5 Ways to Strengthen Your Authority as a Dad

When I was 10 years old, I got into a fight with my younger brother over some basketball cards. I got so angry, I took one of his favorite toys and threw it down the sewer outside our house. My dad’s response was a defining moment for me. He could have treated me harshly. He could have yelled and forced me to go to the sewer to rescue the toy. But he did something I’ll never forget—he forgave me. But he held me accountable, showing me what impact my actions had on my brother. He made us stay in our room until I was able to find my brother’s forgiveness.

When I finally received that, my dad asked me what I was going to do to make it right. His authoritative parenting style, using a firm but fair approach, made me trust his guidance, his opinion, and his wisdom. It secured his authority in my life. A dad’s authority is important because it gives us a voice in our kids’ lives and influence in raising them. Here are 5 ways to strengthen your authority as a dad.

1. Set boundaries.

Kids need boundaries. When my daughter was about 7, she desperately wanted an iPad. I was apprehensive, but I realized it was an opportunity for her to learn responsibility. So, we set some rules. She would use it once a week only for a half hour to start and has been able to incrementally add more time as she has showed responsible use of the device.  This taught us both how to trust. Be consistent with your boundaries.

2. Offer emotional support.

One evening, my daughter came home from school, upset about a friend she found out was lying to her. Instead of the usual “it’ll be alright,” which I’ve done before, I sat down with her, listened, and acknowledged her feelings. I learned that’s really important to do. That moment of emotional connection not only brought us closer but also reinforced my role as a supportive dad. It may seem awkward to open up about emotions, but authority also lies in showing empathy and understanding.

3. Be firm but loving.

An authoritative parenting style balances firmness with love. It’s something I’ve tried hard to focus on, like my dad did for me when I was younger. When my youngest daughter stole my oldest daughter’s Barbie, I was firm about her taking responsibility, but we also discussed how common it is to feel jealous and what she can do about it. This approach of being firm yet understanding has helped build a stronger relationship with both of my daughters. You might be tempted to go too firm for some circumstances or too soft for others; watch out for that. Make sure you are firm about core beliefs and always approach each circumstance from a loving perspective.

4. Be their guide toward success.

Guiding my children toward their goals has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of fatherhood. Whether it is helping your daughter with her science project or supporting your son at his championship game, always aim to be your kids’ mentor, offering guidance while letting them make their own choices. They will make a lot of mistakes along the way, but you are there to pick them back up. Because you have lived longer, you are an authority figure on certain subjects, so use that to guide them toward success (even if they say they don’t want your help).

Every child is different, and your ability to adjust to different personalities strengthens your authority.

5. Reflect and be flexible.

My youngest daughter has a fear of being left alone, and she will stay awake for as long as she can at bedtime. If it were my oldest, I would have stayed with her until she fell asleep, but if I do that with my little one, she will not let me leave for the whole night and expect me to do this every night. So, I had to adjust my approach and do something different with my 3-year-old to get her to bed. It was a moment of self-reflection for me, and I adapted my approach to suit her unique personality and needs. This flexibility has been crucial in maintaining not just authority but also a loving, understanding relationship with my children. Every child is different, and your ability to adjust to different personalities strengthens your authority.

Sound off: Do you have an authoritative parenting style? If not, what is your style?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think it takes to be a good parent?”