7 subtle signs a man probably won’t be a very good father, according to psychology

There’s an old saying that goes, “You can choose your husband, but your kids can’t choose their father.” 

Which means, you’ll need to be really discerning – it’s a huge responsibility you should take very seriously. 

In other words, love ain’t enough. You’ll need to consider the man’s potential to be a good dad as well. 

Of course, no one’s perfect, but he should at least be willing and capable of stepping up to the challenges of fatherhood. 

Today, that’s what we’ll be exploring. Based on research in psychology and parenting, here are 7 subtle signs a man probably won’t be up to the challenge: 

1) Difficulty with commitment

Let’s start with something really basic – commitment. 

Commitment doesn’t just relate to romantic relationships. It’s about everything else in general: 

Does he stick with difficult tasks? Does he see projects through to completion? Can you rely on him to be there when you need him? 

These are crucial questions you must ask yourself. Parenting is one of the hardest tasks in the world – if not THE hardest – and it requires both of you to be committed. 

There are two main reasons for this: 

First, kids need stability. They need their parents to have a steadfast presence so they will learn how to trust. 

And second, they need to see commitment in practice. Otherwise, how will they learn to persist in life, especially during the tough times? 

According to psychologists, it doesn’t even matter if you’re heterosexual or same-sex parents. What matters is that your child has a stable home. 

As Dr. Judith Stacey stated in her research cited above, “The family type that is best for children is one that has responsible, committed, stable parenting.

2) Lack of empathy

Does your man have an empathetic nature? Can he understand or share other people’s feelings? 

These are important questions as well, since empathy is a cornerstone of good parenting. 

Studies show that kids feel secure and emotionally open when they feel understood. Their home is where they will first learn how to listen, communicate, and deal with their emotions. 

Choose a man who can help you with that so your child can have a great start in life.

3) Poor anger management

Speaking of emotions, how a man handles his anger is another aspect worth checking out. 

Why? Because if he can’t find healthy ways to deal with anger, it can create a fearful environment for your child (and for you as well, for sure). 

Not only that, but they may even grow up thinking they were to blame for it. And of course, it goes without saying that anger issues can easily lead to abuse. 

Experts say that parents with anger issues can do some real damage by causing: 

  • antisocial behavior
  • aggression
  • low self-esteem
  • mental health issues
  • negative relationships

This brings me to the next point…

4) Inconsistent behavior and mood swings 

As I mentioned earlier, children need stability. They thrive on consistency, and that includes not just routines, but also their parents’ disposition. 

Imagine you were a child and your dad would be quite unpredictable – cheery one moment, then down in the dumps the next. It would be so confusing, right? 

That’s exactly how it was for me. My own father was a volatile man given to severe mood swings. 

On his good days, it was really good. But on his bad days, it was really bad. I never knew whether I would feel excited or scared to be with him. 

No child should have to go through that. You want a partner who can demonstrate emotional stability for your child and who won’t make them walk on eggshells around him.

5) Poor handling of stress

Similarly, you want a partner who knows how to manage stress. I mean, life comes with stress, and parenting amplifies that even more. 

There are more bills to pay, more tasks to do, and you’ve got to watch your own behavior all the time! 

Drawing from my own life again, my father also wasn’t great at handling stress. He had a number of coping mechanisms, none of which were healthy: 

  • Drinking
  • Playing video games endlessly
  • Snapping or yelling at us
  • Shutting down and holing up in the master bedroom

There are many other unhealthy coping mechanisms out there, so pay attention to what your man uses when stressed. 

Why does this matter so much? Because again, kids learn everything first from their parents. If they see their dad cracking under stress, how does that teach them resilience and emotional intelligence? 

Plus, according to Psychology Today, “Parents’ own anxiety and household stress have been linked to their children’s emotional problems, including behavior issues, aggression, anxiety, and depression.” 

Children need a role model who can cope with stress in healthy, constructive ways. Choose wisely for them. 

6) Self-centeredness

One of the most compelling memoirs I’ve read is “Educated” by Tara Westover. It was a grand showcase of self-centered parenting, since the author’s father often prioritized his own beliefs and needs over the well-being and aspirations of his children. 

My heart went out to her and her siblings because they didn’t deserve that. No one does. 

Self-centered parenting isn’t just ineffective, it’s actually inappropriate. It creates a role reversal of sorts, with the child catering to the parent instead of the other way around. 

That has a huge impact on children’s development. According to Dr. Christine Adams, kids raised by self-absorbed parents either give in to self-focused parents’ demands, or get into open conflict with them.

And this always bears repeating: the behavior that kids see is the behavior they’ll learn. 

If they see a father who always puts himself first above others, they may adopt these traits as normal or acceptable.

7) Lack of involvement in team or community activities 

This one’s really subtle, but it’s definitely worth checking out. 

How does your man deal with others? Does he engage in community or team activities? 

It’s a little tricky, as some men could simply be introverts who prefer working solo over working with others. But even so, I’m sure you’ll be able to tell in other ways if they have the potential to be team players. 

Why is this so important? Well, because parenting is a team effort

You’ll be making shared goals and collaborating with each other to reach those goals. You’ll be the united front your kids will see, day in and day out.

This is what I appreciate most in my husband. With two kids between us and both of us working full-time jobs, he is a partner who feels like a partner, not another child I have to take care of. 

So yeah, a man who doesn’t understand what cooperation and collaboration mean might not be a suitable candidate for fatherhood. He might even add on to your mental and emotional load instead of helping you carry it. 

Final thoughts

Sounds like a tough test to pass, right? Well, it should be. After all, parenting is a job we can’t afford to fail at. 

At the risk of sounding like a Father’s Day greeting card, I’d like to say this: Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad. 

I hope this list can help you find that someone special. You and your child deserve it. 

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