I remember holding my firstborn in the hospital just a few minutes after she entered the world. Her head was smaller than my hand. It was a surreal moment. Two days later, we drove home from the hospital, carried our new baby into the kitchen, and quickly realized we had no idea what to do next. If a parenting playbook existed, the doctors and nurses had failed to give us one. The adventure had begun, and we were on our own.
Over the next decade, I learned things that work well—and not so well—about being a better dad. We are always learning, and that’s good because kids’ interests change as they age. I used to think it was throwing epic birthday parties or coaching my son’s tee-ball team. Those can be great, but kids need more from you than gifts and baserunning tips. Here are 5 surprising things that make you a good dad.
1. Getting Away by Yourself
We love our children. Every moment spent with them is precious. But getting away for some time alone without them can help us be better dads when we are with them. It doesn’t have to be an entire weekend, but even a few hours of uninterrupted “Dad Time” can recharge us. Make this intentional time to journal, sit quietly, or think about things that make you a good dad. This isn’t an excuse to golf or go bowling. Work on your patience, kindness, and self-control.
2. Waking Up Before Your Kids
This can be hard, especially if your kids are little and rise before the rooster. But trust me, it’s worth it. When you sleep in, you tend to feel rushed. When you feel rushed, you tend to get frustrated more easily. Your kids will pick up on that frustration. Wake up early, sip your coffee, and get your feet grounded. This will prep you for the task of caring for kids well during the day.When you feel rushed, you tend to get frustrated more easily.
Prayer can feel intimidating but can also be worth trying. I believe it can provide peace during tense seasons. As a dad, we experience many of those. Finances, work problems, and relationship troubles add difficulty to our lives. Prayer cuts the stress. Jesus prayed daily, getting up “very early in the morning, while it was still dark” (Mark 1:35) to speak to God in prayer. He prayed and amazing things happened, like bodily healing and people rising from the dead. That may not happen to us, but even if nothing crazy happens when I pray, I still walk away feeling more inspired than I did before. Time spent praying sets my mind at ease and helps me feel present when my kids really need me.
4. Embracing Failures
Everyone makes mistakes. Even you, Dad. Unfortunately, a world that tries to hold people to an unrealistic standard of perfection always sees failure as unacceptable. But, failure can be a blessing in disguise because it allows grace to enter the equation. Grace is giving someone what they do not deserve. That can be as simple as giving someone a second chance when we make mistakes. God does this with us when we mess up. God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) If we embrace the times we have failed and learn from those experiences, we will learn to become fathers who show kindness and grace to our children when they inevitably mess up, too. There is no such thing as a perfect dad. Good thing, too, because being perfect does not equate to being a better dad.
5. Speaking of Others Positively
My kids are always listening. I know this because I often hear them repeating what I’ve said even when I didn’t think they were within earshot. If they mimic my language, I need to make sure I model speaking to others positively.
If you’re married, compliment your wife. If you live near neighbors, be kind and helpful in your speech with them, even if they are annoying. Does someone at your gym need encouragement? Offer it freely. Ephesians says, “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
Do this in front of your kids. This could be one of the most important things that make you a good dad.
Sound off: What are other surprising things help in being a better dad?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is something you wish I were better at doing?”