You Have To Be The Bad Guy

Life isn’t fair. It just is. The world is filled with objective facts. Actions have consequences. We miss a chance to do something, that opportunity may never come back around again. We want to do something, and the harsh, unforgiving nature of reality tells us otherwise. 

It would be wonderful if that were not the case, but we can only engage with the world as it is, not as we wish it would be, if we want to do ourselves and our children any favors. Which makes it all the more difficult for parents to be honest and firm with their kids. We don’t want to hurt their feelings or be the bad guy, but we’re not saving them from anything by pretending life is anything but what it is, we’re actually making things worse.

How many kids want to be astronauts? Millions, probably. You can tell them that if they work hard and get good grades they can be anything they want to be, but bad vision, bone and muscle deficiencies, and a lack of aptitude with math (among many other things) will keep them out of the space program and grounded on terra firma, no matter how much they want to reach the stars. Eventually the world is going to intrude on whatever bubble you’ve created and it will not only be unmerciful, your children will be unprepared and fragile.

This is partly what Bette Davis meant when she said, “if you’ve never been hated by your child, you’ve never been a parent.” If your kids are never mad at Dad, if they never feel like Dad is being unfair, it’s because Dad isn’t doing his job. It means he’s not being strict enough, it means he’s insulating them from the consequences of their actions, it means he is bending the world to their preferences rather than the other way around.

Life is not always fun or nice, which means Dad can’t be either. Life can be cruel. Dads should never be that…and in a way, the cruelest thing we can do is leave our kids sheltered and unprepared for what is to come. 

P.S. This was originally sent on November 5, 2019. Sign up today for the Daily Dad’s email and get our popular 11 page eBook, “20 Things Great Dads Do Everyday.”