Nobody tells you how to be a good dad when your child is born. And even the most experience of fathers can always be better. The truth is that there isn’t a manual for fatherhood and there isn’t one correct way to do it. You just have to embrace all of it. And it’s continuous.
I’m constantly trying my best to improve in all aspects of fathering, starting with getting involved during the pregnancy in whatever capacity I could. A few years later, I have a happy toddler who wants to hug me every morning when he gets up. It just shows that dads can find immense value when they participate in being a dad.
I compare the role similar to that of a coach or manager of a sports team. A lot of the work is done early on in preparing their players for potential scenarios. They find a way to effectively teach and guide their players so they can perform on their own. So it’s really about making a good connection.
The difference is that a dad can’t be fired like a coach can be if the relationship doesn’t work. He will be the father for the rest of his life. But luckily it’s never too early or too late to up your dad game.
Here is a simple playbook with a few suggestions on how to be a good dad.
Know the Importance of Being a Father
As the above infographic from the University of Texas’ Child & Family Research Partnership shows, children who have involved fathers are more likely to succeed at school and stay out of trouble. A dad brings a different set of parenting skills to that of the mom. They provide them security, support, solutions, and encouragement to take risks. This balance in parenting is crucial for the child’s development and strengthening of the family as well.
Having a stable and positive home makes the child feel safe and they are able to excel more freely. Modern dads seem to be taking on some of the mom roles now and vice versa. But even if you don’t think that you’re doing anything out of the ordinary, your role as the father is irreplaceable.
There are few events that can change a man’s life like becoming a dad. You should take advantage of this special new role and embrace it. Stop complaining, be proactive, ask questions, and find solutions. This probably means giving up a few things in your life. Of course, you can still hang out with the guys, but you should always put your child’s interest first.
Get involved early and share some of the responsibilities with mom. The more the baby sees your face, the quicker they will connect with you. I tried to help out with the diaper changing sometimes and put him to sleep every night. At the very least it gave mom a break.
If that’s not for you, an easy task for dads to take on regularly is bedtime stories. Reading aloud to them helps develop their language skills, creativity, and there’s a better chance they’ll choose a book over video games when they’re older. It also gives you a chance to bond with your child.
Some dads may think that doing something big like buying an expensive gift or taking your family on a fancy vacation is the way to do it. But all kids really want from you is your time and attention. Make an effort to attend their school musical or their soccer match. Showing up is half the battle. If you can’t physically be there, then a simple phone call will do wonders. It shows them that you care and tells them how important they are to you.
And when you spend time with your kids, make it count. You can set up a weekly dad date or go on a dad trip. Whatever the case is, put down your own distractions and focus on them. This is especially important if your situation doesn’t allow for a lot of children time.
When possible, try to eat dinner together as a family. This gives fathers a chance to listen and talk to their children on a daily basis, if there is no other time. And if you’re really adventurous, maybe you can offer to cook one night of the week with your child’s help. It’ll be fun for your family and the child might actually eat that night.
Play and Laugh With Them
Playing with your kids can help spark their imagination. Whether you’re completing a puzzle together, playing a sport outside, or having teatime with their dolls, your relationship will grow. And just admit it, you’ll enjoy it too. You can even take them into the garage and let them help you fix something. It may take longer to do but accomplishing something together will make you smile.
When you’re interactive with your child, try to let loose. Tells jokes to one another and laugh out loud. Dance with them, even if you can’t. It will show them that you can have fun and that you enjoy your time with them.
Be a Good Role Model
Whether you like it or not, your kids will try to copy what you do and what you say. So clean up your language and attitude. Lead by example. If you want them to play more outside then you should spend more time outside yourself. Show them how to treat others, teach what’s right or wrong, and encourage them to do their best.
It’s important for them to know who their father is also. Tell them about your family background and stories from your childhood. Maybe flip through some old photo albums with them. They’re probably curious about where you spend most of your day, so take your kid to work one day and show them your workspace. Try to inspire your kids and be the hero that they want you to be.
It’s important for dads to be firm but gentle. It’s not in our nature, but try to hug them, hold their hands, or just put a arm around their shoulders as often as possible. The physical contact teaches them love and provides a connection and sense of safety. When they are babies, this is the most effective way to communicate with them since they can’t talk. Show them love when they least expect it.
It’s important to put yourself in their shoes and look at things from their perspective sometimes. Remember, they are just kids learning about the world at a face pace. If they are telling you about a problem, listen to them and look at it from their point of view. This will help you understand their actions better and hopefully calm you down as well. If you can see where they’re coming from, you will be more accepted in their lives.
Be Supportive and Patient
Fathers need to accept that their kids are not exactly like them. Be open-minded and let them be themselves instead of what you want them to be. I was lucky to have very supportive parents who didn’t push me into anything and let me try almost every activity I ever wanted.
Be positive with them even in discipline. It should not be punishment but lessons learned rather. Kids are allowed to make mistakes and they will. As do parents. So patience is very important. It is easy to lose your temper, but take a deep breath, walk away for a second and restart. They will listen better and benefit in the long term if you’re loyal to them.
Kids love to make their own decisions and be independent. So show them respect and let them make choices sometimes. Treat them like humans. Thank them if they help you. Apologize to them if you broke a promise. This helps them see their self worth and they will in turn respect you back.
Good Relationship With Mom
Be good to the mom. When a child arrives and changes the balance of your family, it can be challenging. But work on it and keep loving her. Make some alone time for yourselves, like a date night every week. Loving parents result in a loving family. Even if you’re separated, it is critical to maintain a good relationship with mom. Set aside any differences you might have and work together to raise your child. Show your child that you support her and try not to contradict her. How you treat mom will affect their self esteem and influence how the treat people and women in the future.
Enjoy The Moment
The most important suggestion is to enjoy the present of being a father. Stop worrying about what your child will be in the future and focus on what they are now. At the beginning, parents are everything to a kid and before you know it, they will be grown up, too busy for you and leaving home. So cherish these moments with your children while they’re happening.
Figure Out Your Own System
You don’t have to know or do everything as a father and there are lots of parenting information out there. My advice would be to research and listen to different advice from all source and pick out parts that work for you.
Being a dad is more or less trial and error. That’s probably why so many just wing it. But hopefully these suggestions above can help you in some way become a better dad. Now go outside and play with your child.