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10 Tips for New Dads

Becoming a new father is one of the most wonderful life events a man can experience. But it can also feel overwhelming.  Take heart.  By gaining some practical knowledge, setting realistic expectations and creating healthy habits, you can be a great dad!  
Here are 10 tips to help get new dads started down the right path:

1.     Understand that you matter.  Study after study has shown that when children have involved, loving fathers, they learn more, perform better in school and exhibit healthier behavior.  Even when fathers do not share a home with their children, their active involvement can have a lasting and positive impact. 

It's easy for dads to feel like they aren't needed when their children are newborns, but the opposite is true.  Whether you are in a committed relationship with the baby's mother or will just be co-parenting, the relationship you start building with your baby in his or her first few months can positively impact your child's future for years to come.

2.     Get to know your child as an individual.  Just as every adult is a unique individual with our own temperament, personality, interests and habits, your baby is unique too. 

Nurturing your child in a way that supports her individual tendencies helps her feel loved and secure.  For example, some children are naturally outgoing and self-motivated, while others are shy and may need more encouragement to try new things. Also, understanding why your child behaves the way he does will also help ease your frustration when faced with challenging parenting situations.

3.     Remember that all babies cry.  Crying is natural and is a baby's first method of communication.  In fact, infants will continue to cry to let you know about their unmet needs until they learn to talk.   He may be hungry, wet or tired.

Instead of letting frustration and anxiety build when your child cries, try to reframe the experience as, "My baby is trying to tell me what she needs."  It will likely take time for you to learn what your baby's different cries mean.  So be patient with yourself too, and remind yourself that each time you try to meet your baby's needs in response to her cries for help, you are building trust and teaching her that the world is a safe place. 

4.     Be the best version of yourself instead of trying to imitate another dad.  Babies don't care about your education level or career.  The great news is they don't have the capacity to compare you to other dads, and they will love you for who you are if you are attentive and kind to them.  

Just be present with your child and include him at age-appropriate stages in your hobbies and interests.  If you like to spend time in nature, invest in an infant carrier or jogger stroller and take her with you.  If you like music, play for him. If you like sports, take her to a game to take in the action.  There are countless ways to include your child in your everyday life, and he will cherish the time with you no matter how you spend it.

5.     Accept that caring for a baby is a full-time responsibility.  Shortly after the birth of your child, you will likely realize that this is a 24/7 kind of commitment.  That’s when the overwhelm can start to set in, and it's helpful to remember that parenting is done just like every other aspect of life - one day at a time. 

Creating routines around eating and sleeping, while it can be hit or miss during the newborn stage, is helpful for making the days and nights go more smoothly. Safety proofing your home is another important part of helping to ensure your child is protected as she moves into the crawler and toddler stages. 

6.     Familiarize yourself with basic infant development.  While it's true that babies differ in when they achieve certain developmental milestones, such as sitting up or saying a first word, it's also true that babies tend to develop in important areas along a fairly specific timeline. 

Knowing how your baby might develop in four key areas - physically, mentally, emotionally and socially - can help you set realistic expectations and gain more confidence as a new dad. For example, if you know that most babies start sitting up on their own at about six months, you don't need to be concerned if your baby is still wobbly at four months.  A class for expectant and new dads, like PCC and Good Dads offers, will provide this information and give you ideas for encouraging your baby's development.  In a pinch, a Google search will help you with the basics too.

7.     Take care of yourself too.  Moms are constantly told to take good care of themselves, especially during pregnancy and in the baby's first few months.  But what about dads?  It's just as critical that your physical and emotional needs be met during this transition time too. 

If paternity time is available to you through your employer, take advantage of it.  But even if you can't take much time off, implementing some simple strategies can help a lot:  Sleep when the baby sleeps.  Keep meals simple to avoid extra time shopping, cooking and cleaning up.  If you have help available, carve out some couple time to do something enjoyable together.  Parenthood can feel all-consuming, so even a few minutes of time spent in a refreshing activity can rejuvenate your body and mind.

8.    Don't equate a paycheck with love.  While it's important to financially provide for your family, earning a paycheck will not translate directly as love to your child.  It's been said that love is spelled T-I-M-E.  Spending quality time with your child is an invaluable investment that buying more stuff can never compete with.  Babies' needs are basic, and they are usually content with just a few developmentally-appropriate toys (or a drawer full of plastic containers!).  So focus on giving your child the things money can't buy, and you will both be happier for it.

9.    Recognize that all parents feel frustrated sometimes.  Having a new baby means lots of changes to routine and can impact many areas of life - physical, relational, emotional, social and financial to name a few.  Those changes, coupled with lack of sleep, can lead to feelings of frustration. This is completely normal and taking small steps in managing that frustration can keep it from escalating into full-blown anger.

Try to remember that your baby's actions, no matter how frustrating, are likely normal for his age.  Make a conscious effort to relax by taking deep breaths or taking a brisk walk (even inside your house if you're the only one with the baby).  Give yourself permission to take a break.  Place the baby in a safe place, such as her crib, and give yourself a few minutes away. 


10.   Ask for help. Having a support system of family or friends - even if it's just one person - to help you during this time of transition can be a game changer.   Don't be afraid to rely on them, especially in the first few weeks.  Accepting help is not a sign of weakness; it demonstrates maturity in recognizing that you have limits.  Having someone watch the baby so you can eat, shower or sleep can make a big difference in how you feel and function.

Lisa McIntire is passionate about helping families in our community and serves as the Executive Director of Springfield’s Pregnancy Care Center (PCC) and is a member of the New Pathways for Good Dads Council. The Pregnancy Care Center is a New Pathways for Good Dads Partner and a great community resource offering a fatherhood program for expectant and new fathers, which includes fatherhood-specific classes and one-on-one coaching with male mentors.

Back-to-School: One Dad Shares on Costs, Bedtime, Grades and More

August is here, and unlike some, I’m actually sad that my kiddos will head back to school on the 13th. As a stay-at-home Dad, I’ve been able to stay up late, watching movies and series on Netflix with them. We have had some late night pool parties and junk food runs. Sure the downside, is they tell me they are bored constantly, and are always looking for stuff to do. However, I’ve always got household chores and yard work ready for them when this happens. 

I used to think buying school supplies was a fair trade off for having someone else teach and entertain my children, while also feeding them lunch for me. Now, with two teenagers and an 8 year old, the start of school means constant practices and additional fees beyond the cost of paper and pencils. 

My youngest, who will be in 3rd grade, has a $98 school supply list when you factor in back pack, ear buds etc. My High School kids won’t get their supply list until later, though I can expect to spend and additional $50-$60 on them.

My other son, will be a Freshman and in band. I had no idea, until now, that they practice so much. There will be morning practices before school, evening practices after school, plus I get to cough up about $300 for him to participate. He will run track in the spring, so I’ve gotta fork out an additional athletic activity fee of $45. 

My daughter will be a sophomore this year, and is involved with softball, bowling, choir and track. I feel like I hardly ever see her once she starts school, and this year it may be less, now that she has a car. There are always a ton of expenses and fees that add up with her as well. 

Over the next week, we will try to get the kids back on that school sleep schedule. Right now my daughter is up past midnight watching Netflix & listening to music while on FaceTime with her best friend. My oldest son is on Xbox playing while also on FaceTime with friends until I make him shut it all down at midnight. My youngest likes to lay in bed with me and watch Netflix or movies, then heads to the chair in our room to sleep. It’s always hard to get him to transition back to his own bed by the time school starts. 

While my 8 year old will have a set bed time each evening, I’ll allow the two teens to take responsibility and go to bed and get up on their own. This has never been an issue for my daughter, but when I tried this with my son last year, he could not get out of bed. Even when we woke him up, he fell right back to sleep. Now that he is a freshman in High School, he will need to learn how to go to bed at a time in which he gets enough sleep, and can roll out of bed in the morning. 

I have also warned my teens, that if at anytime their grades are at C, I will be on them daily until it’s at a B or better. If they should have a D, they will lose their phone and be put on a bedtime schedule. The great thing about our schools, is that I can get on an app and check their grades everyday. 

Another issue we had in the past, was the kids getting the normal school lunch, then buying a bunch of extra junk and charging it to their accounts as if they have their own personal credit card for food. It’s always good to be able to monitor this situation online.

On this week prior to school beginning again, we will drop off school supplies and meet the 3rd grade teacher. Freshman orientation, pictures and class schedule will occur, while my sophomore will get her schedule, take pics and try to get a parking spot for the upcoming year. 

I will be happy about getting back into some sort of a routine again. 

Herb Cody is a husband and father of three. He is a part time Uber driver and full time caregiver  of his spouse, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an auto accident November, 2015. Herb loves football and is a St Louis Cardinals fanatic. He and his family live in Nixa, MO. Herb can be reached for questions or comments at You can check out Herb's own blog at,

What Breaks Your Heart?

Shawn Askinosie knows about heartbreak. When he was 12, his father was diagnosed with lung cancer. At 13, he learned to give his father the injections of Demerol required for pain management. When he was 14, his father died.

During the period of his father’s declining health, the leader of a well-meaning prayer group suggested there should be “no talk about death.” To do so, the leader said, indicated a lack of faith in their prayers for healing. After his father died, Shawn said he spent the next 25 years overcoming every obstacle in his path and accomplishing every goal presented to him as a means of dealing with his untreated adolescent grief. 

Shawn Askinosie, his father Lawrence, and brother Jason
Photo courtesy of Shawn Askinosie

The conclusion of a successful murder trial where Shawn served as the defense attorney, eventually led to a personal recognition of an “out of balance life.” The book Tuesdays with Morrie was also a big influence during this period. What occurred next is what Shawn refers to as a “time of physical and emotional reawakening.” Five years after the trial’s conclusion, he found himself choosing an entirely new life associated with chocolate. He also reports coming to see heartbreak, including his own, as a necessary ingredient to a full life.

“If you love,” he explains, “you will know the grief and sorrow of loss.”

Today Shawn is the CEO of Askinosie Chocolate, a small batch, award winning chocolate factory in Springfield, Missouri. Askinosie Chocolate has been named “One of the 25 Best Small Companies in America” by Forbes and featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal,on Bloomberg, MSNBC and various other national and international media outlets. Shawn also serves on the board of Lost & Found Grief Center of Southwest Missouri, an organization he helped start to assist children in dealing with grief and loss.

Shawn and his daughter Lawren (named after his father, Lawrence) now work together at Askinosie Chocolate
Photo courtesy of Shawn Askinosie 

Today Shawn sees heartbreak as a necessity for a full life. If this is so, then how does a thoughtful parent handle this tender topic? Shawn offers these considerations:

1. Avoid trying to inoculate or prevent all heartbreak for your child. Loss and grief are inevitable. Offer support and empathy, but try not to prevent or rescue.

2. Model healthy grieving. Allow your child to see what brings you great joy and deep sadness. A child who sees healthy grieving modeled by a loving parent learns to handle loss. 

3. Help kids learn that broken hearts are meant to be tended, not fixed. Embracing a loss, versus avoiding or denying, helps children grow in compassion.

There was a time when Shawn Askinosie was a fearsome trial attorney. These days he speaks in a different voice, emphasizing and encouraging language of hope and compassion for our children and others.

This article was written by Dr. Jennifer Baker, Founder and Executive Director of Good Dads, following a podcast with Shawn. To hear the full interview, download part 1 and part 2 of his Good Dads podcast.

"Did You Lose Your Pants?" | Making a Case for Morning Routines

For those of you fathers out there who drive the kids to school each day, here is an old blog post of mine that you may relate to as we're getting back into the swing of things with the start of school right around the corner...

For about the past month, whenever that alarm screams at me to rise, I've been a complete zombie. I literally get out of bed, slip on some sandals, yell "load up" and take the kids to school. This is a complete gamble on my part, because the kids are usually not ready at all. I've had to turn around several times to retrieve items like backpacks, socks, Chromebooks and lunch. Since about May 23rd, I've been shuttling the kids to school in the same outfit I roll out of bed in, which is my boxer shorts and a t-shirt. One morning last week, the boys were upset because they didn't have time to eat breakfast. I thought I would be the good Dad, and swing by the convenience store to grab them donuts on the way to school. 

I dropped my daughter off at school first, then pulled into the Casey's General Store parking lot. My youngest asked, "Dad what are you doing?" I explained that I was gonna grab breakfast for them. I pulled into a spot up front, opened my car door and slowly got out. I could hear some giggling from the boys in the back seat. I figured they were playing one of the silly games they seem to wanna play way too early in the morning. I shut the door and walked into the store. I looked towards the case filled with sugary treats, and suddenly realized......oh no.....I had forgotten my glasses at home. I had gotten out of bed and failed to put them on. What an idiot!!! I'm standing there squinting, trying to figure out which delicious delights I would treat my children to, when I heard a strange voice behind me. "Did you lose your pants?" a man asked. I looked behind me to see who he was talking to and what moron was walking around without pants. As I turned towards the strange voice, I happened to look down. Oh no.....holy sh!@t!!! I was the imbecile the voice was talking to. I had completely forgotten I strolled out of the house in my undies. I've gotta believe, if my daughter were still in the car, she would not have let me exit the vehicle. My boys on the other hand, they could care less. They just thought it was Dad's newest attempt at humor.

There I am in my old, red, Adidas t-shirt, and my bright blue, striped, boxer shorts. I have a few pair that have the button on the front to keep the barn door shut. This particular pair of "Fruit of the Loom's" did not have the button. I was one awkward movement from letting the turtle poke its head out of its shell. For all I know, it had already gotten a peek. I did not say a word to the man, or anyone else, I just turned and walked out as quickly as I could. I got back into the car where my youngest was quick to point out that he wasn't the only forgetful one.
A week or so earlier, I was rushing to get the boys to their games. My 6-year-old had gotten dressed, got into the car, and rode all the way to the fields before realizing he had no shoes on. Obviously, I was frustrated that I had to go back home to get his shoes. He had remembered this, and was letting me know about it.

Needless to say, I've made sure to get myself properly dressed in the morning since.

Herb Cody is a husband and father of three. He is a part time Uber driver and full time caregiver of his spouse, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an auto accident November, 2015. Herb loves football and is a St. Louis Cardinals fanatic. He and his family live in Nixa, MO. Herb can be reached for questions or comments at, and you can check out Herb's own blog at

"Say You're Sorry" -- Teaching Forgiveness -- Dr. Jennifer Baker, Founder & Executive Director

“Say you’re sorry.”

Many parents instruct children to express regret for thoughtless actions to another using these words. Head down, face frowning, the child mumbles “Sorry.” In return, he may hear, “Sorry too” or “That’s alright.”

It’s really not alright. No one really feels much better, except perhaps the adult, who believes he has done his job in helping a child learn the importance of an apology or of accepting the apology of another.

This is pretty much the place many adults are stuck when it comes to their experience of asking for or offering forgiveness to another. They recall a shame-faced, command performance required by a parent or other significant adult when they were young. It only happened because someone bigger and more powerful than them was requiring it. In actuality, the thing for which they were likely sorriest was getting caught.

Ideally, by the time we reach adulthood, we should be able to reflect on the impact of our actions and at least try to take the perspective of someone other than ourselves. Empathy requires trying to understand how another might feel, even if we don’t share their experience. It’s an important tool to have in one’s toolbox when it comes to offering forgiveness.

There are benefits to letting go of our right to even the score with another. Most of us understand this. The harder part is to actually forgive. How does one do this, especially if the hurt is longstanding and particularly grievous.  Here are some steps to consider:

1. Contrary to what you may have experienced as a child, forgiving someone does not mean saying, “That’s alright.” If it’s alright, it doesn’t require forgiveness. Only things that were not acceptable, that hurt or did damage to us or someone we love, require actual forgiveness.

2. Forgiving someone does mean giving up the right to get even. It means cleaning up the revenge scenarios in our head, chasing them out, and locking the door. If holding a grudge means allowing someone to live rent free in your head, then letting go of the grudge suggests sweeping them out of the house and chasing them down the road.

3. Forgiving someone may also mean telling yourself a different story. Perhaps you’ve identified yourself as a victim for a long time. Letting go of the anger and resentment means at least trying to understand what might have influenced another to act as he or she did without attaching a nasty label. It means eliminating ugly names and referring to them as a person with shortcomings and weaknesses.

4. Telling yourself a different story also means telling yourself what kind of person you want to be in the face of this wound or unkindness. How would you like to manage hurt and anger? What might you need to do to live above and beyond smoldering resentment? Many people find spiritual resources to be helpful at times like this. Is that something you could access?

5. Forgiveness may or may not mean reconciliation. It’s not safe or wise to reconcile with an unrepentant abuser. There are times when we must maintain strong boundaries with difficult people, limiting the amount of time we spend with them, particularly if they take no ownership for their troublesome or quarrelsome behavior. We can still forgive for our part, but true reconciliation requires both parties to admit their part in the problem and work toward rebuilding trust with each other.

Much more has been written about forgiveness. If it’s an area where you are struggling, speaking with a professional (clergy, therapist) or even a close friend can be helpful in letting go and moving on for your benefit and that of your child.

Dr. Jennifer Baker is the Founder and Director of Good Dads. She is the wife of one, mother of two and grandmother of eight. She may be reached for question or comment at

Let Go of Grudges for Yourself & Your Kids -- Dr. Jennifer Baker, Good Dads Founder & Director

Photo by Warren Wong--Upsplash
“Hey, my wife and I are in town and we wondered if we might get together. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen you.”

This is the request my Main Man made of one of his cousins several years ago. Close in age, the two of them spent many weekends in each other’s company, along with another sibling. The city-based cousins made regular trips to the country to visit my husband’s family and their grandparents. The boys lived for the times they could create homegrown, country-living adventures together. They had tales to tell about forts built in the barn, base camps created at the river, softball games in the field, and frustrated adults who wanted them to calm down and “stop messing around.” My Main Man enjoyed recalling the fun and carefree times they all spent together in their childhood and adolescence.

Photo by Jordan Whitt, Upsplash

Perhaps that’s why he was so surprised when his cousin answered, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Confused, he asked about “just coffee” or meeting at a restaurant. The answer was still “No.” Jokingly my husband asked, “This doesn’t have anything to do with the way (cousin’s name) and I used to tease you, does it?”

“Yeah,” he said, “maybe it does.” And then there was a long silence.

What does one say in the face of an acknowledged grievance decades in length? How does one respond to a hurt which appears to have festered for a very long time?
My Main Man did apologize, but it appeared insufficient to soothe the grudging unhappiness settled in the soul of his cousin for nearly four decades. Sadly, we were unable to ever connect. You simply can’t make someone meet if they don’t want to get together.

There are many reasons dads may want to become more aware of grudges in their own lives. Here are just a few to consider:

Holding on to a grudge damages your health. According to researchers from the Stanford Forgiveness Project, carrying a grudge puts our immune and cardiovascular systems at risk. If we are committed to taking good care of our health, then taking an inventory of possible grudges and considering how to release them is a critical step.

Holding onto a grudge is allowing someone else to live rent free in your head. A lot of mental energy is invested in holding on to something that has mastered you, versus you having power over it. Dr. Frederic Luskin, founder of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, calls it an “ineffective strategy for dealing with a life situation that you haven’t been able to master.”

It’s sets a very poor example for one’s children. Children are far more perceptive than we give them credit. They may hear us say they should forgive each other and express regret for their actions, but if they never see us do it, it’s unlikely they will do what we ask. Moreover, if they see us exhibit long-term bitterness, anger and resentment toward a former friend or family member, they’ll typically see this as acceptable behavior into adulthood.

Want to let go of the past? Want to let hurtful things have less power over your day-to-day life? Desire to set a better standard for your children?  Check back next week for some specific ways to let go of harmful grudges and move toward a more health-filled future.

Dr. Jennifer Baker is the Founder and Director of Good Dads. She is the wife of one, mother of two and grandmother of eight. She may be reached for question or comment at

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