I wish I were a better father. I wish I had all of the answers to my kids’ questions. I wish I knew the right response for every parenting situation. But I’m not perfect. I don’t have all the right answers. And I make mistakes- many of them.
I’ve talked to several men who feel the same way. They want to be better dads, but simply don’t know how. Being a good father isn’t an easy task. There’s no manual or instruction book.
The good news is that you don’t have to allow society to define your success as a father. The only opinions that really matter are your children’s.
Being the best father to your children is a responsibility that you cannot take lightly. Therefore, you need to examine yourself to identify shortcomings and work on improving them. This exercise has helped me to make improvements in my life as a father (and as a husband).
After several years of on-the-job training, I’ve discovered 10 ways to be a better dad:
There is much talk nowadays about living in the moment. People are so preoccupied with their mobile devices that they fail to pay attention to beauty all around them. Dads have to learn to enjoy the appreciate the mundane things that make life with children wonderful. Ditch the tech and focus solely on your child. Take walks, read books together, share stories. Make her feel like she is the most important person in the world. Nothing makes a child feel more special than having your undivided attention.
Keep Your Word
I’ve disappointed my children many times because I made promises I couldn’t keep. I’ve missed programs and recitals or I didn’t play with them when I said I would. I’ve learned that it’s better to not make a promise than to make a promise and not keep it. Trust is a valuable commodity and it doesn’t take much to erode it. Maintain it at all costs by keeping your word.
My 10-year old son adores me. He wants to be with me as much as possible and is constantly seeking my approval. His adulation makes me more aware of what I say and do. Knowing that he’s watching my every move, forces me to be a better role model. As fathers, we must be aware of the example that we’re setting for our children. We have to model the behavior that we expect from them. We may not always get it right, but we have to set the benchmark.
Have Real Conversations
As men, we are sometimes prone to shy away from deep conversations. But as dads, we have to have real conversations with our children even if they are uncomfortable at times. I’ve talked to my kids about sex, puberty, domestic violence, and unpleasant current events. But I also talk about things that help me bond with my kids. My daughter loves it when I tell her stories about my youth. As a result of my sharing, she is more apt to open up about her life. Don’t be afraid to talk your kids. More importantly, don’t be afraid to listen to them.
Maintain a Good Relationship with Your Child’s Mother
Even if you aren’t with your child’s mother, you should maintain a good relationship. Your kids need to see that you and their mother are united and have their best interests at heart. If you are married to your child’s mother, it’s even more important to keep improving your relationship. A strong marriage gives children a sense of security.
Kids make mistakes. It’s a part of growing up. Don’t be so quick to punish. Show them forgiveness and they will forgive you when you need it (and you will need it). Also, if you’re holding on to anger caused by your father, you’ll experience true freedom by forgiving him and mending the relationship.
You’re not perfect. None of us are. We have to be vulnerable enough to admit our mistakes. I’ve had to apologize and ask my children for forgiveness on numerous occasions. Admitting my mistakes has helped my children to understand that making mistakes in a natural part of life.
Admit That You Don’t Have All the Answers
I used to pretend that I knew it all. That charade didn’t last long. Kids aren’t easily fooled and can recognize a phony. Instead of trying to be a know-it-all, I’ve learned to say, “I don’t know.” Those words are quite liberating.
Get Involved in Your Child’s Education
Whether your child attends public school, private school, or is homeschooled, it is important for fathers to be involved in his education. Research has shown that dads who take an interest in their child’s education have a powerful positive impact on their achievement at school. You can get involved by helping with homework, volunteering at school, creating lesson plans, attending parent/teacher conferences, or simply reading to them at night.
Life should be enjoyed. Dance. Laugh. Play. Bake cookies. Sing silly songs. Make the most of your time with your children by having fun together.