Parenthood is tough!
How do I know? I’m the dad of two young boys.
This article isn’t just theory, I’ve seen all of this in practice in myself and other friends who are also parents.
Here’s what I’ve learned about the personality traits that make the best dads and how to develop them…
I just have to start with the P-word here, because it’s completely crucial.
You can’t be a good dad if you don’t develop patience. Full stop.
If you’re like me, patience isn’t something that comes naturally. You’ve had to work on it.
Kids are a lot of hard work and they ask a lot of questions, cry and complain like crazy.
You need to establish boundaries and be firm, but you also need to be an adult and be patient with them.
Don’t react constantly, and don’t vent in front of your kids all the time.
Now, in addition to patience, every good dad needs to have consistency.
This essentially means that you need to have boundaries which don’t shift and change and that you need to say what you mean and mean what you say.
If there’s no junk food more than once a week, there’s no junk food more than once a week.
Don’t do an extra snack run because your kids really want something…
Don’t order from iFood when you could get up and make a meal…
3) Honest and frank
Being a dad means sometimes having to tell little white lies.
I won’t lie:
Sometimes saying “we’re almost there” while driving, when you’re actually at least two hours away, is just a little white lie that needs to be told…
But when it comes to definite things like giving permission for your kid to go to an event, or saying yes or no to a request, you need to be honest and frank.
If your son or daughter asks if you like your job, you don’t need to go into detail or vent to them, obviously…
But if they ask whether you can increase their allowance, for example, and you know that’s not going to happen for the time being, just say “daddy can’t afford that right now,” instead of ignoring the question or promising it will be raised “soon.”
4) Ideologically coherent
This next point may surprise some people, but I want to be clear about why this is so important:
This means that you have values and a life philosophy that doesn’t shift and change constantly.
I grew up with a dad who flipped around what he said and thought all the time.
One day he hated this issue and the next he loved it. One day it was all about saving the environment, and the next it was about how capitalism is great.
It confused the hell out of me.
That’s why, as a father, I really encourage you to know where you stand and be ideologically coherent and consistent.
Raise your kids with your values while still allowing them freedom of their own conscience.
But don’t confuse them by constantly changing what you say and believe. Way too many dads do this and don’t realize the confusion they are instilling in their youngsters.
5) Clear communicator
Like you can see here, I’m emphasizing consistency and patience because those are so key to being a good dad.
Part of that and of having clear values is being a clear communicator.
Far too often, I’ve found myself not being clear in what I say to my kids when I draw boundaries or say things to them.
This leads them to getting confused and upset.
If you want to be a good dad, try speaking less but speaking clearly and simply. Kids find it much easier to understand and will react well.
6) Focused and attentive
I work hard and sometimes find myself lacking on giving my kids my undivided attention.
This can be a challenge for many dads, and friends of mine who are fathers talk about exactly the same issue.
This is why I recommend being focused and attentive whenever possible while home.
If you work in a home office, shut the door and ask the kids to knock if they need something.
This way you clearly separate your work life and personal life.
Of course, that isn’t always possible, and part of the art of being a good dad is learning the balance of giving your undivided attention while also getting your work done and living your adult life and relationship with your partner.
It’s a bit like juggling. It takes practice, patience and consistency.
7) Cares about follow-through
On a related note about consistency and being clear, a good dad cares about follow through.
- Following through on promises
- Checking up on his kids when they are doing homework or activities
- Going to the games, checking the grades and following through on parental duties
- Remembering key dates like birthdays and celebrations in his kids’ lives
- Showing up for dad-daughter and dad-son activities that he promised he would be at
Of course, sometimes plans change and you have to cancel, even on your own kids and things you promised to do with them.
But as much as possible, practice follow through: if you say you’ll do something or have commitments to your kids, stick to it!
8) Disciplined and firm
Boundaries are only real if they are enforced.
To be a good dad, you sometimes will need to practice tough love and enforce rules.
Being disciplined and firm with your kids can be hard for some modern men, but there’s really no way around it.
A lack of enough boundaries is actually very harmful to a child’s development.
When kids get confused about the rules or have them enforced erratically, it can lead to a lot of misery and mental chaos.
What’s allowed and what’s not? Why has it changed since last week?
Just ensure never to take rule-breaking personally or get emotionally vindictive against your kids.
Having children and being a dad is difficult but it’s also very rewarding. Just remember that you’re the adult in this situation and that it’s up to you to keep your cool while calmly and non-aggressively sticking to the rules you have made.
Also ensure that you are on the same page as their mom with how to enforce discipline and the kinds of rules you agree on.
Mixed messages from both parents on what the rules are can really confuse and anger kids.
Far too many dads I know, myself included, have a tendency to sink into being inactive and lazy.
When I wrote about discipline earlier, it’s also key to realize the importance of self-discipline.
The truth is that kids tend to reflect and mirror a lot of the behavior and habits of their parents.
If you get up late, leave dirty dishes in the sink, swear and curse or generally complain about life, that rubs off on them.
Now, I’m not saying you need to be a smiling picture of perfection at all times! Life happens…
But try your best to be action-oriented. Take care of yourself and get involved in the real world.
Practice sports with your kids, take an interest in their lives and spend your free time paying attention to them as much as possible.
I realize that sometimes that’s the last thing you want to do when you would do anything for a half hour nap.
But it’s going the extra mile at these times that separates the great dads from the mediocre and sometimes you really do have to put your kids first.
10) Supportive and encouraging
A big part of being a decent dad is supporting and encouraging your kids.
Life is hard and growing up is full of disappointments, challenges and confusion.
Being a rock for your kids who is there to console them and let them know you love them is completely crucial.
You don’t want to be a helicopter parent or be overly controlling or coddling your children.
But at the same time, you want to definitely avoid being an absent or neglectful dad.
The middle path: giving your kids the space and freedom they need to grow into individuals while also ensuring that you are absolutely there for them when they need it and guiding them along life’s path.
The truth about being a good dad…
Am I a good dad?
Ask my sons in about ten years, or better yet look at how they turn out.
Results usually speak louder than words, and parenting isn’t just about being popular, it’s about raising responsible, conscientious and confident human beings who can make a beneficial difference in society and their relationships.
I honestly believe I am doing my best, but I know I’m far from perfect and there are still some parts of being a solid father that I definitely need to improve.
Nonetheless, the list above are the traits that I have found most important in being a dedicated dad.
What others can readers think of and suggest?
Good luck out there, dads!