From the moment you announce that you are having a baby, one phrase will be repeated over and over by those congratulating you, “enjoy it, it goes by too fast.” And in those first days… weeks…months…in those long, drawn out, sleepless nights, you might be thinking to yourself “yeah right. When will it end? I don’t know what I’m doing!”
The truth is, it really does go too fast. Too incredibly fast to not take advantage of every moment you possibly can. That phrase people kept repeating to you, they meant it wholeheartedly. It seems funny to say, but it’s like you blink and all of a sudden they are starting school, or graduating from it.
Fatherhood can definitely be nerve-racking, but trust that if you are intentional with your time, your actions, and your words, you will become a great dad in the eyes of those who are most important to you.
When you start to think about how fast time goes by, it forces you to become more intentional. By definition, intentionality means to do things on purpose and to be deliberate. There is no set formula or path you can follow or lesson you can take on how to be a dad; every family’s needs are different, and its those needs that will dictate what kind of dad you will be.
Children learn about love through social interaction, so when you are trying to figure out how to be a great dad, keep that in mind. While it is fantastic to TELL your children and your significant other that you love them, it is even greater to SHOW that love with actions and with your time; and that is where intentionality comes in.
Even when you are freaking out because you don’t know how to navigate fatherhood, CHOOSE to take time to sing to the baby instead of putting him in the playpen. Or, swing your daughter on the swingset after work, even when the couch is screaming your name. These small actions are the building blocks for an emotional connection.
What is your end goal as you learn how to be a great dad? Do you want your kids to know that they are unconditionally loved? Do you want them always to feel safe? Whatever your end goal is, find ways to show them that intentionally. Feeling loved unconditionally doesn’t just happen. Parents make choices that teach their kids that love.
When kids are very young, telling them how much you love them or how special they are might be arbitrary to them. They will understand your love more through a gentle touch, hug, or kiss. Showing your child affection is one of the first ways that you can learn how to be a dad.
Unfortunately, in the past, males showing affection has been seen as a sign of weakness. Luckily, those perceptions are beginning to change; dads should never feel ashamed or weak for showing their children love and affection. Being intentional about showering them with all of this love allows for a strong bond to take place. Children thrive when they feel loved, and they feel loved when parents choose to show it to them.
Learn Your Child’s Needs And Wants
Every family has different dynamics. Finding what works best for your family and your family’s lifestyle will make you a superhero in their eyes. Don’t worry if you’re lost right now, as your child gets older their personalities will shine through and you will be able to catch what their needs are.
For example, if your little one thrives off one on one play time, give him or her just that. It can be hard to take time to play Legos on the floor for an hour when you might have so many other things going on in your head: work deadlines, family logistics, etc. But in your child’s eyes, you are showing them that they are your priority.
Maybe your little one thrives off of words of affirmation. Giving positive praise can be very important in creating a positive image and self-esteem. If you notice that your child shines when you give positive praise, make it a habit of sharing with them at least once a day why you are proud of them.
Make sure to be specific though; A “I’m proud of you” blanket statement might leave them confused. But if you say I am proud of you because you did (insert specific action here) today”, they will know what specific behaviors you picked up on and why you are honoring them.
Or if your family routinely has busy weeks where you guys barely get to see each other, make an intentional decision to take one day out of the week just for family time.
While you and your significant other might be working extremely hard to provide financially and give them a stable environment, most children do not notice that effort or cherish it until they get older and experience adulthood for themselves. They will, however, notice when they feel alone or feel as if no one is paying attention.
Find Something To Do Together
Once you do figure out your child’s needs or wants, find something that you can do together routinely. If you both enjoy playing and watching baseball, maybe going outside to throw the old ball around a couple of days a week can become your special thing. Catching a game together can also help you bond and create memories.
Remember, when learning how to be a great dad, intentionality is critical. Choosing something that brings you joy and doing it together will be something you both cherish for many years to come.
The key is to make them feel special, like they are worthy of your time and affection. Of course, you know they are, but kids need to FEEL it and SEE it for themselves.
If you build a routine with kids based on one on one time, they will feel loved and see you as a great dad for taking the time to be with them. It can be something as small as doing a daily night time story or song with them, or as big as going to a yearly, special sporting event with them.
It gives them something to look forward to and shows them you want to spend time with them. And the great thing about it is, your bonding activities can change as your family dynamics and interests change; you two can make it into whatever you want!
Join Us For A Fathers EveⓇ Event!
There is no playbook on how to be a great dad. But if you ever need help on the subject, there are millions of other dads out there experiencing the same emotions, who can all support one another.
Find a Fathers Eve event today by going to fatherseve.com to join in the community of dads who want to celebrate fatherhood in all its glory and want to lean on each other for advice and perspective. You will be able to find out about upcoming events and local groups.
Joining the Fathers Eve at an event and in our group can help you become the best dad you can be, as it is an INTENTIONAL effort to learn, reflect, and cherish what fatherhood means to you.