After a restless night with little sleep, I woke up Saturday in a less-than-positive mood.

It was a rough morning with my children. Every question and request was returned with condescension. Even the simplest everyday request was met with undeserving hostility. I could hear my words and the tone, but it was too late. I tried to correct course, but found myself making the same mistake minutes later. My frustration grew as the minor misbehaviors from my kids turned into more frequent and greater ones.

I took them to the park with the hope that I could sit while they ran off energy. I wanted to sit, I needed to rest. I was in a bad mood.

To my dismay, they pulled at my arm for a push on the swing, to chase them, to catch them on the slides. I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t just go play. They didn’t need me in order to play.

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Punishments were dished out in the form of a toy being taken away and shortening playtime at the park. The more I disciplined them, the more I hurt myself and the cycle continued. I tried to reset multiple times but didn’t have the will power to respond and serve with kindness. I was mentally too far gone and as the day progressed it became more apparent that I wasn’t going to get back on track. It was a long day of the kid’s defiance and my continued defeat.

We continued to punish each other throughout the day and into the bedtime routine. Exhausted, I laid in bed staring at the ceiling. Playing the victim, I replayed the events of the day.

My thoughts began to pivot as I reviewed the conflicts. I was tired and in a bad mood. I can’t say that was a good excuse but that was a fact.

Looking back, my kids just wanted to spend time with me. Each question, each tug at the arm, each request to play.

It was all an attempt to spend time with me. Time we don’t get during the week. They were so quick to forgive my attitude minutes before, and they still wanted to spend time with me.

I started to take accountability for the day I created and the behaviors I saw from my kids.

With the help of some sleep, I woke up feeling great Sunday morning. My kids asked the same questions. I served each request with love, and presented it with a smile. I even smiled at their time-sensitive high demands: a glass of water for my son, a glass of milk for my daughter, pancakes for both, no sausage for one, a yogurt for the other. Except the yogurt couldn’t be in the plastic container, it had to be in the green bowl with the blue spoon.

With this new attitude, I had one of the best days with my kids.

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I pushed them on the swing for a short time before they played on the rest of the equipment, while I relaxed and watched.

We spent time at the pool where I was able to toss them into the air and race from one end to the other. We went for a short walk where we were able to simply talk. The kids were incredible and the time was of true quality. We laughed, cuddled, and held hands while we watched a movie and at popcorn.

Their smiles made me smile. It was one of those days where I could really just enjoy each moment, each activity, and I knew they enjoyed it too.

There was no coincidence that my behavior set up the day for success.

My response to my kids was reflected in how they responded to me—I created the mood for Saturday, and I controlled the day Sunday. It had everything to do with what I brought to the day.

Ultimately, I realized it’s important for me to take care of myself so I can be the best version of me for my kids.

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How to Stop Being an Angry Dad
Trying So Hard to Be a Good Dad Almost Stole the Joy of Fatherhood
20 Easy Ways For Dads to Spend Quality Time With Their Daughters

Dan Kunde

I am married with two young children, a boy and a girl. I am a hospital administrator in Las Vegas, Nevada. I teach online nursing courses for a University in Indiana. We love exercising, being in the mountains, and doing anything in the water. I enjoy writing about growing as a Christian, husband, father, and balancing a demanding professional life while being present for my family.