All dads make mistakes in raising their kids. That’s a given.
Some mistakes are big, some are small. And some small mistakes can get dads into very big trouble.
Ask Dave Lieber, a longtime columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
He just published an interesting book called Bad Dad about an incident between him and his then 11-year-old son. It occurred at a fast-food restaurant in 2008 and eventually led to criminal charges (later dismissed) and the suspension of his newspaper column (later lifted).
Lieber and his son, Austin, got into an argument over breakfast at a suburban McDonald’s. Austin wanted to leave and call a friend. But Dad wasn’t finished with his coffee and newspaper.
“Shut up!” Lieber recounts in the book. “Go sit and wait for me at that table. If you don’t, I’m going to let you walk home.”
Lieber follows up on his threat. He rushes out of the McDonald’s, jumps in his car, and locks the doors before Austin can get in.
“I turn on the engine and back the car out,” Lieber writes. “He’s still pulling on the handle. When he sees the car moving backward, he lets go but chases me for several steps. Then he stops. He’s standing in the parking lot, crying and bewildered. I drive away.”
About 10 minutes later, after calling his wife, Lieber does a U-turn and returns to pick up his son.
Police confront ‘Bad Dad’
Two police officers are waiting for him. They tell Lieber they’ve taken witness statements and plan to refer the case to Child Protective Services and the district attorney.
Lieber listens to the officers’ lecture on parental responsibility, offers no defense, and says, “Yes sir.”
Lieber hopes the incident is over. It’s not.
A few days later, he learns that the DA’s office has issued two arrest warrants for him – both felonies involving child abandonment. He hires a criminal defense attorney and wonders if his career at the newspaper is over. Worse, he fears losing custody of Austin.
Newspapers and radio and TV stations pick up the story of a prominent columnist who has chronicled others’ wrongdoing now being accused of his own. Some bloggers skewer Lieber as a bad dad, while others defend his actions.
Finally, about two weeks after driving off and leaving his son, Lieber gets a welcome call from his attorney.
“The prosecutors had decided to drop the charges,” he writes.
His record is clear, and his newspaper column resumes.
I can relate
Lieber’s highly publicized incident hits close to home for me. First, my son Connor is now 11 – the same age as Lieber’s son at the time. Second, I’ve lost my temper with Connor many times. I’ve made hurtful comments I later regretted. I’ve even spanked him too hard a time or two.
I give Lieber credit for writing openly about his criminal charges. His contrition is a wake-up call to all dads, including you and me. In a split-second, in a fit of rage, we could make a parenting mistake that could haunt us – and injure our child – for years to come.
When you become irate with your child (and it’s going to happen), disengage for a moment. Take a deep breath if you need to. Step away from your child. Bite your tongue and stare at the floor. In other words, do whatever you must to regain your composure and respond properly to your anger.
Don’t feel bad about losing your temper. Just don’t let your temper lead you to say and do things you’ll later regret.
As a dad, you have no higher calling than raising your child properly. No one said the job was easy. It requires patience and good judgment in trying situations. Contemplate how you would react in a crisis before one occurs.