It only takes minutes to become a father. But being a great dad is a lifelong pursuit. Below are 10 suggestions for being the best father you can be:
• Spend time with your children. Kids whose dads are involved in their lives get higher grades in school and make better choices than those youngsters whose fathers are less available to them. In fact, research shows that the number of hours of father-child contact helps predict kids’ ultimate personal and academic success. If you live with your kids, look for ways to interact with them on a daily basis. If you share custody of your youngsters, keep in near-daily contact via telephone, Skype and e-mail, and schedule routine times to get together.
• Respect your youngsters’ mother. Ideally you reside with the mother of your offspring and can demonstrate a loving relationship with her on a daily basis. Even if you and Mom don’t share the same address, you can be pleasant and cordial to her at all times. Your behav-ior toward this all-important woman instills incredibly powerful lessons in your kids: Boys learn how to treat women, girls learn how they will be treated by men. You set the stage for their future behavior. Make sure you’re being a good teacher.
• Be a partner, not a helper. Child-rearing is a team effort. Both parents must take part in the day-to-day process. Participate in the care and feeding of babies. Attend school functions and help school-age youngsters with their homework. Be available to listen to kids’ concerns. You’ll directly shape your children’s personalities while demonstrating that you care.
• Teach your son how to be a man. You are the masculine energy of the household. It’s up to you to demonstrate how men behave. Engage in guy-type play with your tots, such as wrestling or making model airplanes. Enlist children’s help with your masculine household chores. Talk about finances and managing money. Your strong presence is essential to both your sons and your daughters. • Involve youngsters in your hobbies. Teach kids how to fish and camp. Share your love of music. Or involve them in woodworking projects. You’ll be passing along your knowledge and skills and you’ll have hours together with your children.
• Take an in interest in your children’s activities. It’s natural and beneficial for kids to explore a variety of sports, pastimes and clubs. Wise parents encourage the process to foster youngsters’ confidence, goal setting and perseverance. Follow your children’s leads to discover where you can be most helpful. Whether you’re driving your son to water polo games or helping your daughter with her 4-H hog, you’ll be sending an invaluable message: “You are important to me.”
• Manage your anger appropriately. We all get frustrated at times. But research shows that men are more likely to resort to aggression and violence than women in similar circumstances. It’s important to keep angry feelings in check and to model good coping strategies for your children. You’ll create a safer environment at home. And you’ll show kids how to control themselves when things don’t go as planned.
• Set limits. Fathers play an irreplaceable role as the enforcer of the family. No one intends to cast them as the perennial Bad Guy. But their louder voices and larger bodies create an “I-mean-it” attitude that helps keep kids in line. Recognizing this duty allows you to use it with wisdom and discretion. Your goal isn’t to intimidate your youngsters. Still, your authority can be far-reaching and delineate boundaries that your kids will know not to cross.
• Instill your values. Boys and girls need to learn what is right. The best lessons come directly from their folks. Share your viewpoints on a variety of subjects. Start during the earliest years and cover simple subjects such as honesty or getting along with siblings. As youngsters mature you can address more complex issues like using birth control or whether to get a tattoo. Always present your opinions in a respectful manner. Encourage youngsters to ask questions and express their own thoughts on the topic. These ongoing dialogues foster kids’ fundamental values and let them know they can always talk with Dad.
• Love your children un-conditionally. Children grow up and define their own lives.
At times you’ll be beaming with pride for their achievements.
At others you’ll shake your head in shock and disbelief. You won’t always agree with every decision that they make. Yet your undying love tells kids you’ll always be there for them. And that’s called being a great dad. Happy Father’s Day.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her visit lindalewisgriffith.com