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Challenge: My Dad Hero

Dear dads parenting kids with behavioral disorders

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First, let me applaud you--for parenting, not babysitting. For hanging in there when insults and toys are being thrown. For sticking around when other men would've said, "This is just too hard."

Fatherhood in the 2000s looks different than when we were growing up. We were raised, most of us, to be tough and not show when things hurt or are difficult to handle. Now you're raising a child whose needs seem insurmountable while balancing work, a marriage, their siblings, school drop off, and the medical costs that come from raising a child with special needs.

So many marriages of parents with difficult children end in divorce, but here you are, in the trenches, trying your damnedest and feeling like you're failing.

You're not.


Sure, when your son is screaming and kicking the walls, sometimes you snap and yell--lose your cool quicker than you wish you would. Guess what? So do all parents.

You aren't alone.

You try to read the countless articles your wife sends you and attend the counseling sessions and come to IEP meetings when work allows. You feel like you're constantly working on something or trying to calm yourself when you come home to chaos so you don't lose your temper.

This is normal.

No matter how much society makes you feel like your kid is broken or you aren't a good dad, if you are there, showing up, over and over, you are the absolute best man in your child's life.

Here's all they need: Your child with invisible disabilities needs you to remember to breathe. They may seem like a pint-sized dictator, but they are only a child. Cut them some slack when they spill something or have so much energy they just need to jump around. Choose your battles and know if you enter into a disagreement yelling, you've already lost.

They need to sense in your tone and feel in your actions that you love them no matter what because the rest of the world reminds them enough of all the ways they fall short. They need you to praise and encourage them more than you criticize. They need hugs more than timeouts.

And, dad. YOU need to know that you are doing your very best and that is enough.

Remember that your partner is in this battle alongside you so hold each other up. Cheer each other on. And, whenever possible, spend kid-free time talking about ANYTHING other than therapy, school, meds, behavior strategies or appointments.

You both need it. I promise.

And boldly advocate for your child because you are their voice and their biggest fan. So when the world tells them they are too much or not enough, they can look at you smiling and know that they are EXACTLY who they are supposed to be.

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