Being a divorced dad is not an easy role to be in, especially if you have a custody arrangement of every other weekend with the kids. With a less-than-ideal situation like this, it was very easy for me to slip into the all-too-familiar role of a “Disneyland Dad.” Weekends were filled with nothing but fun and adventure and little to no responsibilities for the kids.
The Vacation Home
Discipline during my time with my girls became almost non-existent during the first year. When actions that would normally require discipline would take place, I’d ask myself, “Why would I want the brief and valuable time with them to be about discipline?” And when it came to responsibilities around the house, I figured they got enough of that while they were with their mom and didn’t need additional chores in a house they spent so little time in. Sounds reasonable, right?
What I ended up discovering after my initial year of being a single dad was that my lack of discipline and my hesitance to involve my girls in the care and upkeep of the home made my house more like a vacation getaway with a live-in butler rather than a home with a dad fathering his girls and building on this redefined relationship. Things needed to change and my perspective was first on the list.
Kicking Into Dad Mode
My perspective needed to change back to that of when I was the married dad. As a married dad, I would never have allowed them to get away with even a fraction of what I was allowing as a single dad. They would have had chores and there would have been consequences for not doing them as well as discipline for not behaving appropriately. I would have been a father to them rather than trying to be the cool dad and friend.
So what changed my perspective? I came to realize that I was afraid of my girls! And they were only 13, 11 and 9 at the time. I was afraid that if I disciplined them or gave them responsibilities, they would not want to be with me and spend time at my house. What I had failed to realize was that, as their dad, they loved me and wanted to be with me regardless.
Once I made this realization, I began the process of implementing rules and responsibilities. In addition, I began to be a father who wasn’t afraid to discipline. In fact, if one of the girls was on restriction from their mother’s house (say for low grades or misbehavior at home), I would follow through with that restriction as best I could on my watch as well. All of this was paving the way for me to be a better parent when I eventually remarried.
Providing A Stable Home
Now, years later, I have listened to many men share similar stories of how they are currently not being a healthy parent or are remarried and finding it difficult to make the transition after the fact. And with the vast majority of them, it comes down to the same fears I held.
As a single dad, you need to know that your children love you – faults and all. Raising them with loving discipline and responsibilities is something they crave deep inside because it provides them with structure and stability. But it has to start with us as dads and the example we are setting. We need to be the kind of example spoken of in Deuteronomy 6:7 that is teaching and training our children every minute of every day we are with them. Don’t allow guilt and fear to hinder you from giving your children what they desire most – a good parent.