I am blessed with six wonderful children and a fantastic, lovely wife, and for this I am deeply grateful. But on a day like today—a lazy Sunday morning when my family is sleeping in and the soft light of the morning permeates the house—I reflect on what it’s like to be a dad.
Not just any dad: a great dad. This is a height I don’t always reach, but I believe I do inhabit that space sometimes. I’m a great dad, on my best days.
If you’re curious about my thoughts as a dad of 19 years that have included countless sleepless nights, endless answering of questions, thousands of nursery rhymes sung and horsey rides given, hundreds of thousands of words read in children’s books, more than my share of wiping up spit-up, poopy butts and much more…here is my offering to the world.
Don’t worry: It’s a fairly simple guide.
The Three Rules
There are only three things you need to do to be a great dad:
Be there . If you’re in their lives, you rock. If you’re there when they scrape their knee, lose their first tooth, need someone to cry to, need help with their school project, want a partner for playing house or hide-and-seek…you are already being a great dad. Be there. When they need you, and when they don’t.
Love them. They will know you love them, if you love them fully. It will show in your smile, in your touch, in your good-morning hugs. But also tell them on a regular basis. Infuse all your dad actions with love.
Be present. It’s great to be in the same room with them, but as much as you can afford to, be fully present with them. Shut off the mobile device, close the laptop, turn off the TV and really pay attention. Listen to their long, fragmented stories. Really watch when they want to show off their new wizard or ninja move.
That’s it. That’s all you need to be a great dad.
The Bonus Moves: Well, there are some bonus moves, but those are just extensions of the above three. If you want some specifics of how to do the above three rules, here are some ideas.
Sing with them
Run around with them
GO on hikes
Tell corny Jokes make believe with them paint
Set a healthy example by being active and eating well
Dance with them
Make pancakes with faces
Do not be overprotective
Show them you are proud of them
Show them how to be independent
Show them how to use a knife
Make videos where they are the star
Teach them critical thinking, rather than just obedience
When they get hurt, use that moment to teach them how to deal with pain
Show interest in what they’re interested in
Show them how to work passionately
Play sports with them
Have Nerf dart gun fights
Play board games
Honor your commitments
Love your wife, and treat her with respect
Be compassionate to others, and to them
Be happy with yourself
Teach them how to teach themselves
Spend some quiet cuddly time with them
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #38.
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