How important is a father for their kids? Research says a child’s well-being, education, behavior and mental strength all depend on their dad’s involvement in their upbringing.
Noted sociologist Dr. David Popenoe says, “Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home. Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.” (1)
When a father is that important in a child’s life, it goes without saying that he needs to be ‘good’ by all the parameters. What are those parameters and what can you do to be a good dad? MomJunction helps you understand the common characteristics of a good father, how you can be involved with your children at various stages of their lives, and more.
9 Qualities Of A Good Father
1. He is protective:
A good dad protects his kids by drawing clear boundaries, considers their best interests, talks to them about things they should be aware of and puts things in place. He teaches his kids about consequences of making the wrong choices. Fathers instill character development in kids
2. Affection is his middle name:
A good father is affectionate to his children. Though he may not hug and kiss the child like a mother does, his affection is no less than a mother’s. He lets the children know they can count on him.
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3. A wall of trust and security:
The children believe that their father is always right. He will never lie to them, he will never betray them, he will never leave them in the lurch. That is the trust a good father builds in a child. The kids know that their father is always there whenever they want some help or whenever they are in trouble.
4. The source of encouragement:
You are the source of encouragement to your kid. Be it a football match or a debate competition, your presence at the venue gives a boost to your child’s confidence. You are the happiest when they succeed and you are the one who will make them strive better if they fail. Your words will make a world of difference to your child. Your words have the power to make or break them.
5. Has the patience to listen:
A good father takes out time to listen to their children. He gives his kids undivided attention and tries to understand things from their perspective.
6. Provides the necessities of life:
As the head of the family, the father is responsible for giving a decent living for his children, be it a home, food, education or love, security, and attention.
7. Respects the mother of his children:
Children do well when they see their parents working together. A good father teaches his children how to respect their mother, and this he does by respecting his partner. He honors her views and does not argue with her in front of the kids. This sends the right message to the children that their parents work together, and they need to respect them both equally.
8. Spending time with him is fun for kids:
If the dad is at home, it is a fun time for kids. He plays with them, shares some tricks and shortcuts, makes their artwork easy, and their homework enjoyable. He involves them in things he likes to do. Television, laptops, and phones are put aside.
9. He is the best teacher:
A father teaches lessons not just for academics but about life. He shows how children can channelize their emotions when met with failure or disappointment, how they can use their energy for their good, how they can plan their careers or study hours.
If we sum up all the above characteristics of a father, we can understand that all of them arise from the man’s involvement and interest in his child’s life. The father’s involvement varies with the stage of his fatherhood.
How To Be Involved With Your Child At Various Stages Of Their Life?
As offspring get older, a father’s role continues to be significant, but it changes.
1. Before pregnancy – prepare mentally and physically:
Fathers need time to adjust to their new role just as mothers do. Involve in the preparations for your baby’s birth. Time spent in emotional and physical preparation to become a father can make all the difference to how the fathers feel when the baby arrives. There are certain things that you can do:
- Take care of your health. Make healthy choices. Eat healthily, quit or cut down on smoking and alcohol.
- Discuss how you will raise your children, talk about any concerns you have regarding starting a family.
- Be prepared for the changes that a baby may bring to your lifestyle or home.
2. During pregnancy – be a caring husband:
Your wife is going through a big change in her life. Her body, mind, and priorities are set to change, and you are the one she seeks support from:
- Go with your wife to medical appointments and ask questions or doubts if you have any.
- Take care of your partner, prepare her a healthy meal, help her get rest, and create a happy atmosphere at home.
- Read and learn about pregnancy and birth. Attend prenatal classes, help her through her trimesters.
- Talk, read or sing to your unborn baby, feel his kicks or movements on your wife’s belly.
- Make your house baby friendly. Do not paint or repaint the house as the toxins could be harmful to the mother and the baby.
- Discuss with your wife and agree upon sharing the responsibilities once the baby comes into your lives.
3. During early days of your baby – time to learn new things:
New fathers generally underestimate the change a newborn will bring to their family. But after they have a baby, they realize that they are having lesser sleep, lesser money, and lesser sex than before! It may take some time for you to have strong feelings for your baby.
- Spend time with your young family and make the most of your paternity leave. Take an interest in your baby, enjoy being with them and follow your instinct.
- Learn how to hold, bathe, and change nappies of your baby. Learn to respond to your baby’s cues.
- Be a part of breastfeeding by bringing your baby to your wife and being close by talking to her. Bring water to your partner while she is nursing as the release of oxytocin hormone while breastfeeding makes new mothers thirsty. Offer to burp the baby after every feed.
- Take turns during sleepless nights.
- Help your partner come out of postpartum depression or other medical issues. Assist her in getting the help she needs.
4. Toddler and preschool – you are a bodyguard and a teacher too:
Toddlerhood gives wings to your child to go around and explore the places. They may not know what is safe and what is not, and this means you are busy protecting them 24X7. Also, this is the time the kids are enthusiastic about learning new things.
- Keep your toddler safe by childproofing the house.
- Go outside to explore nature, take your child to a park, play active games like kicking the ball, prepare them for school by teaching numbers and letters.
- Do crafts, drawing, and coloring with the child, read books and stories to them.
- Teach discipline.
5. School age – the responsibilities are only increasing:
The child has grown big enough to go to school. But they may not like the new development; they might refuse to accept their new routine. You need to convince them about the goodness of formal education. Also, you need to be there for them while they struggle with the first books of their academics.
- Help you kid with homework and studies. Get them ready for school in the morning.
- Participate in school activities, attend parent-teacher meetings.
- Make your children help their mother in making the dinner, setting the table or cleaning up the stuff.
- Get to know your kid’s friends.
6. Teenage and beyond – time to step back and give them freedom:
You cannot be too involved with your children at this stage as they crave for freedom. They do not like if you are snooping on them. But this does not mean that you withdraw from your responsibility of taking care of them.
- Understand their puberty.
- Give them space and respect.
- Listen to their problems and guide them.
The father’s role differs not only with the age of the child but also with their gender. Most parenting requirements are the same for a girl and a boy, but a father needs to understand the subtle changes that he needs to make. For boys, their dad is a role model while for a girl he is a superhero who will influence her self-esteem and sense of identity.
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How To Be A Good Dad To A Son
Let us first tell you that there is no way to be a good or a bad father. Your family is unique and so are the circumstances in which you nurture your children. However, there are certain positive traits which can’t be missed in fathers:
1. Show both sides of the coin:
You are the person who sets rules at home, and you are the one who enforces them. Children need both support and discipline. It is easy for the parents to split the jobs, with the mother being soft and father being tough. But don’t do that.
If you’re only a disciplinarian and rarely show your love for the kids, your sons end up seeing you as a dictator in the house. Only you know that you love them, and you are enforcing the rules for their good. Make them know your softer side so that they understand why you are tough sometimes.
2. Talk to your father:
As a child, you must have seen your father just the way your sons see you now. Now that you are a father, you can understand your dad better. You will realize the rationale between the way he behaved with you on certain occasions. This understanding will help you correct your way of parenting your sons. You will know what will hurt him and what will make him see your point.
Talk to your father, ask him about his struggle when you were a kid, take his advice, as he has been there and seen that.
3. Help your son do things:
When your son comes to you for a solution, help him do it by himself. Support and guide him, tell him what you did when you were in such a situation, but let him deal with it. Do not jump to do the work for him.
4. Spend time with him:
It is the only thing that you can truly give. Dedicate a certain slot every day for one-on-one time with your son and let him decide what you will both do together. You may play football together, watch TV, read a book or bake a cake. It doesn’t matter. He gets your undivided attention, he gets, for a change, to be in control, and you get to discover the inner life of your son. Do this every day; don’t ever cancel it as a punishment. It’s for him, unconditionally. You’ll be surprised to see the difference it can make for him and you.
5. Talk to him about his puberty and related topics:
Do not avoid the topic. If you do, your son will get information from elsewhere, and that could be harmful to him. Make him understand the changes in his body, talk about the sexual urges he might have, explain the relationship that he should have with women and how he should behave with them.
6. Apologize, and he will learn to apologize:
Do not hesitate to apologize to your wife, your kids or anybody else. Remember, you son is watching you, and he will emulate you. When you apologize for your mistakes, he will understand that there is nothing wrong is saying sorry, it doesn’t hurt your ego.
7. Love your partner:
Love and respect your partner. Your son will know that he needs to respect women. Above all, he will respect his mother and understands that he needs to listen to his mother as much as he listens to you.
Being a man, you can understand your son well, and empathize with him. You know what he is going through as a child or a teenager or a grown up man.
However, with daughters it is different. You need to make an effort to put yourself in her shoes, and that is not easy.
How To Be A Good Father To A Daughter
Fathers have an ability to influence the lives of their daughters – either positively or negatively. How a dad behaves with his daughter will decide how she thinks of herself and how she expects to be treated by other men in her life. Girls need the following intangibles from their fathers:
1. Give unconditional love:
Daughters need their fathers’ unconditional love more than anything else. Give her what she deserves.
2. Say nice things to her:
A dad plays a big role in how a girl feels about herself. Her father’s encouragement and approval help her develop confidence and a feeling of adequacy. She is less likely to look out for approval of others to develop her self-esteem and self-image.
3. Gain your daughter’s respect:
An important attribute a girl needs to have is respect for her father as it is healthy for her in all areas of life. Your daughter will abide by your boundaries if she respects you. If you try to force her through fear or pressure, she will rebel and you will lose influence on her.
4. If you wouldn’t say it to a son, don’t say it to your daughter:
When she comes to you with her problem do not brush it off or tell her to go to her mother. Listen to her, if she wants advice from you, give it to her. Talk about strong women so that she will aspire to be one of them someday. Do not assume or influence what her interests will be because she’s a girl. Don’t just give her pink dolls, show her cars too and let her choose what she wants.
5. Share physical activities:
Boys tend to be more physically active than girls. However, make your daughter take up some physical activities. This will make her physically and mentally strong. One of the effective ways to treat or prevent eating disorders in girls is to have them spend time exercising or playing outdoors. Give her company and let her be physically active.
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6. Have a regular and deep conversation with her:
Meaningful and affectionate dialogue with your daughter is evidence that she is worthy, secure and loved. Talk to her just like you talk to your son. However, the topics of conversation might change. You might want to have a better insight into her mind, understand her feelings and her thoughts.
7. Love and honor her mom:
When you love and respect your wife, your daughter will develop respect for you. She will appreciate the fact that you know how to treat women. It gives her an idea of what kind of men she needs to be with when she is mingling with boys in her school and college.
Focus on discovering ways to fulfill your daughter’s needs by developing a rapport with her.
Different Situations Different Approaches
The role of a stepfather is tricky as you may worry about not having fatherly feelings for the kid. What is important, though, is to think about how to create a caring, friendly and loving environment. Of course, a lot depends on the individual’s circumstances. Respect the child’s feelings about their birth father and understand how complicated this situation must be for them.
Children may blame their stepfather for having pushed out their birth father from their lives. They do not always understand rational explanations. The mother needs to make the kids understand that their stepfather does have a role in the family as the new father figure. You need to support your partner in helping her children to accept this.
It’s not always necessary for these difficulties to arise. Stepfather can bring freshness to family situations, diluting the tensions and creating the opportunity to find solutions to family difficulties.
The adoptive fathers undergo a certain process of self-examination and confrontation of personal issues that other fathers may never have to deal with.
As kids grow older, they may ask about their birth parents. They may become curious about their birth families and want to find out more about them. Children sometimes lash out at their adoptive fathers when they are hurt or angry. As an adoptive father, you need to be open with them. Explain things and try to be rational. You don’t have to feel insecure because after living with you for years, they definitely love you like their father.
Fosters fathers too face complicated challenges. The circumstances that have brought a child in to foster care range from temporary difficulty in the family to serious problems in parenting, including physical or sexual abuse.
It is essential and helpful to talk to the child’s social worker to get a full picture of what they have been through. If you have some idea of what their experience has been, it will be easier not to take their hostility, rejection too personally. This can help in tolerating the very difficult behavior you are likely to face.
Find tactful ways to talk to your foster child about how they are feeling.
Being separated from your kids is painful, and there is no way of making it simple, although it is possible to make it work for you and your child.
It always helps if you can remain on good terms with the kids’ mother. Children are usually loyal to both parents. You and your ex-wife still need to work together as parents, if not as a couple. Taking advice from friends, colleagues or agencies may help you to focus on your kid’s needs.
Keep in touch with your child, whether it’s through emails, calls or any other way. Your child will really benefit if you take an interest in them. Explain to your kid that they are still in your mind and heart. Remember the special occasions, such as birthday, graduation days, etc.
Bringing up kids is demanding. And if you are a single dad the job is doubly tough. You have to strive to bring out maternal feelings.
In addition to dealing with your children, you need to deal with your loneliness too. Talk about it to your friends or relatives. If you are ready, start dating again. You can find a woman who will understand you and your situation.
In the end, all we can say is that there is no ‘right’ way for men to behave with their children. What matters is your love and affection for them. The very fact that you are reading this article means you are serious about being a good dad to your children.
It makes a difference to children when the father is committed to them and encourages them in whatever they do. Enjoy your fatherhood and do share your views on this article.
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