Honey, the test was positive.” When you find out you’re about to be a dad, the lack of experience can strike fear into even the most confident man. There are a few things I’ve learned after playing a part in bringing seven kids into this world that would’ve been helpful to know on the front end. [You read that right. Seven.]

Things I wish I’d known before I became a dad…

1. I didn’t have to be a hero for my kid to think I am a hero.

Your kids think you’re great, not because you’re the biggest, strongest, smartest, most powerful person in the world. They just think you are. You’re their hero because you’re Dad. You don’t have to become a great musician, make a lot of money, or be able to show them amazing tricks. Being the person who spends time with them, provides, and takes care of them cements your hero status in their eyes.

2. My words carried more weight than a giant boulder damming up a mountain stream.

Your words will build up or tear down your child. Even babies respond to their parents’ voices. Talking and reading to them as infants, teaching them as toddlers, and affirming them as adolescents—your words make an impact. The more “I love you’s,I’m proud of you’s,” and “I’m thankful to be your dad” they hear, the more validated they’ll feel.

3. I didn’t have to know how to be a good dad before I became one.

Being a good dad is definitely something that can happen through on the job training. Even if your dad wasn’t around for you, you’re still able to be a good dad to your child. Changing diapers, building Legos, and listening to your daughter talk about her day are all skills that can be learned once your child is born. While good examples help (and every dad should seek out other dads they can talk to and get advice from), previous experience is not a requirement for you to fill the position of a good dad. 

4. My kids would be giant sponges.

They watch you and they listen to you. They absorb what they see and hear. Then they follow your lead. If you fuss a lot, then they’ll fuss a lot when they’re playing with their toys. If you’re gentle, they’ll be gentle. “Do as I say and not as I do,” doesn’t work with your little ones. If you want to raise a future adult who respects others and has good relationships, be that adult

5. Tapping into my inner child can make it easier for my kids to respect my authority.

Dads have a reputation for being playful, silly, and adventurous. There’s an essential place for this in fatherhood. It gives you parenting cred with your kids. When your kids know you like them and enjoy being around them, it will be easier for your child to respect and obey you.

Whether you knew it or not, you have everything you need to be a good dad. Be present. Pay attention to your child. Don’t let fear of failure prevent you from diving in. On the job training will help you learn everything you need to know about being a dad. And your biggest influence will also be your biggest fan—your child.

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