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When I became a dad, I knew I needed to get my act together and start setting a good example for my kids. Not that I wasn’t a well behaved, productive member of society of course! But I needed to step up my game now that I had such an influence and impact on another human being.
At first I focused on stopping my own bad behaviors so the kids wouldn’t copy them, like picking my nose, biting my nails and cursing. As they started to get a little older, I progressed to exemplifying the positive behaviors that I did want them to copy, like saying please and thank you.
A couple of kids later, I learned that the need to set an example goes well beyond that. My children don’t just mimic my behaviors superficially like a shadow. They actually look up to me and want to emulate me, like I’m some sort of superhero or pro athlete. (I know!!! Crazy, right!!!) That means that they are watching me ALL the time, and want to copy ALL my behaviors and ALL my actions. And they absorb EVERYTHING, even if only subconsciously, where it percolates in their little brains.
That’s why it’s so important for us to embrace the job of role model and lead by example. I want our children to grow up and be happy and successful members of society. So I need to model the behaviors that they need when they grow up and get jobs and have families of their own. There are too many stories of the younger generations being helpless and hopeless and selfish and stupid, living at home at 35, unable to hold down a job or have a successful relationship.
Well I sure as hell am not having that!! Not under my roof!!!
While this is by no means a comprehensive list, here are 6 easy behaviors that I have been focusing on. As my kids get older, I continue to identify more things that I might have “missed” and try to add those to my list.
#1 Helping around the house
Most of us know that times have changed. The majority of families no longer follow the traditional model of working dad and stay at home mom. Sometimes both parents work and sometimes dad stays home while mom works. So chores around the house can no longer be separated into “mom chores” and “dad chores”. Dads can do the dishes and moms can take out the trash. My wife and I are constantly alternating responsibilities. I might put the baby to bed while she does the dishes one night, and we switch the next.
When the kids see both mom and dad doing all kinds of work around the house, that sets the example for how they should behave as they get older. Not only will this teach them to be helpful now while they are still under your roof, it will also teach them what they should expect from their future significant others. If you don’t break down the gender stereotypes for your kids now, society will teach them a difficult lesson when they are older.
#2 Showing affection for mom
When dads show their affection for mom (appropriately of course!), your kids are comforted by the loving relationship you are displaying. Seeing mom and dad hugging, kissing and holding hands helps them feel security and love in their home. Security and comfort of a loving, safe home will be the basis of their safety net as they go through the ups and downs of life.
While this is science and psychology telling us this, I have seen it in my own house. When my wife and I are arguing or in a fight, the kids are more out of control, unhappy, and getting in trouble. When we are at peace and being affectionate, they are much calmer, helpful, and happier. It is clear as day when I pay attention to those little details.
Your affection for mom also teaches them what they should expect in the relationships when they start dating and looking to get married. Your daughters will have learned how they should be treated and your sons will learn how they should treat their significant others.
I don’t shy away from kissing or hugging my wife in front of the kids. I might be a little more discreet when I grab her ass, but when it comes to PG physical contact, don’t be a prude!
If you feel like that physical intimacy with your wife may have slipped away a little, check out my post “6 Simple Ways to Keep Your Wife Close“, and things will warm up in no time!
#3 Getting down on their level
Kids desperately crave your attention just as much as mom’s, sometimes more. Find the time to be with them on their level, not just as the authority figure. Even if its 15 minutes, watch Frozen and sing “Let it Go” with them, or push them on the swings, or play CandyLand.
Those 15 minutes are priceless to your children and will stay with them for a lifetime.
And in 20 years from now, you’ll look back at the happiness of those 15 minute slices of time more than anything else in life.
My oldest is turning 12, and I already think about those 15 minute moments from when he was 5 and wish there were more of them.
#4 Solving a problem
Life is full of problems and challenges. And as kids grow up they will need to know how to resolve problems and overcome these challenges. They are looking at you as their idol and superhero, so they are always watching you. Let them see you put together their toys on Christmas morning, or fix the lawnmower that won’t start.
Even talking through a problem from work will help teach them step by step problem solving skills. They will learn how to work through something difficult, deal with frustrations and hiccups, and come to a solution. That’s not a lesson they are going to learn from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
And when my kids come to me with little problems like “I can’t find my doll” or “I can’t figure out how to build this Lego house”, I’ve stopped simply doing it for them. I make them TRY, multiple times and for more than 2 minutes. I know its sometimes easier to just do things yourself so you don’t have to listen to their whining. But your just setting yourself up to have to do everything for them for many years to come. Check out my post “5 Things Parents Must Stop Doing For Their Kids” to see what else you should be making them do.
#5 Saying “No” and really meaning it
This can be a difficult one for me as I think it is with many dads. Sure, why can’t we just have ice cream for dinner, or watch a horror movie before bed. Maybe we spend so many hours at work or if divorced, only see them on weekends, that we want to indulge our kids with gifts and fun times.
But there need to be times where dad says no. As a father, a firm “no” when appropriate yields respect and can get quick results. Dad needs to be both friend and parent, and without a few no’s, you’re not a parent.
And mom can’t always be the bad guy (as my wife always tells me). You need to take turns being the good cop and bad cop. If you don’t, you’ll not only strain your relationship with your wife, but also the kids’ relationship with both you AND their mom.
#6 Disciplining with love and respect
I’m not going to get into HOW you discipline your children because there are a wide range of philosophies and beliefs. Regardless of your strategy, there is always a need to deal with disobedience, disrespect, and other bad behaviors. You are the adult and the parent, and have the responsibility and ability to manage, control and discourage these behaviors.
Don’t fall into the trap that many parents nowadays do, and be concerned about being your kid’s best friend. Your kids will have plenty of friends. And your job is to be the authority figure. You are doing you and your children a disservice if you don’t teach them
But you need to remember to be doing this with love and respect so that your kids learn that, while dad means business, you still love them. You can show this by clearly explaining why they are in trouble and what specifically they did wrong. And when the punishment is over, give them a hug and tell them you love them.
I hope you can learn from my mistakes and experiences and be the best parent you can be!!
Please comment below and tell me what you think kids should see dad doing or let me know of any questions you have, advice you are looking for, or topics you are interested in reading about. And do not forget to follow us on Instagram and Pinterest for tips, info and advice for healthy family living!