Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Kids need a good dad. In fact, research backs it up. Studies show that children with a good dad are more emotionally secure and make better personal relationships.
If you’re reading this then you already want to be a good dad. You probably want to be the best dad. That’s great. But it’s not always easy. Each child is different. So whether you’re wondering how to be a good dad to your son or trying to learn how to be a good dad to your daughter there are certain things you can do that transcend age, gender, and personality. Here are some first-time dad tips to be the dad your kids need you to be.
This is the easy part. You’ve got to be there. Even when you have important things to do. You’ve got to show up. Your kids need you. In inopportune times. In the middle of the night. When you’re trying to do something else. You’ve got to be there for them. You’re the dad. If your child wants you it’s because they want dad. Not mom. Not anyone else, you. So take a moment and show up.
Kids need boundaries. Everyone knows this. Or at least they should. They need to know what is acceptable and what isn’t. It can be anything from talking back to barging into your room without knocking. Set boundaries that are important to you. Let them know what those are and then enforce them. If your kid is a brat, that’s on you.
It’s easier to set boundaries early than late.
Hold Them Accountable
Holding you’re kids accountable goes hand in hand with setting boundaries. Kids need to know that you have high expectations for them and when they don’t meet those expectations there will be consequences.
Prepare The Child For The Path
As the saying goes, “prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child”. Your child is going to have to live the life they want to live. They are going to have to deal with the struggles life brings. They are going to have to be tough and strong-minded. Dad’s job is to prepare them the best he can. Learn from failure. If you get knocked down, stand up again. All those motivational cliches are life lessons. Ingraining in your child the mental fortitude to succeed and overcome and persist is vital to their entire life. Don’t shirk this.
Appreciate The Simple Things
The simple things are easy. They’re all around us. Silence. The smell of rain. A sunset. A good book. Otis Redding. What you’re really doing is showing them how to slow down. Take a deep breath and open their eyes and take it all in. It’s important for them to learn how to do this and its a good reminder for you.
Close-minded people are the worst. Don’t let your kid grow up to be close-minded. It’s a great big world out there and you’re child’s life might look drastically different than yours. Show them how important it is to leave open the possibility of chance. To account for accepting new knowledge. People grow and change and evolve. Make sure your child is one of those people.
Protect Your Family
Children need to know they are safe. They need to know that dad won’t let anything bad happen to them. When the big bad wolf knocks at the door they need to know that dad’s there. Feeling safe also builds trust. Kids who feel safe may be less likely to have outbursts, nightmares and insecurity issues.
Stand Up For What You Believe
If you want your child to stand up for what they believe they need to see it modeled. It doesn’t have to be some dramatic scene either. They’re watching you. They’ll pick up on you doing this year after year.
Make good memories. Laugh, joke and get crazy. Your kids will respond. A family that has fun is going to be a happy family.
When you screw up, and you undoubtedly will say you’re sorry. You expect your children to do it so you need to do it. It will make them feel important and also let them know that if dad says he’s sorry when he makes a mistake, I should say it too. Again, they need to see it modeled.
Pushing your kids to be better is incredibly important. I’m not talking about in crazed little league parent type of way. I’m talking about in a healthy way. If you see something in them that they don’t yet see in themselves, nurture it. Don’t let them rest on their laurels.
Treat Other People With Respect
Life is hard. It’s a lot harder if you’re mean to people. Respectful kids are nice kids. They understand the importance of manners. If you treat people poorly they will too. Being disrespectful is never the right move. Again don’t raise brats because if you do they’re going to have issues as they get older.
Roughhouse With Them
We’ve talked about the benefits of roughhousing before. Basically, the act of roughhousing can have many wonderful effects for your kids. It teaches them resilience and toughness along with emotional intelligence and much more. One of the best things you can do for your kids is to roughhouse with them.
Be A Good Partner
Being a good husband is important for your child to see. At some point, they are going to be in a relationship and they need to know how to love and support their partner too. This is one of the most important things you can do for your kids and it really has nothing directly to do with them.
Show Them How To Fix Stuff
It doesn’t matter how handy you are around the house. You know how to fix more things then your kids do. Show them what you know. From changing a light bulb to fixing a leaky sink or working on your car. Bring them along. Remember you’re preparing the child for the path.
Read To Them
There is a myriad of reasons to read to your children. Take the time and read out loud to them. Answer their questions. Deal with the interruptions. It’s worth it.
You don’t want your kids believing in defined gender roles. It’s outdated and toxic. Typically men’s and women’s chores break down by inside the house and outside the house. Moms cook and clean, dads mow the yard and take out the trash. There aren’t mom chores and dad chores, there are just chores. Besides you want to have a son who knows how to cook and a daughter who can handle yard work.
My son says that he wishes he was a dinosaur. So we pretend he’s a dinosaur. We go around the house doing dinosaur things. My daughter likes to dress up like a princess so we play princesses. Obviously, these pretend games will change as they grow older but it’s important to develop their imagination. It leads to ideas and dreams and belief. And as you’re children get older that can then lead them to a field of study or an entrepreneurial idea or just a basic belief in themselves. Einstein believed imagination was more important than knowledge.
Let Them Be Themselves
You can’t live their life for them. You won’t be happy and more importantly, they won’t either. Don’t try to change them. You wouldn’t want someone to try to change you so don’t do it to them. Your job is to keep them safe, give them advice and to be behind them as they’re figuring out who they are.
Eat As A Family
Did you know that children who have regular family dinners are less likely to substance abuse problems and have fewer psychological problems? They are also likely to eat more nutritious meals and try a wider array of foods. It’s not always easy for families to get together for dinner but that’s okay, breakfast and lunch work just as well. Make time. It’s important.
Tell Them You Love Them
Kids need to know that you love them. They need to know that no matter what happens you’ll still love them. By telling your child that you love them every day you help them develop a sense of security and attachment. Plus, they know that when times are tough for them dad is always in their corner. When they need someone to lean on dad is there. Say it too much and too often.
Tell Them You Are Proud Of Them
Telling you’re kids that you’re proud of them goes right along with telling them you love them. Their world can be a great big, scary place. If they are working hard to accomplish something let them know that you are proud of them. First off it’s always nice to hear and secondly, it might give them the boost to keep going. It doesn’t have to be working toward a goal that leads to you telling them that you’re proud of them. If they do something nice for someone else, tell them. It can be anything. You don’t need an excuse.
You’re going on a journey with your child. And both of you will be figuring it out as you go.
Some days are better than others. Sometimes dad screws up. And sometimes he hits a home run. If you show up every day and love them and try to raise them to be the good people you’ve won.