8 Ways to Be a Better Dad (as Written by a Mom)

Father and son playingAs parents, we are best positioned to be the role models, disciplinarians, chauffeurs, and life coaches our children need. Sometimes, though, we fail to be truly present and available for our kids, to their detriment and to the detriment of our relationships with them.

This is true of all parents at times—moms and dads alike. However, as both a mother and a counselor, I have a keen appreciation for the power and responsibility fathers have in raising well-adjusted children. I also know the unintended consequences that can result when fathers are not fully engaged, knowingly or otherwise.

The importance of engaged fathering cannot be overstated. According to Allen and Daly (2007), children of involved fathers are more likely to have higher levels of economic and educational achievement, career success, occupational competency, better educational outcomes, higher educational expectations, higher educational attainment, and better psychological well-being (p. 2).

In an effort to promote emotional intelligence and emotional health in our kids, I humbly propose the following reminders and suggestions for fathers to keep in mind when parenting their children:

  1. Your behavior impacts their behavior. Your children are sponges; they watch how you interact with your partner and other members of the family. Eventually, they may have a relationship and a family like yours. If you’d like them to be polite, model politeness. If you’d like them to show appreciation, show appreciation.
  2. Say what you need to say. What you say (or don’t say) can affect your children’s sense of self-esteem, their confidence, and their future. Consistently tell them how much they mean to you. Tell them your feelings and worries. Tell them about your childhood. Tell them.
  3. Don’t expect perfection. Your children’s grades, clothing preferences, and choices in friends are not a reflection of you. Asking why they didn’t win the game or get an “A” on a school project can invoke feelings of shame, perhaps setting the stage for perfectionism and low self-worth. Try to find a positive about each life moment and event—regardless of whether it fits the ideal you have in mind.
  4. But do have standards. Never setting standards or expectations with your children sets them up for failure as well. Life has boundaries, and they need to know from you what some of those boundaries are and what happens if they are crossed.
  5. Turn off work/technology when you are home. Kids spell love t-i-m-e. If you take work home with you, it sends a message that they are not as important as your job. If you turn on the television first thing instead of asking about their day, it expresses disinterest. When you are home, be present and available.
  6. Show them how a man should treat a woman. We all want our kids to grow up and have great relationships. We sometimes forget that it’s best left to us to show them what a great relationship looks like. Date nights, sweet gestures, hugs and kisses, friendly communication—let them see and learn about these things from you and your partner. For your sons, modeling such behavior may give them a template to work from; for your daughters, it lets them know what they should be able to expect from future relationships.
  7. Be emotional and loving. Despite prevailing stereotypes, being a man does not mean burying and hiding your feelings. Having emotions does not make you weak; it makes you human. Cuddle, comfort, talk lovingly, smooch, and empathize—these things have an immeasurable effect on your children.
  8. Stay connected. Ask your children about their lives. Know their friends. Offer to carpool for or coach a team. Attend their events and functions. Your kids have one childhood; to what extent you involve yourself in it will determine whether they feel neglected or connected to you as they age. Consider connection an investment in your child’s future.

Many of these tips are also applicable to mothers as well, of course, and it’s important to acknowledge that there are many exceptional dads out there helping to raise exceptional kids—sometimes without any help at all. Even the “best” parents can use a reminder from time to time of how important they are in the emotional development of their children. The hope here is that this article generates more such awareness.

Reference:

Allen, S., & Daly, K. (2007). The Effects of Father Involvement: An Updated Research Summary of the Evidence. Father Involvement Research Alliance, p. 2. Retrieved from http://www.fira.ca/cms/documents/29/Effects_of_Father_Involvement.pdf

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Angela Avery, MA, LPC, NCC, therapist in Clarkston, Michigan

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 8 comments
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  • Kyla

    Kyla

    October 26th, 2015 at 9:00 AM

    What I would ask of any dad is to just be involved. I know that a lot of dads are of the mindset that they would rather be a little more hands off, that that is the work of the mom, but trust me. The moms want the help and the kids need you to be in their lives. That’s all I’ve got.

  • Mary

    Mary

    October 26th, 2015 at 10:38 AM

    My husband has never been the warm fuzzy type and it is hard for him to be like that with the children too.’It sort of makes me resentful because I know that he goes and works hard to provide for all of us but there are some things that are missing that you cannot change or fix with any amount of money.
    The kids need him to tune into them when he is aorund instead of being at home but then not really being there for them.

  • kenny

    kenny

    October 26th, 2015 at 1:49 PM

    hmmm I wonder how much interest this would garner if written by a dad for a mom? just curious

  • Perry H

    Perry H

    October 27th, 2015 at 7:34 AM

    This is the downfall of many. We are too worried about being friends with our kids instead of being a mom or a dad. That is something that I think kids are looking for but we are failing to give them- discipline and structure.

  • Carmen

    Carmen

    October 28th, 2015 at 5:22 AM

    My dad and I have never been all that close and I think that the biggest reason why is that I never felt like anything that I did was good enough for him. It was like there was this constant desire on his part for me to be perfect, when I could only be human. I have looked back on things now and wondered why nothing was ever quite good enough for him, and I don’t know, that dynamic just never really worked out for us. I think that I wanted to get away from that kind of control because it just always made me feel even worse about myself. Needless to say, we don’t have much of a relationship with each other now.

  • jeffrey

    jeffrey

    October 29th, 2015 at 9:28 AM

    I suggest taking advice from a hands on dad- that way you get a real eye opening look at what things they have to do on a day to day basis to make sure that the needs of their kids are being met on multiple levels

  • Kristie

    Kristie

    October 30th, 2015 at 11:05 AM

    I don’t think that it is about you have to take on this role or that role you just have to be there to be a good parent. Listen when they want to talk, play when they want to play, and then learn how to step back a little when they need you to be more hands off.

  • Paulina

    Paulina

    October 31st, 2015 at 2:26 PM

    I see too many dads who are willing to walk away when the going gets tough. You can’t do that and be a good dad. A good dad has to be willing to be engaged with the children and to be more than just a dad in name only. You have to be willing to get out and do the dirty work too. It’s hard, believe me I know that. But I think that when you see how much this is developing a strong relationship with your children then it will all be worth it to you.

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