Unlike much of the animal kingdom, human children need the guidance, love and leadership of both a mother AND a father. Some fathers understand this and are able to balance work and other schedules to be a part of their children's lives. Others, however, seem to neglect their fatherly duties much like male cats or roosters.
The choice is yours when it comes to what kind of father you want to be to your children. If, in a couple of decades, your hope is for your children to be in therapy because of the discord you caused in their lives, follow these simple rules to be the center of blame and a terrible dad.
1. Put your career, sports, friends and other tasks ahead of your family
Between long hours at work, business trips, watching sports on TV or playing sports with the guys, yard work and the honey-do list, there are plenty of responsibilities to occupy your time. Yes, earning a living is necessary, but it needs to be in balance with taking time for your family. Men need time to relax and unwind, but kids also need attention and fatherly love. If your schedule makes you unavailable for your family from sun-up to sun-down on a regular basis, it may be time to reevaluate if you want to spare your children and yourself the heartache of having, or being, an absent father.
2. Avoid the dreaded "Are we there yet?" by skipping family trips
Even though traveling with children is sometimes arduous, frustrating and likely compromises your sanity, this irreplaceable time with your family will be gone before you know it. Kids are only kids for so long before they move out and start their own families. Sure, you can always work more hours, finish up projects on the house, get some extra shut-eye and relax uninterrupted while the wife and kids are away. But, many family memories are made while traveling together. If dad isn't there, he won't be a part of the good memories.
3. Answer questions in a snappy tone or speak to your children unkindly
"Dad, why is the sky blue?" "What makes a car go so fast?" "What do worms eat?" The answers may be obvious to you, but a curious child looks to you for answers in his formative years. Instead of barking a response, take time to answer his curiosity or seek the answer together. This will strengthen trust and a bond between you and your child. Then, when the really tough problems and situations arise, he will be more likely to go to you for guidance and support rather than seeking (incorrect) answers elsewhere.
4. Never attend your child's performances or other special events
Choir concert? Sporting event? A play performance? No doubt you are tired, busy and in need of a break, but consider that your child has worked hard to learn a new skill or part. Sure, your wife can handle it on her own, a brother-in-law, scout leader, friend or teacher can fill in, but your child really wants YOU. There will be other performances, more games in the coming years and other dad and child events, but each one is special for your child.
5. Demand silence at the dinner table or while watching TV
If your mantra is "children should be seen and not heard," it's time to make amends. Granted, you're exhausted from work and just need some quiet time to watch TV or enjoy a peaceful dinner, but your kids are only little for so long. They need to develop a relationship with you. Use the DVR for good: record, pause, rewind and turn it off. Bedtime comes soon, and then you can enjoy solitude.
6. Talk badly about or to your wife in front of your kids
You're the master of the house and ought to be respected. But, your wife is your partner, the love of your life and the mother of your children. Treating her poorly sets up your children for future turmoil. "If mom ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" is equally true. Your wife is not your slave or servant, but your equal. Be respectful, and your children will likewise know how to treat their spouse with love and respect. If not, that will be one more thing they can blame on dear old dad.
7. Raise your voice in anger and frustration
No one really warned you about how irritating children can be — they're messy, loud, needy and seem to know how to press all of your buttons. But, they are learning how the world works, and it's a tough job. The constant anger sent their direction will teach them the world is cruel and unloving. Instead, take a deep breath, count to 10, say a prayer and then speak to your child in a manner you would like to be addressed. Learn to be patient and kind, and you won't regret the results.
It takes effort to be a good father or a terrible one. But, the benefits of being a good dad far outweigh the costs of being a terrible one. The most important thing you can do for your family is to love them and spend time with them. Don't just tell them — show them you love them. TV, relaxation and extra work hours will wait, but growing children will not. Don't let life pass you by and leave you lonely and unhappy. Having strong relationships with your children is one thing you will never have to regret.
A parent basically has to muddle her way through the 18-plus-year adventure, rubbing her eyes from the sleep deprivation. When you approach a mother in the wild, go easy. And maybe avoid these observations or questions when talking to a mom of teens.