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If you asked Grace (2 1/2) right now "What can't daddy do?" she would probably not understand the question. Daddy can move anything, fix anything, run as fast as lightning; simply put, there's nothing Daddy can't do.

Except honestly, I'm a programmer for a living, and I don't work out. Like most (not all!) of my fellow IT guys, I'm not all that strong. And when it comes to fixing stuff, I'm really not all that great at that. C'mon, I had to go to Home Improvement Stack Exchange just to fix a dryer duct! And sure I used to be fast in high school, but I have a hip injury now that prevents me from running much at all.

But she doesn't know these things. To her, I'm a freaking superman.

So the other day, we were driving along when she said she wanted to go to the toy store. (It's actually a salvage center at a local landfill. Protip: they love $5 toys just as much or more as they love $100 toys!!) Except that it was the Sunday before a national holiday. In Canada (the only country in the world that values time off more than additional pay). So as you can imagine, it wasn't open. And that's when she had the perfect solution.

"Maybe Daddy open it!"

- Gracie

And try as we might, my wife nor I could get it through her head that no, Daddy can't open the toy store. (Daddy is a very big fan of not going to jail.) And I know it's very common, and of course it feels kind of cool to be thought highly of, especially in areas I'm historically horrible in. And I don't want to just crush her spirit, or make her think I'm bad at everything.

But I want her to know who I really am, to know the things I'm good at and not good at. I want her to know that it's okay to be not good at some things and that no one expects perfection. I want her to have a realistic sense of who I am. How can I do this in a way that isn't damaging to her?

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That's so cute that child thinks you are a superman. Tell her you are a Fatherman, and your superpower works only at home. P.S Now i sing the song I'm no Superman (Lazlo Bane) –  Rose Gordon Jul 3 '13 at 20:26
    
Well, I'm a programmer too. My kids say I'm fat, weak, and my eyes are feces color. I'm not even fat and could be weaker with hazel eyes. They kind of picked up their description based on minor comments said here and there. But I can change how they say things by redirecting the comments. I'm getting thinner because I'm trading my fat for brain smarts. Or my eyes are the color of the mountains instead of feces. Maybe you should trade your strength for some extra brain power and let her know it. –  Kai Qing Jul 24 at 0:17

7 Answers 7

I doubt a child at this age is even capable of understanding that parents are fallible. It took me until my teens to realise my parents couldn't do everything. However, that's probably in part because they look up to you because they need to learn from you.

But rather than trying to teach them at this age that you can't do everything, you can also use their idea that you can do anything in order to teach them some important lessons.

So in this case, instead of saying "Daddy doesn't want to go to jail" or "Daddy doesn't know how to open the store", you could also teach her about acceptable behaviour and say:

"Daddy doesn't want to open the toy store, because the people who run it closed it for a reason and it would be mean of him to go against their wishes."

Let the kid think you could do it, but don't want to because it would be wrong. Not doing things you could have done but that would have been wrong to do, is the very basis of a strong moral character and being superdaddy means you have lots of chances to teach that kind of behaviour.

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While I agree that showing that you won't always do things you could have done based on right or wrong is a critical building block towards a strong moral character, I'm not sure you need to be dishonest about circumstances to make that point. Telling the kids you could do it is lying to them, and when a couple of years from now your kid still thinks that you COULD open any store and you have to correct them - then you're chipping away at the trust they will have in you. Oh, so daddy doesn't always tell me the truth about the way the world works. Not the message I would want to send... –  Michael Broughton Jul 23 at 15:55
    
I didn't say you should tell them you could, just let them think that you could. –  Erik Jul 23 at 16:35

It's fine that she sees you as a hero. Be her hero and teach her well. Convince her that you are not superman by showing how poorly your flying abilities are. That is, let her see that you are merely human. Talk to her about what you can and cannot do. This way you won't suddenly disappoint her when she realises at the wrong time that you aren't superman.

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If you decide to show her your (lack of) flying abilities, lift off from the ground! –  SQB Feb 26 '14 at 14:34

Just be yourself. Right now you can do everything at a level that she can`t, you set her rules and boundaries, so of course you're a superhero. As her abilities grow, and her cognition grows, and her sphere of what she compares you to grows - she'll eventually figure out what things you suck at, maybe sometimes even better than you do. Things her friend's parents can do better. Things her mom does better. Which of your personality traits are maybe not as endearing as they could be. And eventually you'll miss being superman. Don't make it happen any faster than it needs to.

And in the meantime, the conversation about the store is one about personal property. Mom and Dad get to decide what happens in our house. The store doesn't belong to us, and it's unfortunate that the nice people who DO own it aren't there to let us in today. Why? Well, do you like that Daddy gets to stay home today to have more time with you? Yes? Well the people who are normally in that store are home with their families today too.

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Kids have to learn that there are limits and there's no way to avoid it, you just have to explain why things can't happen (often over and over).

You don't have to be good at doing everything, you just have to be good at being a dad. If you do one thing well in your life make it that and she won't give a hoot if you don't even know how to fill up your car.

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Don't worry. In fact, just enjoy it. She'll slowly learn how the World works and some time, probably in her teens, she'll make a break with the idea that you're superman and probably swing the other way for a bit. Be patient and loving. Let her work though it. And, deep down, even after she's grown up, the little girl in her will still believe you're special... but in a way that she'll be able to reconcile with the reality of the World.

Also, totally tell her you can fly. But only at night when she's asleep.

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Love this! Encourage a bit of magical thinking! –  MJ6 Jul 6 '13 at 20:47

It's a good opportunity to drill into her that "all people have their own strengths and weaknesses". If/when you hire people to do services, or take the car to the shop, or go to the vet's or doctor's take the opportunity to explain what those people do, and that they're better than you at those particular things. "And you will have strengths too, but we'll have to find them as you grow up."

I ran into similar trouble with fixing broken toys. I'm handy with wood glue and superglue, but not so much with soldering irons. So for a long time I could fix whatever got broken (more or less), to the extent that the kids got pretty careless with their things. "Meh, daddy'll fix it." But inevitably we got to some toys with broken wires and non-glueable breakages. It was a good opportunity to re-emphasize the importance of being careful with things and not letting them get broken SO MUCH. But it was hard to see them realize that no, Daddy really can't fix everything.

But maybe it won't be long before they fix something themselves, or they beat you at a board game, or they do something else you can't. Seeing the realization in them and the boost to their self-esteem that they can be better than you at that one thing is really worth it.

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It is a good thing that your daughter thinks so highly of you -- use it as an opportunity to be a role model and exemplify the value of asking others for help. "I know how to do this because I asked _____ how to do it", "I did not do this completely on my own -- _____ did some of the work", etc. And then "You too can do just about anything if you ask the right people for help."

That is a positive way to demystify your "power".

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Hi, Jordan, and welcome to the site. A really good answer; teaches that there's no shame in asking (or not knowing), too! –  anongoodnurse Jul 25 at 2:42

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