10 Bad Fathering Habits Dads Need to Break

Father with some bad parenting habits
Echo / Cultura / GettyImages

As men, I think we all see habits in our lives that we would like to break.  Maybe we eat too much or drive too fast or lose our temper too often.  Changing these bad habits is a noble cause, for sure.  But do we clearly see the bad habits that we might have developed as a father and a parent that we need to change?  In my mind, that is a harder task because so much of us is invested in parenting.

Evaluate your fathering and see if any of these bad fathering habits are part of your life.  If so - and I suspect we all have one or more of these - then we need to set up a plan for breaking the bad habit and replacing it with a better approach and behavior.

Seeing your kids’ behavior as a reflection on you.  Our children seem to come prewired with specific personality traits, and fathers can’t change all of those.  Just because your kid is noisy at church or doesn’t share with others, it is not a reflection on you.  Sometimes, we internalize our kids’ behavior and are embarrassed when they act inappropriately.  But we have to know that we are doing our best to teach them appropriate behavior and that a child’s actions and behaviors are always a work in progress.

Complaining about fatherhood.  I think we all acknowledge that it is a great privilege to be a father, but we often don’t demonstrate that spirit in our communications with others.

 We moan and complain about our kids, their mom, our frustrations and our weaknesses as a dad, but we don’t talk about the positives often enough.  If you are finding yourself in a negative spiral, you need to make a conscious effort to find the good in our family situation and emphasize that in our interactions with others.

Yelling too much.  Parents often lose their cool and - sometimes out of frustration and sometimes in an effort to emphasize our point.  But yelling is not a very effective way to either vent frustration nor to make a point.  Turning down the volume with our families and working on better communication skills can help get you out of the yelling rut.

Being too busy at home for fun.  “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.”  And it doesn’t do much for his father either.  While it is important to be busy and positively engaged, if we do it at the expense of fun, we are missing something very important - an opportunity to build positive relationships.  Make sure that you are not passing up some opportunities for fun and release with your family by being too busy to get there.

Not taking care of your basic needs.  It is very difficult to fill another’s bucket when your own bucket is empty or nearly empty.  We have to take time for personal renewal and development, for health and exercise and for sharpening our parenting skills.  Minimizing the importance of a father’s will result in a failure as a parent and father.

Being inconsistent and unpredictable.  For the sake of our children’s security and stability, we need to be a rock on which they can rely.

 When we break or bend rules, when we discipline inconsistently, or when we are not where we need to be when we need to be there, we cast doubt and suspicion into the world of our children.  We owe them a consistent and principled approach to parenting.

Conspiring with the kids against their mom.  It can be really tempting to take your kids’ side when their mom is on their case, but the kids are better off when mom and dad are parenting as a unit.  Sneaking them chocolate milk when Mom is away for an hour only communicates that you and their mom are not united in parenting.  

Giving in to the kids’ demands.  Children can be whiny and irritating when they ask for the same thing over and over again.  If they can whittle down your defenses to where you give in and change your mind on something, they will become insufferable youth and young adults.

 When you indulge them, you make it all the harder to stand firm the next time.  Buck up, stand your ground, and do it in a friendly way - and your kids will love you for it.

Being addicted to technology.  More and more dads seem to be overly connected to their smart devices, computers, and televisions, and that addiction is robbing them of opportunities to build better fathering relationships.  Make time to unplug from your devices and plug into your family.

Demeaning your children.  Children are emotionally fragile, and they rely on their parents to be the bedrock of their self-esteem.  When we speak negatively about our children - broadcasting their faults and weaknesses to others - we communicate disloyalty and a lack of respect for them.  You can certainly seek help in your parenting journey, but you need to speak well of your children.  Address their behavior when it needs addressing, but calling them names or demeaning them as people is not the way to address behavioral challenges.

These ten bad habits need to be changed in order for Dad to have the kind of influence he needs to have in the lives of his children.  Work hard to overcome any that have crept into your parenting - you will be glad that you did.