Making Sense of 'Mean Daddy' Syndrome

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In recent weeks, a favorite retort of my three sons — the youngest two in particular — has become, “Mean Daddy.”

The translation is simple: “You did something I don’t like, and therefore you are dead to me.”

Probably not so harsh. But it has a purposeful bite to it.

This used to bother me. How dare you call me a mean daddy! Aren’t I good enough for you? Who pays for your food, clothing and shelter? You wouldn’t know “mean” if it jumped out from behind a corner!

Then I realized “Mean Daddy” has two sub-meanings that are more beneficial to your relationship as a parent. They are:

  1. Discipline is tough, and I need a moment away from you to regroup.

  2. I need you to coach me about why you made that decision because I don’t understand it.

Children are often more capable of understanding our rationale for a decision, even if they don’t like it. These days my response tends to be something along the lines of, “It’s OK if you think I’m a mean daddy, but I decided to tell you to stay out of the road to keep you safe and prevent you from being hit by a car.” Or whatever the case might be.

“Mean Daddy” used to hurt my feelings. Sometimes, it still does. But I’d encourage you to think of the accusation as a conversation starter — and an opportunity to showcase to your child your ability to love them and protect them before they enter the world as an adult and must do it on their own.