A man goes through quite a few stages as a father. Each stage has unique challenges that require any you can be an even better dad by just giving a little thought to your child’s needs and your responsibilities.
The beginning of a new year is often accompanied by resolutions, by many, to make needed changes. The change necessary could relate to eating habits, exercise, or to being a kinder, gentler person. A resolution I think could be the greatest asset to your family would be to be the best father you can be!
Below are some thoughts on minimal steps to be a ‘good dad’, if not a great dad! These thoughts are from my experience as a father, grandfather, and author, and my wife's experience as a ‘Parent Educator’. I don’t recommend depending on this advice alone! There are many awesome parenting books out there (including mine) and I recommend that you read them! But for you dads that don’t or won’t read parenting books, here is a shortcut. Of course, it’s not as simple as reading a checklist. A lot of work and interpretation is involved! It is also very important to communicate clearly with your child’s mother regarding all aspects of parenting.
1. Find a wonderful mate
2. Fall in love (not infatuation.)
3. Marry this loved one (highly preferred.)
4. Really WANT to have a child!
5. Have intimate relations with your mate (you are on your own here.)
6. Be mentally ready (If you are fortunate, you will have a healthy child which will change your life)
7. Keep them safe! (This includes a proper car seat.)
8. Hold the baby, feed the baby, and talk to the baby!
9. Change the baby’s diapers! (If you don’t, you’re a wimp!)
10. Read to the baby! (The baby will associate snuggling, comfort, and love with books)
11. Continue to help the mother in all aspects of parenting!
12. Watch closely as your toddler will be adventurous! (Stairs, small objects, sharp objects are all dangerous)
13. Read to your toddler! (Always very important!)
14. Love and comfort your toddler (but don’t pick them up at every whimper)
15. Assist them in standing and walking (make them work at it a bit)
16. As they get a little older, talk to them about potty training (maybe show-time for boys will help)
17. Don’t push them too hard in getting out of diapers (but don’t be lazy about it)
Pre-school to Tween
18. Some things get easier and other things get tougher as a parent (e.g. no diapers, but more attitude)
19. Buckle their seat belt
20. When you get home, ask them how they’re doing (and listen!)
21. Check school work (help them learn but don’t solve problems for them)
22. Take them with you on errands (it may take twice as long but it will make memories and connections)
23. Experience stuff together (fishing, ballgames, camping, swimming, whatever creates memories together)
24. Praise their efforts, especially their persistence
25. Challenge them with tasks just beyond their perceived capability (give them enough help that they don’t give up)
26. Buckle your seat belt! (You know what I mean.)
27. Be a good example (you can no longer fool them.)
28. Continue to do stuff together as much as possible! (It may be tough but not so much if you have developed traditions.)
29. Give them some space and show them trust (but verify, verify, verify)
30. At some reasonable point in time, talk about bird and bees and real life. (You might learn something!)
31. Be willing to be “hated” for doing the right thing for your teens.
32. Be conscious of likely peer pressure. (As a teen, impressing their friends will likely take precedence over being straight with you.)
33. Help them when it makes them stronger. Don’t help them if it makes them weaker.
34. Expect solid contributions from them to maintain the household.
35. Teach goals, integrity, and education
Your child will have become the person they will most likely be the rest of their life. Not everything they do right is to your credit, nor is everything they do wrong your fault. Some life experiences will change them, but your influence on their childhood will be a significant influence on who they are. Remain involved and give advice when asked.
Becoming a father is a blessing for a man. Being a Dad is a blessing for his child. Be involved, be knowledgeable, be loving, be consistent, be fun, and have principles! But most importantly, ‘be there’ for your children when they need your reassurance, help, love, and understanding. Read about parenting. There is always something to learn. You will always be very influential in your children’s lives but you won’t always know when it has or will happen. Be sure your influence is something of which you can be very proud! Never be satisfied, always challenge you children and yourself
Michael Smith, the author of The Power of Dadhood: How to Become the Father Your Child Need, is the father of three adult children and grandfather of four. He is a retired US Air Force officer and resides with his wife in St. Louis, MO. Michael can be reached for question or comment at email@example.com.