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How to Avoid Being a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Dad

Posted by Ryan Sanders

I screened this new family film from Disney last Saturday. Normally it works out that my wife and daughters can join me. But, with all the weekend activities of two kids in school nowadays, this movie got screened by me, myself, and I. Sitting alone in the dark movie theater presented me with an interesting opportunity to not just watch the movie, but to consider my role in the family. Here's what I mean...

alex_profile_03Don't get me wrong, I generally enjoy chasing my youngest daughter down long theater halls, running for the third trip to the restroom or to get popcorn...again. But this alone time provided me with the chance to consider the meaning behind the comedy. This movie is silly. It's funny. Everything goes wrong in one day for this fine family. Think Money Pit but with a family instead of a house. And it's somehow funny because it's happening to another family—not yours. Watching, you somehow connect because it's real. You've seen this day before. 

Although Ben Cooper (Steve Carell) plays the dad and his children are a little older than mine, I watched this film from his eyes. Quick back-story: Ben Cooper is a rocket scientist who's been laid off from his position. He's new to the day job of being home. But, as we watch, he's fumblin' and stumblin' his way through. While he isn't perfect, he's there.

I was reminded throughout the film of my role as dad. This movie says important things about dads. As dads, we can't be perfect, but we can be present. As I watched the Cooper's have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, three things jumped out at me—things to avoid so as not to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad dad.  

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1) Stay Positive.
Mr. Cooper knows how to stay positive. Here's a man who has been unemployed for while and he manages to stay positive with his wife and kids through it all. We see him handling all the family chores like a boss; all while dealing with a teen son, a teen daughter, a young son (Alexander), and an infant son.

His life is hectic like yours and mine. But he manages to keep it positive. Oh how I needed to see this reminder in my life! Let's just say in my family I'm often "the realist" to a fault! I want my home to be a fun atmosphere where my daughters are comfortable talking to me. Right now, I think that's true. But, I tend to be a ball of negativity. If I'm ever postitive, it's probably just because my girls are so young right now. Watching Ben relate to his teen son and daughter gave me hope it's possible to be positive, yet realistic, and parent teens.

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2) Stay Calm.
I don't stay calm well. There, I said it. I'm basically a baby. Shh, don't tell anyone. When something doesn't go as planned, I'm an upset, whiny baby. Many times in this movie, we see Ben isn't in control. Mimicking real life, Ben has to let some things play themselves out. I should better at staying calm. Are you a calm dad? If so, good for you. To be real, by the time I'm home from work and traffic, the smallest thing can really bother me. I think my home would be a much more relaxed place if I was more calm about life in general. Are you able to "take things as they come"? Maybe we can all learn something from Ben here. Whether it's your teens' failed driver's test or an alligator in your living room, Ben seems to be the go-with-the-flow type of dad. This serves him well.

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3) Never Give Up.

Whether you're having the bad day like the Cooper's or not, you as dad should have the mindset of Ben. He is the leader by example. I can't give away the film; but, let's just say, at his personal lowest, he's still the leader of his family. I didn't cry on this one part. Nope. There might have been a lump in my throat. But, no, no tears, promise! Here's the point: never give up! You're the dad. No matter how low you get, you're still the example. How you react to situations is being watched. You can be discouraged. You can be sad. But you can't give up. You can't quit...not if you're trying to avoid being a bad dad.

You are not perfect and you will never be perfect; especially as a dad. But, I left the theater realizing that being perfect doesn't matter. We will fix the father absence crisis by father presence. For all the silly and funny things that happened in this film we see a dad who is present. We see a dad who doesn't have all the answers. He doesn't nor can he fix everything...but he is there. He is present. The longer I'm a dad, the longer I work for this fine fatherhood organization, the longer I hear stories of good and bad dads and situations...and the answer of how to avoid being a bad dad is to show up. Beyond staying positive, staying calm, and never giving up, we must show up! When you are involved, responsible and committed, there is no terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for your child.

Have you ever had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day? We'll offer fatherhood counseling in the comments!

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