Being a Great Dad is Easier Than You Think: 4 Simple Tips
From the outside looking in, modern fatherhood can look like a nearly impossible undertaking. Raising sons and daughters to be respectful people and good citizens by passing wisdom and experience on to them is certainly hard work. If it really were impossible, however, far fewer men would be doing it. The fact of the matter is that children naturally imprint and look up to their parents when they’re young. You get back much of what you put out, and the fact that you even care enough to question whether you’re able to do a good job shows that you’re ready to take the right steps. In theory, these simple steps are the cornerstone to fatherhood. That doesn’t mean that they’re easy, but probably easier than you think. Keep these in mind and remember that no-one is a perfect Dad. It’s okay to make mistakes along the way.
Let’s start with a sports analogy. Half of the effort is showing up. If you’re part of a two-parent household, be willing to do your share and step up when your partner needs you. This is especially important if you’re dealing with a newborn child and a nursing Mom recovering from childbirth. She’s put in almost a whole year of incredibly difficult work before day one. Now it’s your turn to step up. Realistically, the tasks are simple early on; feeding, changing, and rocking. At this point, many new dads feel like crabs in a bucket, but it does get easier.
The concept of showing up evolves over the life of a child. It’s even more important if you end up (for whatever reason) co-parenting while separating from a partner or being a single Dad on your own. Keep track of school events, sports practices, dance recitals, and band concerts. Maintain a detailed counter and be there when you can. If you can’t, make sure your child knows in advance. Most importantly: do what you say you are going to do.
Look for Teachable Moments
A paramount responsibility for a father is to pass wisdom down to their children to help shape their values. This isn’t achieved through a lifelong series of lectures. Rather, it’s done in real life when actual situations present the opportunity to provide a teachable moment. Let’s say, for example, you’re walking with your young daughter through a shopping mall, and you see a $20 bill on the ground. If you set the example of turning it in to the mall’s lost and found, you will have provided a teachable moment about honesty and integrity.
Some fathers struggle to relate to their children’s interests if they differ from their own. Some concrete examples of this are fathers of daughters who enjoy more traditional female activities like dance and playing with dolls. Or, a father who is more interested in science or the arts may have a hard time relating to a young son who is enthusiastic about sports. Don’t panic and assume you need to become an expert at anything your kid is into (especially because children’s interests tend to be fickle). Try this: instead of hitting the library or internet to research everything you can to relate to your kids’ hobbies, ask them to tell you about them. They’ll jump at the chance to explain it and be thrilled that you want to know more.
That leads to the final, and most important guideline we’ll discuss here: listening. Most little kids love to talk, and this should be encouraged. It’s crucial for them to feel like they can tell their parents whatever may be on their minds, especially as they grow into adolescents and face the really complicated stuff. A good Dad will actively listen and ask questions or give advice when appropriate. He will also give a shoulder to cry on whenever needed.
Being a Dad isn’t always easy but being a good Dad in the eyes of your kids is simpler than it seems. Keep these tips in mind and do your best. You’ll be surprised how far that will go.