What Makes a Great Dad?

In last week's blog post, I discussed the importance of the father’s role in the lives of his children, but what does that mean to you in practical terms? Really, the question is, “What does it take to be a great dad?” Based on my work with hundreds of couples and families, I have found that great dads consistently practice five key principles.

Raising children is a little bit like building a home. I’m not an expert in construction, but I know that if you want to build a quality home, you need to pay close attention to the details – just as a father seeking to raise “quality” kids will find it helpful to keep these five key principles in mind. 

1. A great dad LOVES his children. Just as the foundation of a new home has to be poured before the building can be framed, a father’s love for his family is the foundation that supports and sustains everything else he does. When your actions and decisions are motivated by love, your family is on solid ground.

2. A great dad DISCIPLINES his children. The walls we build in our home symbolize healthy discipline. Discipline clearly defines the boundaries of behavior and often dictates where we can and cannot go. Remember, there’s a big difference between discipline and punishment. Discipline is for the purpose of teaching good character and encouraging good choices. Punishment is often motivated by revenge, and rarely works in the long run to change behavior.

3. A great dad NURTURES his children. Just as the materials we use to build a home often define its quality, so too does the kind of nurturing we give to our children. We nurture our children by showing affection, communicating affirmation, and giving attention. These three things will likely define the quality of the relationship you have with your children. This is often the fun part of fathering, because one of the best ways to nurture children is to play with them. Other ways include hugging, listening, sharing activities, and just goofing around together.

4. A great dad INSTRUCTS and TRAINS his children. Have you ever seen a home where there was very little evidence of real craftsmanship? When a home lacks quality craftsmanship you can’t always rely upon things to work the way they should, and it probably won’t weather nature’s storms very well. The same can be said about a son or daughter who hasn’t received training and instruction from their father. When the “storms” of adversity come their way, they will often lack the knowledge and judgment necessary to make wise decisions.

How much time do you spend instructing and training your child? Children often don’t meet their father’s expectations, and sometimes it’s because the father hasn’t taken the time to properly train them. Picture this: your son or daughter starts working at a restaurant. They walk in the door on their first day, and with no training, they’re sent to go help customers and cook the food. If that was the way the restaurant operated, I doubt I’d want to eat there a second time! And it wouldn’t be fair to your child to make them responsible without being shown or told how to do it right.

Unfortunately, that’s what we do with our children much of the time. We give them a job to do, but we don’t take enough time to show them how to effectively carry it out. If you want them to learn how to do things, turn off the TV, put down the newspaper, or come home from work on time so you can show them. Taking walks or talking while you ride in the car are great teaching times, too.

5. A great dad PROVIDES for and PROTECTS his children. Just as a well-built home will provide warmth and security for its occupants, so too will a great dad provide for his children and protect them from things that can potentially harm them, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

We all fall short at times when it comes to consistently demonstrating the characteristics of a great dad – that’s just a fact of life. However, we need to remind ourselves of how important our role is in the lives of our children. When we practice the five essential principles, we increase the likelihood of our children growing up to be the responsible and productive men or women we desire them to be.

Live, Work and Relate Well!

Dr. Todd

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