Got something in your mind that makes you think you can be a perfect dad? Squash it.
There is no way to be the perfect father, or brother or son or basketball player or, well, anything. There are some things that you can do to be the best dad that you can be. The main one? Don’t think about it too much. Just do what comes natural and treat your kiddo the way they like to be treated. If they are older, give them respect, and if they are younger, give them tenderness. You should be in the win if you just really follow your gut.
Here are some more tips:
Be available to your child.
Although work issues may take you away from always having time to be with your children, be sure that the time you do spend with them is focused. Remember, no work in this life is more important than family. You may recall Steve Jobs moving statement near the end of his life. And even if you say you need the money to get by, yes, but trust me… in the big, big scheme of things, work is much less important than it seems to be with the value society puts on it. As long as you do your very best there, that is fantastic, just don’t overdo it, it’s not worth it.
And, when you get home from work, put down the television remote. Give your child the gift of looking them in the eye when you speak together. For many men, we are used to the art of half-listening with one eye on the television and one eye on our kid as they are talking. At first, your child will probably put up with this. As they get older, they will learn you are not really listening and they will quit trying. The next time you are with your child, mentally ask yourself, “Who has my mind right now?” The “best dad” is fully focused on his child as they speak or spend time together.
Make your children’s needs your priority.
This is often hard for new dads to understand. It is important to remember that your child’s childhood is a stage. It will be over before you know it and you will wonder why time went so fast. So, make your child the priority even it means listening to the same old preschool songs repeatedly or missing a night out with the guys to be with a pre-teen suffering through her first breakup with a puppy-love boyfriend. One day, you’ll miss all of these “annoyances” so soak it up Pops!
Model the behavior you want.
Your children are always watching you. If you want your children to behave in a specific manner, then you need to model (demonstrate) that behavior. Don’t want your child to throw excessive tantrums? Then you need be sure that you act with control when you are angry or frustrated. If you want your newly-licensed teenager to drive with caution, be sure you are modeling that for many years before they get the keys. The “best dad” leads by example and not just words. Try as much as you can to incorporate self-improvement into your life. This means a healthy diet, enough sleep, counseling when you need it or for general wellness maintenance, exercise and enough fun. Yes, Dad, you need fun, otherwise, people tend to not be able to cope with life all that well. Make sure to schedule in time with friends and time to enjoy your favorite activities here and there.
Ask for help when you need it.
Nearly every dad has some questions about child rearing. If you are unsure about a situation, seek out advice from the other men in your family and network who are dads. Read parenting books to get up-to-date with current knowledge about child development. Submit a question to an online-parenting group. You will discover that there are many dads-only websites to help you through your issues- and they are usually full of humor and fun written by dads for dads.
The “best dad” knows when to seek out help and advice. (Yes, that couldn’t be more true. Of course, as a counselor and Dad myself, I know that asking and receiving help does wonders for the whole “half full” outlook stuff. My office is zero pressure and mostly focused on ways to solve some of the problems you have have going on in your life (exes? career? health issues? depression?). Come on in and try a session if you’ve been thinking about it already.
You will never be the perfect dad. We all err and make some dumb mistakes with our children. However, you can also make choices to be the best dad possible. Take the time to make your kids your genuine focus in your life, seek out knowledge when you need to know more. Be sure to remember your child is always watching you see what real adult acts like.
The “best dad” is already there inside of you.