By David Joel Miller.
Being a bad father may be easier than being a good one.
Tomorrow is Father’s day. In this run up to that occasion I thought we should take a look at the topic of good fathering and bad fathering. How to be a good father, that is a tough thing to define and even tougher to do. But being a bad father, there seem to be some easy, common, ways to do that.
I am not one who thinks that parents, mothers or fathers, are superfluous to raising children. I have great respect for single parents, male or female, but I continue to think that children benefit from having good role models for both roles. Children do need to have a father or father figure in their lives.
I am not one to blame all the ills of our world on men, being myself of the male persuasion. I think men have gotten a bad rap when it comes to child rearing. It seems fashionable to attribute all the problems children face these days to being the man’s fault and any man who spends too much time around children is suspect these days.
We men are having a difficult time filling this father role. What it takes to be a “good father” has changed and what we did learn about these skills from our fathers does not work in this changed modern world.
Based on the things men tell me and the things I have learned from my own experiences, here are some easy ways to be a bad father.
1. Donate sperm to a woman who you would never want to have to spend time with afterward.
You can break up with your girlfriend, divorce your wife, but your babies’ mamas are forever. Once you create a child you are their father permanently and this means you and they are stuck with that mother forever.
Do not expect or depend on her for the birth control. Yes, you have urges. So does she, but once you create that child you are their father. Use birth control.
Her saying she can’t get pregnant more likely means she hasn’t yet. When drinking, do you remember to take your vitamin pill? Do you think she could forget, accidentally or on purpose, to take that other pill?
2. Expect to phone or mail it in.
A phone call on birthdays and Christmas is not being a father. It is being a stranger. Even weekly calls are not the same thing as being a part of that child’s life.
Checks in the mail do not say, love. They say guilt.
3. Making lots of money is not being a father.
Lots of us men fell for this one. We thought that working real hard, making money so our kids, maybe even our families, had what they wanted was what being a father was all about.
I repeatedly hear from fathers who worked long hours, two even three jobs and now their children resent them for never being there. You can’t buy their love. And do you really want your children thinking that your and their love is for sale?
Kids want all the latest designer brand names. They all think they need to have an X-phone and an I-station like their peers. But years from now most will not remember that you bought them all that stuff. What they will remember are the things you did with them.
4. Don’t Listen to what they say.
This is one of the hardest things to do in any relationship, especially with your kids. You hear something and you know, or think you know, the things that they have not learned yet. You feel the need to tell them.
Most of the time what they really need is to be able to talk with you and know that you will love them anyway.
One exception to the do not think buying them stuff is being a good father is if in listening to them they tell you how much they want or have always wanted something. One thing kids tell me is their parents got them all kinds of things they did not want, but that they never got that one thing, often an inexpensive thing that they really did want.
5. Be their friend, not their parent.
Being a good parent means listening to what they say and accepting them no matter what it does not mean becoming their best friend and condoning what they do.
You need to convey some sense of right and wrong. We adults do not get this correctly a lot. Sometimes we do wrong things, but sharing your drugs with your child does not make it up to them.
6. Wait till they get old enough to do things together.
As children get older they pull away from their parents. Mother often gets to spend more time with the child so the pull away can be less dramatic.
Dads find they work hard to get financially secure and then about the time they want to take their child golfing or hiking in the Sierras that child has friends or even a romantic interest. At that point, they do not want to spend the weekend with their father they want to be with their friends. Ultimately you have to fit into their life or lose the connection.
This loss of connection is especially hard for the non-custody father. He is still expected to send the check but his child and their mother no longer want to see him.
There are 6 ways to be a bad father. There are probably a lot more ways but this is something to think about as we approach the one day a year families appear to like their father.
As for being a good father, well keep trying someday we men may find a way to get that one right.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books