Sometimes it hard to feel like you’re doing a “good job” as a father. Actually, it’s easier to feel like you’re not. According to the latest research from the Pew Research Center’s Parenting in America study, only 39 percent of dads feel like they’re doing a good job raising their children. So what are the mistakes you’re making and how can you correct them to feel more confident as a dad and improve your relationship with your kids? We found some of the most common mistakes dads admit making — and offer some ways to right the wrongs.
1. Being Overprotective
It’s hard not to want to protect your kids, but 54 percent of dads say they have a tendency to be overprotective. According to Dr. Nathan Lents, a professor at John Jay College in New York, depriving children “of healthy forms of safe stress may leave them unable to deal with stress as adults.” Lents has compiled research showing that safe, controlled amounts of acute stress may actually be good for us, especially as children. So take off propeller off your head and resist the urge to helicopter your kid
2. Giving Your Kids a Mile When They Need an Inch
On the other hand, it’s possible to give your kids too much freedom. One-third of fathers admit to giving their kids too much freedom — which can be just as problematic as being overprotective. “Kids need parents to restrict their freedom, to narrow their choices and to put pressure on them to meet their obligations,” Dr. Linda Spadin, psychologist and success coach, says. “Kids may not appreciate all this restraint. But they need it.” Instead of giving your young ones a choice, give them options.
3. Letting Yourself Be a Sucker for Your Kids
Always giving your child what they want doesn’t set them up for the realities of life. Instead, it simply sets them up to be expectant little brats. But 35 percent of dads admit that they give in too quickly to their children’s demands. Indulging the “gimmes” and the “I wants” zaps your resources and your child’s ability to appreciate things they have. Instead of letting kids focus on what they want, focus on what they need.
4. Being Too Tough
Exactly half of dads admit to playing the hard-ass and “sticking to their guns” too much. “Simply saying ‘no’ or barking orders about what kids should be doing can be expedient in the moment,” Amy McCready, the founder of PositiveParentingSolutions.com, told Parents in an interview. “However, it doesn’t foster their sense of capability or independence and can make the situation ripe for power struggles.” Instead of always saying no, give your child incentives to do what you wish them to do.
5. Being Critical of Your Children
Forty-nine percent of dads admit to criticizing their children too often. Your children care about what you think, whether they show it or not. In order for your children to be successful, they have to be motivated to do it for themselves, not to avoid your consequences. According to C.R. Smith, author of Learning Disabilities, all children benefit from adults building extrinsic motivators into their teaching to ultimately help kids develop the inner desire to do well. Acknowledge your children’s efforts and progress so they’ll feel more motivated.
6. Playing the Nice Guy
Believe it or not, it’s possible to give your children too much praise. One-quarter of dads feel like they praise their children too much. This can give your children unrealistic expectations from future relationships and keep them from developing a healthy relationship with criticism. But to ensure your criticism helps them, focus on criticizing the process your child uses, instead of the person your child is. In one study by Columbia University researchers, children were subjected to role-play critiques and then their feelings of self-worth were assessed. Children given persona; criticism rated themselves lower in self-worth, had a more negative mood, were less persistent, and were more likely to view this one instance as a reflection of their character. Children given process criticism had much more positive ratings in every category. The takeaway: Allow your criticism to build character and self-worth.
7. Letting Your Finances Affect Your Family
According to Pew Research Center studies, there is a strong correlation between parents’ perceived financial well-being and their personal assessments of how they’re doing raising their children. Some 56 percent of parents who describe their household financial situation as comfortable say they are doing a very good job as a parent. Parents who say they live comfortably and within their means consistently give themselves higher ratings than parents who feel pressed financially. Twenty-one percent of fathers who have trouble meeting their expenses say they are doing only a fair or poor job as a parent. Avoid the financial stress by creating a monthly budget and sticking to it.
8. Keeping Stagnant Expectations for Family Dynamics
Pew’s survey found that parents who only have children under age 6 are more likely to say that parenting is enjoyable and rewarding than parents with older children. Six-in-ten parents whose oldest (or only) child is younger than six say being a parent is rewarding all of the time—as opposed to 50 percent of those whose oldest child is 13 to 17 agreeing. Realize that your role as a parent is as dynamic as your children’s growth. Be prepared to allow your role as a father to evolve from nurturing caretaker to teacher to limit-setter as your child gets older. That way, your expectations for parenting match your child’s needs.
9. Feeling Rushed
Most parents today say that they feel rushed at least some of the time. In fact, 31 percent say they always feel rushed, even to do the things they have to do. Additionally, 53 percent say they sometimes feel rushed. But even with all of the to-dos, chores, and responsibilities, the most important thing you can accomplish for your child is giving them time to learn and grow. Dr. Laura Markham has found that rushing yourself—and your kids—can negatively impact brain development, increase stress hormones, overstimulate them, habituate them into a too-busy life, and create a chronic feeling of incompleteness. So remember sometimes that it’s okay to add to the to-do list and just chill.
10. Not Spending Enough Time with the Kiddos
Only 50 percent of fathers say they spend the right amount of time with their kids—but spending quality time with children is the first vital step to successful parenting, according to multiple studies. Adolescents who believe they matter to their families are less likely to threaten or engage in violence against family members, according to a study published in the Journal of Family Issues, led by Brown University sociologist Gregory Elliott. They are also more likely to feel more self-worth and feel more successful. Schedule in time with your kids just like you would schedule a meeting or an event. It’s that important.
11. Not Using Parenting Resources
Fewer than one-in-ten (7 percent) of fathers say they often turn to parenting websites, books, or magazines for advice on how to raise their children. But with a vast network and bottomless amount of research and information at your hands, why not use it? According to a study published in the journal BMC Family Practice parents who use online information and support report several benefits, including: the possibility to reach out to a wider audience, increasing access to organizations without an increase in costs, the ability to remain anonymous in their contacts with professionals, and the need for information can be effectively met around the clock.
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