When I first became a Dad, I was clueless. So I decided to look into what the characteristics, traits, and qualities of a good father were.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
The qualities of a good father include spending time actively involved with your kids, modeling the behavior you expect in them, taking ownership when you make mistakes, limiting their time on technology, treating their mother with dignity.
Being a dad is not an easy job. In fact, learning the qualities of a good father is a very challenging task.
Luckily, you aren’t the first dad on the block. There are a lot of great fathers out there and we can learn the description of a good father from all of them.
The trick isn’t to be perfect. But the trick is to learn from others as well as from our mistakes.
In this post, we’re diving deep into fatherhood, and specifically what the qualities of a good father are. More importantly, we’re looking at some simple ways you can implement these in your life today to be a better parent tomorrow.
Written with the assistance of writer, public speaker and parent, Fabian Pasion
What defines a good father?
The old-school model of a great dad was that to be a great dad meant working a 9-5. The dad provided most, if not all of the financial support for the family.
The qualities of a good father in the 1950s were often limited to tucking the kids in at bedtime and playing ball with them on the weekends.
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.
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. The qualities of a good father in this day and age go much further than in past decades.
Plus in the world we live in today, many dads work nights and weekends anyway.
I wrote a recent piece about the changing face of the Nuclear Family (click to read on my site), so take a moment and check that out.
How the qualities of a good father have changed
I still remember becoming a father for the 1st time.
— BabyCentre UK (@babycentreuk) April 19, 2017
It was an overwhelming feeling. It was a mixture of emotions: nervousness and excitement and I thought about all my new responsibilities.
I asked myself what are the qualities of a good father?
Would I make a great father? I want to be the best father for my kids. But at the same time, I worry about measuring up.
Would I be able to do it? What if I fail?
I discovered that the qualities of a good father aren’t complicated.
You simply have to prioritize your family’s needs ahead of your own, to try your best and the really be there for them.
I gathered all the tips and advice on the qualities of a good father and picked out the very best ones.
What makes an effective father?
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:
- What is the description of 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?
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 about Empathetic Listening Skills (click to read my article).
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 important for the qualities of a good father.
Why dads are important to daughters
Make no mistake, kids need two active, involved, and loving parents.
But life happens, and sometimes people get divorced. We also have gay and lesbian couples with kids, so while I do want to talk about why I think fathers are super important in raising daughters, I don’t want that to come across as derogatory towards other family models.
Ultimately if you and your spouse or ex put the needs of the kids first, take ownership of your behavior and strive to do the right thing, that makes you a great parent.
That being said, there’s just something special about the relationship between a father and daughter.
After all, I (to my daughters) am the first man they knew and loved and all their future relationships and friendships with men will be, in part, based on how they see and interact with me.
A recent study by the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect noted the following benefits of having a father consistently in a child’s life:
- Better cognitive, language, and social development
- Improved academic achievement
- Stronger sense of self-esteem
- Lower incidents of depression
But those are just the beginning of the Benefits of Father Involvement (click to read more on my site).
The terrible impact being a bad dad has on a daughter
Ultimately if I am a terrible dad who isn’t involved, is lazy, treats their mother poorly, or is overly critical or abusive, I am literally setting them up for a series of failed relationships with horrible men.
It can also destroy their feelings of self-worth and self-esteem.
They will also, according to a study published by OrgScience, stand a much higher chance of developing a dependency on drugs or alcohol.
That study goes on to say that women with the “worst relationships with their fathers” “are at higher risk for a wide range of behavioral and physical health problems, including sleep disturbances, obesity, high blood pressure, asthma, alcoholism, smoking, heart disease, chronic pain disorders, somatic symptoms, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and autoimmune diseases”.
On the other hand, if I am present, involved, loving while setting clear boundaries and expectations, taking ownership of my mistakes and doing my best to treat them and others with love and kindness, I set them up for success.
With sons, but especially daughters, fathers are critically important and the ultimate role model.
As parents, one of the things we rely on the most is recommendations from other trusted sources. That’s the reason I created a page on my website for Top Parenting Resources (click to see my page).
I have compiled what I believe to be the absolute best parenting resources out there on a wide variety of needs. So no matter what your parenting challenge, I bet you’ll find a solution there.
So let’s review the . . .
23 Qualities of a Good Father You Probably Didn’t Know
1. Be present and involved
Just because we may be the ones providing for our family doesn’t mean that we should leave this duty exclusively to the moms. I get involved by communicating with my children.
I talk to my kids and know who their friends are, what troubles them, what are they afraid of, what they like to do, so on and so forth.
- Connect with them, talk to them and listen to them
- Have clear work/life boundaries – If you work from home, need time to yourself or 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. Spend quality time with your family
You may be busy at work, but it’s important that you make time for your family.
When they’re older your wife and kids won’t remember you worked hard to provide for them; they’ll remember you weren’t there.
In the description of a good father, prioritizing your family and work/life balance are crucial.
Make them a priority. Create memories with your wife and children. Book a cruise, a beach holiday or simply watch a movie together at the theatre.
On a budget? Board games, sports, hiking or other simple family activities work great. Your kids just want to be with you.
What you do almost doesn’t matter.
4. 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.
I also took my oldest daughter to see Panic! at the Disco in concert with one of her BFFs. Not exactly my scene (but I actually was impressed).
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!
5. 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)
6. 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.
7. 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.
The qualities of a good father have to include you leading by example.
8. 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.
9. Give yourself a timeout when needed
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.
Being a “do as I say, not as I do” parent has no place in your description of a good father.
Want to know the 2 Best Selling Parenting Books available on Amazon Prime?
There is How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character (CLICK HERE to check current prices on Amazon) by Paul Tough.
This book has almost 5 stars and 900 reviews.
This book covers “Drawing on groundbreaking research in neuroscience, economics, and psychology, Tough shows that the qualities that matter most have less to do with IQ and more to do with character: skills like grit, curiosity, conscientiousness, and optimism.”
Then there is also The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind (CLICK HERE to check current prices on Amazon) by Daniel J. Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson.
“In this pioneering, practical book, Daniel J. Siegel, neuropsychiatrist and author of the best-selling Mindsight, and parenting expert Tina Payne Bryson demystify the meltdowns and aggravation, explaining the new science of how a child’s brain is wired and how it matures.”
This book also features upwards of 5 stars and over 800 reviews so you know both of these are excellent books.
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10. 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.
11. Set clear expectations
As with #10, it’s important that kids clearly know what’s expected of 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.
12. Protect your kids
Dads are traditionally known for their role as a protector of the family.
There are many ways to protect your kids beyond the physical;
- Having life insurance (click to read my best tips) for yourself
- Saving for kid’s college (click to read my guide)
- Making sure you have an emergency fund (click to read my article) in place for unexpected large expenses
13. 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.
The description of a good father has to include the strength to say no, correct inappropriate behavior and ensure their safety and well-being.
As you navigate what it means to be a parent, you may wonder at some point if there’s one “right way” to parent.
In truth, there are a lot of ways to parent, some better than others. But the Parenting Styles Preferred by Child Psychologists (click to read my article which reveals that), might surprise you!
14. Set consequences for poor choices
As with the above passages, 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, but it’s also 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.
The qualities of a good father must include sometimes laying down the law.
15. Don’t make others suffer for the sake of a “teachable moment”
We have all seen those parents.
The ones whose 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.
In those situations:
- Remove your child from the situation (so they aren’t a danger to themselves or a disruption to others)
- Take them somewhere private
- Let them calm down
- Give clear instructions on what is needed before they can resume normal activities
Our decisions with our kids should not be a burden to 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.
16. 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 do ballet 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.
So one of the most important qualities of a good father is to do what you say you will do; honor your commitments.
Ultimately being a good dad or parent just means understanding your Role of Parents in a Child’s Life (click to read my article). That role will change over time, and you won’t always get it right. But it’s crucial that we keep moving forward.
If you aren’t sure what your role is, make sure to check out my linked post above which walks you through the stuff that really matters.
17. Tell & show your kids you love them every day
Sometimes, dads are not as affectionate with their children (as Moms).
Maybe it’s a dad’s nature to show kids that they are the authority? However, dads should never fail to show their love to their kids. Hug them, they need it.
That way when life gets tough they’ll never doubt your love for them.
- I say “I love you” to my kids at least twice every day (and have since they were born) It may seem simple or obvious or redundant, but it matters.
- 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.
18. Treat your spouse (or ex) with dignity
Again, it seems obvious but it’s worth repeating.
You and your spouse (or ex) WILL argue (it happens to the best of us), but don’t do it in front of the kids.
More importantly, don’t EVER let it get physical.
Focus on describing the behavior you object to and how it makes you feel. After all, it’s the behavior you disagree with and not the person as a whole.
Avoid name-calling and profanity at all costs.
Doing these negative things could damage your kid’s self-esteem and how they view you. It would also have an effect on their relationships with the women in their lives.
So one of the qualities of a good father and spouse is to treat them the way you want to be treated.
Treat them with kindness and empathy. Be open with them and be vulnerable. Take ownership of your marital mistakes and be forgiving with theirs.
Understand that the two of you are on the same team with the same goals and while you may occasionally differ on methods, never forget you both want the same things.
19. 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 one of the qualities of a good father is putting our needs second (at least some of the time) and that includes our wanting to talk like a Tarantino 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 set them up to get in trouble in school and to be judged at work and in life.
20. 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 the 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!).
21. Teach them about finances
Your kids will appreciate you later in life if you teach them the value of money.
At an early age, you should not spoil your children by giving them anything they want. The world isn’t kind to people who feel entitled and curbing this at an early age is key.
Teach them how to save in order to buy something they want.
This is one thing that I taught my children. Now they know to work hard when they want something. They learn to appreciate the value of hard work and they will spend less frivolously when they’re older.
22. 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, the description of a good father has 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.
Learn about all the different parenting styles (click to read my article on the worst ones), the pros, and cons including the worst ones, in one of the top parenting posts on the Middle Class Dad site.
23. 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 also Affects the Brain Negatively (click to read my article on how) in ways that can really impact grades, attitudes, and relationships.
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!
How our childhood shapes our parenting
Some of us weren’t taught the qualities of a good father by our dads.
In my (Jeff) 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 (click to read my story).
My relationship with my step-father, the man I called Dad, was also complicated.
I loved him and he loved me. He also exhibited some of the qualities of a good father. 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 (click to read my story), so both those posts could be well worth reading if you have faced similar challenges in your life.
Did we cover everything you wanted to know about the qualities of a good father?
In this post, we took an in-depth look at the description of a good father and how to be the best dad possible.
Bear in mind the qualities of a good father are a subjective thing.
There are, however, some basic principals for what 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!
What is your biggest parenting struggle?