How to be a better father
- Do you ever find yourself thinking, how can I show up as a better father?
- How can I be a better role model for my kids?
They are great questions.
In essence, parenting is a journey that deserves attention.
I’ve met plenty of dads. Some share that they had a challenging upbringing which results in a present-day struggle to develop a healthy relationship with their child. Not due to their lack of desire, instead, due to exposure.
Some dads share that they are driven by what they lacked during their development. For instance, the lack of quality time may drive a parent to spend more time with their child.
The focus of this article is to provide tools aimed to help you become a better father.
Below are key areas to focus on when working to become a better father:
The first place to focus on is that of developing a sense of authenticity. This simply means that you are working to become your true self versus living a life as someone else. Being authentic means that you are aware of your own personality and values and in addition, you remain connected to them.
You are able to steer away from the pressures of life that often push a person to lose sight of their values and in turn behave in negative ways.
Being authentic is often a process of its own. It takes rigor and discipline. It’s a practice of self-awareness and inner healing. Achieving a healthy level of authenticity sets you free from living under the expectations of others.
As a father, you are able to relate to your kids from a deep level of love, trust, and healthy attachment. You are able to connect with them using your personality and values.
- When you read the word, vulnerability, what comes to mind?
- What do you think about when you reflect on being a vulnerable person?
At times, men struggle with sharing their deep thoughts and emotions. This can be for ample reasons. Some include:
- Bullying during childhood. Maybe kids at school would tease you during a moment that you opened up. This then led to a struggle in life to share thoughts and feelings.
- Toxic life during childhood. Maybe you grew up in a house that attacked you when you tried to share your thoughts and feelings. The attack may have been in the form of being yelled at or ignored. Both leading to a person to feel that they cannot open up about how they are feeling.
The practice of vulnerability works to help men better connect with their kids. Below is a case study proving you with clarity to understand why.
Jeff and his son entered the counseling office. Jeff is 32-years old and his son 13-years old. The counselor started the session by asking Jeff and his son Kevin to talk about their weekend. Jeff shared that they had an interesting moment. Jeff shared with the therapist that during the weekend his employer downsized. He was one of the hundreds of employees to be let go. During the disclosure, Kevin watched his dad share the reflection. The counselor asked if they had a chance to talk about it. Both said yes. Kevin shared that the very day, he went out for lunch with Kevin. They talked about what took place at work.
The counselor asked Jeff why he decided to talk to Kevin about it? How Kevin felt when listening to his dad.
Jeff shared that he felt it was important for his son to see him during high and not so high moments. He wanted his son to witness how he would navigate the uphill battle of moving forward from the employment issue.
Kevin told the counselor that he enjoyed listening to his dad. He said that it was nice to see his dad talk about how he was feeling. Kevin shared that it made him feel that he could talk about his feelings too.
The example above is not a fit for everyone. It’s simply an example that can be utilized to grow from. Below are key points from the case example:
- Jeff shared a vulnerable moment with his child.
- Jeff allowed his child to hear and witness him in a space of vulnerability.
- Kevin was appreciative to see his father vulnerable.
- Kevin was able to open up more because his father was opening up.
As you move forward with the understanding of vulnerability take time to practice finding space to connect with your child using the vulnerability. Consider the below strategies:
- Daily share with your child 1 reason you are proud of yourself and why you take time daily to practice personal praise.
- Praise your child when they share thoughts and feelings. This helps to strengthen vulnerability.
- Take time to evaluate if there is a safe place in the home and with your relationship with your child that is open to sharing thoughts and feelings.
Leadership is a beautiful way to develop a healthy relationship with your child. Leadership can take place in ample ways. Not solely with how you, as the parent, decide to lead your child.
Leadership can take place in the following ways:
- You can model healthy behavior.
You can place your child in a space that has healthy role models.
- You can praise your child for positive leadership.
- You can praise yourself for positive leadership.
- You can engage in a team-built space that helps you and your child gain leadership skills together.
Let’s use the case example to understand how to utilize leadership to improve your relationship with your child.
Jeff and Kevin took the time to share their past fishing trip with the counselor.
Jeff shared that he decided to take his son Kevin with him fishing at their local lake. There they met up with Jeff’s friends. Chris and David. Together the four fished. While fishing, Jeff was mindful to demonstrate compassion, kindness, active listening, and genuine interest. Jeff shared vulnerable stories with his friends. He received positive remarks from his friends.
Kevin told the therapist that it was nice to see his dad joke around and talk about things that happened in his life. The counselor asked Kevin, what did you learn from the fishing trip?
Kevin shared that he was able to see his dad talk about his feelings. He specifically mentioned that he saw his dad joking with his friends and talking about personal things. He shared how seeing his dad joke made him feel comfortable.
In the example above, you are able to pinpoint that Jeff took the time to invite his son to a fishing trip. His son, Kevin was able to see his father in action.
In your life, when it comes to growing as a parent. Take time to include your child in activities that allow them to see you navigate relationships. Such as that of the example of Jeff and Kevin.
Share a journal
A journal is simply a place that you write or draw your thoughts and feelings. Some people use journals to write down their daily thoughts. Others use it to draw how they are feeling in the moment as a way of expression.
To strengthen your relationship with your child and grow into a better father, you can share a journal. It’s up to you if you want to use it for writing or for drawing.
Share a common interest
I remember as a child, my parents would support my Pokémon interest. I would collect the cards, play the games, and be entirely nestled in the world of Pokemon. As a kid, having my parents show interest in my hobbies made me feel more connected to them. It gave us a place to talk. A conversation starter or ice breaker.
Even today, I continue to reflect with gratitude for that time in my life.
Today, write down your child’s interests. Once you have the interest written down, take time to focus on nurturing an interesting area with your child. The more time you devote to the area the better the relationship will become.
Today, I am a father of two. My kids love to make forts and jump on the trampoline. So that’s what we do. We make giant forts in the house and jump for hours on the trampoline. I can say that I’ve noticed how the time spent in the activities have beyond a doubt strengthen our relationship. During the fort playing and trampoline jumping, we talk. They share details about their day in an effortless way. They ask me questions. We laugh. We connect.
As you walk away from this reading, I hope that you are able to continue to move forward in growing as a father and overall person. Therapy is a great start.
The journal is a great tool for fathers who want to have a safe and constructive space for emotional and life growth. The journal gives you journal prompts and therapy exercises that support anger management, reducing stress, improving confidence, developing mental clarity, gaining stability in mood, and developing healthy coping skills. Learn More about the journal.
Growing into a better father includes the practice of taking time to educate your child on how to treat others. This includes parties that you, as the parent, may not have the best relationship with. I’ll share with you the classic example that takes place during separation.
A husband and wife are divorced and find themselves sharing custody. Things went down that led to the reality of today. A father finds himself on edge, upset, and avoidant when he interacts with his ex-partner. This father may have every reason to do so.
Something important must be discussed. How the father treats his ex-partner or anyone else, directly gives the child a form of modeling. For instance, if a father talks down to his ex-partner, avoids eye contact, neglects calls, yells, and engages in other-like behaviors. The child now has that as a form of leadership. The child is able to connect two very simple dots.
The dots include: This is the way to treat others.
Next thing you know, the child is in school misbehaving. The child may struggle to connect to female teachers. The child may become oppositional when engaging with peers of the opposite sex.
Now, remember, this is an example. There are of course many reasons why people do what they do. I simply share with you how dots are connected. At the start and end of the day, a parent’s job includes that of setting the tone. Being able to demonstrate to the child how one should treat another person.
If you find yourself as a dad in a position of struggle when it comes to interacting with your ex-partner or anyone else. Try to take time to focus on developing strength around the area. This can include working with a counselor or using a helpful tool such as those listed in this reading.
TOOLS TO GROW AS A FATHER
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind is a great book for parents that need simple and effective strategies aimed to support in addressing challenges. The author teaches readers how to parent their child in ways that address anxiety, anger, and other challenges in life. CLICK HERE to learn more about the book
The book, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is a very high-ranking book for personal and professional development which in my opinion directly impacts emotional wellbeing. The habits discussed in the book allow readers to build skills in the areas of productivity, processing, time management, proactive, and positive thinking. As a professional counselor, I found that the areas discussed in the self-help book support individuals struggling with depression, anxiety, and destructive habits and behaviors. CLICK HERE to learn more about the book.