10/17/2014 12:38 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

5 Ways I Have Blown It As a Dad

Justin Ricklefs

I'm a terrible golfer. It's embarrassing how bad I am. But I do follow golf on the periphery.

One of my favorite golfers to follow on Twitter is Bubba Watson. He's a world-class golfer, a million times better than me.

But even for a guy like that, he has bad rounds. He'll often tweet about a tough day and end it with #golfishard. I love that. His vulnerability is refreshing.

#Parentingishard is the hashtag I should use more often. There isn't a step-by-step instruction manual to follow to ensure you end up with great kids.

Over the course of having five kids in nearly 11 years, I've blown it a lot. I've hurt feelings, given awful advice, put myself above them often, and stumbled my way through many tough moments.

I'm not proud to admit how I've failed as a dad, but these trip-ups have taught me tons and made me better over time.

Here are five ways I have blown it as a dad to my little ones:

1. Losing my temper.
I like to think I am a very patient, loving dad. But when things don't go my way or my kids don't meet my expectations, I can lose it. It's almost like the roles reverse, and I become the angry toddler. There aren't many things that crush little spirits more quickly than a parent raising his or her voice. And man, I've been guilty of doing that.

2. Breaking promises.
It could be as small as saying we'll grab ice cream after the soccer game or as big as telling them we're taking a huge vacation, but once I tell my kids something, it's set in stone in their minds. Sure, they need to be flexible and know that plans can change, but I've broken promises to my kids in hurtful ways. Guard your words carefully -- they're listening closely to everything you say.

3. Ignoring them.
Being near my kids is different than playing with them. I can be physically near them at the park, but emotionally somewhere else (like on my iPhone). It's subtle and can be cloaked in a good-looking exterior, but when I disengage emotionally, it's more hurtful than if I wasn't there in the first place.

4. Wanting better behavior instead of changed hearts.
I've failed my kids here and continue to struggle with this. There is a huge difference between simply wanting changed behavior and wanting kids who have changed hearts. Behavior is easy to modify, and it's easy to appease others. But that doesn't mean they're changed people. A good diagnostic question we've started to ask each other as parents is: "Is this a heart issue or a behavior issue?"

5. Making them grow up too soon.
I want my 4-year-old boy to field ground balls and throw a dart to first. I want my 7-year-old girl to be brave, not fearful at bedtime. I want my 8-year-old to be able to process the emotional weight that comes with third-grade girl drama. I miss the boat big time when I expect them to be further along on the path than they already are. I need to be reminded daily that they are kids. I'm learning to enjoy their childish ways, because I don't want to speed up such a sweet season of life.

Life is short with these little ones. Give big hugs. Cuddle at bedtime. Tell them it was a joy watching them play the game (regardless of how they performed). Stay up late. Watch a movie. Put down your iPhone. Be present. Chase hearts, not behavior changes.

And most of all, tell them you love them. Especially when you blow it, like I have.

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