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A simple question to ask yourself when you are angry
Sometimes a father can speak to his children as he would speak to no one else in his life. With anger and rage. With harsh words and exasperation. With impatience that drips off the tongue. He would never speak to a co-worker as he speaks to his son. Heck, he probably wouldn’t even speak to a stranger that way.
Why is that? Why does a man feel safe tearing down his own children with words when he would never dare do it to other people?
First, there can be real, immediate consequences to speaking to another adult that way. Other adults can bite back. With a co-worker, a man could get reprimanded or fired. Or, the rawest form of consequence: a swift punch to the face.
Our children are under our authority and authority can be abused. They can’t hurt us or fight back. At least, not yet. Eventually, they will get the strength and ability to do so, and this is where we get rebellious teens. Or the more passive-aggressive response of moving away and never talking to you again. The consequences are real, but they are delayed.
Second, a father can feel impotent in one area of his life and over-compensate in another. He feels like he can’t speak up in one aspect of his life, so he doubles down on asserting himself with his children.
But here’s a simple way to check yourself before speaking to your children, especially when you are feeling angry and impatient. And it may seem weird. Here it is:
Would you speak to one of your co-workers this way?
You can go even more extreme.
Would you speak to your waiter this way?
And if the answer is, “Of course not!” then maybe you shouldn’t speak to your children that way either.
There are times for hard words and confrontation. But it is during those times you need the most grace, discipline, and measurement in your own speech.
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