These five tips for dealing with a difficult dad on Father’s Day will help you see him in a different light. You may not be able to stop fighting with your dad forever or heal a long-standing family rift, but you can find ways to treat him with respect.
After I wrote When You Miss Your Dad – Help and Hope for Fatherless Daughters, I realized that some of us have fathers in our lives, but we just can’t stop fighting with them! Whether it’s politics, personality differences, or promises made but not kept…we feel like it’s impossible to rise above the hurts, disappointments, and emotions to see the big picture.
Or can we? I think so, else I wouldn’t be offering ideas for getting along on Father’s Day when you’re fighting with your dad! These tips may help you heal, even if you don’t suddenly become best friends forever with your father. Respecting your dad on Father’s Day is important — not because of him, but because of you. Wouldn’t it be awesome to go to bed knowing that, as far as it depended on you, you held out an olive branch to your dad? This means learning how to respect your father while honoring your own thoughts and feelings.
No matter how difficult, frustrating, or disappointing your dad is, you need to let go of your resentment and deal with your pain. It’s not about Father’s Day and it’s not for your dad’s sake…it’s for your own mental and emotional health. The more tightly you grip your disappointment and frustration, the worse you feel.
You can’t change your dad. You’ll never have the father you really, truly want. But you can learn how to respect him on Father’s Day and beyond, even if you think you’ll never be able to stop fighting with him.
How to Handle Father’s Day When You’re Fighting With Your Dad
You’re not gonna love these tips for handing difficult dads on Father’s Day because they’re about YOU, not your father. But that’s part of the gift you’ll give your dad on Father’s Day: the gift of peace and acceptance.
Sweet peace and restful acceptance…wouldn’t that be lovely?
1. Put yourself in your father’s shoes
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey encourages us to seek first to understand, then seek to be understood. I know this sucks when you’re fighting with a loved one and you think he should be different.
I know how hard this is – particularly when you’re dealing with controlling parents. I never knew my dad because he moved back to his home country, Israel, when I was three years old. He and my mom split up long before that. My father never called or wrote; he visited once. I don’t understand my dad and I always wished he was different. We never had a fight, though I did envy other people who fought with their fathers. It shows life, presence, love!
Regardless, I learned how to handle lonely and sad Father’s Days by putting myself in my dad’s shoes. My father came to Canada for a few years to work and make money. He always intended to go back to Israel, my mother refused to go with him, and he didn’t know how to contact me because we were always moving around when I was a kid. So my dad had lots of reasons to not be in my life. When I see my father’s choices through his eyes, I see him as a human being. He’s simply a man who made mistakes and did the best he could. How do you see your dad, when you look at him through his own eyes?
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2. Accept your dad as a human being who makes mistakes
Our fathers aren’t perfect. They say the wrong things, do the wrong things, wear the wrong clothes, and marry the wrong people. But, to have a better relationship with our dads, we need to accept that they’re just men. They have weaknesses, foibles, flaws…they’re not Supermen, and they’re certainly not perfect TV dads like the old-fashioned TV dads known as Howard Cunningham, Heathcliff Huxtable, or Mike Brady.
Even when you’re fighting with your dad on Father’s Day, you need to learn how to respect and love him. This is for your own sake, so you can rest your head on your pillow knowing that you did the best you could.
3. Don’t try to change your father’s personality or lifestyle
Many family conflicts arise when children try to change their parents, or siblings blame each other for problems, or parents try to change their children. Instead of focusing on what you wish your dad would do differently, accept him for who he is. Accept his lifestyle choices, his personality quirks, his past choices. Whether it’s Father’s Day or not, he is your dad…and he gave you life. Honor that. Thank him for that!
If your whole family is dysfunctional (everyone’s is), read How to Deal With Problems in Your Family.
4. Let go of unrealistic expectations
Your dad can’t be who you want him to be. To have a better relationship with him – and to make Father’s Day less difficult – stop wishing he was different. Instead of holding on to unrealistic expectations, set new expectations that are based in reality.
Instead of fighting with your dad, accept his opinions. You don’t have to change your life or do everything he says…just accept that he has a right to say what he thinks. Let him say it, and don’t let your past fights or unmet expectations ruin Father’s Day this year.
For instance, my dad still doesn’t contact me, even though I’ve traveled to Israel several times and stayed with him and his family. It’s unrealistic to expect that he’ll suddenly start sending birthday cards, or come to Canada to visit me! Our fathers are who they are, and for our own sakes we shouldn’t expect more than they can give.
5. Learn how to deal with difficult parents
Is your dad difficult to connect with, talk to, or be in the same room with? Find ways to roll with his personality.
Dealing with difficult parents is hard, especially if you still live at home! Or, maybe you have kids and you want them to love and respect their grandparents. It’s challenging, no doubt about it. Find books books and resources on how to deflect family conflicts and situations. Learn how to stop fighting with your dad on Father’s Day.
Read about boundaries, take workshops or classes about setting healthy boundaries with difficult people, and consider talking to a family counselor about the best way to cope with your dad. Maybe you’ll never have a great relationship with your dad – but that doesn’t mean you can’t get emotionally healthy!
In The Father You’ve Always Wanted: How God Heals Your Father Wounds, Ed McGlasson shares his personal experience of having lost his father before he was born. He says many sons and daughters never experience the solid, positive presence of a loving father.
This lack of fatherly influence and care has deep ramifications for life, including how we interact with others, raise our own children, and understand God as Father. But God promised that he would not leave us orphans, that everyone who believes becomes an adopted son or daughter of a loving Father in heaven. The Father You’ve Always Wanted will strengthen and encourage you, and give you a new sense of purpose, identity, and value that you have been searching.
Your dad may have messed up your childhood, but you’re the only one who can mess up your adulthood.
Your parents, your childhood, and your experiences all meld together to create your unique personality and life. Do you like who you are? If so, don’t blame your dad for his choices – you may need to thank him! Maybe his actions made you stronger, more resilient, and more successful. If you don’t like who you are, then you need to find a way to heal.
If you have any comments about these tips for coping with Father’s Day when you fight with your dad all the time, please share below. I can’t offer advice, but you may find it helpful to share your story.