5 Things I Wish I’d Known Sooner About Being a Dad

My wife is the queen of family photos. She places framed photos all over the house that never stay the same for long. Recently, she changed one out to a photo of our two boys sitting on the front steps of our house dressed as Batman and Buzz Lightyear. My oldest son has a huge smile on his face with his arm around his brother’s shoulder. My youngest son is cutting his eyes toward the camera with a cunning grin he still wears today.

I have a love/hurt relationship with this photo. I love it for a million reasons. I love that their cuteness level makes a basketful full of puppies look blah. I love that they were and remain best friends. I love the way it reminds me of all the fun we had when they were little. But it also hurts a bit. I have no regrets about the time I spent with them, but there are a few simple things I wish someone had told me because it would have made that time even better. Hopefully, today, in a small way, I can be that guy for you. Here are 5 things I’ve learned about being a dad that I think make good advice for new parents.

1. Kids need calm correction.

The good news for my kids is that I’m high-energy. The bad news for my kids is that I’m high-energy. So, while my love for them and my fun with them is hyped, my correction of them can often be accompanied by too much energy. I’m learning my parenting is much more effective when I first take time to pause, take a few deep breaths, and remember to keep my face, body language, and tone calm. When I am calm, my kids have a better chance of focusing on their behavior versus my reaction.

2. Kids need times of correction AND connection.

When my son was 8, I took him to a father-and-son weekend retreat. The retreat leader encouraged the dads to focus on connecting with their sons instead of correcting them. This was a powerful exercise for me. It revealed just how much I was correcting my son. Sometimes unnecessarily. Secondly, I learned that more connection often leads to less need for correction. I once had a mentor tell me that when you don’t know what is going on with your kid, spend some time just connecting with them. I found this to be helpful 100% of the time.

3. Kids have different communication styles.

When my first daughter was 3, we were playing and talking when she sweetly grabbed my face, turned it to hers, and said, “Look at me when you talk, Daddy.” I was floored. At this point, I’m not sure her 5- and 7-year-old brothers could have identified me in a lineup. They talked with me most while we were playing or riding in the car. Research reveals that kids have different, often evolving, communication styles. Discovering whether your child communicates best eye-to-eye or shoulder-to-shoulder is a good first step to speaking his or her language.

4. Daily routines and rituals are good for everyone in the family.

One thing I believe we did well as parents was establishing nighttime rituals. From the time they were babies, they had a consistent routine that made nighttime with multiple kids pretty easy. In fact, despite all their vastly different personalities, they practically demanded we did bedtime the same every night. Daily routines and rituals can make kids feel safe. If you add in a little fun to those routines and rituals, it typically makes them more appealing. For example, exchange tucking in your child for pretending you don’t see him in the bed and rolling on top of him, complaining about how lumpy the mattress is. This was a fan favorite at our house. But then again, our family is odd, so maybe not try this one. But you get the point.

5. It’s important to enjoy the ride.

While being a dad is admittedly tougher for some than others, it’s a huge responsibility for every dad on the planet. There is just so much that comes with the dad’s job description. Dads are supposed to be kind yet firm, providing yet present, sensitive yet strong, accepting yet shaping… All the things! It gives me anxiety just typing these words. But you know what? One of the best things we can do for our kids is enjoy being a dad. Kids can be messy, brilliant, bewildering, hilarious, precious, frustrating, and amazing. You’re on the roller coaster ride of being a dad; sometimes you just have to throw your hands up in the air, throw your head back, laugh, and simply enjoy the ride.

Sound off: What is one thing you wish you had known sooner as a dad?

Check out the All Pro Dad podcast as the team dives deeper into this subject!


Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Do you know how much I enjoy being your dad?”