Do you wonder how to be a good father?
Perhaps you’ve questioned your parenting skills? Maybe you’ve made parenting mistakes (been there, done that)? You’ve thought about reading a book or taking a class, but you’re just not sure what makes a good father.
Our society focuses a lot on moms and motherhood, and less so on how to be a good father.
Rightfully so though, considering the child literally is born inside the mother and while the dad certainly plays a crucial role in creating a child we don’t feel it physically, mentally or emotionally before or during childbirth the same way a mother does.
Add to that things like divorce, step-parenting, artificial insemination, adoption, and other ways of bringing kids into this world outside the so-called traditional norms. Thus it’s no wonder it’s challenging to know how to be a good father!
And just to be clear, while I outlined some of those so-called non-traditional ways above, I in no way want that to be perceived as critical or as implying one is better than another.
After all, as I said in my very first blog post (HERE if you missed it!), my blog is a place for people of all walks of life to come together and find the things we all have in common and leave the divisions and labels at the proverbial door.
What is the ideal father?
The old-school model of a great dad that may have been what you experienced with your own father (or perhaps your father with his) was that to be a great dad meant working a 9-5, providing most, if not all of the financial support for the family, tucking the kids in at bedtime and playing ball with them on the weekends.
The 1950’s Nuclear Family pic.twitter.com/bkfGFtm2TE
— Yshmael ישמעאל (@Yshma3el) January 17, 2017
As much as that 50’s Dad scenario might sound appealing, that’s no longer the world most of us live in.
No; for many of us, it takes a 2 parent income to survive. It takes 2 parents working in collaboration with each other on after-school activities, homework, morning routines and especially keeping up with the household chores.
I wrote a recent piece about the changing face of the Nuclear Family, so take a moment and check that out.
So if we want to learn how to be a good dad, we have to do things differently than our dads.
It’s not just enough to put food on the table, kiss them goodnight and play with them an hour or 2 on the weekends. Plus in this day and age, many dads work nights and weekends anyway; that’s just the reality of the world we live in.
All of us have doubts about how to be a good father (or husband for that matter); we do and that’s totally normal. And unless you go out of your way to read up on fatherhood, becoming a dad doesn’t come with an instruction manual. But of course many of us dads don’t read manuals anyway, right?
The questions that came to my mind when I first became a Dad were:
- How to be a good father?
- How do we learn these skills?
- What do we do when we fall short of that goal?
- How do we pick up the pieces when we fail?
What’s your parenting style?
I’m not sure about you, but I love the TV show Parenthood! I was a latecomer to it. While I had heard mention of it for years, I never gave it much thought until my wife harassed me enough to check it out.
Then I was hooked, so if you haven’t watched it, give it a try. At any rate, there are several different types of dads portrayed on that show. They all different and all finding their own ways on how to be a good father.
All have different struggles and all with varying degrees of successes and failures.
Me? I’m Adam Braverman!
— Parenthood (@nbcparenthood) July 30, 2016
Adam Braverman is a bit nerdy & a bit old fashioned. He’s not the hippest guy in the world. But he has heart of gold. He’s a hard worker and he gives his very best every day. But if you’re wondering how to be a good father, he’s a great place to start.
How can I be a better husband and father?
In my own family, my wife and I have 3 daughters (you cans see 4 of us with Mater at the top of the page our latest daughter having been born recently).
Before our latest child, we both worked roughly 45 hours per week. But my wife also is getting her degree doing evening and online college courses. And I have a 50 mile daily commute (round trip).
We lead busy lives so its crucial that we stay in communication. We check egos at the door and ask for what we need in a clear, specific and loving way. And we work together in driving our household. I won’t lie; sometimes we fall short of that!
In short, you can’t be the best parent you can be if your relationship is suffering. While I have a number of posts on relationships, if your relationship isn’t all it could be, I highly recommend you take a moment and check out a post I have called 9 Vital Ways Empathetic Listening Skills Can Help Your Relationship.
Most of us weren’t taught how to empathize with others or how to be a good listener. Those skills are crucial in life, but they especially matter in a marriage or relationship.
How our childhood shapes our parenting
Some of us weren’t taught how to be a good father by our dads.
In my own life, my relationship with my Dad was complicated. My folks split up when I was 6 months old and by the time I was 2 my Mom had remarried and we moved from Dallas to Philadelphia. I grew up calling my step-father Dad, and my own Dad, who I only saw a handful of days a year until I was around 11, I called by his first name.
In all the most crucial ways, my birth father simply wasn’t there for me physically or emotionally. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I forced myself to start calling him Dad. My step-father had passed away decades earlier, and over time that became comfortable. Eventually we grew closer.
We never really developed what I think of as a traditional father/son relationship. But there was a lot of love and friendship. And I’ve missed him every day since he passed in 2014. I detailed my story with him in what has become my most popular blog post about Growing Up with a Gay Father.
My relationship with my step-father, the man I called Dad, was also complicated. I loved him and he loved me. But he had a problem with alcohol that led to a lot of drama & violence. Eventually (thankfully) my Mom left him as I approached my 11th birthday.
I’ve also written my story about Growing Up with an Alcoholic Father, so both those posts could be well worth reading if you have faced similar challenges in your life
The journey of fatherhood
As you can see from the previous passage, I didn’t learn how to be a good father by watching my Dad or Step-Dad.
So as my 2 oldest kids approach their teenage years, I’ve pretty well been forced to piece together how to be a good father. So just because you didn’t have a stellar childhood doesn’t mean you can’t be a great parent!
I’m very fond of saying and believing that life isn’t about the destination (unless you’re going to Costa Rica!); it’s about the journey.
After all, 99% of our lives are spent getting somewhere, not being at the destination. And no matter who you are, life ends pretty much the same for all of us. Therefore it’s crucial for our own happiness, sense of well being and connectedness with others that the journey be fantastic.
In other words, we need to live life and not just go through the motions!
Don’t focus on where you want to be at the expense of the moment. It’s true you do need goals, a road-map of where you want to be in 3, 5, 10 and 20 years. And it’s a great idea to know the baby steps needed to get there. But you HAVE to enjoy the ride getting to those goals or they will be meaningless!
— TasKudos (@TasKudos) September 4, 2016
Bear in mind that “how to be a good father” is a subjective thing. By that I mean it may be different for some people than it is for you or I. Its also a fluid thing. Its something that will change and evolve as your lives evolve and as your kids age.
There are, however, some basic principals that I believe work as the basis for creating your own definition of what being a great dad is. And also realize that just by taking the time to read a blog like this YOU ARE BEING A GOOD DAD!
You are taking the time to examine your own thoughts and behavior. You’re looking at how it applies to your kids. And you’re willing to make changes and recognize possibly destructive patterns of behavior. You are open to change and improvement!
THAT MAKES YOU A GOOD DAD
So what are my . . .
21 Powerful Steps You Can Take on How to be a Good Father?
1. Be present when you’re home
- Connect with them, talk to them and listen to them
- If you work from home, need time to yourself of have other projects needing to be done, just communicate your needs, set times for those that everyone is clear on and reconnect when you’re done
- Put the technology down and just talk with them
2. Say you’re sorry
- When we take ownership of our mistakes, we’re teaching our kids to take responsibility for theirs
- Whether with our kids, or maybe with a subordinate at work there is nothing quite so powerful as apologizing for our mistakes. We all make mistakes and they know that. But when we try and pretend we didn’t, or act like it never happened, that actually makes us look weaker in their eyes
3. Take an active interest in their interests
- Guess what? I’m not a huge Katie Perry fan. But you know how many times I’ve heard her music? It’s well into the hundreds
- When you take an interest in your kid’s interests, you’re taking an interest in them. You’re telling them you care about them as a person. Nothing feels better to a kid than that
4. Let kids develop their own interests
- When I was 10 guess what? I liked a lot of different stuff than what my Mom liked. And that’s OK
- It’s OK to influence our kid’s taste (that’s why I kept playing Star Wars movies until they clicked). But we have to accept that our kids are going to not like everything we like. They will like some stuff we don’t and that’s OK (as long as what they like is age appropriate)
5. Don’t have a different set of rules for your kids than you do for yourself
- No one likes a hypocrite, so why should our kids be any different?
- Mean what you say and say what you mean
- Example: In our house Sunday is “technology free day”, so my wife and I do our best to avoid technology for personal use as well
6. Model the behavior you expect from them
- Don’t want them swearing at school? Guess what you shouldn’t do in front of them?
- Want to teach your sons to be respectful to women? They will model how you treat their mother
- Lose your cool every time someone cuts you off in traffic? You’re teaching them to be impatient and hot headed
- How to be a good father has to include you leading by example
7. Explain to them the “why” behind the rule
- How many times have parents said “because I said so” or “because I’m your father”. Guess what? Those aren’t reasons (at least not good ones)
- It’s crucial that kids understand why they are being grounded. Why a privilege is being taken away or even why they can’t watch Saw III. As Dave Ramsey is fond of saying, “to be clear is to be kind”. When they understand, they will be more apt to accept it. They’ll be less apt to do it again (if they were doing something wrong). And (perhaps most importantly) they will respect you more for taking the time to explain yourself and not just pull rank
8. If you lose your temper, step away for a few minutes before talking to them
- When we talk to our kids in the heat of the moment we aren’t always in the best frame of mind to deal with them
- There’s NOTHING wrong with waiting to have a conversation until you are in the frame of mind to communicate effectively
- Talking to them when we are angry at best makes them yell back. Then it escalates the whole thing. Neither is actually listening to the other and instead just waiting their turn to talk (or yell). At worst, it teaches our kids to be scared of us and being scared of our parents is one of the worst feelings we can have
9. Set clear boundaries
- We are their parents, not their friends. That doesn’t mean we don’t love them unconditionally. And it doesn’t mean we don’t take an interest in their interests. But at the end of the day our most important job is to keep them safe and educate them so they can go on to be productive people in society
- Kids WANT structure. They want guidelines and they crave the safety and security of knowing the boundaries. Sure as they enter their teen years (or heck, sometimes their 3’s) they may test those boundaries but don’t ever doubt the need to set clear rules and boundaries
10. Set clear expectations
- As with #9, it’s important that kids clearly know what’s expected from them. No one likes living with vague
- When we are clear (as in, “when you come home from school today I want you to clean your room before you go play and I want to see it when you’re done”) our kids know EXACTLY what they need to do. Nothing feels better than knowing exactly what I need to do
- But within reason, give our kids the end goal and maybe a time frame but allow them the freedom to map out how they get there. You won’t be there to micromanage their whole life, so letting them explore now sets them up for success later
11. Loving your kids doesn’t mean you have to love everything they do
- I love my daughters, but if they spit, are mean to each other or otherwise do something I don’t like, I correct the behavior. I do it because I love them
12. Set consequences for poor choices
- As with #’s 9 & 10, kids have to learn that there are consequences for poor choices
- When we fail to set consequences we are setting them up for failure in life. After all, what country out there allows people to do whatever they want, whenever they want no matter who else it effects
- It’s not about beating them (figuratively) into submission, or suppressing their creativity; this is about teaching them physics. For EVERY action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That’s just the way the world works and failing to set consequences is not only setting them up for failure and disappointment, it’s just downright cruel
- To be clear, I’m not suggesting you spank kids, threaten kids, scare kids, etc. Consequences don’t need to be scary; they just need to be clear and they need to be the temporary loss of a privilege the child places value on
- How to be a good father sometimes means laying down the law
13. Don’t make others suffer for the sake of a “teachable moment”
- We have all seen those parents. The ones who’s kids go crazy, make a scene, yell and scream in an indoor public place. They otherwise disrupt everyone else’s day while the parent pretends not to notice and does nothing
- Guess what? In those situations, your kid needs to be removed from the situation. This is so they aren’t a danger to themselves or others and so they aren’t a disruption to others. Once you’ve taken them somewhere relatively private that’s where you let them calm down, explain why the behavior was not appropriate. Let them know what they need to do before they can resume normal activities.
- Our decisions with our kids should not be a burden on others. And it’s not cute to let your 3 year old run around the place yelling at top volume
- Most importantly, this teaches our kids to be respectful to others and to understand that our rights end where the next person’s begins
14. Follow through on your promises (and if you fall short every now and then, see #2)
- Kids count on us for all kinds of things from homework to coming to ballet recitals (is there anything more torturous than suffering through watching all the other kids while waiting for that 3 minute glimpse of yours?)
- When we promise our kid we will be there for something, we need to make that the top priority for the day. Missing that school play or soccer game because something came up at work or your buddies decided to go out for a beer can ruin your kid’s experience. It teaches them that they aren’t important to us. Nothing feels worse than that
15. Tell your kids you love them every day
- It may seem simple or obvious or redundant, but I say this to my kids at least twice every day and have since they were born
- I don’t ever want them to doubt my love and I hope that if they are ever in trouble or maybe make some poor decisions in high school (been there, done that) that they will remember that and not be afraid to ask for help
16. Remember that how you treat your spouse is a model for how they will treat their spouse
- Again, it seems obvious but it’s worth repeating
- You and your spouse WILL argue (it happens to the best of us), but don’t do it in front of the kids, don’t EVER let it get physical and focus on describing the behavior you object to and how it makes you feel. Avoid name calling and profanity at all costs
17. Don’t use profanity in front of the kids until they are in high school
- Many of us in today’s world occasionally use profanity. Some more than others, but in most segments of society it’s still seen as crude or rude and at best it’s unnecessary. I get this makes me old fashioned, but I’m OK with that label and I still believe this approach is best for the kid. That doesn’t mean I think you’re a terrible parent if you’ve dropped the occasional F-bomb around them, but being a good parents does mean putting our needs second (at least some of the time) and that includes our wanting to talk like a Tarrantino script when we’re around them
- Our kids will eventually hear and possibly use a lot of curse words, but they don’t need to start young and they don’t need to learn that behavior from us
- If we teach our kids at a young age to use profanity, we’re limiting their options for the future and setting them up to get in trouble in school and to be judged at work and in life
18. Let them be a kid
- This ties in with the above, but between movies, video games and technology in general, kids are inundated with all kinds of “adult” topics and amounts of violence that simply didn’t exist when I was a kid. The world is conspiring to rob our kids of their innocence at a young age. We need to put in effort to slow that down, not speed it up
- Our kids will eventually grow up and trust me; it happens faster than most of us would like. We don’t need to speed up that process by letting a 9 year old watch Pulp Fiction just because we think it’s awesome (which it is!)
19. Understand the balance of smothering/helicoptering over them and keeping them safe
- We have to let kids go and sometimes that means letting them fall. As Alfred famously says to Bruce Wayne in the awesome Batman Begins, “Why do we fall sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
- If you never let them fall, they never learn how to get back up and once you’re no longer there to help them, that leaves them in a dangerous place
- Having said the above, we also need to have clear and age appropriate boundaries to keep them safe and healthy (physically, mentally and otherwise)
- Learning to balance between these things, knowing that we sometimes will swing too far one direction or the other, is crucial in learning how to be a good father
20. Limit their time on technology
- Steve Jobs may not have been a perfect father, but despite the fact that he is responsible, more than any other 1 person in recent decades, for creating a lot of technology that drives our society, he strictly limited his kid’s time on technology. See more on that story in a great piece by the New York Times
- Technology limits our ability to connect with others on a human level, it stunts our emotional growth, it creates sedentary habits and reduces the amount of time we spend being outside, being physical and connecting with others. It has a place in our world, to be sure, but it should not be something that goes unchecked
- Have clear limits, clear times where it’s OK or not OK and stick to those, and have those limits for ourselves too!
21. Play with them!
- You’re not a great dad simply because you contributed genetically and you’re not a dad simply by providing food and shelter
- You’re also not a dad simply because you tell them what to do. Interact with them, play with them & get to know them. They in turn, will be there for you the rest of your life
Want a FREE copy of my kid’s CHORE CHART which you can customize yourself?
The chart outlines certain tasks and allows them to check off when they do certain tasks by day. It teaches them to be accountable for their own success. They are also in charge of how much they earn. If they want more money; they can just do more chores!
How to be a good father has to include teaching your kids a sense of responsibility!
The chart is fully customizable and you can add your child’s picture as well. Download for free anytime!
What are your tips on how to be a good father? Have you tried some of these and not found success? Have you tried other things that worked? Do you disagree with something I said?
Feel free to comment here or email me with any questions!
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