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Preparing for Fatherhood

Set your course with these quick, easy and totally practical steps.

Being a dad has been the most incredible adventure of my life. Emphasis on adventure! There’s nothing quite like being a dad (moms are awesome too, but I can’t speak to that experience). I remember when I found out that we were expecting our first child. I was so excited and so freaked out! And I wanted to prepare myself for fatherhood in every way possible.

If you’re preparing for fatherhood, here are some things you can do:

Do your research.

Read as much as you can about becoming a dad and what it takes to be a dad (the tasks and the relational aspect). There are plenty of books, blogs and podcasts about being a dad. Here are a few of my favorites:

Talk to other dads.

Experience is a great teacher! Talk to new dads and those who have years of experience. There is immense value in learning from both groups. Talking to experienced dads can also help you decide the type of father you want to be.

Finish those household projects.

Got unfinished projects that you haven’t had time to finish? Well, now’s the time. No need to have those hanging over your head after the baby arrives.

Make a plan for responsibilities.

Talk with Mom about who will do what. This isn’t a one-time conversation, either. Be open about your expectations of each other and parenthood. You need to discuss this before the baby gets here and you’re both exhausted. The goal is to make sure you both have sufficient baby time and the ability to get sleep when you can.

Talk about parenting with Mom.

There are different types and philosophies of parenting. Whether you’re married or not, discuss how you want to raise your child. 

These questions can get you started:

  • How can I best support the method of feeding you choose?
  • Where will the baby sleep?
  • Will both of you return to work? If so, when?
  • What about childcare? (Childcare is often in short supply, so if you’ll be seeking childcare, start now. Apply everywhere you can and be prepared for long waitlists.)

Start buying those baby supplies.

There’s no time like the present to purchase what you need. Make a list and buy throughout the pregnancy. Decide on a diapering system and stock up. If you’re using disposable diapers, buy different sizes and brands. You never know how the baby will react to certain brands. [Pro tip: Don’t open the diapers and keep receipts. You can always exchange them as long as you know where you got them.] 

Take care of yourself physically.

Becoming a parent takes a lot of energy. If you need to make some healthier choices for yourself, do it now. It’s much easier to make life changes before your child is born. 

Talk to your employer.

It’s about more than just taking time off after your baby is born. Will you have the flexibility to attend doctor’s appointments? Will your job allow you to occasionally work from home?

Attend doctor appointments.

You need to go to as many prenatal doctor’s appointments as possible now. Your role is significant. Ask all the questions you can think of. 

Spend time with your friends and family.

You may have all the time in the world right now, but that’s gonna change when your little one arrives. That’s the life of a new parent. Spend time with your friends now. If they aren’t parents, let them know your time is about to get REAL stretched. If they’re parents, they’ve been there, and they get it.

Don’t stress yourself out.

The only way to know how to be a dad is to BE A DAD. No two kids or experiences are alike, so don’t worry that you won’t be prepared. Learn as much as you can now without putting too much pressure on yourself or Mom. If you’re both first-time parents, it’s a big learning curve. Do the best you can.

Like I said: Being a dad is an adventure. Your role is crucial in the development of your child. They need you, and you have what it takes to be a great dad.

Other resources:

How to Be a Supportive Parent – First Things First

5 Signs You Need Some Alone Time

10 Traps for First-Time Parents

5 Steps I Took to Be a Better Dad

Becoming a stronger father is possible.

Have you ever wanted to just do better as a dad? I mean mentally, physically, and emotionally? I don’t know your situation, but wanting to do better helped me start to become better. 

Some people think that a father is behind on child support because he doesn’t care or doesn’t want to pay. That may be the case for some people, but it was different for me. 

In my case, I cared very much. I wanted to pay. But I had a tough time. 

I wasn’t balanced, and sometimes I had to choose between paying a bill or paying my child support. I wanted my kids to have nice clothes or shoes when they spent time with me, so I chose to put the payment off. 

Now I see that wasn’t a great idea. But I thought money and buying things was the way to their heart, because one thing I could say about my dad is that he always made sure I had decent clothes and shoes. I thought that was what I was supposed to do. I thought education and having the right credentials, and finding jobs to make money would make me more successful in the eyes of my kids and family. 

But I realized my kids needed more than that. They needed me.

Here are some steps I took to be a better dad:

1. I had to own some things. 

To become a better dad, I had to understand and start with apologizing for what I needed to apologize for. I had to earn trust again, but getting trust back wasn’t easy. My kids needed to know that I would be there and that I was truly sorry for not supporting them or answering phone calls. Or not having the money to give them when they needed just a little extra to have certain things. But most of all, I wanted them to know I was just sorry for not spending time with them. 

2. I had to start listening to the people in my life.   

I listened to my kids and found out that they didn’t just want me for my money; they wanted me to spend more time with them. Also, I had to learn to control my feelings because others in my life have feelings, and they need to be heard. Fathers, listen: Sometimes your kids just want to be around you or be in the same household with you. Most men I know don’t like being told what to do or how to do it. But if you listen, you’ll learn A LOT. I know I did.

3. I had to accept that everything might not go the way I wanted it to go.

Being in and out of your kid’s life won’t make the kids call you “Dad.” So you have to accept it, and you can’t give up; you have to be willing to fight to become what they need. Show them that you will never give up. I’ll always try to become a better dad, no matter what.

4. I had to stay committed to my goals. 

I focused on staying out of jail by keeping a steady job and paying my child support. It was not easy. Still, I was determined to focus and buckle down because my kids needed the better version of me. I was and still am willing to become a strong, loving father.

5. I had to realize that dads make a difference.

For me, First Things First’s Dads Making a Difference class was very important. It taught me so much about life. I thought I was alone (as many men believe they’re alone in certain situations surrounding fatherhood). I had no idea that help was available to help me navigate the roadblocks and teach me to be a better man/father.

Everyone has their own idea for what it takes to become a better dad. It has been a journey that I am willing to take despite criticism and harsh words. I’m determined to become a better father, and these steps are just the beginning. 

Other blogs:

How Kids Benefit from Involved Fathers

Conversation Starters for Kids and Parents

DOWNLOAD: 10 Things All Dads Need To Do To Help Their Child Be Successful

Dear Dad,

Can I ask you a question? When you found out you were going to be a dad, were there parts of you that thought, “I’m gonna crush this. Everything my dad wasn’t around to do, I’m gonna do, because I’m not gonna be like my dad…”? Or did you say to yourself, “I don’t know how to be anyone’s dad. I had no one to show me how to be a good dad…”?

It seems like being a good dad would be a lot easier if you had someone who showed you all the things you’re supposed to do. There’s a part of us that believes we can figure out everything on our own. Every once in a while, you may get a reality check when someone else notices there’s something you didn’t know. 

Without a dad to tell you what you’re supposed to do, it’s normal to make mistakes. 

And it’s ok to not know how to do something. How would you know the right time to just give a good, strong hug if you weren’t shown by your father? Are you a bad dad? Probably not. Could you be better? Couldn’t we all? Is it a bit of a disadvantage to not having someone show you the way? Quite possibly. Is all hope lost? Far from the truth.

Shaunti Feldhahn’s research shows that men often worry that they don’t have what it takes. We fear that one day the people closest to us will find out. When I heard that, it hit my heart. I thought to myself, “When my kid finds out that I don’t know how to do the dad stuff, then they won’t respect me or even like me.” 

So what do you do?

You keep faking it and you keep being there. Keep being present, and keep listening to your kids’ stories. You keep telling them the little bit you do know. You keep making mistakes with them. Keep taking them places with you and keep hanging out. You keep hugging them when they hurt, challenging them when they say something that doesn’t seem right. And next thing you know, they start looking for you because they want to talk. They want to share their success and get encouragement after their failures.

One of the biggest things you can learn from your dad is to never run away. 

Because if your dad did, you know how it feels. And that’s what hurts the most. Instead, lean into your children. Running away could mean leaving the family. It could also mean running away from talking, from dealing with issues, from being open and vulnerable, or running away from what you don’t know.

It seems like every good action movie has an amazing running scene where the hero is running into a dangerous situation. (Will Smith got famous from his Bad Boys running scene.) Fellow dad, run into the situation. Run to your kids. Run to the hard stuff in their lives. That’s how the heroes are made. Not just in the movies, but also in the heart of your child.

Other helpful blogs:

How to Be an Emotionally Safe Parent

4 Ways To Be A More Present Parent

How to Be a Supportive Parent

5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Became A Dad

You and your daughter used to be “besties.” She was your princess; you were her knight in shining armor. Y’all were like peas and carrots, PB and jelly, Gronk and Brady…

Then KABLAM! She turned into a teenager. Which resulted in radio silence…

Been there, currently doing that, wearing the proverbial t-shirt at this very moment. 

And if that t-shirt were for real, it’d have a sad face on it. Because as a girl-dad, it’s a horrible feeling to think you and your daughter don’t talk as much as you used to. 

I’m sure the questions have run through your mind: How did this happen? Is this normal? Did I do something wrong? Am I just uncool? 

These are all valid questions, except for that last one. 

From one girl-dad to another, I’m breaking it to you: Yes, you are uncool. That time you picked your daughter up from school blasting Vanilla Ice? Uncool. When you walked by her Zoom call wearing a cowboy hat and bathrobe? So uncool. (Although you have mad respect from me.)

But I digress… Without further ado, here are five possible reasons teen girls stop talking to their dads: 

1. It’s normal.

Seriously. As a teen, your daughter is in a stage of developing her independence. Her brain is prepping her for the day when she’s on her own. (Grab the tissues, Pops.) All teens go through it to some degree. And what results is a necessary pulling away from her parents. (Learn more about this here.)

2. She doesn’t feel understood. 

Sometimes I forget that just because I’m her dad doesn’t mean my daughter feels like I’m approachable. Teen girls need to feel safe with their dad in order to open up and talk. If I’m in the habit of giving her advice when she doesn’t want it, or I tend to be more critical than supportive, she’s going to feel misunderstood. 

3. She doesn’t know how to get closer to you. 

Wait,” you say, “but we used to be close!” Yes, but that was before teenhood struck. Here’s what research tells us: most teenagers say they want to be closer to their parents, but they aren’t sure how. For your daughter, relating to dad as a child was different than it is as a teen. You might be the same, but she’s changing (as she should be). For her, this is all unexplored territory—not just being a teenager, but being a teenage daughter.

4. You don’t know how to get closer to her. 

When your little girl starts turning into a young lady, it’s sometimes hard for a dad to know how to connect. It’s easy to think, “I’m not sure I know how to relate to her anymore. She’s so different than when she was little.” Maybe this is a time she needs her mom (or another mom-figure—and not me). As a result, many dads react by pulling away. 

5. There’s more to it than development.

As dads, we don’t want to think about this, but we should be aware. Withdrawing from friends or activities, falling grades, or constant irritability may indicate a deeper issue. In this case, monitor what you see. Let your daughter know you’re concerned for her, and seek professional help if needed. (Read How Do I Know if My Teen is Depressed?)

Fellow dads, let me encourage you! Your teen girl still needs you in her life. She wants to talk to you, even though she might not come out and say it. And if she’s stopped talking to you, it’s not hopeless. Stay in the pocket, keep engaging, let your daughter know you support her. Let her know she’s still the Gronk to your Brady, no matter how much Vanilla Ice you play in your car. 

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.

So you’re a new dad. Congrats!! This is an exciting time. Did you get your how-to manual full of explanations and instructions? You didn’t? Hmmm, wonder what happened there? Oh wait, that doesn’t exist. If only kids came with instruction manuals. (Even if they did, would you even read it? I probably wouldn’t. Maybe that’s why the shelves I put up are crooked…)

So here you are asking the questions: What do I do now? What do I need to know? All valid questions. (We don’t want our kids to end up like those shelves!)

It’s ok, Dad—I got you! Here are some first-time dad tips as you begin this journey.

You don’t have to know everything.

It’s ok to not know everything. (Here’s a little secret, Mom doesn’t either.) Parenting is all about learning; each day brings new challenges, new adventures, new lessons. You have a partner in this so walk the road together. Embrace the journey and give yourself (and mom) lots of grace because neither of you knows it all.

Kids come in different models.

All children are different. All deliveries are different. Your experience won’t look like mine or your buddy’s, and that’s ok. Embrace this time, ask lots of questions, seek counsel from dads who have newborns. (I highly recommend talking to those dads; dads who have been in the game for a while may have forgotten those first weeks and months… sleepless nights are a real thing.)

Be present.

You’re not going to know everything it takes to be a dad, but one of the most important aspects is to be present and involved. Take every opportunity to hold your newborn, swaddle, feed, talk, and read to them. This all strengthens the bond between you. (And Mom will be impressed!)

Diaper duty… you got this.

The first time I changed a diaper was the day my son was born. My philosophy was that if a kid was gonna pee on me, it’d better be one I helped create. Change lots of diapers! Changing diapers is a dirty business (often literally) but it’s nothing to fear and creates an awesome opportunity to bond with your newborn. Talk to your baby and make goofy faces at them while changing their diaper.

Feeding time… you have a role, too!

Be part of feedings. If mom is breastfeeding, you’re on diaper duty… there are those diapers again. Our routine for nighttime feedings was my wife fed and I changed the diaper. We’d alternate rocking our son for a bit. Here’s a Hero Tip: If you’re bottle-feeding, own those night feedings. This is as much about mom as the baby. She will love the time to rest. Hero Status: Unlocked.

Babies are gonna cry… that doesn’t mean you should!

Babies cry and that’s ok. What you’ll learn is that they have different cries for different reasons. You will get to know these. Make mental notes as to what sounds mean what.

Newborns are great to watch sports with.

Make your newborn part of what you love to do. My son watched tons of baseball and Moto GP races when he was little. We also took him to car shows, baseball games, and boat races. He doesn’t remember, but I can show him he was included in what I loved.

Dad jokes… everyone else is welcome.

You are a dad now, so you have a responsibility to share dad jokes every opportunity you can. Brush up on those skills, watch some YouTube videos, and be prepared for lots of eye rolls.

You’ve got this, Dad. You’ll have lots of questions and you will learn a lot in the coming weeks and months. That’s ok—fatherhood is a journey… embrace it.

For more information and tips for a first-time dad (and mom), check out our class, Oh, Baby! Online.

Four months into our pregnancy, we were eager with anticipation and excitement to find out whether we were having another boy or a little girl. Our son, three at the time, was excited to find out as well. When the doctor showed us the ultrasound of our little girl, we were ecstatic, overjoyed, and couldn’t wait for the journey ahead. Secretly, thoughts raced through my mind: “How am I supposed to be a dad to a little girl?” “I never had a sister.” “What do I do?” “Is she gonna paint my nails and do my hair?” “Will we play with dolls?” Quickly my thoughts turned a corner as I thought, “What will my daughter need to hear from me, her dad?”

As a dad, I want to be my daughter’s first love. I dream (and am scared by the idea) of walking her down the aisle one day. I want to be the one she comes to when she needs help or advice. But how do I build this relationship from the start? Thankfully I had a few other girl dads in my life who gave me some wise advice. I can’t say I always live it out but I try daily. They told me to speak words of life and truth over her. Words she needs to hear from her dad. 

“I love you.”

Life isn’t going to be easy. Our daughters need to hear often the words “I love you” and she needs to hear them from her dad. I want my daughter to know I love her, not because she has done anything or because of anything she can offer me, but solely because she is mine. The world can often infer the idea that love is transactional, we are loved for what we do or what we offer. Our daughters need to know they are loved for who they are. It is important to let them know nothing they do can change the love we have for them.

“You are beautiful.”

She will hear she is beautiful many times, but she needs to hear it often from dad. There is something special when a dad says these words to his daughter. You can also add words like smart, funny, etc. The truth is you are building her confidence. Your daughter will know she is beautiful because her daddy says so. The world will try to tell her she needs to look a certain way, wear certain clothes, or buy certain products to be beautiful but if you have instilled in her from an early age the truth, that she is beautiful, it will resonate with her. Take the opportunity to tell her often.

“You have value.”

Telling my daughter she has value comes from many of the same reasons why I tell her she is beautiful. I want her to know she has value, not because of anything she has done, but because she is mine and I love her. As with beauty, the world will try to skew this one, to say value comes from what you offer or what you do. This is not the case: she has value because she is an individual. I want this to be a constant reminder in her life. Value comes not from what you do, what you offer, or who you are: you have value because you are.

“I’m always here for you.”

A girl needs someone in her corner. Someone she can confide in, share dreams with, and find safety in. Hopefully, this is her dad. The bond between a father and daughter is special. It’s hard to explain, but if you have a daughter, you know this to be true. There is nothing better than when my 4-year-old crawls in my lap, holds my face and says “Daddy, I love you.” My response is most often, “I love you too sweetie and I am always here for you.” I want her to know she can always come to me. In a few years she won’t be crawling into my lap. She may be holding my hand or just offering a hug but the truth will remain the same: I will always be here for her. 

“You can tell me anything.”

I read a story recently about a dad who wrote a note to his daughter and put it in a drawer. The note said “If you’re scared to tell me something, just bring me this note as a reminder that I’m here to support you. I won’t get mad; I will work with you on a solution.” I love this and I want this for my kids. NO MATTER WHAT, I want my daughter to know she can always come to me. She can come to me because I have told her she is loved, she has value, and I am always here for her. 

By speaking words of truth and life over our daughters, we earn the respect and the trust to be the person they can lean on. My daughter will grow up knowing no matter what she does, good or bad, her dad is right here for her to lean on and confide in. There are things all daughters need to hear from their dad. This is just a starting point. What do you want to instill in your daughter? You’ve got this, Dad!

For other ideas of how to be the best dad for your daughter, check these articles out:

Image from Freepik.com

DAD HACKS: For When Mom Is Having A Girl’s Night Out

These three things are what memories are made of.

Your bride gives you the news: This Friday night I’m having a girl’s night out, so you’re on dad duty. Good luck! Great. Now what?!?

First of all, CHILL! This is your chance to be the hero, to show the full potential of your dad skills, and to give both your kids and your partner a memorable night.

Here are three dad-hacks for when Mom’s at girl’s night out and Dad’s in charge:

1. Make memories!

Dads have a unique way of giving their children memories that will stay with them well into adulthood. I still remember the fun I had playing laser tag in the house with my dad one evening with all the lights off – something I’m sure Mom wouldn’t be caught dead in the middle of.

Give your kids an experience that’s not part of their typical routine.

  • Have a Nerf gun war.
  • Heat up some pizza rolls, turn the lights out and watch a (kid-appropriate) scary movie (the Goosebumps movies are a favorite in my house).
  • Go for a night walk around the neighborhood. Or better yet, if there are woods nearby, take a night hike.
  • Roast hot dogs or marshmallows in the backyard. (Marshmallows over the stove are good if there’s no backyard.)
  • Have a talent show.
  • Let your kiddos dress you up and have a fashion show.
  • Set up a WWE wrestling ring in the living room with couch pillows and… well, you know the rest.

This is your chance to be the dad-hero to your kids for turning what could be a boring night (without Mom) into an amazing memory!

2. …But, don’t step outside what you and your partner value as parents.

What I mean here is, don’t violate the boundaries of what you’ve established together as important to your family just because Mom is gone. If weekend bedtimes are important because there’s an early morning soccer game, be sure to wrap up the fashion show or wrestling match on time. If you don’t normally allow scary movies in the house, opt for a Disney movie – or even better, one that you grew up with – which the kids haven’t seen (think Old Yeller, Labyrinth, The Princess Bride, Hook, etc.,).

The idea is to avoid compromising what you’ve both decided is important to your family just because Mom is not there to say no. It may make Dad look like the hero, but if it makes Mom out to be the bad guy (now or later), it’s not worth the risk. Trust me on this one.

3. Celebrate Mom coming home.

Making memories with Dad while Mom is away can potentially dishonor Mom.

Think about it: Mom finally gets a night out with the girls to unwind, comes home and finds half-eaten pizza rolls on the coffee table, couch cushions scattered on the floor and Nerf darts in every corner and cranny of the room – not to mention it’s midnight and the kids are still up watching Interview With a Vampire while Dad is asleep on the couch. So much for unwinding.

Instead, teach your children how to honor Mom while she’s away. Try to clean the house better than before she left. Print out pictures of your fashion show (yes, even the one of you with your new hair-do) and have the kids put them in cards they make for Mom telling her how special she is. Have the kids pick some flowers on your night hike to give to Mom when she comes come. Just one simple gesture like that can let Mom know you missed her while she was out.

If Mom comes home early before your festivities are over, prep the kids to greet her with hugs and kisses at the door. And if she’s up to it, bring her into the mix – invite her to watch the rest of the movie on the couch, fix her a s’more, or have her be the guest of honor at a special encore presentation of the talent show.

And then let her relax and go to bed while you and the kids clean up!

Allowing your partner to relax and unwind at home after she’s gone out with friends makes you a hero to the kids, AND to her, too!

Looking for more parenting resources? Click here!

Image from Unsplash.com