, but we can still do our best.
If we know there are areas of our lives that we need to clean up, there’s no excuse for not addressing those issues. This might involve seeking accountability from other dads, asking for help from our children’s mother, getting outside help, or committing in our hearts to do better—with a specific plan for following through. It’s up to us to be always growing as fathers.
Part of that process is becoming more conscious of our own weaknesses and inconsistencies, and adopting a posture of humility. When we fail, we must admit it, confess it, and ask for forgiveness. That attitude gives us opportunities that no “perfect” dad would have. Being humble with our children demonstrates vital character traits for our kids and provides more genuine connection points with them.
This is particularly important when kids reach adolescence, because that’s when they’re more aware of our faults and weaknesses, and when there’s a bigger risk of driving them away by acting like we have everything under control or insisting that we’re always “right.”
Yes, we are imperfect and inconsistent as fathers, and that can be very frustrating, but here’s one more important point to keep in mind:
Our kids are usually quick to give us grace.
A brief story to illustrate: One evening, Mitch asked his son Andy to do something for him—to simply turn off the light as the two of them were coming in from the garage. Well, being a four-year-old, Andy couldn’t just flip the switch once. It took five or six times to do the job right.
But for Mitch, this was the fifth or sixth small, irritating thing that Andy had done that evening, and he’d had enough. Mitch grabbed his son by the arm and pulled him forcefully into the house as Andy stumbled behind. That was followed by a short lecture that Andy barely heard.
Mitch felt bad about how he’d overreacted and was afraid that tendency in his fathering was keeping him from building a strong connection with his son.
Early the next morning, Mitch noticed that Andy was in a somber mood. “I had a bad dream,” Andy said. “There was a scary person trying to get me.”
“Who was it?” asked Mitch. And then, fearing the worst, he added, “Was it me?” Andy looked puzzled. “No,” he said, and then he added, “You’re my daddy. You make me safe.”
We all make mistakes. There are ways we need to improve. But we’re still heroes in our kids’ eyes.
They give us a lot of undeserved grace, and it’s up to us to do our best and keep renewing our commitment to them every day.
What’s the biggest area for growth in your fathering? How are you addressing it? Share with other dads about your journey on our Facebook page.
Action Points for Dads on the Journey
- How would you rate yourself as a father on a scale of 1 to 10? Now ask your kids’ mom and/or your kids how they would score you.
- What or who has been the biggest positive influence on you as a dad? What about the biggest negative influence?
- What barriers in your life are keeping you from being the best dad you can be? Are there realistic adjustments you can make that will help you overcome those barriers?
- Sometime in the next week, approach your child and admit a shortcoming or failure in how you’ve treated him or her. Humbly seek forgiveness for that, and then make a determined effort to improve in future situations that are similar.
- When have you had regrets or frustrations as a father, but your child overlooked them or gave you grace anyway?
- Do your kids view you as their hero? Something else? How does their view of you affect your confidence level as a dad?
- Put a photo of your kids in a conspicuous place, where you’ll see it every morning. Use it as a reminder to recommit yourself to loving and encouraging them every day.