Any father can learn to be a better dad. But it takes a commitment — and desire — to focus on one of the more important areas in your life. An involved dad is a better dad — one a child will appreciate not only as a kid, but in fond memories as they progress into adulthood. Children with involved fathers will grow up to be happier, better able to cope with life’s troubles, and healthier than children who have absent or uninvolved dads.
Being a better dad doesn’t mean you have to change who you are, though. It simply means paying attention to the important moments in your child’s life, and being there for both them and the family when needed.
Whether you’re married, divorced, or never married, it’s important to realize that children need both parents involved in their lives. Fathers who spend time with their children increase the chances that their children will succeed in school, have fewer behavior problems, and experience better self-esteem and well-being.
Click through to read the tips to improve your standing as a dad in your children’s life.
1. Spend time with your children.
Yes, it’s important to be there for your children for important events in their lives. But it’s even more important to be there for everyday things — such as dinner every night, and the weekends, and every moment in-between. Quality time is more important than sharing TV time, but any time is better than very little.
Somebody once said that showing up is 80 percent of life. It’s probably just as true for parenting. If you’re there and spending time with them, they’ll remember and appreciate it. If, on the other hand, you always seem too busy for your children, they will feel neglected no matter what you say.
2. Be a role model.
Fathers are role models whether they realize it or not. A girl with a loving father grows up knowing she deserves to be treated with respect. Fathers can teach sons what is important in life by demonstrating honesty, humility, and responsibility.
3. Eat or cook together as a family.
Sharing a meal together has been an important part of healthy family life since the beginning of time. It remains an important idea even in this modern, technological age. Why? It gives children the chance to talk about what they are doing in their lives and in school, making it an excellent time for fathers to listen and give advice.
In this day and age, moms aren’t the only ones doing the cooking. Fathers can take to the kitchen and share cooking time with their children, just as moms have done for centuries.
4. Don’t be afraid to show affection.
Sometimes dads learn from their own upbringing that showing affection isn’t a part of being a man. That’s both sad and wrong.
Yet sometimes a man still has difficulty showing outward affection to their loved ones — even to their children. Children need the security that comes from knowing they are wanted, accepted, and loved by their family. Showing affection every day — even a quick hug, pat on the back, or kiss on the cheek — is the best way to let your children know that you love them.
5. Respect your children’s mother.
Regardless of whether you have a relationship with the child’s mother, it’s important to show them the same kind of respect you should any other adult. Children pick up on far more than we think about relationships — especially between their parents.
When children see their parents respecting each other, they are more likely to feel that they are also accepted and respected. Your relationship with their mother is the model for all future romantic relationships for the child. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be respectful.
6. Set fair rules, and discipline with love and restraint.
One fault of modern parenting is the lack of clear boundaries between many parents and their children, along with an accompanying set of clear rules, and timely, fair discipline. Children are not simply miniature adults who can be reasoned with in a rational manner. That’s why they (and you) will appreciate clear rules and fair discipline.
All children need guidance and discipline, not as punishment, but to set reasonable limits and help children learn from natural or logical consequences. Fathers who discipline in a calm, fair, and nonviolent manner show their love.
7. Be a kind, patient teacher.
Children need good teachers and nobody is a better teacher than you. Teaching comes in all forms — not just helping your child with their homework. Begin talking with your kids when they are very young and talk to them about all kinds of things. Listen to their ideas and problems.
A father who teaches his children about right and wrong and encourages them to do their best will see his children make good choices. Involved fathers use everyday examples to teach the basic lessons of life.
8. Read to your children.
Children thrive on their imaginations, and nothing reaches their imagination more than a book. Begin reading to your children when they are very young. Instilling a love for reading is one of the best ways to ensure they will have a lifetime of interest in their imagination, leading to increased personal and career growth.
These tips are just the start of becoming a better father. It requires a simple, but ongoing commitment on your part — a commitment that lasts their entire childhood. Even as they age into young adults, a dad’s work is never really done. Even after children are grown and leave home, they will still look to their fathers for wisdom and advice.
Fatherhood really does last their lifetime. That’s why it’s important to make it count early on.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 28 Feb 2012
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Grohol, J. (2012). Be a Better Dad. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 5, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/02/28/be-a-better-dad/