It Works, Just Not How You Think

It was probably annoying. It was probably a whole thing that had been escalating for weeks. Maybe he was just plain tired. Maybe it was a joke or a lesson gone horribly awry.

It doesn’t matter though because it scarred young Franz Kafka for life.

He had been crying for water at bedtime. His father asked him to stop. It kept going and going and Franz’s father finally picked him up and put the boy outside in his pajamas. It worked in the sense that Kafka immediately stopped crying, but it came at a very high price—as losing our temper with our kids often does. “I subsequently became a rather obedient child,” Kafka writes in his beautiful and haunting little book Letter to The Father, “but I suffered inner damage as a result.”

Kafka’s father had always been brusque and authoritarian. He did not seem to appreciate that his son was sensitive, that the boy desperately wanted his approval and most of all his love. As Kafka writes in Letter to The Father, a must-read for parents looking to do better (you can grab at the Painted Porch), “I kept being haunted by this giant of a man, my father, the ultimate judge, coming to get me in the middle of the night, andr for almost no reason at all dragging me out of the bed onto the balcony—in other words, that as far as he was concerned, I was an absolute Nothing.”

What Kafka’s father did worked. It quieted his son. It ended the begging. It just did some other work on the boy, caused trauma that was still working on his psyche decades later. As parents, we can all relate to that place of being done. We all make mistakes. We are ourselves products of our own parents.

Which is why more than relating to Kafka’s father, we relate to what it must have been like to be that little boy—manhandled and put outside, made to feel so small and vulnerable. What Kafka needed in that moment was love and affection and patience. Instead, he got harshness and neglect and by most definitions, abuse (although we said recently, anything less than nurturing is a form of abuse).

How terribly, terribly sad is that?

Sign Up to get our FREE email.
One piece of timeless parenting advice, delivered daily.

Sign Up to get our eBook

“20 Things Great Dads Do Everyday”



Recent Posts



We’re going to tackle all the big themes of our time and of all time: Grit. Resilience. Curiosity. Compassion. Character. Unconditional love. Finding purpose. Dealing with stress. Masculinity. Female empowerment. Loss. Stillness. Truthfulness. Initiative. Creativity. Passion. Family. Fun.

Join Daily Dad now and tap into a community of dads all over the world dedicated to becoming the very best dad they can be. you’ll get a daily meditation on the above themes and more.