Unlike in previous generations, child rearing is no longer the sole responsibility of a mother. Fathers have begun assuming a more central role in the parenting equation.
This is a welcome change, as children develop a healthy sense of who they are when both parents are equally involved in a child’s life during their growing years.
However, figuring out the type of dad you want to be can be challenging – and can take a bit of trial and error. Here are four research-backed parenting tips to give you a head start.
#1. Take interest. Be involved in their life.
Your child needs to feel your support. So be available to them as much as possible.
Take interest in the things they’re interested in. For instance, if they love the stars, take them to a planetarium, watch movies and documentaries on the topic, and read to them about it.
One study suggests that adapting to the nature of your child and supporting their interest leads to desirable developmental consequences – better than if you take the approach of imprinting your interests upon them.
You can also show your child support by being present for their special occasions, engaging with their friend circle, and helping them with their homework. Planning regular recreational activities like treks, weekend getaways, and movie nights can also work in your favor. The key is to be as actively involved and present in your child’s life as possible.
#2. Don’t shy away from having ‘girl talks’ if you have a daughter
Helping a daughter through the transition of puberty can be challenging for dads. The best approach is to be upfront and honest about what she’s experiencing in terms of hormones, emotions, and menstruation. Normalize puberty and have an open dialogue about the changes taking place in her body.
Research shows that early father involvement with daughters is associated with a decreased risk of early puberty, decreased early sexual experiences, and decreased teen pregnancy.
It might make you feel awkward or even test your patience, but be sure to not ignore what your daughter is experiencing or pretend it isn’t happening. Remember that this can be a confusing and overwhelming phase for your daughter. Try to make it easier for her by letting her know that she can comfortably talk to you about everything under the sun. And, don’t give up on the fatherly hugs simply because she is growing up. No matter the age, children always need their father’s love, support, and reassurance.
#3. Open the lines of communication and forgiveness
Many parents are guilty of taking out their frustrations on their children, thinking them to be soft targets. If you want to have a true two-way relationship with your child, be open to the idea of having a heart-to-heart and asking for forgiveness when you go wrong at times. It’s okay to take some time to cool down after an altercation, but be sure to address this later with your child.
Think to yourself, honestly, if you ever wished that your parents, especially your father, apologized to you after a disagreement or dust up?
If you want to be a better father, don’t shy away from righting your wrongs. Use these prompts for starters:
“You seem to be upset with me. Did my behavior or actions hurt you in any way? I want to know so I can ask for forgiveness.”
“I want to be a good dad to you. Would you help me understand some of the things I could do to show you how much I love you?”
It might take some time for you to warm up to the idea but as you open your heart to your child they will begin to learn the building blocks of healthy relationships, such as vulnerability, forgiveness, and tenderness.
#4. Don’t be overprotective. Encourage independence.
As parents, we have a powerful instinct to protect our children from the dangers and uncertainties of the world – but it is essential that we let our children make mistakes. Only when we expose our children to challenging situations do they learn to pay attention to details and protect themselves.
Therefore, allow your child to take some limited risks to help them develop their self-confidence as they figure out how to do things on their own. Letting your child be relentless in their efforts until they eventually get it right on their own teaches them more about themselves and how they can effectively navigate their own life than if you always show them the ‘correct’ way.