6 Ways Dads Can Model Maturity

It’s easy to assume that kids will mature as they get older. They look taller. Their vocabulary expands. They add new skills. But just because they’re getting bigger and smarter over time doesn’t always mean they’re maturing.

I don’t want my sons and daughters to just be taller versions of their current selves a few years from now. I struggled at first to figure out how to teach maturity. But I’ve learned the best way to teach it is to model it. Here are 6 ways dads can model maturity.

1. Lead by example.

Some of the most influential football coaches I had growing up were the ones who didn’t just tell me what to do but showed me how to play the game well. They weren’t afraid to put down the whistle and demonstrate the proper technique for blocking, catching, and running. They led by example. Dads must do the same thing. We demonstrate how to be mature when we show discipline and base our actions on desired long-term outcomes rather than immediate urges. Our kids are always watching us. Make sure they see you acting maturely if you want to see them do the same.

2. Communicate often.

I have four sons and three daughters. There is a lot of talking in our home, but just because the noise level is high doesn’t mean a lot of intentional communication is taking place. Part of growing in maturity is learning to clearly and effectively communicate and do it often. It’s not enough to just ask surface level questions. Dig deep and ask thoughtful questions of and around your kids. Do it daily. Do it hourly. It connects people. A home with open lines of communication is a home filled with mature people.
You will teach maturity just by being accountable as a dad.

3. Practice empathy.

We are all busy. It’s easy to get caught up in what’s happening in our lives. But when this happens, we fail to sit and empathize with others. That’s immature. It’s mature to have empathy because it helps you understand others, communicate better, build relationships, and resolve conflict. Compassion grows from empathy. Practice empathy by reaching out to people and asking how they’re doing. Then, listen more than you speak. By the way, if you’re married, have empathy for your wife. When your kids witness that, you teach your sons how to treat women and you teach your daughters how men should treat them.

4. Encourage problem-solving.

Middle schoolers should be better at cleaning up messes than toddlers. They have the skills required to identify problems and find solutions. The problem comes when kids wait around for others to do the work for them. As a dad, encouraging your kids not to give up too easily is how to teach maturity. Perseverance builds the character that will bloom into maturity. Get your hands dirty with your kids, and try to find an answer to problems.

5. Dwell on what matters.

The things that wind up commanding most of our attention rarely deserve any. It’s a tough thing to do in a digital, social media-driven world, but make it your mission to teach your kids to dwell on what matters. Often that means dwelling on what will last. Immature people tend to focus on instant gratification. Mature people will keep life’s “big picture” in mind. Talk about the things that are important to you—family, friends, community groups—and encourage your kids to make a similar list.

6. Be accountable.

If you mess up, own up to it. If you say you’ll be somewhere, be there. If you volunteer, follow through. Your kids need to know that others are counting on them. This is also true for you as a dad. Your kids are counting on you to listen, provide, and be engaged with them. You will teach maturity just by being accountable as a dad.

Sound off: Who was influential in teaching you maturity? Have you told them?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What does it mean to be mature?”