10 Ways Dads Can Improve Their Relationship with Their Children
This took me a while to put together. Truth is there are lots of awesome dads out there, and lots of different reasons they are awesome dads.
I can’t say you’re an awesome dad because you took your kids to see Star Wars or you let them eat pizza and ice cream for dinner.
Taking your kids to Disney or some other awesome kid-focused vacation spot does not make you an awesome dad, though it certainly helps, and you will be the hero for at least a few days.
There are so many things we can do and say that are awesome, but they don’t make you an awesome dad.
Why Did I Create The Ultimate Guide to Being an Awesome Dad?
I write this from a different perspective. My father was not around when I was a child. I have heard different reasons why that is, and I am not going to get into the blame game but my father was not around from the time I was approaching my teen years. Even before that it was very sparingly.
I don’t know what it is like to be the child of an awesome dad. I do believe I know what it’s like to be an awesome dad.
My father is still alive and lives only a few miles from me. He has had chances to reconcile and get to know his grandchildren but never made the effort.
He did leave me with one life lesson though.
Be the Best Dad I Can Be!
It seems that not having a father (figure) in your life can have a very profound effect on your adult years. It will either be very negative or very positive. I have seen it go both ways.
I chose to be the best dad I could possibly be. I put being a dad before EVERYTHING else. It’s more important to me to play My Little Pony with my 4-year-old daughter than it is to watch any Yankee or Jets game.
It’s more important to me to teach my 8-year-old son all I know about baseball than it is to make money or hang out with friends at the bar. And I know a lot about baseball.
It was more important to me to see my oldest daughter play softball than it was to work overtime or hang out with friends. She’s 23 now and just had a child of her own.
I will not be the kind of grandfather who does not know his grandchildren. Avery is not even two months old yet and I have already spent more time with him than my father ever did with his grandchildren, combined.
If there is one slice of pizza left, it’s more important that the kids have it.
Yes, there are times when I need alone time or quality time with my wife, but my kids are EVERYTHING.
This guide is fluid. It’s also somewhat personal to me.
I will probably add or edit this guide over time as I think of other important things that need to be clarified. Make sure you bookmark it and return to it.
What Makes a Dad Awesome?
Here are 10 things I believe make an awesome dad. I have spent a lot of time researching this and asking questions, reading posts/responses in dad forums and websites.
This also aligns closely with my own feelings on being an awesome dad.
I put this one first because I believe it is the single most important factor in a child’s life. Studies have proven that not having a father in a child’s life has a long-lasting impact on that child’s life.
There are things your child cannot learn from their mother. Now before you blast me with a woman can do anything a man can do let me clarify. A woman cannot teach a young boy how to be a man. A mother cannot teach her daughter how a man should love her.
Every time my daughter gets a new dress, or her mom does her hair a different way she runs to me for approval. She wants to know what I think. It’s up to me to teach her about self-worth. Of course, I always think she looks beautiful, but I also add to me saying she looks gorgeous with you don’t need anyone’s validation. If you think you’re pretty that’s all that matters.
My son sometimes loses his cool. Boys have different levels of aggression than girls in their younger years, well almost all their life. It’s up to me to teach him how a man should respond. Mom cannot teach this. It will not be viewed in the same way.
There are just some things mom, or another adult figure cannot teach. I am living proof of this. My mom did the best she could but there were things that were missing because there was no real father figure.
I spend as much time as possible with my children. Whether it’s chilling out on the couch, roughhousing, baseball practice, hiking or hanging out in my office to use one of my laptops they know I am available to them.
Spending time dancing with your daughter or having a nerf battle with your son will leave an impression on them that will be unmatched.
Hiking, going to the beach, walking to the mailbox, showing them new chores, helping them with homework, teaching them something new, grab a taco and a movie…. there are so many things that you as a dad can do during your time with your children.
Things that you don’t even realize you’re doing as a dad. You’re just spending TIME with your children.
Let’s be clear. You’re not babysitting. It drives me crazy when someone asks if I am babysitting my kids. They are my kids. I do not babysit them. We have a babysitter. She’s 13 years old and loves kids. She is not a dad (or mom). Parents do not babysit their own kids.
Spend time with your children. You don’t need to do anything during that time, just be there for them.
Almost as important as time is patience. And this is something that I sometimes struggle with. I used to have a really short fuse, but I have worked on it over time.
Nothing teaches you patience like having an infant with colic. I have done it three times now. It might be the worst thing ever. Imagine your child crying for hours on end and there’s nothing you can do about it.
I endured it and learned patience through it.
I mentioned my daughter (Izzy) is a chatterbox. When I pick her up from school she will spend the next 15 minutes traveling home telling me everything that happened during her day. I am not even sure she takes a breath.
She’s sitting with me in the office as I try to add to this blog post.
I love it but when my blog juice kicks in and I am trying to put a blog post together, especially one as epic as this one, I need concentration. I have heard “Daddy” at least 5 times in the span of this paragraph.
I stopped and responded to her inquiry each time. She just wants to show me things she is doing in ABCMouse. She’s doing a great job!
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to be an awesome dad. And no one is prepared to raise a child no matter what book you read.
You just need to be able to teach your children things.
It can be anything. How to change spark plugs, how to fix a computer, how to lay down a bunt, how to grill the perfect cheeseburger.
I truly believe that everyone is an expert on at least one subject, probably many more. Your subject might not seem like much to someone else but to your children, it means the world.
Impart that knowledge with your children and they will run with it. Children are sponges. They will soak up your knowledge and make it even better.
Ultimately our job is to give our children a better life than the one we had. Teaching them all you know is a step in that direction.
Life lessons are a great piece of knowledge to share, and who doesn’t have a few life lessons to share?
Children are tiny complex human beings. Sometimes it is impossible to understand what they really want or need.
As parents, we all know what it is like to calm a cranky baby but as they get older it gets harder to figure them out.
Babies only cry for a few reasons. They’re hungry, uncomfortable, tired or in pain.
As they get older they have more emotions, more things to care about, more things they want to know. They become more complex and harder to understand.
It’s important that even if you don’t understand you let them know that you are working on understanding them.
Try to remember what it was like to be 7, 10, or 16 all over again. High School was not fun for me. Was it fun for you?
Try to remember how it felt when you got yelled at in front of your friends.
Try to remember how it felt eating Salisbury steak and green beans for the 4th time in a week.
What do they say about empathy? Walk a mile in their shoes?
I am not saying you need to give in to their every demand. As a matter of fact, don’t. I would never suggest that. Not giving in doesn’t mean you don’t understand them.
A child’s world is much smaller than ours. Their desires and problems are very different. Understanding them will go a long way towards being an awesome dad.
Set the example. My mom used to say, “Do As I Say, Not As I Do”. The reality is children watch everything you do and will mimic it.
Do you yell a lot? They will mimic this. Short fuse? They will mimic it.
Are you patient? Do you eat vegetables? Do you read, or veg out on the TV?
How is your relationship with other people, especially your significant other?
They will mimic all these things.
I was raised by an old-school Italian mom who used soup ladles and hair brushes to make her point. While I would never use any of these things to discipline my children I do at times raise my voice.
I have noticed that my children sometimes raise their voice in frustration. Point taken. I need to adjust.
What example are you setting?
OK, this one is probably the hardest but one of the most necessary things to be an awesome dad.
My mother used to say “This is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you” before she beat us with a soup ladle. I never understood this until I became a parent.
I don’t want to paint my mother as a bad person. She was not. It was a different generation with different beliefs as it relates to raising children.
She was a single mother who did the best she could to raise two boys. No easy task for sure and my brother and I didn’t help.
Disciplining your children hurts you to the core sometimes. Having to send them to their room on a Saturday when you planned to spend time hanging out with them is painful.
The look on their face when you must discipline is enough to break your heart. Taking away something they were looking forward to hurts you just as much as it hurts your child.
I do believe that I am my son’s first best friend and hope this lasts a lifetime. I do believe I am both my daughters’ first love and I hope that lasts a lifetime.
I also believe that for them to grow up respecting others they need to learn to respect rules as they are given. They first need to learn to respect their parents before they will respect anyone else.
They will respect you as a dad if you set rules and honor those rules.
Let’s go back to setting the example for a minute. Do you respect the rules as well?
We have a rule in our house that there are no electronics at the dinner table. This applies to everyone, including guests. That means for the time we are at the table the focus is on eating and family.
If I sat down at the table and ignored this rule what message am I sending my children?
I can’t then discipline them for breaking the rules. It wouldn’t be fair (you hear that a lot as a parent, just make sure you are being fair).
It is very important that your children have respect for you as a parent. Without rules and discipline, they will not respect you as much, if at all.
My younger kids are also taking Karate. This is a great way to teach them self-control and discipline. Their karate school has an anti-bullying class. They also teach and give homework structured around respect, self-control, discipline and other areas that parents sometimes struggle when raising children.
Hearing it from more than one source is always helpful.
Listen to any adult who thought their parents were tough on them as a child. They will thank their parents for being tough, setting guidelines and demanding respect through discipline and setting the example.
Just make sure the discipline is not abusive.
Your children will change career paths and dreams a thousand times before finishing high school.
So far, I have heard doctor, fireman, garbage man, train conductor, train engineer, teacher, pro baseball player, gymnast, pediatrician, social worker, and dancer to name a few.
My response is always you will be a great (fill in the blank). They will have big dreams and lofty goals. Some might seem unattainable.
Support them and believe in them.
Isaiah believes he can make it to MLB. I would love nothing more than for this to happen. I also know it’s a long shot.
I tell him constantly he can do anything he puts his mind to if he works hard and puts in the effort. I honestly do believe he can make it.
That’s one of the many examples for all 3 of my children. I believe they can accomplish anything even when they don’t. When they feel defeated or frustrated I tell them they can do it, whatever it is.
Izzy tells me she can’t write the number two or letter Z or K. I know she can. She needs encouragement. Something so minor to us is a big deal to her. Showing that I believe in her will go a long way.
I mentioned earlier that my adult daughter, Arielle, is a new mother. It isn’t the path I would have chosen for her (yes, I told her that) but I believe she will be a great mom and successful in life.
Yes, I still tell my 23-year-old daughter she can do anything she puts her mind to. Yes, I am still there for her.
Believing in your children, supporting your children and encouraging your children never ends.
8. Sense of Humor
This is a must. How can you not have a sense of humor as a dad?
I am accused of having a dry sense of humor. I share corny jokes with my kids all the time.
I have a quick wit that some people don’t always get. That’s their problem.
I am sarcastic. It’s rubbing off on my children. This has been carried down for generations in my family.
I believe all dads have a talent for snappy responses and corny jokes.
You also need to be able to laugh at things. When your child does something that should cause you distress sometimes it’s better to just laugh.
Don’t laugh at them if it’s going to make them feel bad. Wait until they are not around and laugh.
Izzy cannot really pronounce her Rs so when she says Fork it sounds like something else. We laugh, but not at her. It’s funny.
Isaiah tries to come up with his own jokes. Sometimes they’re terrible but sometimes he is spot on. We laugh with him.
Without a sense of humor, you may as well throw in the towel. You can’t take everything seriously or you will go grey/bald faster than the rest of us.
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9. Life Lessons
I love passing on life lessons to all of my kids. They don’t always love receiving the lessons.
I have shared life lessons about everything from tying your shoes to young love with my children.
I have always been honest with my children about where I have come from, where I have been and what I have learned. If it prevents an ounce of pain then my job is done.
Be honest with them about life. Make sure that it’s age appropriate but be honest.
Teach them about the pitfalls, the life hacks and the things they don’t teach in school.
You also must let them learn some of their own lessons. I like to call this the invisible leash.
I will let my children make decisions for themselves but keep a close eye so that if/when they fall the net is not too far away. I think this is what sets a good father and an awesome dad apart.
Here’s an example. Isaiah rarely cuts loose outside of his comfort zones (home and school). We joke that he’s a lightweight when it comes to partying. He’s almost always out cold by 9 pm, even at a party.
At a recent wedding, he held true to form as he fell asleep at the dinner table around 8:30 or 9:00 pm. When the DJ cranked it up he woke up and started dancing with his cousins.
He spent a few hours dancing and running around. When he was running around he would go with his cousins out of the reception area and into the hallways of the building, out of our sight.
My wife was a little worried about this, as was I. We do not like to let him out of our sight.
He is 8 now. He needs to start learning to make smart choices. He has been taught and guided for 8 plus years now. He’s a very smart boy. It’s time to let him make some mistakes or learn some life lessons on his own.
He did just fine!
They don’t always do the right thing. It’s OK. Be there with the net and to help them understand the life lesson. That’s what an awesome dad does.
Izzy asks me all the time if I will be there for her under all these different scenarios. My answer is always a resounding yes.
They need to know that you will do as you say. If you say you’re going to be at the school play or the basketball game, be there.
If you say you’re going to do something, then do it.
Help them with homework. Get them on the bus or off the bus for school. Play catch when you say you’re going to play catch.
When your daughter asks you to dance (and she will) you dance. I am a terrible dancer but I love nothing more than to dance with Izzy.
I sometimes purposely put the computer down so that I can just spend a few extra moments playing with them.
If I tell them I will be somewhere I make every effort to be there.
There are times when I am dead on my feet and all I want to do is veg out on the couch but one of the children need me for something.
Children need to know that daddy will be there. Being dependable means everything to them. Not being there repeatedly will break their hearts. Be the rock.
If you are not with the mother of your children, then it is CRITICAL that you spend every moment possible with your children. If it’s your weekend or vacation or holiday that is your number one priority. Be there.
Call them, facetime them, text them. It’s so easy to stay in touch now there should be no excuses. Be an awesome dad.
What Does Not Make You an Awesome Dad
You will notice on my list that there is nothing that costs money. All the toys and gadgets in the world will not make you an awesome dad.
Paying coaches and trainers to teach your children while you run around and do other things will not make you an awesome dad.
Yes, I do pay for extra training, but I am there watching most of the time. I critique their extra training after they’re done. For that 30-60 minutes, my undivided attention is on them.
Letting them do whatever they want because you feel guilty does not make you an awesome dad.
Taking a quick Instagram photo to share with the world when you barely see your child does not make you an awesome dad. In fact, that makes you a terrible father.
Being disrespectful to your children’s mother or other family members do not make you an awesome dad.
I am happy to say that all the dads I know are awesome dads. No matter the circumstances they are there for their children.
They work hard. They provide for them. They spend time with them. They teach, talk, listen, learn, understand, empathize and love their children.
I am not naïve though. I know there are plenty of fathers who do not do their part. Shame on you.
If you’re not being the best dad you can be you are scarring your child for life. And you just might be creating a hurtful cycle.
In Closing, Be Awesome
Being an awesome dad is my first and most important job. It’s the hardest job I have ever done and will ever do. I am on call all the time. There’s no retirement plan. There’s no bonus plan or stock option. Breaks are far and few between.
Yet, I would not trade it for the world.
I do get handmade cards and socks & t-shirts on Father’s Day and my birthday. These are the best rewards ever. Well with one exception.
That tight, meaningful hug for no real reason is the greatest gift known to man. And I get them all the time.
Dads (and Moms) don’t get me wrong. I am not a perfect parent by any stretch of the imagination. I make mistakes. Daily. We all do.
But to my children, I am an awesome dad.
What do you think makes an awesome dad?