A piece I wrote for an online magazine

 

What Makes a Great Dad?

“Parenting is a walk in the park: Jurassic Park” Anonymous

Father’s Day on the calendar is just one day a year; fathers and mothers are needed every day.  There are many ways to be a great dad and each way has significance in a child’s life. A dad is the first man their child will have as a role model; long before they’ll have a coach, a teacher, a Scout Leader; they’ll have their dad. Below are some ways to not only be a great role model but also to be a great dad.

Play with them

Money can’t buy you happiness and neither can it buy a lasting bond with your child. As a dad you need to spend time with them. I spoke with a single dad with three girls who talked about some of the things he did that he never though in his wildest dreams he would do as a dad. When he taught his daughters to paint their nails pink he found a dark shade of purple to do his. When they wanted to be princesses he dressed up as a prince. His greatest experience as a play date with his children was at the end of a long day of playing make believe they read to him; and he quickly fell asleep having spent “the best day of his life” being Prince Charming.

Support their interests         

Kids have dreams that start at a young age. Some want to be doctors, lawyers, and teachers. But there’s still those that want to be astronauts, actors, and President. As a great dad every interest possible should be viewed as an opportunity to teach them. If they want to be a doctor provide them with the kit for their dolls or their stuffed animals and be prepared to be a patient yourself. Encourage them to teach something they know to you, (and the stuffed animal audience, the family pet, etc.), to get them comfortable with speaking but most importantly to show them that you believe in them. Books are a great tool. Read to them from books on astronomy, history, and teach them if they can dream it, they can be it.

Be a good mirror

Children look to their fathers for cues to what good behavior is. If you drive your children home after a dinner or family gathering where you’ve had even one glass of wine you’re demonstrating that drinking and driving is okay; don’t do it, and when they mention that so-and-so’s dad does, explain why it’s not a risk you’re willing to take. Eat healthy meals with your children. One dad I spoke with stated that his greatest regret in life was not teaching his kids how to cook more things. By teaching them how to eat at home you’ll provide them with skills that they someday can teach to their kids. Exercise with your children. Prince Charming can go for a hike as well as sip tea. If your child wants to be a professional in any sport, provide the example, get off the couch and shoot some baskets, play catch, or go for a run.

 

 

Have a “Dad Talk”

One quote from the tv show The Simpsons is from Homer, “If you don’t try you can’t fail”. That’s not a talk you should have with your children but the one you should have is one that sets your expectations that at some point will be a positive check mark in the book of great dad things. One dad I spoke with had a talk with each of his kids on their 12th birthday. He took them on a daddy-daughter date or a father-son date and asked them that all important question; “What do you want to be when you grow up?” For one child he stated that she said she wanted to be popular. This great dad laid down the groundwork for how to be popular in a positive way. He encouraged her to chase her dreams of music and acting but in a practical manner; becoming a teacher. His son wanted to be a professional athlete, he encouraged him, signed him up for camps but also lead him on a path of learning how to be fit, and be a coach, “just in case”, he didn’t become a professional. His third child didn’t have an answer. He encouraged her to be a good friend, a hard worker, and a good student. This child would drive her friends home from parties, study after hanging out with friends, and work two jobs all through high school all to meet those expectations but also to remain “cool”. Great dads lead but also set expectations that can be reached.

Never “let” them win

A great dad will treat all his children equally, even if that means never letting them win. A great dad understands that in the real-world chances are few and far between, failure happens and often there’s no one around to give you a hug or wipe away a tear. The great dad beats you in HORSE, checkers, chess, and even at that three-legged-race at the church picnic, (beating mom and sibling in the process). Why? Because eventually their child will win and when they do it will mean something. They will have truly earned that E in HORSE and that checkmate. They’ll be mad at first, but that in-your-face moment will aspire them to keep working hard.

Lastly, a great dad knows how to take care of mom. They will make a face when you hug and kiss but secretly like it. Great dad will take shifts in getting up with a crying baby, sit in the pouring rain at a five-year-old’s soccer game; and they will treat mom like the Queen she is and by doing so will model how they, (if they are girls), should demand to be treated, and if boys how to be a real man; or in this case, a great dad.

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