There are days that I feel like I am a great dad. I have an authentic conversation with one of my boys. I help them solve a problem that they have in a relationship. We discuss a deep spiritual truth. Those are good days.
Then there are days that I feel like the worst parent ever. I say something I regret. I checkout when I get home from work and am not engaged with them at all. I work on my computer while I sit next to them on the couch. Those are days I wish I could get back.
The other night, a situation occurred with one of our boys, and I had a pep talk with myself before I even addressed it. “Don’t overreact. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t accuse, just seek to understand.” Despite the pep talk, I did overreact. Despite telling myself not to be a jerk, I was a huge jerk. Despite knowing I should ask questions first, I came out firing.
I hurt my son’s feelings. I apologized and he forgave me, but my disappointment lingered. As parents, we know how we want to respond to our kids, yet many times we respond in the exact opposite way.
Why do I overreact, even when I tell myself not to overreact?
Here are some things God is teaching me as I try to understand my overreaction to little mistakes and minor mess ups.
I expect too much.
My wife tells me this all the time. “He isn’t 30 years old, he is 14.” “He isn’t going to make the same decision you would make, he’s 10.” “Justin, allow him to make a 16-year-old decision.”
I often expect way too much from my kids. I am not even sure this is conscious. I forget what it was like to be a teenager. I forget about the pressures they face and the insecurity they feel and the desire they have to be known and accepted and loved. I’m asking God to give me right-sized expectations for each of my boys these days.
I assume the worst.
We have a mantra in our family that sometimes gets lost when I parent my kids. The saying is, “Believe the best and be proven wrong.” For some reason, it is easiest for me to assume the worst in my relationship with my kids. Assuming the worst always causes me to give a LEVEL 10 response to a LEVEL 2 issue. My defense is already up. My mind is already made. I’m coming out guns blazing. I’m asking God to help me believe the best.
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