If you ever hear yourself uttering these words, “How could you have been so stupid?” to your kids—because they just got escorted home by a police officer, because they lost that expensive iPad you gave them, because whatever…
Here’s an answer: The same way you were so stupid when you were their age.
Think about all the dumb stuff you did when you were 10. Or 15. Or 30. Or yesterday. How could you have been so stupid? Skateboarding without a helmet and getting injured when you fell. Speeding when you just got your license and ending up with a ticket. Not studying for that big exam and failing. Drinking too much and getting a nasty hangover.
The truth was you didn’t really know better, even if you did “know” better, even if people had told you, as you were doing it, not to do it. The only reason you’re able to see now, in retrospect, how dumb you were is because you’ve gotten older. Because you’ve experienced things. Because you experienced doing that dumb thing and now realize how dangerous/unnecessary/ill-advised it actually was.
So let’s scratch that phrase, that question, along with “How many times do I have to tell you?” from our vocabulary as fathers. Because it is really stupid—and cruel. Focus instead on using this moment, whatever it is that makes you want to say that, as an opportunity to teach. As an opportunity to make them smarter, rather than a chance to make them feel bad.