new father advice

4 Things I’d Tell My Younger Self About Being a Dad

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I’ve been asked by social media followers what I’d tell my younger self about being a dad. While I haven’t done everything right as a dad, I have learned from experience—and from guys around me. We shouldn’t regret the past but use it to learn.

And as someone who tries hard not to look back with regret, I appreciate getting this question about new father advice. Here are 5 things I’d tell my younger self about being a dad.

1. It’s not easy but it’s worth it.

Like anything that matters, being a dad takes sacrifice.

Fatherhood isn’t easy. When your kids are young, it’s difficult to get sleep. But the sleepless nights are worth the bonding time. As they get older, you wonder if you’ve done what’s necessary to set them up for success. I haven’t yet experienced a stage of fatherhood that’s easy. Like anything that matters, being a dad takes sacrifice. I know you’re busy. You have worries, fears, and doubts. But I also know this: No stage is easy, but every stage is worth it. So what can we do in our current stage other than appreciate it? Don’t give up.

2. Learn as much as you can.

If I had things to do over again, I would have read more about fatherhood before becoming a father. My fathering has been more learning as I go than anything. Sure, you can’t read a book for every little thing before it happens. But I think we should prepare for fatherhood the way we’d prepare for a job or practice playing a sport. We prep and practice because we want to do the best we possibly can. We want to help, serve, and guide our kids as a dad. It’s why I read All Pro Dad every day.

3. Align your priorities.

I haven’t always lived this correctly. In the past, my priorities were football and, well, football. Over the years, thankfully, I’ve learned that other things matter. I now realize my priorities should be my faith, marriage, family, work—and then a bunch of football. Understand that what you model matters more than anything you’ll say. Your kids are watching what you do and how you live and they see what’s important to you. Charles Kettering said, “Every father should remember one day his son will follow his example, not his advice.”How you treat your wife, their mom, how you interact with them, how you handle money, how much time you’re engaged with them all show your kids what you value. Over time, they’ll know your priorities because they’ve experienced them.

4. Involve a team.

You always hear that you can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends. You get to choose the community of people you hang around most. There’s a proverb that says, “The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.” I wouldn’t be where I am today without friends and mentors—people like Dave Wilson, Detroit Lions chaplain. If I could tell you anything, it’s that you are not alone. There will be times when, as a dad, you need to rely on others. So seek out people who will live life with you, give you honest feedback, support you, and love you through tough times.

Sound off: What would you say to your younger self about being a dad? 

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What’s the best thing I’ve done as your dad?”