At the core of most of the conflict between parents and children—and, of course, spouses—is one thing: judgment. We have opinions and these opinions are the source of disagreement. If we, as dads, would like to have a better relationship with our children, there is just one thing we need to do then: Have fewer of these opinions.
Do you really need to have an opinion on what kind of food is served at your daughter’s wedding (even if you are paying for it)? Do you need to have an opinion on the way they do their hair? Or how they eat their breakfast? Their friends are their friends—what does it matter what you think of them or their parents? So what if they like music that sounds weird to you? So what if they want to be a vegetarian? So what if they want to raise their own kids a different way? Who or how they want to fall in love or who they want to marry, how is this your business?
“You always own the option of having no opinion,” Marcus Aurelius writes in Meditations. “There is never any need to get worked up or to trouble your soul about things you can’t control. These things are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone.”
That’s exactly right. Yes, you have to have rules—about what time they go to bed, or what the budget for the wedding is. It’s within your power—and your responsibility—to prevent them from hanging out with criminals or drug addicts. Maybe their school requires a certain haircut, but nothing is mandating your snide remarks or constant harping. Outside of the basic rules of civil society and standards of safety, a dad who would like to get along with their kids would do well to keep their opinions to themselves until they are asked to provide one. Or better, why not try to actually understand and appreciate their opinion? Instead of conflict, you could actually share experiences together. You could find common ground. You could have fun together.
Few things in life are better off with your judgment hovering over them…and that includes most of all your family.