Updated: Jul 17, 2020
It will be so obvious if I’m not there.
Everyone but me will get to network if I don’t go.
Sure, it’s a Saturday, but what will the boss think if I don’t show up?
John’s at every extra meeting; I look like a slacker next to him.
Most men are deeply involved in seriously important things other than just their families. Probably the single hardest thing about being a good Dad is balancing family life with what goes on “outside.”
Work (of course), civic involvement, political issues, church all take their toll on how to be a good dad. In fact, a man cannot be a good dad unless he does at least the work part well—providing for his family. What’s more, productive men tend to get involved in other worthwhile callings, too.
Make Good-Dad Choices
Next month, I’ll likely face a crucial decision regarding one of those “callings.” A long-time friend at church will be ordained into the ministry, the culmination of a years-long dream I’ve watched him pursue since both of us were much younger.
Although the date and time for his event is not yet firm because the timing depends on the availability of those conducting the service, it will likely fall on the same day as my granddaughter’s first-ever ballet recital. And if it does, the times for the two events will almost certainly conflict.
Since I’m on the leadership team for our church, it’s a given that I should go to the ordination. “Everyone” will notice if I’m not there.
By contrast, if I miss the ballet, only my son and his daughter will pay much attention.
If I miss the ordination, my friend will understand why and go on, fulfilled by his accomplishment.
But the stakes are much higher for the ballet recital. Although my granddaughter could muster a 7-year-old’s understanding of why I had to be somewhere else, unlike my friend, she will feel less important as a human being if I ditch the ballet recital for the ordination service.
For Dads, that sort of choice is painfully often at stake. And even if you can’t make the child-favoring choice every single time, child-favoring should be the norm.
Making the right tough choices becomes easier if you’ve established a lifestyle of how to be a good dad. And much of it requires very different thinking than than the ways of parenting these days. I’ve laid out below the five keys to being positively Different.
What Makes a Good Dad?
I recognize that men and women are not all one way or another. Each of us is a blend of personality traits and proclivities, but I don’t believe in gender mush, either. Some things tend to be more fatherly and some more motherly, and that’s the spirit in which I offer these ideas.
To be the best dad you can be . . .
1. Don’t abdicate your role.
Handling children—especially little ones—is tough. So, when someone’s being whiny or someone a bit older being disdainful, it’s tempting to hand off the problem to Mom. After all, isn’t taking care of fussy kids really a woman’s responsibility?
In a word: NO.
You manage fussy people at work or endure whining about performance from your boss, so you can man up and manage your children.
There’s a temptation to feel like when you come home from work, you’re done. But in reality, that’s when your other full-time job is just beginning. Shirking the responsibility to manage kids is often laziness or self-indulgence that undermines your family.
2. Have confidence in your ability to parent.
The default setting in many of us—that women are naturally better at raising children—is wrong.** And sometimes women, because they care so much about getting the kids “right,” will encourage your default setting if it gives them more latitude to do what they want to. But men have instincts for things like fairness and long-term thinking that are essential to good parenting. Trust yourself to know what’s best, even if it feels easier to let your wife do the thinking.
3. Become their Adventure King.
Children need to experience some adventure in life, and at times, it means getting dirty or risking a skinned knee. Fathers often know this better than mothers. (One reason I’m so aware of this, though, is that my wife was stellar in letting our children be adventurous, and I often saw the difference between her and other moms, to the detriment of the other kids).
This can be especially important in how to be a good father to your son. They do not need to be “protected” from boyish risks that turn them into confident men.
4. Let your maleness guide how you do the parent thing.
We tend to think of feminine characteristics like nurturing, warmth, and compassion as the pillars of raising children, so it must be that women do parenting better, right? But, not so fast.
Masculine characteristics such as a sense of justice, fairness, and objectivity are critical to a child’s feelings of well-being. Justice is every bit as loving as compassion.
The world “out there” may not be fair, but a child needs to be grounded in the feeling of being treated fairly at home. And Dads often do a better job of cutting to the chase to discern what’s really going on.
Just because one kid is crying doesn’t mean the other kid is guilty. Step back from the interpersonal chaos and figure out what really happened. Then correct where correction is really—and fairly—needed.
5. Keep an eye on the big picture, but role up your sleeves.
Your goal is to raise well-adjusted 30-year-olds, not perfect 6-year-olds. This is one point in the 9-Point Quick Guide to Being a Great Parent my wife and I created. (You can get them all FREE by going here and inputting code FREE9POINTS.)
Kids have good days and bad days—just like you do at work. You don’t consider your career a flop because you have a bad day. So, don’t undermine your children by making too much of sub-par days.
But do handle your share of the daily kid stuff. Change diapers. Put them to bed. Get them dressed. Tend them at night at least as much as your wife.
Are you afraid you’ll be tired at work the next day? Hey, you’re a tough guy, aren’t you? Drink an extra afternoon cup of coffee if you have to, but don’t leave all the nighttime duties to Mom—she has plenty of daytime childcare to deal with. And all the more if she works outside the home. Besides, kids need to know that Daddy’s there when they need him—especially at night.
So, now: Go and be the best Dad you can be!
*Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels.
**For more about the problem of allowing “default settings” in your life, check out my blog, “Is Your Life in Default?”
***Photo credit: August de Richelieu from Pexels.
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