raising a child as a single father

7 Ways to Raise Incredible Kids on Your Own

Raising a child as a single father can feel intimidating. It seems like everywhere you look, there are messages saying how influential a mom is on her kids. It can leave you feeling like you’re not enough on your own.

But I’d argue that not only are you able to raise incredible kids as a single dad, you’re also uniquely positioned to do it. You have opportunities that two-parent families don’t. If you parent with purpose, doing these 7 things, your kids will notice, model your behavior, and grow in incredibleness.

1. Watch your words.

As a single dad, your kids are listening to your voice more than anyone else’s. It can be tempting to speak negatively if you feel like you got the short end of the stick—your wife passed away, your divorce was unwanted, your finances are a burden. But the words you use as you navigate raising a child as a single father will set the stage for how they handle difficult times.

2. Practice forgiveness.

It’s been said, “When we refuse to forgive, it’s like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.” You possess a unique opportunity for your kids not only to hear you practice forgiveness but also to see the transformation that forgiveness can bring.

3. Never stop the conversation.

Start a conversation with your kids that never ends.

If you’re raising a child as a single father, chances are you have a strong bond. You probably have rich and intentional conversations. Make this your thing: You and your kids talk. There’s nothing they can’t come to you about. Start a conversation with your kids that never ends.

4. Be accountable and hold them accountable.

When your kids hear you say, “I knew better and should’ve done this differently,” or “This kind of behavior isn’t how we act in this family,” it communicates that you have standards that everyone is held to. Even though life in your home looks different from another family’s, both Dad and kids are still expected to take responsibility for their actions.

5. Focus on gratitude.

You can probably name a dozen reasons life is tough. But for each of those reasons, you also have a reason to be thankful. “It’s hard paying rent on my own” becomes “Thank you, God, for a warm bed.” And “If I don’t make dinner, it’s not getting made” becomes “I’m so glad we can sit around the table to eat together.” Speak these words out loud and your kids will learn to focus on gratitude, too.

6. Find good mentors.

After my divorce, I moved in with my parents and my sons got to observe married life. Even though they were still young, I am grateful that they got to watch the interaction of a husband and wife. Pick out a few influential people in your child’s life (such as a teacher, coach, aunt, or uncle) and let them know you appreciate the example they’re setting. They might even step up their mentoring game.

7. Show them how to make sacrifices.

“Never give up what you want at the moment for what you want most.” I read that at a meeting 15 years ago and have applied it every day since. You might sacrifice the new shoes you want because you know your son’s feet are growing fast. Maybe you sacrifice getting in the last word with your ex-wife because you want your kids to see what self-control looks like. Help your kids identify what is most important to them—academically, spiritually, socially—and then set an example of sacrifice so they can focus on those priorities.

Sound off: What else would you add to the list?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What superpower would you choose for yourself? What would you choose for me?”