Being a dad is tough. You have huge responsibilities. One day you are the center of attention, fun setter, cherished son, key companion. The next, you are at the bottom of the pile. You go from being king of the castle to servant overnight.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t all bad. It’s just a huge shock to the system after 20+ years of having mom, dad, sister, grandparents put you first… and now you’re behind the dog. (In my case, the dog is a mean spirited, ornery, big boned Chihuahua named Mojo.) How in the world is he ahead of me? Jeez.

That being said, there are 5 key components to fatherhood in our opinion, and if you are wondering what they are, then read on.

1.    Grow Up

This one is tough. Now that you realize that your needs come last, just accept it. For the next 5 or 10 years, you need to be the rock that your children’s future is based on.

Most likely, your dad did it for you, and his for him. This means you need to be a really good time manager, accept your role, and make sure that regardless of what is going on, you take care of yourself (go to the doctor, get to the gym, go to work etc.). Also, it helps to make sure both short and long-term needs are met for your family. Unfortunately, this means you probably need to focus less on your personal enjoyment and “guy friend time.”

“Guy friend time” comes back, and it’s great when it does. However, in the short term, it’s time to grow up, because your family needs you.

2.    Be Engaged

I will be blunt. This was really hard for me in the early years. Changing diapers and watching them slobber is pretty damn boring. It regularly led me to check out and watch tv or check my phone. Don’t make my mistakes.

Don’t worry about watching them be boring. Think about quality instead of quantity. Take your favorite hobby, activity, or topic and teach your kids about it, include them in it, or share it with them. For me, this means having Jasper help me install a new wood floor, having Warren go for a hike with me, or having Violet play a game.

For the sake of my own sanity—and for their growth—I don’t choose easy activities. No Chutes and Ladders—I’m teaching Violet to play poker. Warren’s young and full of energy, so I drag him along on challenging, technical excursions instead of flat trails.

Either way, because I am engaged, my kids’ quality time with me goes way up, they learn more, listen more, and develop more. Plus, I love doing it.

3.    Provide, Provide, Provide

Let’s face it: this is a core responsibility. Whether your support be financial, emotional, or through quality activities, your job as dad is to be there for them.

Once again, providing for your kids means emphasizing quality over quantity. If you have to put in a few more hours to make ends meet, don’t sweat it. Just make sure that when you are there, you are engaged.

4.    Talk and Read to Them

After a long, stressful day, it can be easy to turn on the TV. Don’t. Get a book—any book—and read to them. Or, just walk around the house and describe things. It keeps them intellectually and socially engaged.

It turns out that kids whose parents do this end up with kids that way out perform others over time. Kids in poverty hear 30 million fewer words by age 3 than kids in higher socioeconomic classes. This continues over time, and the gap widens.

Want to help your kids out in the long run? The number one thing in my book (ha ha!) is to talk and read to them constantly.

5.    Teach them to be Good Humans

We’re biased here: we think Manners Cards are a key first step to doing this.

But it doesn’t stop there. Teach them to hold doors for people. Teach them to think of others. Teach them to be nice people. We have enough jerks in the world, so anything we can do to prevent more is helpful. Sometimes that means not being jerks ourselves. Believe me this is tough.

Sometimes we just have to take the high road and be better people, even when the guy cut us off. We need to lead by example here. After all, raising good humans is essential to being a good father!

6.    Read About Dad Issues

Bonus round! Didn’t see this one coming, did you? We promised 5, but we delivered 6. 

Again, we may be showing a little bias, but we think that staying engaged as a father means two things. First, it means being there for your family in the ways described above. But second, it also means owning fatherhood. Making fatherhood a priority means doing a little research about it and potentially joining a community of like-minded dads who just want to do well by their kids.

If you want to read more about fatherhood and random dad stuff, follow the blog. Or, if you’re just here for the neat dad swag, that’s cool too. We won’t hold it against you.


  1. Pingback: On Raising Sons to Be Humans - Ninja Dads

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