10 Ways to Be a Better Dad: Get Involved to Raise Happier, Healthier Kids!

An involved father’s impact on his child’s life is worth more than a few hard lessons, good stories, and (bad) dad jokes. According to new scientific research, children with involved fathers, stepdads, father figures, or two moms, are happier, healthier, and more successful than children whose father figures are absent or uninvolved.

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A lot has changed about society’s attitudes toward and the research concerning dad’s role in family life. Decades ago, many Americans actually believed men were incapable of raising children and mom had to be the stay-at-home parent. But today we realize that people of all genders can be effective parents.

Of course, being an effective parent is a great goal. Still, for both mom and dad, being an effective parent takes a lot of time, effort, and practice. There will inevitably be tough days and moments where we’d rather just close the door to our rooms after work and be on our devices all evening. But when you stop to consider the benefits of spending time with your kids, it should be a lot easier to put down that phone and pick up your kid for some quality time.

Kids with fathers who spend time with them:

  • Are more likely to succeed in school,

  • Have fewer behavior problems,

  • Have better self-esteem,

  • And have overall better well-being.

Keep reading to discover 10 things you can do to be more involved.

What You Can Do

1. Respect your child’s other parent.

When children see their parents respecting each other, they are more likely to feel that they are also accepted and respected. Seeing adults in the home treat one another with respect and handle challenges with an attitude of cooperation and empathy also teaches positive relationship building.

2. Spend time with your children.

If you always seem too busy for your children, they will feel neglected no matter what you say. And no, surfing the Internet or checking your email while your child plays by herself in the same room does not count as spending time with your children. Set aside time to spend with your children interacting directly with them.

3. Earn the right to be heard.

Begin talking with your kids when they are very young and talk to them about all kinds of things. Listen to their ideas and problems. Establishing an open and transparent dialogue early will pay dividends when they are teens.

4. Discipline with love.

All children need guidance and discipline, not as punishment, but to set reasonable limits and help children learn from natural or logical consequences. Fathers who discipline in a calm, fair, and nonviolent manner show their love. Remember, kids can be very perceptive. They pick up on social cues even before you may realize it and they know—consciously or unconsciously—the difference between loving punishment and punishment out of anger.

5. Be a role model.

Fathers are role models whether they realize it or not. A girl with a loving father grows up knowing she deserves to be treated with respect. Fathers can teach sons what is important in life by demonstrating honesty, humility, and responsibility. Your children look to you for all kinds of behavioral clues.

6. Be a teacher.

A father who teaches his children about right and wrong and encourages them to do their best will see his children make good choices. So, don’t worry about perfection: connection is more important than perfection. Involved fathers use everyday examples to teach the basic lessons of life.

7. Eat together as a family.

Sharing a meal together can be an important part of healthy family life. It gives children, especially as they get older, the chance to talk about what they are doing and it is a good time for fathers and mothers to listen and offer advice in positive tones.

8. Read to your children.

Begin reading to your children when they are very young. Even babies benefit from the nurturing that comes when a parent spends time reading to them. Instilling a love for reading is one of the best ways to ensure children develop a lifetime of personal and professional growth.

9. Show affection.

Children need the security that comes from knowing they are wanted, accepted, and loved by their family. Showing affection every day is the best way to let your children know that you love them. So, give them a hug before you leave for work, write a quick note to pack with their lunch, and tell them you love them on a regular basis.

10. Realize that a father’s job is never done.

Even after children are grown and leave home, they still look to their fathers for wisdom and advice. Fatherhood lasts a lifetime.

Dads play an important role in their children’s lives, this much is clear. Involved fathers, stepdads, and father figures help their children of any age learn to successfully navigate the world and live happier lives. If you want to explore your options for additional support, check out our Parenting Workshops or contact our friendly staff to discuss your needs.

Even though Father’s Day has come and gone, a father’s impact is for a lifetime. Let’s celebrate Dads of all types everyday!

Parts of this article were adapted from the National Fatherhood Initiative (http://www.fatherhood.org/) and you can download the above tip sheet and get more parenting tips at https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/preventionmonth/resources/tip-sheets/.