I’m regularly asked by honest, hard-working men, “How can I be a better dad?” Asking the question is probably the first step. Fatherhood comes more easily to some than others. Maybe they had better models. Maybe it’s just a better personality fit. But every man has the potential to be a good father and every man should diligently work toward positively influencing the next generation.
Yet no man is exactly where he needs to be. We all have room to grow, learn, and mature.
1. Become a better man.
If being a dad does anything to a man, it should motivate him to become a man of character. We should be motivated before fatherhood, but having little eyes watch (and early on, worship) everything we do is a great motivator to become who we desire to be. Few things can undermine the foundation of a child’s life (even an adult child) than to have a dad who continually struggles with major ethical issues–addiction, greed, an inability to tell the truth, hypocrisy, etc. Like most things in life, character is built. It’s developed over time through discipline and study. Good dads are continually developing their character not only for themselves but also for the well-being of their children. Don’t just hope to be a better dad, do something about it.
2. Show passion for the important things of life.
For many children, the only thing they will ever see their dad show passion for is sports. He will wear a jersey, yell, scream, cheer, be thrilled when his team wins, and be heartbroken when his team loses. But in every other area of life, the child will rarely see a passionate response from their father. This simply can’t be. A good dad is passionate about the important things in life. They will not hide their tears. They will sing as loudly at church as they yell at the game. They will keep the big picture in mind. A primary goal of parenting is teaching (modeling for) our kids what is important and what isn’t. We do this, in part, by showing passion for the important things in life.
3. Don’t stop having fun.
When kids are little, many dads are seen as an entertainment center. They play, wrestle, and laugh. However, as kids grow and stress increases, many dads become known more for saying “no” than having fun. While being the enforcer might be necessary, it’s equally important to be a person who can reduce your child’s anguish, comfort them in times of trouble, and lighten the mood when things become too tense. This isn’t to say a man should live in denial of the tough things of life. They shouldn’t. However, a good dad has the ability to point a child in the right direction, encourage the child to know their dad will always be there for them and to let them know that everything will be okay. Good dads use fun to ease the stress of their children.
4. Don’t avoid (or leave to your wife) the hard conversations.
There was a time when important conversations were handled exclusively (wrongly) by the father. After the Industrial Revolution, men left the home to work and women were left to raise children. From that time, important conversations are often exclusively (wrongly) left to mothers. We need balance. Moms and dads equally need to be involved in the things that truly matter. Conversations about faith, life, fear, and a hundred other topics should not be left exclusively to one parent. While parents might take the lead on gender specific conversations, moms and dads need to be fully involved on most topics. Too many dads leave the deep conversations to mom. Kids need their dads involved as well.
5. Recognize (and live in) your season.
Fatherhood doesn’t look the same in every season. What is demanded from a father when a child is a newborn is not the same thing as when that child is an adult. A good man can be a bad dad by living in the wrong season. When children are little, both the kids and mom need a dad to be home a lot. It’s vital during this season for dads to recognize the importance of time and to sacrifice other things for the sake of their family. As kids get older, a dad may have more freedom, but he will also have less say in their lives. When kids become young adults, a dad must recognize he can’t dictate commands to a child. A dad becomes a mentor and adviser more than a king as children age. Recognizing, and then living, in the appropriate season is instrumental to being a good dad.
Being a better dad is as much art as it is science. There isn’t a simple formula which dictates the best of fatherhood. Yet there are some things which are required to be a good dad.
Posted on Mon, July 30, 2018
by Kevin Woods