There are no hard and fast rules for becoming the best dad in the world, of course. And parenthood being the incredibly complex thing it is, there are many different suggestions and guidelines, advice and tips, and strategies and techniques that you can employ to become a better father.
At the end of the day, however, you can read all you like about the theories – it’s putting them into practice that is the hard part. With this in mind, I’ve pulled together a few simple things that all fathers can put in place right now that will improve their relationships with their kids and partners. Let’s get started with some of the basics.
Take a back seat
OK, so there are many fathers out there who take a back seat on virtually every aspect of childcare – and this is all kinds of wrong. But taking a back seat has its place when it comes to giving your kids and your partner a little room to breathe. Stop coming down on everyone like a ton of bricks, and let them have a little space to explore and test their strengths and weaknesses. A father should be a secure and stable figure in the household, but not an imposing and completely dominating personality – the impact of which can be troubling when it comes to your children’s future.
Show up and be vocal
That said, a father should never be a shrinking violet, and you will need to have some stature – as long as you are consistent with it. Your kids should know where you stand and how you feel about certain things, and it’s vital that you are a constant presence in their lives. Many dads work too much and don’t attend to their families as much as they should – sometimes through design. But if you are never around for your kids or your spouse, you can’t expect to be a positive influence on them. Come home earlier whenever possible, and try to set aside specific days when you will be around. Turn up for your kid’s school plays and performances, and always be around for the special events and celebrations in their lives.
Count yourself lucky
Not everyone in life is as lucky as you are right now. And while trying to mix parenthood and a hectic work life is tough, there are many less appealing alternatives. You might be walking the line as a step-dad and struggling to connect with a new set of kids. You might be a widower who is having to do everything by themselves, with no help at all. And you might live in a war-torn country where the threats to your family are directly outside your door. So, the next time you think you are struggling and need a break, take a look at your kids and imagine what the alternatives might be – you are lucky, and knowing this will help you be a better dad.
Guide, don’t dominate
Your kids have their own life to lead, and your job is to guide them towards a happy and healthy life. It isn’t to make demands and decisions that could impact that happiness. All children will, eventually, go through periods of rebellion, and if they have spent their entire life to do every last thing your way, you can expect that resistance to hit home hard. There is a big difference between being an authoritative guide who teaches their kids about making the right choices and a dictator that cannot compromise.
Save money – and spend it
Finally, from the second you have kids it’s vital to ensure your relationship with money changes. Life will be expensive for them – and you – and it’s your responsibility to put aside savings for their future. College education, a down payment on their start home, weddings – the list is a long one, and you need to bear all these issues in mind. However, don’t forget that spending money in your children’s early years is just as important as saving it. Invest in experiences and memories, pay for out of school classes and activities, and also have some fun. If you are squirreling away all your money for the future, you won’t be spending it with your kids at the most critical time of their lives – the here and now.
Give them their own life
A final point – it is all too easy to get tough on the kids when they display little aspects of your personality that you don’t like. And if you have had disappointments in life, that’s down to you – not them. Allow them the freedom to make their own choices and never try to force them to make good your failures.