4 signs a man will make an excellent dad, according to psychology

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I recently watched NYU professor and author Scott Galloway’s interview on the Rich Roll podcast, and it got me thinking. 

While the lengthy talk covered many topics, one they touched on was the need for more male role models in boys’ lives. Galloway himself was raised by a single mother. It was an interesting chat that I’d recommend checking out, especially if you are a young man. 

Anyway, what it got me thinking about was the role of a father in a child’s life. 

More specifically, as someone who does not have kids, it got me thinking about what are the signs that someone will make a good father?

So, I turned to psychology to help me understand. 

Here’s what I found. 

1) He takes responsibility

This one should come as no surprise.

As noted by the Children’s Bureau of Southern California, a number of studies have shown that children without positively present fathers suffer greatly. 

Dr. Edward Kruk expands on these effects in a Psychology Today post, noting that when a father is not involved in a child’s life, it can have nothing short of disastrous effects. 

These include problems developing friendships, diminished self-concept, poor academic performance, substance abuse, and mental health disorders. 

You get the idea.

On the other hand, the effects of dads being there for their kids are, as you might have guessed, very positive. 

For instance, researchers have found that the amount of time a father spends with his child correlates with the child’s ability to empathize. 

The point?

First and foremost, someone who is set to be a good father is someone who takes responsibility in his life. 

Do you or does the man you have in mind consistently demonstrate responsibility in everyday situations? 

How does he handle obligations at work, in relationships, and with family? 

Can you rely on him to follow through on commitments without being reminded?

If so, it’s a good sign. 

Men who have a habit of taking responsibility for their lives are more likely to take on the ultimate responsibility of raising a child. It’s more likely that he will quite simply be there. 

2) He is empathetic 

Empathy, as explained by psychologists, is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It’s the capacity to put oneself in another’s shoes and respond in a caring and understanding manner.

In my quest to understand fatherhood better, I discovered that it’s an essential element in raising emotionally secure and confident children.

As noted by researchers in a 2020 study, “Parents with strong empathy provide their children with a safe foundation from which children can explore their emotional experiences and seek comfort when experiencing emotional distress.” 

They also noted that children who have good experiences with empathy are more likely to develop a “functional pattern of emotional expression” as opposed to withdrawal or avoidance. 

Some research has even suggested that a father’s empathy during pregnancy affects later bonding!

But empathy isn’t something that we just instantly turn on when a child arrives. As noted by the Canadian Mental Health Association, it’s something that is learned and developed over time. 

So ask yourself, how does he react to the feelings of others? Is he quick to offer support when someone is upset? 

Does he make an effort to understand different perspectives, even when they are not his own? How does he respond to his own emotions and those of others in stressful situations?

Empathy isn’t just a nice-to-have trait, it’s essential to being a good father. 

3) He communicates in a healthy way 

As noted by Psych Central, the way children express themselves, listen, and respond to others can mirror the communication dynamics they observe. Often, it’s a case of “monkey see, monkey do”. 

If a man has trouble expressing himself in a healthy way, this can have a knock-on effect. Aggressive communication or anger might spring to mind here. Obviously, this is not a good model for children. 

However, other communication styles, like indirect or apologetic communication, can also be passed on. 

On the other hand, fathers who model healthy communication – not just with their child but also with other people like the child’s mother—can greatly benefit the child. 

This has also been acknowledged by UNICEF, which notes, “What your child sees you do is as important as what they hear you say.” 

Demonstrating respectful and clear communication in all relationships provides a powerful example for children, showing them how to interact effectively and empathetically.

Of course, healthy communication can be learned, but it’s better if a man already has this skill. 

But what exactly is healthy communication? Well, if you can say “yes”, to most of the following statements, you or the man you have in mind will probably set a pretty good example for his child:

  • He listens as much as he speaks.
  • He expresses his feelings and needs clearly and respectfully.
  • He maintains eye contact and uses open body language.
  • He avoids interrupting others when they are speaking.
  • He acknowledges different viewpoints before sharing his own.

4) He has good habits 

I know this sounds a little general, and that’s because, well, it is. However, it doesn’t make it any less important. 

Like modeling healthy communication, it’s another case of “money see, monkey do” it seems. 

Children often absorb what they see and repeat it, or, as the folks at Michigan State University put it, “Children learn and imitate behaviors by watching and listening to others.”

Not convinced?  

Here are a few facts for you. 

  • Children who grew up with alcoholic parents are 4 times more likely to engage in excessive drinking at some point. Yes, some of this can be attributed to genes, but as noted by Addiction Center, it can also be due to the “normalization of unhealthy drinking habits”. 
  • As noted by UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals, “​​A child with one obese parent has a 50 percent chance of being obese. When both parents are obese, their children have an 80 percent chance of obesity.”
  • A 2010 study found that children with two active parents are almost six times more likely to be active than those with parents who do not exercise. Yes, almost 6 times!
  • The New York Times has acknowledged that “children who love to read are generally immersed in households with lots of books and parents who like to read.” 

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. 

The point is that children imitate, and a man who has good habits like reading and exercising will likely pass these on to his kids. The same goes for bad ones. 

The bottom line

Being a great dad isn’t just about showing up—it’s about how you show up. 

Responsibility, empathy, healthy communication, and good habit modeling are essential tools that empower men to raise confident, emotionally intelligent children

If you or a man you know embodies these qualities, chances are he’s (or you are) well on his way to being an excellent father. 

As always, I hope you found some value in this post. 

Until next time.

Mal James

Mal James

Originally from Ireland, Mal is a content writer, entrepreneur, and teacher with a passion for self-development, productivity, relationships, and business.

As an avid reader, Mal delves into a diverse range of genres, expanding his knowledge and honing his writing skills to empower readers to embark on their own transformative journeys.

In his downtime, Mal can be found on the golf course or exploring the beautiful landscapes and diverse culture of Vietnam, where he is now based.

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