Advice for Dads
I've learned some powerful lessons about being a man and being a father since my two daughters were born. Here are eight tips that summarize the most important lessons I've learned.
#1: Take a Hit for the Team
In a culture that seems to worship selfishness, as the father, you must be willing to be selfless and make your family your #1 priority. This means putting the needs of your wife and children ahead of your own. If you have to choose between what's best for you and what's best for your family, always choose your family first. You may occasionally feel a bit bitter and resentful for never coming first (you do have your birthday!), but there is something primitively satisfying about sacrificing yourself for your family
#2: Worship Your Wife
It's easy to take your wife for granted because she shows up for "work" every day, taking care of you and your children (even if she works full-time!). But being a mother is the most difficult, selfless, and often thankless job there is. You should constantly thank her for all she does for your family. You should also give her regular opportunities to take care of herself, whether exercise, socializing with friends, or just some down time to read or take a long bath. And, a bit selfishly, a friend of mine has a saying that I love: "Happy wife, happy life" (I hope that comment doesn't come across as sexist; not intended).
Communication is the most essential tool for the success of a marriage and a family. Yet it's a tool that men are not traditionally very good at. Communication can occur in the form of words, body language, emotions, and action. Communication shows respect for all of your family members, ensures that everyone's needs are being met, and reduces and resolves conflict. Talk to your wife and children, but, more importantly, listen to their messages, both obvious and subtle, and communicate back to them that you heard them and understand what they are saying.
#4: Be Emotional
We live in a culture in which expressing emotions by men is considered a weakness. Yet healthy emotional expression, whether positive emotions like such as joy and excitement, or less positive ones, such as anger, frustration, or sadness, are essential for personal happiness, healthy relationships, and success in life. Being able to express all emotions is an important part of being balanced and open. A healthy emotional life is a lifelong gift you can give your children. And, contrary to what our culture says, it actually takes strength to be emotionally expressive because it goes against the typical definition of manliness (and going against tide is about as manly as you can get!).
#5: Be Tough
Many parents these days have gotten the message from popular culture that they should be easy on their children. Well, let me tell you something: the world out there isn't going to be easy on them, so you need to prepare them. But when I say 'tough,' I don't mean being unkind or angry. I do mean that you should know what is best for your children and do what is best for them whether they like it or not. They may not fully appreciate it now, but they'll thank you in the future.
#6: Send Good Messages
Your children are being bombarded by unhealthy messages everywhere they turn, most notably from popular culture. Yet, as their father, you have the ability to influence them most directly, most powerfully, and most positively. But to do that, you must do more than talk the talk; you must also walk the walk because your children will do as you do not as you say. Make sure the messages that you send them, whether in your words, emotions, or actions, are going to foster their healthy development.
#7: Teach Healthy Values
The values that your children learn when they're young will guide them in everything they do in their lives. Unfortunately, we live in a toxic popular culture that teaches children the most awful values, for example, disrespect, selfishness, greed, and indifference. To combat that influence, you need to make sure that your values are healthy and that your children are getting positive value messages from you.
#8: Take Care of Yourself Physically
If you're like many fathers today, the stress of working hard to support your family and balancing all aspects of life can take its toll. Poor eating habits and lack of exercise and sleep can lead to obesity and other serious health problems. Being overweight, out of shape, sick, physically limited in some way (or, even worse, dead) at 50 isn't being a good father. Find the time (it is possible no matter how busy you are) and make the commitment to maintain your health, for the sake of your family.