It seems like these days it is hard to find someone saying good things about their father. I don’t know if the overall quality of fathering is going down, if people don’t appreciate their father as much, or if people just talk about it more these days, but almost every time you hear about someone’s father, it’s in a negative light.
Well, I’m here to tell you that my dad is great. I really couldn’t ask for a better father than the one I got… sure we had a few disagreements, and there are a couple of areas where I wish he would have pushed me, but overall I don’t think there is a better dad available.
So, now that I’m a father myself, I have a lot of good stuff to look back on for lessons on how I should be a dad to my kids. The most important thing about being a good dad is that it’s about BEing a good dad… it’s who you are, not what you do. The things listed below are things a good dad should be, things that I learned not from my dad telling me, but from watching who he was (and is).
Here we go, then, with 10 things my father taught me about how to be a good dad:
Kids will always do things to provoke you, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. A good dad should keep his temper, not yelling or screaming, or throwing huge punishments for a minor offense just because he’s angry. After all, you don’t really want to teach your kids to do those things, do you?
It’s important to remind your kids that you love them. This includes telling them that you love them, but also other things, like being supportive when they need it, wiping away tears, and hugging them… no matter how big they get. Showing you love them is just as important as telling them that you love them… but don’t forget to tell them, too.
Sometimes you may wish your kids would just get around to learning something already, or that they would finally be responsible and take care of their chores without having to be reminded 143 times. It’s at these times that you need to be patient and remember that kids are kids… give them time, give them your patience. They are worth it.
It’s sort of a cliche that fathers are proud of their children… but a lot of fathers don’t realize how important it is to actually tell their kids, not just their friends and coworkers! Your kids need to know that you’re proud of them… and the things that they do that you show them you’re proud of are the things they will try to do again. If you show them that you are proud of their good grades, they will try to get good grades… if you show them that you are proud of them being a good person, or good with their siblings, or something else, they will do whatever it is that made you proud again (or at least try).
It’s important to be honest with your children. It’s important to be honest in general, really, but your kids will learn from you… and you want them to be honest, presumably. If you don’t want your children to know about something, whether because it’s inappropriate for them or for other reasons, tell them that… don’t just lie to cover it up.
When you set rules, make them stick. If they are supposed to be home by 8:00, and they walk in the door at 8:07, they need to be punished, barring extenuating circumstances… and there shouldn’t ALWAYS be extenuating circumstances. On the other hand, don’t be unbendable… let them have a little freedom, and give them a break if the rule break is an exception, rather than the rule.
It’s important to be yourself around your children. Some people are completely different people around their children than they are around other people. Your children WILL see this, and it will have two negative effects: it will erode their trust in you (You ARE being deceitful after all… you can’t honestly be two different people), and it will teach them that this is appropriate behavior for them as well. You may find this second part affects you directly… they may be an entirely different person in front of you than they are around their friends.
Be Father First, Friend Second
It is awesome to not only be a parent, but also a friend to your child. You need to remember which one comes first, however. Kids need a dad more than they need a friend, and you’re the best option for that… and if you won’t be a father to them, they’ll be looking for that influence elsewhere.
It’s very important to teach your children to respect you… but it’s also very important that you respect them. This means giving them room to grow and learn, it means talking to them as an equal (when you can… it’s not appropriate when setting rules or punishment, for example), and treating them as their own individual person. It means respecting their decisions when you can, even if it’s not what you would have done, or not what you think is best for them. That doesn’t mean don’t give advice… just accept that sometimes they need to make their own way. It’s the only way they’ll ever grow up mentally and emotionally.
This could be a whole article by itself… and who knows, at some point it may be! For this article, however, I’ll keep it simple: Children need a father. They need a father who is in their life, who pays attention to them, who is interested in them, who does things with them, and asks about them. Time without attention, like in a marriage, is worse than no time at all. Show them that they are important to you… give them your time AND attention.
That certainly doesn’t cover everything involved in being a good father… but it’s a pretty good start. If you do the things above, or rather if you can be the things above, you will be well along the path to being a good father. On the other hand, just because you fail at something from time to time (ie fail to be calm… probably the easiest one to fail), that doesn’t mean that you’re NOT a good dad… you can pick yourself up and get back to it.
I have to say there IS one thing I learned for myself, though, something he couldn’t have told me even if he’d wanted to do so, and that’s just how good it feels. I love being a dad… it’s one of the most fun and fulfilling things I have ever done, and it will make a lasting impact on both my kids and everyone they touch later in life. There is no way that he could have conveyed just how rewarding it is.
He’s doing a bit better on conveying how much fun it is to be a grandpa, but I think I’d be happy to wait a while before experiencing that for myself.