Maria surprised me for Father’s Day this year by creating a book with advice from my Dad, brothers, and brothers-in-law. Each of them wrote down their “Top 5” tips or words of wisdom for new Dads and I’m sharing it because they may bless other new dads like myself, or long-time Dads, or those hoping to be dads some day.
- Some would argue that it is more exhausting taking care of kids than going to work everyday. Remember that when you get home.
- Leave diapers to the ladies because they are quicker and more thorough – a perfect excuse.
- Don’t let work/tech/screentime consume you when you are at home. You’ll miss the little moments you can’t get back.
- Be the parent to come home with treats like Dunkin’ Donuts. (You like Starbucks, I know…but kids don’t so Dunkin is a better bet). That way you’ll have that edge over Maria.
- But seriously, being a Dad and parenting alongside your wife is one of the best callings in life. Take the task seriously and be faithful in teaching your children God’s Word like my good friend Steve Green once sang, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
- Kids are always listening and always watching. Having a strong relationship with God and with your wife becomes even more important as your kids will see and imitate that example.
- Stay humble. Don’t pretend to your kids that you don’t make mistakes, and don’t be afraid to apologize to them. Also, don’t be surprised by your kids’ sin – expect it. Pray with them and for them, and show them that there is forgiveness in Christ.
- Be consistent. Kids understand very quickly what is right and what is wrong with consistency. They also very quickly get confused and act out when it is lacking. At the same time, be flexible enough to know that every kid is different and what works with one, might not work with another.
- Don’t let the way your day is going affect how you treat your kids. When you are tired, hungry, grumpy, it is easy to lash out over the proverbial “spilled milk” (which is actually quite difficult when you are wiping milk off the floor for the 7th time that day…)
- Spend time with your kids. Some of my favorite memories are rough housing or playing on the court in our backyard. I think Dad did a great job spending time with us, and I want to do the same.
- Yelling rarely accomplishes what you hope it will, and often leaves you a great opportunity to ask for forgiveness.
- Once you have toddlers, 75% of fatherhood is trying not to get biffed in the jimmies.
- Cliches are true – time goes fast and kids grow up too quick. Your time alone to yourself generally is better spent making memories with your kids.
- Argue with your wife in front of your kids. It will show your kids how to manage conflict, and how to forgive, if you argue in a caring way with the other
- No matter how you parent or how lodged in a pickle you can be, your kids will always think you are amazing and want to spend time with you.
- Your kids are forming you as much as you are forming them. Let them. Even at their worst – and trust me that’ll come – they are asking you to become more loving, more patient, and more kind than you are or think you can be. If marriage is a chisel that starts to chip away at the crust of our selfishness, kids are the wrecking ball.
- Ary will treat Maria the way you do. Be on the same team, and model that love. Respect is “caught” not “taught.”
- You own Dad’s strengths (and weaknesses) start making a lot of sense. You realize he was young and doing his best. Call him for advice and let him know what you are grateful for.
- Get to know your kids one on one. Take them out for Dad dates and make it about them. Kind of cheesy, but I love getting Jackson or Avery or Eli out for breakfast on a Saturday morning. It’s important.
- Rest in the fact that you won’t do any of this perfectly, and kids will highlight your weaknesses as much as they help you overcome them (See #1). Point them to our Father in whatever broken way you can and, while doing your best to show them what unconditional love can look like, you also need to show them how broken people ask for forgiveness.
- (Bonus) As cliche as all those “the time goes too fast” comments are…it is way too true. Our twins are already 5 this year. You blink and they will be out of your house. There are so many things in life we can try to recover – time is not one of them. Enjoy every day.
(Read to the end for more from Doug)
- Don’t worry about being the world’s best dad. Your criteria and your child’s are not the same. You’ll never meet up to your own expectations, but rest assured as far as your child is concerned you are and always will be the world’s best Dad. Show him love and support and listen to him and that will be enough.
- No kid ever died of hard work! A good work ethic never goes away. It is useful for all life’s experiences. Children love to help dad work, and it is also our responsibility as Christians to do all things well and to the fullest.
- Press the gospel in deep! Man’s chief delight is to praise God. To do so, we must understand all God has to say. Teach your child all God had to say, and do so often and always. Let it be always on your tongue. Make sure they see it in your life and they will imitate you. They may not always understand it, but give them the foundation and when they grow up they will not depart from it.
- Laugh! Let your children laugh at you (as mine do constantly) and laugh at and with them. Make sure they are never too self-conscious to be the butt of a good joke and have a good sense of humor. The world is too stiff so make sure they can loosen up once in a while.
- Talk! Face to face communication is a lost art. The ability to have a discussion or debate is slowly being lost. No child needs to spend hours on a phone or in front of a TV. Always be able and ready to talk to them. Perhaps no wireless devices before a certain age would be appropriate.
- (bonus) Always be there, always show love, and always respect their mother.
- Live to the Glory of God.
A Final Word from Doug
- Modern fatherhood is equal parts Instagram and liquid poop explosions. Don’t mix those two.
- Spanking should always be done with an open hand. Much more effective.
- Wrestle with Ary until he is stronger than you. You have about two more years.
- You can’t spell FATHER without FAT. Think about it.
- Make a list of your TOP 10 favorite things to do in the morning and evening. Then burn that list. You won’t do them again for like 20 years.