It’s hard to know how to be a good dad, especially when mums often still do so much of the childcare. But whatever your relationship with your own family was like, and whether you’re a single dad, a full-time dad, a working dad or a part-time dad, you have the chance to make your own bonds with your children, which will last for the rest of your life. Here’s how.
1. Being there as often as possible
The old stereotype of the distant workaholic dad can be consigned to the dustbin. There are multiple studies that show that children of an involved father grow up more secure, confident and sociable. Even if you don’t live with your children, or you work long hours, try to make time for phone calls and spend as much time with them as you can. And if you do live with them, then get involved in the childcare, taking the kids out for play days, helping them out at the weekend, and taking them to school. Above all, shared mealtimes are really important for creating a face-to-face conversational bond.
2. Trying to understand the crying
You might think they’re wailing over nothing – whether it’s a toddler not getting its way or a teenager’s first love – but to them it’s big stuff. So try to work out why it’s so important, see if you can help (kindly), and if there’s nothing to be done, just be sympathetic, rather than dismissing their concerns or snapping at them.
3. Helping them through the milestones
Childhood is a series of big moments that you might take for granted but are huge for the kids: first day at school, first football match, first period for girls, and the first time they shave for boys. What you might think is normal can be terrifying for them, and they’ll look to you for guidance.
For example, if you’re teaching your son to shave, it’s down to you to choose the right equipment for him. Rather than disposables, you could present him with a really stylish, top-quality razor, so it feels more of a rite of passage moment, such as the Gillette Fusion5 ProGlide in chrome. Then help him choose a shaving gel that really works for him. Gillette Fusion ProGlide Sensitive Shaving Gel is ideal for sensitive adolescent skin.
You might want to go straight for an electric shaver, such as the versatile Braun Series 3-310s Wet & Dry Electric Shaver – it’s an especially good option for boys with acne, as they’re less likely to cut themselves.
4. Finding common ground
So you wanted to play footie with your boy but it turns out he wants to take up ballet? Or you don’t know how to relate to your little girl’s dolls? There are two approaches. First, try to understand their enthusiasm – I mean, have you ever even BEEN to the ballet? It’s amazing! And if you don’t get it, feign enthusiasm to encourage their interest. Secondly, keep trying new things: at some point you will find something you both love, whether that’s cycling or pottery or gardening… And then you’ll have a shared love for life.
5. Hugging it out
From the moment that fragile baby was put in your arms, you realised how delicate these tiny creatures are – but don’t let that scare you. The human touch is one of the most powerful bonding mechanisms, with hugs releasing feel-good hormones cortisol and serotonin. Once your boys get “too old” for hugs, a simple pat on the back or arm round the shoulder from their old dad can be reassuring and comforting – even if they’d never admit it!
6. Be a role model
You’re the person that will teach the kids how to relate to men, and how they can expect to be treated by men. If you have a little girl, know that she looks up to you as the model of what a man can be, so how you treat her and her mother will influence the sort of relationships she has as an adult. If you want her to be respected, then show respect.
Equally, if your boy sees you being aggressive, angry, lazy or disrespectful of his mother, he is likely to carry those behaviours into his adulthood. It’s your responsibility to break those chains and teach your kids to be productive, responsible, creative and kind.
It’s not just the big things either. From showing them how to live a clean, tidy lifestyle to introducing them to the habits they’ll carry with them all their lives, they’re looking to you for advice. For example, if they see you using a ‘grown-up’ electric toothbrush, such as the Oral-B Genius 9000, they’ll be really excited to get on to their children’s electric toothbrushes when they’re old enough.
7. Being honest and trustworthy
You know, everyone gets things wrong sometimes. Something comes up so you can’t take them to the park like you promised. You haven’t bought the random plastic thing they wanted for Christmas. You don’t make it home for bedtime. The most important thing is to be able to explain why, to acknowledge that they’re upset about it, and to make up for it.
Reliability and honesty are hugely important in a parent-child relationship. If your moods are unpredictable, if the rules change (whether that’s your rules, or the rules you set together as parents), or if you repeatedly don’t deliver on your promises, they’ll stop trusting you – and there’s nothing harder to regain than trust.
If you can be there for them, time after time, you can build a relationship with your kids that will last for decades – and this will probably pass on to THEIR kids too.
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