How to Be a Better Father

Fathers play an extremely important role in the lives of their kids. Mighty Mommy shares 6 tips to help dads impact their kids’ lives in a more meaningful and positive way.

Cheryl Butler
6-minute read
Episode #235

How to Be a Better Father

Father’s Day is recognized in America on the third Sunday of June each year, but many families celebrate fatherhood all year long. With today’s fast-paced and challenging circumstances being the norm for most families, it’s more important than ever for men to provide their children with stable, loving, and positive environments to grow up in.

Society has long been tuned into the pivotal role a mother plays in shaping and raising her child, but now we’re seeing the father in a whole new light—as someone who no longer just focuses on providing financial support to sustain a child’s needs, but rather as someone who is emotionally engaged and has a strong influence in many child-rearing decisions.

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Loving involvement requires more than words. A father must be plugged into the daily operation of his family so he can clearly see his children’s needs.  Thankfully, more and more dads today  aren’t sitting on the sidelines. 

So for all the fathers out there, Mighty Mommy has 6 ways in which dads can become even more involved in enriching their kids’ lives.

Tip #1: Build in One-on-One Time

Life is much too busy for all of us, so one-on-one time is extremely precious between a father and child. Establish just one new habit in your family’s routine and it could be life changing for everyone. This could be taking over the bath and bedtime routine with your little ones instead of mom always doing it. Often this is optimal unwinding time at the end of a stressful day and can create important bonding time between dad and child as well as freeing mom up to tend to something else or to grab a few minutes for herself

How about making regular dates with your daughter for lunch every other Saturday or if it’s a father-son relationship, engage your boy in an activity such as a building project or biking to the park every Sunday morning? Whatever you decide your one-on-one time looks like, consider doing it somewhere other than at home. The change in setting can help you and your child relax and open up more.   If you have a teen in your life, fit this special time into their schedule.  If lunch doesn’t work, hit the coffee shop before the day begins or head out for a late-night pizza. 

Once this new habit of spending time together is established, you and your child will have something to look forward to on a regular basis.

See also: 10 Healthy Habits to Strengthen Your Family

Tip #2: Cherish Your Child’s Unique Abilities (and Weaknesses)

Even in my family of 8 kids, no two are alike. They all possess unique strengths, personalities, gifts, and yes, weaknesses. As I’ve mentioned in prior episodes, we have three children who had significant speech and developmental delays. Even though they struggled with the same delays, each of our three challenged kids still progressed and behaved differently from one another. It was my husband who embraced their delays with love and optimism and cherished them for who they were at whatever developmental stage they faced.

A child struggling with any type of learning or physical disabilities offers Dad the opportunity to step up and be there in every way possible. Get involved with testing and therapy appointments. Visit the child’s school and classroom to see what goes on during a typical day. Work together with your spouse as fully committed partners and find new ways to interact with your child as you all work through this trying time as a team.

See also: 8 Ways to Create a Fulfilling Life with Your Special Needs Child

Tip #3: Respect Your Child’s Mother

One of the best things a father can do for his children is to respect their mother. If you are married, make time for your marriage to keep it strong and vital. Tell your spouse that you love her in front of the kids so they can see a loving relationship in action. If you are not married, it’s even more important to respect and support the mother of your children. Parents who respect each other, and let their children know it, provide a secure environment for kids, regardless of whether they are living together or not.

See also: How to Keep Your Relationship Strong Even After Kids

This includes Dad speaking positively about Mom in front of the kids. This helps build their respect for their mother and sets a good example for the future.

Tip #4: Start a Father/Child Tradition

Traditions and rituals are the cornerstones of building family values and can definitely be the glue that holds a family together. Many families have traditions in place that were created by both parents, but how awesome would it be to establish a new tradition that encompasses something special designed by Dad?

In our family, my husband started a birthday tradition with each of our kids starting when our oldest (now 20) was only 5.  He picks the birthday child up at school for an early lunch and then the two of them spend the rest of the afternoon together, doing an activity that the birthday child chooses. In our chaotic household of 10, this tradition is one of my kids’ favorite outings of the year, and amazingly, has become even more anticipated the older they get.

See also: 6 Ways to Create Family Traditions

Tip #5: Be Present on a Daily Basis

The phrase “quality time” is something we hear often when it comes to spending time with our children, but what does that really mean? Instead of thinking about it from your perspective, think about it from your child’s point of view. Quality time needn’t be about finding activities loaded with bells and whistles. In fact, the simpler the better. Help your son with his geometry assignment, build castles out of blocks with your kindergartner, take your tween with you when you run errands and let her help you accomplish some of the tasks on your list. Shoot baskets in the driveway, pull out the family photo albums and relive a favorite vacation. 

Before you walk in the door after work, take a few minutes to gather yourself, release any stress, and adjust your attitude. Be ready to focus fully on your kids. Be present on a daily basis and make the most of whatever little time you have together. You’ll be letting your kids know they’re just as important, if not more so, than your other obligations.

There’s a powerful example of this from history, found in two short diary entries describing the same day’s events. Charles Adams, the son of President John Adams, wrote this: “Went fishing with my son today—a day wasted.” The same day, his son Brook wrote this in his diary: “Went fishing today with my father—the most wonderful day of my life.”

Tip #6: Show Your Appreciation

We all like feeling appreciated on a regular basis, and our kids are no different. Unfortunately, the majority of us navigate through our crazy days at such a harried pace, we don’t take the time to stop and pay attention to the people in our lives who make a difference.   There are lots of little things Dads can do to show their children how much they mean to him. 

Here are a few of Mighty Mommy’s ideas:

  • Write and mail a card or note to each of your children recapping some of the good times you’ve shared lately. Make this an annual event on your child’s birthday, Father’s Day or just randomly throughout the year. 

  • Create a list of attributes you admire about your child (especially your teen children) and tack it up in their bedroom or on the family bulletin board.

  • Slip your child a gift card to their favorite store as a reward for an accomplishment (no matter how big or small).

  • Catch them doing something good and praise them for their efforts in public.

  • Tell them you love them and you’re proud to be their father!

What else can fathers do to improve the bonds with their children? Share your thoughts in the comment section or post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. You can also connect with me on Twitter @MightyMommy or e-mail me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com. Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT

To all the dads out there, wishing you a wonderful Father’s Day and a year ahead of fun and special moments with your kids.   Until next time…happy parenting!

Father and Daughter, Father, Mother and Son and Father with Son images from Shutterstock

About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!