I regularly ask myself “Am I a good Father?” – Sometimes, because it’s because I have doubts and feel like I did something wrong; in many cases, however, it’s because I want to constantly evaluate myself: Am I doing a good “job”?
I know I’m not alone in this, and many of you must also ask yourselves the same question. But how can you judge what makes a good dad? I’ve tried to figure out which questions I should answer to find this out, and you can find the results at the end of this article. But first I’d like to share with you some of my thoughts about being a dad and see if I can give us all some clues to help answer this age-old question.
I personally believe that all any child really wants is your love. Some parents may seem like they are doing a good job because they go through the motions. But truly, deeply loving your kid, telling them every day how special they are to you, and showing them by the way you care for them, is of the most value to any child.
1. Setting Boundaries
My son Benjamin, is now three years old. Since the day he was born, I’ve tried to be the best father I could possibly be for him. I’ve learned a hell of a lot along the way, and I’m sure I’ll continue to learn plenty more as he grows up.
I find myself looking at my friends and the relationships they have with their kids. I know people with children that I don’t particularly warm to, they are disrespectful of their parents, sulky, spiteful and self-possessed and I wonder if they were just born that way or if it is the way their parents are parenting them.
I worry that if I do something wrong with my own parenting, that my son may turn out just like theirs, or worse. Then other people I know have amazing children, who are delightful to be around, happy, kind, caring and respectful. I so want Benni to turn out like this, so I try to look at the differences in the ways these two types of children are being brought up by their parents.
From my observation of others, I try to understand how I might improve my own parenting skills and it seems to me that the parents who set zero boundaries for their children and continually give in to their every want and demand are those with the worst behaved kids. For this reason, I try really hard to ensure Benni knows what the boundaries are. This isn’t always easy with a young child, as explaining why he can’t do things can be tricky.
2. Being Involved
The fact that my son wants to be with me and that my wife and I are happy in our relationship makes me think I/we must at least be doing something right. I work hard, but I also make as much time as I can to play with Benni, and I really enjoy every moment I spend with him. I realize too that all too soon my cute little 3-year-old is going to be a fully-grown man, and that the short time I have to enjoy his childhood needs to be cherished.
I try to contribute to as many of the day to day chores, including the care of Benni, as I can. I have always been actively involved with looking after him, from changing his diapers to making his meals. I cook, I clean the house, I help my wife out as much as I can.
But I also try to do plenty of fun stuff with my son and my wife too. To me, the best way to really bond and keep relationships of all kinds strong is to work and play together as much as possible.
3. Encourage Independence
Of course, as well as spending quality time with your child, I think you have to also balance the fact that it’s impossible to make them the center
Believe me, I’m no saint! I find it really, REALLY hard sometimes to tear myself away from my laptop, phone or video game. I hear myself saying “in a minute” for the next half hour or more. I feel I shouldn’t do this, but it can be very difficult not to!
For more tips on this take a look at my blog: Raising Healthy, Self-Confident and Responsible Kids
4. Make Time
I love playing with Benni, and I love that he really enjoys playing with me. We have so much fun with the same toys I had as a kid, Duplo, toy cars, wooden railroad and most recently Lego.
I could spend hours building Lego worlds or creating crazy marble runs with him, but honestly, Benni has a pretty short attention span just like any other three-year-old. Before long he gets bored and frustratingly wants to destroy his freshly assembled creation, a lot more than he wants to continue building it.
On the other hand, it can also be frustrating when he wants my attention all the time, and I have to remind myself that I will bitterly regret it if I don’t play with him as much as I can now, while he still wants me to.
I also realize that the more time I spend with Benni doing fun, educational and engaging activities the stronger our bonds will become, and the more I am helping him towards his future education too. Putting down my own toys (computer, phone, video game) is, therefore, a very worthy sacrifice.
To help you make more time to do the fun stuff with your kids, take a look at my blog: How to Balance Work and Family Life
5. Be Interested
It’s important to me that when Benni is older, that he feels that I am interested in him and what he loves to do. I don’t want to be a pushy Dad and try to force him into liking activities that I enjoy, although I’d never dissuade him either if he did garner an interest in one.
I like to think I will give him the space to find his own favorite hobbies and pastimes and that I’ll make myself available to support him in them, encouraging him, without turning into a pushy parent.
I totally get that many people are restricted in how much time they can spend with their kids due to work. I completely believe that even if you can only spend half an hour of quality time with your kids after work each day, then that valuable half hour will have a profound effect on the quality of your relationship. I’m not saying that when you get home from work you shouldn’t get to relax, what I am suggesting is that you give a little time to your child first and then take time for you and your partner after your child’s gone to bed.
6. Be Patient
The older Benni gets the more I find myself saying things like “Benni don’t do x” and “hurry up Benni!”. The trouble is, the more I do this, the worse he gets, and as our frustrations rise, we both get grumpier and grumpier.
It’s tough sometimes to just be patient, chill, take a deep breath and try a different approach to the problem. It’s easy to forget he’s just three and doesn’t understand that if we don’t leave the house right on time, we’ll be late for the nursery.
I forget that kids of his age don’t have any concept of time. When I do manage to keep my calm, everything runs a whole lot more smoothly!
7. Behave How you Want your Child to Behave
Regrettably, I’ve recently been reminded of the saying that “kids are like sponges”, well yes, I can confirm, they most certainly are!
Recently I cut my finger while chopping vegetables and gave an automatic (Kiefer Sutherland) response. Now of course whenever Benni bangs his knee or gets cross about something, he too utters the dreaded word “dammit” much to my wife’s, and my own annoyance.
I know that it isn’t just words that children absorb either. They take on board all the behavior they see, good and bad. I know it can be difficult not to complain about your Mother in Law, but remember that she is their Grandma. In their eyes, if your behavior is OK for you, then it must also be OK for them too.
To conclude, the seven things I would ask myself, to answer the question “am I a good father”, would probably be:
- Do I set clear boundaries for my child to follow and do I stick to them?
- Do I get involved enough with my child’s day to day care and helping around the home?
- Do I encourage my child to become a confident and independent person?
- Do I make enough opportunities to spend quality time with my child?
- Am I interested in the activities my child enjoys and do I encourage and support them in these activities?
- Am I patient and understanding with my child?
- Do I behave in the way I wish my child to behave?
Of course, there is so much more than this to being a great parent, but if you can say yes to these seven questions, I think you must be doing OK. Of course, there will always be room for improvement, after all, none of us are perfect!
If you are interested in bringing your parenting to a whole new level and really connect with your kids, while learning to avoid all those nasty “power struggles” along the way and putting an end to all yelling, nagging and reminding, PLEASE make sure to read my review of Positive Parenting Solutions! It’s an amazing online course I took recently and it really improved our family life A WHOLE LOT!
Let me know what you think! How do you evaluate your parenting? Do you even think about it? What is important to YOU as a mom or dad when you think about “good parenting”?
Looking forward to hearing from you!