The Key to Becoming a Better Dad

Today’s post is by David B. Van Heemst, author of Splashing in Puddles: How to Be a Father to Your Daughter.

Become a Better Dad

Imagine looking back a year from now and thinking, I’ve become a better dad. Wouldn’t that be amazing? What can you do to make becoming a better dad a reality?

Fatherhood is hot. Like never before, the impact—for good or ill—that dads have is a cutting-edge topic. In the first year of his administration, President Obama, highlighted the need for dads to improve when he inaugurated the Fatherhood Initiative. The administration designed this program to empower dads, through mentoring and skills training, to become the fathers their children deserve. The initiative’s goal is captured in this statement: “We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child—it’s the courage to raise one.”

Becoming a good dad is a daunting challenge. Parenting has changed dramatically in the past generation. Dads are now expected to do much more than provide for their children’s physical needs; they’re expected to provide for their children’s emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs too. It can all seem a little overwhelming—kind of like changing a diaper for the first time. The day after our twin daughters were born, a nurse handed me two diapers and walked out of the room. “What am I supposed to do with these?,” I wondered.

Over the past decade, there’ve been a lot of books and studies published concluding that dads play an unbelievably significant role in the lives of their children, and that we fathers need to start doing an even better job of parenting. But how? How can we start becoming better dads?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we can become good dads by doing the right things: if we can only get our children involved in enough events or into the right school, then they will have the edge they need to succeed. Sadly, the unintended consequence can be that children not only internalize pressure from the implicit message to perform but they have less time to be at home enjoying the down time necessary for emotional and psychological health.

Being instead of Doing

If you’d like to become a better dad, the most important thing you can do is this: focus on being instead of doing. By being, I mean this: cultivate a relationship with your child. As a dad of five daughters ages 10 and younger, I’ve learned that a good relationship hinges upon the quality of the interaction I have with my daughters. Giving dignity by so deeply valuing each of them is an unbeatable gift. By encouraging, supporting, listening to, and respecting each of them, I can hope to guide them through the mazes of childhood, attentive not only to their hopes and dreams, their fears and sorrows, but also to the ways in which they’re processing life on a daily basis.

Much of being a good dad to young children lies in the every day moments of life. Since monotony makes up a great deal of daily life, most of good parenting centers on daily interactions. The way you relate to your kids in the hum-drum moments of life provides the most important impact in shaping them. The words you use when calling them for supper, the way you touch them, the kindness in your tone, the way you look at them when you’re with them—all of those seemingly small things have huge consequences for the internal make-up of how your child views and lives in the world.

To be a good dad, you do not have to splurge on a vacation to Disney World. To be a good dad, you need to be a good guy to your child in today’s small moments: snuggle, relax, tickle, and read a book with your kid. You’ll see the evidence of your impact on your kid: when I see one of our children smile or when I hear them laugh, I know that their heart is singing and there’s no better sound in the universe.

The Best Place to Start

Maybe the best place to start is to try to see things from your child’s perspective. If you were your child, how would you perceive your dad, your life, and your daily circumstances?  Mentally trading places with your child can produce lots of helpful insights.

If you’d like to become an even better dad, consider the following:

  • Embrace the idea that you can change
  • Make change a commitment
  • Vow to focus on the relationship with your child
  • Start with small changes and keep focused on the small issues
  • Focus on one day at a time

Being a dad is the most joyful, exhausting, exciting, and rewarding experience of a lifetime. You have the opportunity this year to do something incredible, something much more meaningful than any hobby or work accomplishment: you can become a hero in your child’s eyes. You can make your child’s heart sing. You can experience the joy of hearing your child whisper as she’s falling asleep, “I love you, Daddy.” Go for it.

Get more of David’s parenting insight when you purchase Splashing in Puddles: How to Be a Father to Your Daughter on Vyrso today. 

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