Father Knows Less: 5 Terrible Pieces of Advice Fathers Consistently Give Their Kids

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A father is one of the most important, influential figures in a person’s life. They can be a potent source of confidence and warmth, pride and wisdom. Dads are role models for their children, and the way they behave and interact with others, and the advice they dispense to their kids, will frame the way the youngsters perceive and interact with the world. There is a lot riding on those fatherly shoulders. And unfortunately, as opposed to jobs like Zamboni driver or professor of medieval literature, there aren’t any qualifying tests or seminars one needs to pass before becoming a father. That’s why so many dads are bad at being dads, and that’s why terrible idioms like these are so common.

5 Ask Your Mother

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This is such a common refrain it has become a cliché, almost a social meme, even. But when a father dismisses a child’s inquiry or request by sending him or her to “ask your mother,” he is not simply passing the buck, but actually sending myriad negative messages to the child. First, this type of dismissal calls into question which parent holds authority, when there should be a balance. Second, it makes the father seem unengaged and uninterested in the child’s specific issue. And last, and most damningly, sending a child to talk to the other parent can convey the father’s lack of caring about their offspring at all, beyond the instance at hand.

4 Walk it Off

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Kids get hurt a lot, it’s as simple as that. They run around, they play sports, they fall over. Dads are supposed to be resilient, strong and hardy, and should demonstrate how to be tough in the face of pain or any other challenge. But they are also supposed to take care of and nurture their kids! Any dad or childless Little League coach who has ever advised a kid to “walk it off” after an injury might want to recall that the first thing paramedics do after an accident is fully immobilize the victim.

3 You’ll Understand When You’re Older

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While there is some truth to this adage, given the brain’s physiology, it’s still weak parenting. This “advice” is in fact the ultimate parental cop out. It can be used in response to most any question, from the sexual to the existential, but should in fact never be invoked. (Actually… maybe about sexual issues it’s OK to use this one.) Telling a child that the answer to their question is simply to wait is tantamount to saying either “I have no idea” or “I don’t care enough to explain this to you,” and neither of those responses is going to lead to a halcyon moment. If you don’t have an answer, be honest. If you don’t want to answer, explain why.

2 When I Was Your Age

Many parents (and grandparents, you’re not off the hook on this one) will attempt to contextualize what they perceive as right or wrong based off memories of their own youth, and will thus frame their discipline and/or approval of their child. This approach to parenting is a poor one for three reasons! First, chances are that the adult is not remembering how things were with actual clarity. Second, they are basing their sense of propriety off of the perceptions they had when no older than the person they’re supposed to be influencing. And third, times change.

1 Do As I Say, Not As I Do

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To every parent who has ever smoked in front of their kids and then admonished the youths to “never start doing this,” congratulations, you won the bad parenting award. Children (in fact adults, too) are more influenced by behavior than words, so model the behavior and ethics you would hope they absorb, don’t pay them lip service, dads. You can earn extra points by both saying and doing things that are, y’know, good.

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