Worst Parent Ever

Aug 29, 2022

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.

Trish 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 montra 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.

I’m fearful they will make the same mistakes I made.

My boys are such good kids. They aren’t perfect but they pursue God. I often impose the mistakes I made growing up on them and am fearful of them making the same mistakes. Anytime you allow fear into a relationship, that relationship will never be all that it could be. I fear mistakes. Even though I know that it is often through mistakes that God grows us the most, I am fearful of them repeating my mistakes. If I’m absolutely honest, I treat them at times as if they already have repeated those mistakes. I’m asking God to help me not be fearful.

This is a longer post than we typically write, but I wanted to close by sharing with you a few things I’m doing to battle my ability to overreact. I am in process as is any parent, but these are helping me grow.

Pray for them.

I’m trying to spend a few minutes each day just praying for my boys. Sometimes it is first thing in the morning when they are still sleeping. Sometimes it is as I walk past their room. As I pray for them, I can feel God giving me his heart for them. I know He cares about them way more than I do and I need his power and patience and wisdom to guide me.

Spend time with them.

I heard James Dobson say one time, “Rules without relationship equals rebellion.” It is easier for me to enforce rules than it is to build a relationship. But rules don’t change a heart…relationships do. I’m trying to spend time with each of my boys in different ways to build into them and into our relationship.

I don’t have any of this parenting thing mastered yet, but I’m working on it.

Would love to have a little group therapy today. What is one way you are learning to grow as a parent?