Being a stay at home dad is a challenge, to say the least. However, if you want to succeed (and I assume you do since you found this post,) here are 16 tips for stay at home dads that can make your life a little better.
Have A Plan
This one is easy and self-explanatory.
If you don’t have an idea about what you want to accomplish on a particular day, nothing is likely to be accomplished.
The good thing about this is that it doesn’t take long either. Spend a few minutes thinking the night before. Or make a list.
Speaking from experience, the days that I didn’t have anything planned usually resulted in the most stressful days for me and the kids being the most unhappy.
Develop A Routine
Kids thrive off of routines. They provide structure and a sense of safety.
An important aspect of routines is that while they are considered fixed, they are also malleable.
Don’t be afraid to change your routine if you find something not working.
Remember, your kids are changing so the way you parent them should evolve as well.
“Building routines with your children helps them feel safe,” says Child Psychologist Danielle Kaufman of Melbourne Child Psychology and School Psychology Services.
“They know what to expect when they go home, and it provides them with clear boundaries, expectations, and consistency.”
Get Out Of The House
The last thing you want for you and your kids is to be stuck in the house all day.
So don’t. Get out of the house. Go to the park. Go for a hike.
Enroll them in something like gymnastics. Exercise. Many libraries offer free reading and development programs for kids.
Take advantage of any or all of it.
Did you know that sunshine can benefit your mood and your kids’ moods as well?
Remember a bored child is going to be a problem.
This is something I struggled with. Telling someone that I’m a SAHD is met with surprise by most and disdain by some.
While it may be hard to desensitize yourself to those reactions, they don’t matter at all.
Don’t let them. You’re busy being a dad and raising great kids in a way that works for your family.
Be proud of what you’re doing.
If you don’t want an avalanche of toys and crayons and clothes to deal with, clean as you go. A little here and there goes a long way.
Plus, making your kids pick up after themselves is important.
Nobody wants a messy house.
Try this: Before you go somewhere, make your kids pick up their mess. It doesn’t take long, and no one likes coming home to a messy house.
Before nap time, make them spend a couple of minutes picking up, too. Same before bedtime.
If they want to do something special, like watch a movie, they have to pick up their mess.
If they want something from you, get something from them.
Roughhouse With Them
But on a daily basis, it’s good to get down on the ground with them and roll around. It will change your mood as well as theirs.
Don’t be afraid to do this after disciplining them either. It’s a great way to move past what happened and on to some happy, productive time.
Keep A Journal
This is something I’ve started doing in the last couple months and wish I had started sooner.
I bought a tablet like this off of Amazon and just started jotting down notes here and there.
I don’t really have a system but if there’s something that I want to remember for next time, I’ll jot it down.
These notes consist of “remember to be more patient,” or “ take a deep breath,” to funny things the kids did today that I want to remember.
After all, a dull pencil remembers more than a sharp mind.
Everyone knows that exercise is a great stress reliever. And any parent knows that parenting is stressful. It’s a match made in heaven.
But it doesn’t just help with managing stress.
Exercise is obviously good for getting stronger and becoming more fit but the advantages don’t end there. It also works to improve your sleep and energy levels.
Would you like to be more rested, less stressed and have more energy?
Yeah, me too.
Improving your life in all of these areas will only help you to be a better dad.
Another thing to consider is having your kids work out with you.
Doing this allows you to spend quality time together while getting them some exercise and laying a foundation for them to grow a healthy habit of fitness in their lives.
If they happen to sleep better and be less stressed that’s a great by-product, too.
Pick Your Battles
Picking your battles is important in any aspect of your life; especially parenting.
While there are definitely things that are non-negotiable, others aren’t.
You’ll have to figure out which are those issues for you.
For me, one of those things is eating their fruits and vegetables.
My kids love eating their fruits and are pretty flakey on their vegetables. They know that they have to eat, for example, a banana every day and another piece of fruit every day.
Usually, those go pretty easily.
Not always, but usually.
Vegetables, on the other hand, are pretty hit or miss.
So for dinner most nights they get two vegetables to choose from. They can either eat one type completely or a little of both.
I know that since they have already had a bunch of fruit that day, I don’t get too upset if they’re not as interested in the vegetables as I would like.
Getting my kids to like veggies has been a long slog, but this strategy makes me feel good about them eating good things throughout the day.
It comes down to reading your kids. Don’t force something if it’s not that important to you and they’re not going to react well.
Live to dad another day.
Find Time For Yourself
This goes without saying but you need to find some time for yourself.
Steal away when you can. You need to make time for this. It’s important.
Being a stay at home dad is a mix of great days and days that are real battles. If you aren’t in the right frame of mind, it’s going to negatively affect you and thus negatively affect your children.
If you have a hard time finding time for yourself, consider waking up early.
When I talk about setting expectations, I’m talking purely about behavior. What is good behavior and bad behavior?
I refuse to raise bad kids. My kids are going to be nice and polite if it kills me.
After all, I’m not a babysitter.
Every day we work on manners, sharing, saying “please” and “thank you,” and everything in between.
I have to stay on top of them but that’s what parenting is all about. That’s the job.
Every week it gets a little better. They know what’s expected of them because I reinforce it every day.
Give Them A Timeframe
This is something that I stumbled upon by accident and it works great for me.
I simply tell them that we are doing something in a certain amount of time and then count it down.
“we are taking a bath in 10 minutes. Deal?”
Then follow up.
“ ok guys, 5 minutes until bath”
“ ok guys, 2 minutes until bath”
“ ok guys, 1 minute until bath”
“ ok, time for bath”
This works for me, first of all, because I get them to acknowledge what I said.
Secondly, it allows them to continue what they’re doing and let them wind down on their own.
Third, it’s a constant reminder that we are going to do something so they won’t be surprised.
Finally, since my kids are 3 and can’t tell time, I can come back to them as quickly as I want to say time to go and they’ll never know the difference.
Live In The Moment
This is something that I constantly have to remind myself of.
It’s challenging to find a balance between always living in the moment and finding time for yourself.
During the day to day monotony of being a stay at home dad, it’s easy to drift off.
I’m here to tell you to pick your spots.
One day I was working on a grocery list and I heard my kids laughing so loud.
I came in and asked what was so funny and they tried to explain it but something got lost in translation. I didn’t get it.
But it didn’t matter to them: They continued laughing like it was the funniest thing they had ever heard.
Most likely it was just toddler rubbish, but that’s not the point.
The point is, it was a great moment for them and I missed it.
They didn’t care, but I did.
You have a wonderful opportunity to maximize your time as a parent.
Be sure to make an effort to do so.
Your kids are growing and changing every day. So it stands to reason that something that worked last month or last week doesn’t work today.
Think about why something isn’t working as well as you’d like.
Are you’re kids having a bad day, or has this become repetitive?
If it has become a pattern you may need to think about how you go about doing things.
This isn’t earth shattering info by any means.
You don’t parent a toddler the same way you parent a teenager. (Although I’m sure there are some similarities – I’ll report back in 10 years…)
This is where living in the moment and keeping a journal can come in handy.
Talk About Your Day
If you had a bad day at work you would probably want to vent a little.
Just because you don’t have a traditional job doesn’t mean you don’t have bad days and need to vent.
So share with your significant other or someone else. It will help.
And another thing, I have many more good days than bad days. My wife wants and deserves to hear about all those as well.
So open up. You’re in this together.
You are lucky.
You get to spend every day with your kids.
No matter how daunting that can be, you are living a life that many would happily trade for.
If you are able to put the other stuff that comes with being a parent aside and realize the golden opportunity you’ve been given, you’ll realize you’ve been blessed.
Remember to be mindful.
Ultimately, I think that being a stay at home dad comes down to finding balance and patience.
If you’ve got those two things you’re going to be fine. You can figure out how to handle the other things as they come.
I’m happy being with my kids every day and would absolutely recommend it.