Five years ago when my wife was pregnant with our first kid I thought long and hard about how to be a good dad. I thought about my dad’s style. That gave me framework for what not to do. Then I started thinking about what matters and what I would have wanted. Actually I thought about what I needed. What we want doesn’t matter. What we needs matters.
Before I jump into this, I want to be clear. “Good dad” is obviously subjective. A google search of how to be a good dad brings back plenty of sites with advice and tips for how to be a good dad. Who knows whats right? Just try not to be a bad dad, and the rest should take care of itself.
Put your phone down. Ok this one I’m a hypocrite there. But just try to be engaged. Your kids are smart, they see the effort. Explain what you are doing on your phone. Explain why you aren’t engage, when you aren’t. They will learn what matters, and what you prioritize.
When your phone is down, get down at there level (or up at their level if they’re taller than you). Play with them. Play blocks with them on the floor. Go outside and play catch with them. Do flash cards with them. Go for bike rides. Go for walks. Let them drive your car with you. Do anything. Give them your attention. Help them become good people.
How to be a good dad: Be present
If you’ve read much of this blog you’ll see how important I feel this to be. It’s my motivation behind my journey to Financial Independence Retire Early. It’s hard to be a good dad if you aren’t around. Be around. See my post about Being Present. Or stop reading this and go be present with them.
Be a role model
Like it or not, you are now a role matter. You can’t avoid it. Your kid learns by observing everything around them. You are around them (or you are not around them and they learn that behavior). This isn’t Charles Barkley saying he isn’t a role matter and wishing it was true. You don’t have a choice. You will either be a positive role model or they will model your negative role. Choose wisely.
Know that no one likes to be told no.
Why do parents feel the need to be dictators? It’s such an insecure move to constantly tell a kid no. These kids are people. They will do what you don’t want them to do Often! They aren’t your slave. You don’t own them. What you do own is the responsibility to raise good self sufficient people that don’t need you when they are older.
If we can’t tell our kids why we are telling them no then we shouldn’t be telling them no. If I can’t justify it to a child, then why am I saying no in the first place. My job is to keep them safe and help them grow into someone that doesn’t need me. If I say no, because I say so, then how can they make a decision with me around?
Justify your no with words. No doesn’t teach reasoning. It teaches what it feels like to be oppressed. There is a lot of fall out that comes from feeling oppressed. Don’t believe me? Tell your kid no. Think of how you feel the next time someone tells you no.
“Because I told you so” and “Because I say so.”
I have never once said these phrases to my kids. It’s a sign of an insecure and weak parent. Explain why you said so. Teach your kids how you think so they can develop the tools to make good decisions. It’s also such a power trip. Kids don’t need to be oppressed. They need to be given the tools to develop.
Curb your aggression
These kids will make you mad. Often. Try to curb your aggression. Do not hit them. Try not to yell at them. Do not call them names. Try to figure out how to calm yourself down when they set you off. But don’t take it out on them. They are learning. Even when they try to make you mad on purpose, try to be smart. It’s tough. I get mad often. But try to remember your role: Be a good dad. It’s ok to be mad. But tone it down. Aggression breeds aggression. Anger breeds anger. Chill out and remember that you control the situation even when you don’t think you do.
How to be a good dad: Life’s Lessons
Please read my post on Life’s Lessons. It centers around three things to teach your kid, or anyone.
- If you fall down, get back up
- Just figure it out
- Be a good person
Bottom line on being a good dad
Like so much of this blog I am not claiming to be an expert. I’m just sharing ideas hoping that some readers will adapt them in their own life. The truth is, you don’t need advice. Just try to be a good dad, and you become a good dad.