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 here’s what Aaron did: He sat down and created an invoice for money he has spent on his son during his life. 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, know they’ll 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 just smile, 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.