What if a dad doesn’t want to be a dad? Do you ever feel like you’re in over your head with your children?
A while back, we received an email from a dad we’ll call “Rich.” It’s heartbreaking but it’s very real, and some of you may identify with what he’s going through.
I am a father of a four-year-old girl. From day one, I didn’t want to be a father. I have no desire to be any kind of father to her at all. I don’t have any of these “daddy” instincts, nor do I want them. If people are meant to be fathers, I’m not one of them. I try to do the least possible.
Even though she’s only four, we are at each other’s throats all day long! I just want to pack up and leave! I’m so mad I don’t know where to start. I can’t take this anymore, nor do I want to. I want nothing to do with this kid!
Although his email is a bit shocking at first, one can only imagine what’s happening in this family and what that young girl is going through. And we can applaud Rich for at least seeking outside input on his situation. Plenty of dads get frustrated with their kids and feel like giving up sometimes. Have you ever felt a little bit of that with your kids? Maybe there were times it was hard to like them, and it really took effort to keep loving them.
Is that how we should be as fathers? No, but to some degree that’s part of fathering, because none of us are perfect. We all get discouraged and need help to get through tough situations, and too often men aren’t willing to ask for help.
How would you respond to statements like Rich’s? (Share some of your thoughts at our Facebook page.) If you’re reading this blog, then you probably view fatherhood much differently than Rich does. You agree that being a father is a privilege and a high calling, and not a burden. We can hope that someday Rich will wake up to that, but for the rest of us, maybe a better question is, What can we learn from this?
Here are some ideas to consider:
First, who can you talk to on a regular basis to help you deal with issues and frustrations? We all need other dads we see regularly who can be a sounding board, listen to our frustrations and double-check our thinking. If you don’t have that support system in place right now, start a small group or ask another dad to meet with you. It’s important for all dads, but especially in challenging situations. Talking with a pastor or counselor is also a great idea. We need that wise counsel and support when things get hard.
Second, remember that even though a child might frustrate you a lot, she’s just a child … and you’re not. Rich’s daughter is only four, and she only has the capacity to process issues as a little girl. She will handle things in a childish way, and that will make her dad’s life more challenging. And while older kids may be more mature, they still don’t always know how to balance logic, priorities, and emotions. From your kids’ perspective, you are the dad; you’re the grown-up. And when they misbehave it could very well be a cry for help.
Third, figure out how to help your kids learn and cope with issues in a more positive way. Kids have been testing parents since the beginning of time, and there are effective ways to address behavior issues. Although it might be tempting, don’t leave this up to your children’s mom. Get involved and work with her to find an approach that makes sense for you and your kids, and then put it into practice.
If a child is defiant toward his parents, he needs to be held accountable and taught that disrespect has negative consequences. If he doesn’t learn this at home, the real world will surely teach him later on, and the cost will likely be a lot higher.
Finally, maintain a long-term vision. Through the various challenges and mini-crises of day-to-day family life, it’s helpful to keep your bigger goals in mind. Keep asking, How can I shape my child’s character through this? If you can choose to be selfless and loving today, then tomorrow and each day after that will be a little easier, and over time you’ll be bringing some big benefits to your children.
Hang in there, dad. As difficult as it is sometimes, you can make it as a father.
- 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?”
- Make a concerted effort to give your child focused attention: slow down, put distractions aside, and focus your eyes and ears on him.
NCF is a nonprofit organization seeking to improve the lives of children and establish a positive fathering and family legacy that will impact future generations by inspiring and equipping fathers and father figures to be actively engaged in the life of every child. You can also sign up for NCF’s Today’s Father Weekly email here.