Fatherhood is probably one of the more complex experience that one could have especially when you are not given a manual. This is based on observation and experience. Most of us may figure it out after the children are grown and have left the compound, but it is always worth having the conversation, someone can learn from it.
Raising children can be exciting and exhausting at the same time. I choose the experience my experience, call me step-father, but if you truly know love, there is really no step anything by law maybe but the experience is just as rewarding for you as it is for the biological father.
What I know for sure is that being a father is a massive responsibility. From suicide to mental disorders, homelessness, dropping out of school, learning to manage emotions and anger, children who are without a father are much more vulnerable than children who come from a supportive environment with both influences, mother and father.
It is good to know that you can learn to be a good father and not live with regrets like some fathers. This was inspired by having a conversation with my father and out of the blue he started apologising for all the things in did wrong with his children. He did the best he could with all the information that he had, but it was clear that this was a conversation he needed to have and it was easy to remind him of all the good he did with little information that he had.
1. Surround Yourselves with Good Role Models
Becoming a good dad is not something you automatically know how to do. It’s something you learn and practice. Most of us learn by watching our own dads, but the problem is that many of us had a bad example of a father figure (or no example at all). But hear me on this: Your past is a context, not an excuse. If you didn’t have a great dad, you get to choose to paint a new picture for your family and your future.
Just this weekend I witness a dad conducting his son who was doing a rendition for our end of year service. My first thought when I saw him take up his position to conduct, was to think this was not necessary, but then at the end of it, a church brother and friend was so overwhelmed by what he saw and heard made the point that the child kept his eye on his dad the whole time and the rendition was appreciated by all of us. That boy is going to carry that experience for his entire life.
There are good roll models all around, so interact with fathers who are doing a great job, let them share with you what they are doing and see what happens within you as you grow in awareness and the skill of being a good father.
2. Love yourself
I had to put that in as i know people-pleasing is a losing battle. When you focus on self-love and self-compassion rather than trying to get others to love you, you build your self-esteem and break codependent patterns so you can form healthier, happier relationships—with yourself and others. How are you going to love your children if you do not even know how to love yourself. I did not get the things that I would experience as a boy growing up, the beatings the insults, the punishments did not match the crime and so I truly thought I had a problem, but it was my dad that had the problem and projected. After much introspection I figured it out and have discovered if you can love yourself, it is a channel to being a great father.
3. Love People
Most articles would suggest loving the children mother, but I would say just love people, be kind to people, treat the planet that you living on with respect, just genuinely care about animals, live for your God!
Now, if you and your children’s mom are separated, resist the urge to talk bad about her. I don’t care how bad she hurt you or what you think of her character—if you want to be a good dad, never talk bad about your kids’ mom. As their parents, you two are the most important model of relationship for your children. They’re watching how you treat each other.
4. Read to your Children and let them read to you
There is something magical about reading with your children. I missed out on this as my dad was not able to read, but my love for children as a youngster allowed me to see first hand how it was such a bonding agent. I see this every time we have family devotion and my son has to read to us, and then the discussion after the reading, is pure magic.
It’s nurturing on a mental, emotional, intellectual and even physical level. Make a regular practice of reading before bed or on the weekends. As your kids get older, have them read to you. The key here is to actually stay awake (dads have this superpower ability to fall asleep within seconds of laying down, find the reading material that you and the children can appreciate.
5. Over parenting can hurt the process.
Part of being a good dad is allowing your kids to take appropriate risks. We have to choose to let go of our anxiety and let our kids learn from experience as they gain autonomy in the world.
Just recently my son was opening a gallon bottle by breaking the seal without having the bottle on a firm stand, I was just going to take it from him because I knew once the cap was removed the bottle would fall, I got up and my wife beckon to sit down, so I did and like the prophet I can be, the bottle fell. She said to me, bet that will never happen again.
Let them fall from the limbs that might get their attention—just don’t let them fall from the limbs that will kill them. It can be a difficult balance as I tend to be very over protective of children, but I am learning.
6. Connect Through Conversation
The movies portray that the ideal man is the strong quiet type. Even now I am thinking about how men were portrayed to be and Hollywood has certainly done a number on us. This is changing and so we are encouraging frequent dialogue with men and their children. Do not leave the conversation only to your partner or to our women, dig in and talk, structured talk, chit chat, quality time talk, information talk, whatever the talk, just talk.
7. Include Children in Conversations of Rules & Boundaries
Learning how to be a good dad includes learning how to discipline with love. This means setting and enforcing healthy boundaries as the authority figure. Instead of imposing discipline through power trips and “Because I said so” language, involve your children in the creation of discipline. Decide as a family what values are important to you and what the consequences will be for not living up to those values.
Additionally, spend time catching your children doing good and praise them. We spend so much energy correcting disruptive or disrespectful behavior that we often miss when they’re doing good things. When they’re respectful, when they take their plate to the sink without being asked, or when they serve someone without whining—call out the good things.
8. Manage your tone
It as important that children were reminded that we are the man in the house, we would bark, I know for me that was the case, I would talk big to Asher, he had to know very early that I was the man. I can never how afraid he was when he heard me coming, he would sometimes run away because he was not sure which father he was going to get, the strong silent father or the father who would ask him if something was wrong with him, why would you do that?
I knew this was not going in the right direction and so I had to find a way of getting him to listen and so I soften my tone, when he was talking and was making little sense, i would just listen and after a while I realize that he was creating his own process, learning about himself and searching and I needed to be patient with the process. The tone was adjusted and if you were a fly on the wall listening to us you would be proud – of me.
9. Give Physical and Verbal Affection
If you want to grow in your journey to being a good dad, be affectionate with your children. Even if it’s uncomfortable. When your children are little, hug and cuddle often. Touch their hands and face and feet. As they get older, you’ll have to balance respecting their autonomy with still being physically affectionate. But even when your sons are the same height as you, and they smell and have hairy legs, hug them. Be the kind of dad whose daughters feel safe coming to for a big bear hug.
Also, use your words. Tell your children you love them. Tell them you’re proud of them. Leave them sticky notes on the bathroom mirror. Write a birthday card with some substance. Even if it feels awkward or it doesn’t seem to make a difference, do it.
10. Family Devotion is Important
It can get very busy, most persons do not have the time but make the time.
The world would be so much better if fathers accepted their role and communicated with their children.