Almost every father strives to be a good dad, and most have their definition of good. A dad may feel that he is a good father by providing for his child. But children don’t understand that if you’re constantly absent, not until they grow up.
So how do we show to our children that we are good dads in a way that they can understand? By taking actions that they can see, touch, and feel. Here are 23 actionable steps that I took to measure myself, to say with some confidence that I’m a good dad to my son. It takes effort but it’s worth it. Hope this gives you some ideas too.
Play With Your Child
Children love playing, it’s probably one of the things they love the most. If you can give him your undivided attention and play with him, he will feel that he matters to you, and you will create in him a good foundation of trust.
This part of play means giving your full, undivided attention to your child. Put the phone aside, turn off the TV, no iPods, no chatting with other people, just put your full attention on him.
When I first started, I got bored really fast because what my son liked to play was boring to me, I notice my mind started to wander off fast. So I set a few guidelines that I can stick to. I will dedicate 10 minutes in a day to play with him, and in those 10 minutes, I will give him my full undivided attention.
Once that limit was set, it became easier because I know when the play session will end. Now start to get involved, if he is playing with a hanger, be excited about him and the hanger. Clap, encourage him, smile, be silly, laugh, affirm him in the tiniest things he does. It doesn’t have to make sense, just enjoy him.
If he is older, ask him what he wants to play, and play that with him. Don’t suggest something else, let him choose what to play for playtime. If you’re finding it difficult, invite your wife to play along, ask her how she does it and try your best, this session can be one of the best bonding time for your family.
Gradually, playtime between me and my son became longer and more spontaneous, and our bond grew deeper and deeper.
Read To Your Child
This is probably one of the best things you can do for him. Did you know that if reading is a routine activity for your child, he can learn more words than his peers, his command of language will be better, and he will have an advantage in school?
Reading time can start at any age. When my baby was still a month old, I started reading four chapters of the bible to him daily. Now that he is older, I read his books too. Many children’s books today have special textures. For example, an animal book will have furs on the lion’s mane or scales on a lizard’s body. My boy is especially interested in these textures, and I can capture his attention on the book easier.
Learn how to be descriptive. Take the example below. Instead of just reading the words, you can point at the toothbrush and say, “This is baby squirrel’s toothbrush.” Or point to the red shoes and say, “Wow, this is mommy squirrel’s red shoes, they are so pretty!” You are building his language, communication, and social skills while also increasing his imagination.
My wife is a teacher, and she tells me that many children struggle in school because of a lack of vocabulary. You’re laying an excellent foundation for him so that he can fare better while building up that bond between the two of you. Keep it fun though, and we prefer not to make reading time an academic time, there’s no scoring system, just bonding time.
Get Involved In Your Child’s Life
Our children need their dads to be an integral part of their lives, which means we are involved in their daily lives. Let’s look at some of the basic things that we can do for them.
- Changing his diapers – This was challenging for me in the beginning but as I continued to do it, it became easier and easier. I got to interact with my son in a way that won’t happen any other time. It wasn’t fun every time, but there were moments made and funny memories, experiences me and my son will have that belongs to us.
- Bathing him – I didn’t bathe my son until he was a year old, then I tried it a few times, and it was really fun! You can see a different sort of reaction during bathing time. If you’ve never done this, your child might only want his mom to bathe him. Get her to help, if you’re consistent your child will be comfortable with you in no time.
- Feeding him – Whether you’re bottle-feeding or spoon-feeding, you should try to feed him from time to time. Since babies and toddlers take quite a bit of time to finish their meals, it’s an opportunity to connect to your child. Soon you’ll know his cues, and whether he wants his next spoon or his water, it’s an amazing connection!
- Taking him to the playground – Bring your child outdoors, take him for a walk, bring him to the playground! It’s very healthy for your child to go out and get comfortable with having other people around him. You’re letting him know that you’re dependable, that he is safe when you’re around. You’re also helping him to socialize with other children which helps him develop his sense of self and learn what others expect of him.
- Putting him to bed – This is probably the most challenging part for me as my boy can take up to 2 hours before he falls asleep. During that time he can cry a lot, be very playful, or even restless, but again if I did not put him to sleep, I wouldn’t have this memory with him.
- Helping him with his homework – If your child is older, help him out with his homework, be his teacher. In some cultures, it is the responsibility of the father to teach their children in schoolwork and other life skills. Education is such an important thing, and you can play a large role in this area of his life.
- Attending his school activities – Whether he is performing on stage or participating in a sports competition, make yourself available to attend. You are building his self-confidence as you participate, you’re sending a signal that what he does matter to you and you are interested in his life.
- Talking to him – Take some time out of the day to ask him about how his day has been. Give your full attention to him and listen, be interested, laugh at his jokes, affirm, and encourage him as the opportunity presents itself. Use wisdom, and sometimes it is better to stay silent and just be a good listener.
- Bringing him to a father and son trip – This applies to your daughter too. Many dads have shared with me that the 1-on-1 trips they had with their children were the best moments for them. Their child can talk about that trip for years to come, and the next trip excites them to no end! Put your heart in and plan for the trip, making all the preparations for a day trip or a two days trip, and that trip is all about you and your child. It’s best if you don’t bring your laptop and put work aside.
Loving Your Wife Is A Trait Of A Good Father
Children desire a warm and loving home. When I was a child, I remember more than anything that I wanted a home where there’s no quarreling, where the environment was peaceful. I dread it whenever there’s a fight at home.
One of the best things we can give our children is having a loving marriage with our spouse, it is one of the best ways to build our children’s sense of security at home. Our spouse should hold a higher position in our hearts than our children, and when we get that priority right, our home will naturally be a wonderful place for our children. Take actionable steps to love your wife.
- Surprise her with a gift. It doesn’t need to be extravagant; a small and thoughtful gift is often more powerful, not to mention more sustainable for you.
- Bring her out for a 1-on-1 dinner. Let someone else take care of the kids for a few hours, such as your parents, in-laws, or hire a baby sitter. Again it doesn’t need to be expensive, it needs to be thoughtful.
- Appreciate her. Take notice and thank her for the things she did. How she prepares your kid for the day in the morning, how she cooks for the family, how she keeps the house clean and tidy.
One of the things I learned is that you can train yourself to be thankful. If you tell yourself that you want to find three things to thank her daily, you will be more aware of what she does and give her the appreciation she deserves.
- Praise & affirm her. Sometimes we feel that our wives are experts at taking care of the house and our kids, not realizing that sometimes they doubt themselves too. Worse, when something bad happens, they tend to blame themselves first.
Take notice about the things she does and praise her about it, affirm her that you think she is an awesome mom, and why. In my case, I appreciate my wife for being a full-time mom, and I feel that it’s incredible that she can stay at home and care for our boy the whole day. It’s amazing, and I tell her that. I tell her she’s an expert at bathing and feeding our boy. She’s just a genius!
Your affirmation will give her love, confidence, and propel her to become a better mom. Take notice of what she does, and don’t wait until you feel she deserves the praise before you give it. Give your praises freely.
- Take care of the kids for a few hours. Let her go out with her friends, her family, let her make her hair at the salon, enjoy her hobby, anything. She probably needs a breather. Suggest that you will take care of the kids and let her do whatever she wants, she will appreciate it.
- Go on a vacation. Just the 2 of you, it can be somewhere nearby, an affordable short stay. Some time ago I let my in-laws take care of our boy and then brought my wife to an overnight trip.
At first, we were uncomfortable as our boy was less than a year old, we worried that our parents could not handle him. But we decided to do our best to equip our parents and went ahead with the trip. During the trip, she was worried from time to time, missed her son, but overall we had a very good time together and came back recharged.
- Love her parents. There are many in-law jokes around these days, in-laws are portrayed like a nuisance, and this has made us disrespect our spouse’s parents. Think about it, do you like it when someone talks bad about your parents?
One of the best ways to show love to your wife is to love her parents. Bring your family over for visits, if it’s far away, do it at least during important occasions. Speak well of them, care for them, provide for them even in small ways, help them. Show them the respect that you want others to show to your parents. Your wife will appreciate it.
- Do the things she likes together. My wife loves to go shopping, but it is one of the most boring things for me. Without long, I start to yawn a lot! It is something she takes notice, as well. Many times I suggest her to go with her sisters since they like to shop, but my wife wishes that at times she can shop with me too. Because of this, I make an effort to go shopping with her and put my full attention on it.
Doing what she likes together with her shows that you are interested in and are more involved in her world. Everyone likes to share what they enjoy and hope that someone else can enjoy it together with them, what more your wife? Take the initiative to find out what it is and enjoy the moment with her.
- Talk to her. Communication between husband and wife is crucial, and yet we seldom have time to sit down and talk, to understand each other. Taking 5-10 minutes a day, or every other day to talk to your wife and understand what she is going through can go a long way to strengthening your marriage.
Many times after our children come into our lives, our spouse takes a backseat without us being aware of it. Eventually, our relationship begins to deteriorate, more fights happen, our home becomes intolerable when our spouse is around, and it eventually leads to a broken family that hurts our children deeply. If we want to give our children the best, then a happy marriage between their parents cannot be missing in their lives.
Have Meal Time With Your Family
We have a house rule in our family. When it is dinner time, we sit at the dining table together. The TV is turned off, and no phones are allowed. This allows us to take our busy day off and have family time together. During this time we can talk about anything and everything that happened throughout the day.
A professor at Drury University asked in his class how many students grew up having dinner at the table regularly, and half of them raised their hands. The students soon began asking if those who had eaten dinner at the table during childhood felt closer to their families. Everyone who raised their hands said yes, while most that didn’t raise their hands said no. [source]
The power of sitting down at the dining table is that it can pull us away from our work, school, entertainment, computer games, and truly be together. We get to talk about our day and hear what our family members are experiencing in theirs. There’s a powerful bond being built at the table that is difficult to get elsewhere.
As fathers, we have the authority to make decisions in the family, and when we use it wisely, it can greatly benefit our family. Have your family have meals together at the table. If you can’t have it every day, have it every weekend or once a week. It is difficult to be a good father in the eyes of your children if you don’t spend time with them, and this is the perfect idea on how to have quality time with your kids.
I’m far away from home and my children, what can I do? Being far away has a price; it makes it harder for us to be a good father in the eyes of our child. I feel you as I only get to see my boy for two weeks every month. The best way for me is to Skype with him as much as I can when I’m not around.
When you’re home, maximize the time that you can spend with them. Do as many of the things mentioned above as you can, but don’t neglect your wife. Remember that your spouse should come first.
If finance is the reason you have to be away, take steps to find a job nearby, or find other avenues of income. If your side income can cover some of your expenses, you may be able to find another job that pays less but allows you to be at home. That is also my current goal, and if I can build a sizeable side income, I can find a job that pays less back home and be with my family, to become the good father my children deserves.