Pin It

Fatherhood: 100 Ways to be a Better Father

Fatherhood is a tricky proposition. We all want to be great dads, but chances are, our fathers never sat down with us and taught us how to be one.

And we don’t necessarily want to be our fathers. I mean, we want to emulate their positive influence on us, but we also want to do it our own way. And because children tend to spend more of their time with their mother, not being the greatest dad ever isn’t as obvious. No matter who we are, though, we can always improve our relationship with our kids and our spouse, and we can redefine the meaning of fatherhood each and every day.

There’s not as big of a movement toward better ‘fathering’ as there is toward better mothering. No big fancy fatherhood magazines, no Oprah for dads, no real exchange of fatherhood improvement programs. There’s just Natural Papa. (I’m kidding. There’s a bunch of great dad blogs out there.)

I’m a crappy dad sometimes, yet I hope that I’m always learning how to be a better father, so I felt moved to put some of my thoughts on fatherhood down in words to share with you.

I read a post called ‘Tackle Any Issue With a List of 100′, by Luciano Passuello, a couple of weeks ago, and then later I came across ’100 Ways To Live A Better Life, by Dragos, which was inspired by ’100 Ways to Be a Better Leader’, by Mike King, which was inspired by ’100 Ways To Show Boldness’, by Armen, which was originally inspired by…  You guessed it, Luciano’s post about lists of 100. Whew. Got that straight?

Anyway, after reading those, I thought I would format my ideas on fatherhood into my own list of 100. If you have something to add, I’d love a comment about it.

100 Ways to be a Better Father

  1. Be present with your children.
  2. Heap lavish amounts of praise on your kids.
  3. Focus on the positive when speaking to your children.
  4. Say I love you. A lot.
  5. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions to your family.
  6. Work on improving your relationship with your wife or partner.
  7. Take time out from work for family time.
  8. Laugh at yourself. All the time.
  9. Listen to your kids with all of your attention.
  10. Learn new things by teaching your children about them.
  11. Start a personal journal.
  12. Hold your kids accountable for their actions and words, but don’t use punishment to teach..
  13. Leave your watch and daytimer on your desk sometimes.
  14. Make a meal for your family.
  15. Do something wacky and unpredictable in front of your kids.
  16. Spend some time one-on-one with your child.
  17. Get moving. Have a fitness plan in place and get your kids to join in.
  18. Take more walks, and leave the car at home.
  19. Fall in love with your wife. Again.
  20. Admit you’re wrong when you are.
  21. Forgive your dad for any grudges you hold against him.
  22. Teach a new dad what you’ve learned so far.
  23. Take time for yourself, so you can bring that sense of fulfillment with you to the family.
  24. Remember what you hated to hear from your parents as a kid and vow to be different.
  25. Read out loud to your children.
  26. Leave your work issues at your job. Don’t dump on your kids because your day was bad.
  27. Drop your change in a jar each day. When full, open a savings account for your child.
  28. Once in a while, ask your kids what you can do better. Then do it better.
  29. Hugs and kisses are golden. Be generous.
  30. Let your kids make their own choices.
  31. Get out in nature with the family.
  32. Count to 10 before you react to your children’s actions.
  33. Remember that kids mirror our actions, so watch what you say to or around them.
  34. Parenting is a shared responsibility. Jump in and do something mom normally does.
  35. Learn from your elders – ask them what they’ve learned as fathers.
  36. When a child does something not so nice, separate their actions from them in your mind. A child is never bad, even though their actions may be.
  37. The next time you feel like giving up on something, do it anyway and use it as a teaching moment.
  38. Remember that everyone is somebody’s child.
  39. Listen to yourself. Do you sound like your dad? Is that a good thing?
  40. Give yourself a break. I haven’t met a father yet who doesn’t make mistakes.
  41. Unplug the TV and pretend it’s broken once in a while. Or hide it.
  42. Go with your child to school once in a while. Meet the teacher and ask how you can help.
  43. Make your health and fitness a priority so you’ll be around for your kids for a long time.
  44. Teach the value of service to others by volunteering in your neighborhood, church, or school.
  45. Write love notes and leave them for your kids to find.
  46. Read a book about fatherhood.
  47. Write a book about fatherhood.
  48. Make some snacks for the kids as a surprise.
  49. Speak as one with your wife, so your kids don’t play you off on one another.
  50. Do you say yes all the time? Use no when you mean it, even if they don’t like it.
  51. Do you say no all the time? Say yes once in a while.
  52. Snuggle with your kids.
  53. Show your wife respect always. Make sure your kids do also.
  54. Take the time to really explain things to your children. Don’t just say “because I said so.”
  55. Ask for help if you need it. Don’t suffer from excess pride.
  56. Accept who you are, but don’t settle. Strive to improve yourself every day.
  57. Smile at your children and your partner.
  58. Make amends when you’re wrong or grumpy or harsh with your kids.
  59. Periodically assess your life and change course if needed. Don’t be unhappy just because you think you can’t change.
  60. Take a class or learn a new skill with your kids.
  61. Act as if you’re the best dad ever.
  62. Imagine you’ve only got one week left to live. How would you treat your kids? What’s stopping you from doing that right now?
  63. Let your kids see you cry.
  64. Explore every park in your town.
  65. Once in a while, take a day off just because, and spend it with your family.
  66. Find out about your family history and start sharing it with your kids.
  67. Give high fives for each tiny accomplishment they make.
  68. Get out of debt as quick as you can, and teach your kids about the value of being debt-free.
  69. Take a big leap when you see an opportunity, and show your children about trust, faith, and the virtue of following your dreams.
  70. Get down on their level and try to see things as they do. Chances are, you’ve forgotten what it’s like.
  71. Learn some really corny kid jokes and use them often.
  72. Hold a family meeting and get your kid’s input on important decisions.
  73. Don’t just give your kids the answers to questions. Show them how to find the answers.
  74. Remember, they’re never too old for piggyback rides.
  75. Have patience with your children. Don’t expect them to be perfect.
  76. Don’t insist on conformity. Let your kids follow their dreams, not yours.
  77. Hold their hands, literally.
  78. Remember to let your children save face. Embarrassing them in front of their friends is not cool.
  79. Keep your relationship issues between you and your wife. Don’t let your kids take on all your crap.
  80. When your children were babies, you gushed over them. Do the same thing for them now.
  81. Don’t gossip around your kids.
  82. Stand up for the weak, the oppressed, the underdog.
  83. Grow a beard. (Actually, I just put that in to see if you were paying attention.)
  84. Take your child to work with you and explain what you do for a living.
  85. Make something by hand with them. Don’t worry about perfection, just enjoy the process.
  86. Once in a while, give them a “get out of jail free” card.
  87. Tell your children how much they mean to you.
  88. Follow through on your promises to them.
  89. Give your kids responsibilities.
  90. Speak to your children as your equals. Give them the respect you ask for.
  91. Plan surprises for them and keep them guessing.
  92. When speaking to other adults, act as if your kids were listening.
  93. Play games with your children. Let them win sometimes, but don’t make it obvious or easy.
  94. Before you walk in the door from work, take some deep breaths and leave your work outside.
  95. Give mom the day off once in a while, and get the kids to help you pamper her.
  96. Be generous with your time, your energy, and your money. Give freely to those in need.
  97. Cultivate your fatherhood Superpowers.
  98. Don’t let other adults get away with unacceptable behavior around your kids.
  99. Remember the Golden Rule. It does apply to your children as well.
  100. Find your center and define what truly matters to you. Make that your inner retreat when life throws you a curve ball, and share that with your kids.

What have I missed? Please leave a comment with your addition to this list.


[Image: Paul Keleher at Flickr]

45 Responses to Fatherhood: 100 Ways to be a Better Father

  1. Keith Wilcox says:

    All noble characteristics. Kids tend to mimic our actions so it’s wise to be careful with our words and expressions. And the gossiping around kids thing is a biggie. When I was a kid my mom got a speeding ticket. On the way to the courthouse she described to me the other time she got a ticket. She pleaded with the judge to let her off because she had “never had a ticket before”. Of course I chimed in and said “but, you had one in California just two years ago.” HAHAHAHAHA BUSTED!
    .-= Keith Wilcox´s last blog ..The Alphabet by Celebrities =-.

  2. Payday Loans says:

    Wow! What a list. I just printed this and will use some of these.

  3. John says:

    I agree with these, but is there a ’100 ways to be a better mom’ which includes things like, “respect your husband” and “be one voice with their father”?

    I’m guessing not…

    • Derek Markham says:

      John – I’m with you on that point. It seems to me that most ‘ways to be a better mom’ articles are focused on children, not the treatment of the the father, and I wanted to be a bit different. I think there’s a lot of room for improvement in mother/father relations, and I tried to address it solely from the viewpoint of what a father can do. (And I was pretty sure that writing ‘how to be a better mom’ wouldn’t fly very well, since I am a dad…) I can see from my own experience that it’s an important topic – equal respect for both partners – and I struggle with where to draw the line without pointing fingers.

      Your comment does give me an idea for a future post, though, as soon as I can figure out how to write it… If you have suggestions, please email me at derek (at) naturalpapa.com. Thanks for reading!

      • Kristin says:

        Just to build on that, do you think that a “how to be a better mother” list would ever say something like “Take time out from work” or “Make a meal for the family as a surprise”?

        I love your blog for many of the reasons you’ve mentioned – being a mom is everywhere, while being a dad is not, but little things like this hurt – if dad making a meal is a surprise, who’s doing the cooking every other day? How about something like, “Defy stereotypes,” so your kids will learn that they can do and be anything they want to be. “Create a clean, healthy home for your kids and teach them how to contribute.” or “Teach your kids to cook and do laundry so when they go to college they won’t live on ramen and turn all their clothes pink.”

        • Derek Markham says:

          Kristen – To be honest, I’ve not seen a list like this for mothers – perhaps it would say that, what with more moms working outside the home than ever before. And yes, I started Natural Papa because I saw so many mom blogs and wanted to contrast what they are writing about, so it will always lean toward the father’s viewpoint. Is there a “100 Ways” list for mothers?

          I wrote this from a (stereotypical) dad’s point of view, because in my house, I’ve been the sole wage-earner so that my wife would not have to work outside the home. She enjoys it, though I know there are moms who may want to work out, and not be home raising the children.

          I did try to include things like “Work on improving your relationship with your wife or partner.” “Parenting is a shared responsibility. Jump in and do something mom normally does.” “Show your wife respect always. Make sure your kids do also.” “Give mom the day off once in a while, and get the kids to help you pamper her.”

          I had considered writing a “100 Ways to be a Better Mother” post, just for the controversy it would generate, as a man would be writing it. If I do, I’ll try to use your comments as a guide. Thanks for reading.

          • Kristin says:

            I’m not encouraging you to generate controversy :) although it would definitely be interesting! Just making a point that some of these DO sound like you’re a stereotypical 1950s guy who makes all the money while mom does all the housework. I know from other posts this is not true, though! I just think it shouldn’t be a “surprise” to your kids that dad is capable of preparing a meal – dads are grownups, and all grownups should be able to cook decent and healthy food.

            Giving mom the day off “once in a while” is probably the worst one, which is why I didn’t even TRY to address that one :)

          • Derek Markham says:

            For most men, that would be a huge start, though. And I would love it if mom gave me a day off once in a while :)

    • T.C. Alexander says:

      John: Really… I really can’t believe that you even brought that up on this page. The mother your wife is looking to you, so be a better man and your wife will follow. I’m learning that now at the age of 29 with 4 amazing kids and one on the way, because of my wife. Thinking about your comment really made me upset for some reason. Maybe because your on this page to learn how to be a better Father, and you throw out the better mommy card. THink about it. Does she really need to be better or do you need to think about the things that she does around the house that you blow off everyday because it is done everyday. Yes your wife may make mistakes and so will you, learn how to be a better Father and your wife will follow, and so will your kids. If the school teacher has 30 failing students in her math class, is it the students fault?

      • dallas says:

        Tj Alexander sounds like a kiss ass. Ur not.even 30 here and have 5 kids. I’m sure ur on wellfare and or at least foodstamps bc I.seriously doubt u have a career makeing enough to happily support 5 kids without gocornment assistance. And I’m sure ur wife/girlfriend or.whatever is worn to the bone trying tto take care of 5 screaming mouths at the same time so of coarae ur gonna jump on herw and try to.stick.upfor the chick in the equation and most likely to suck up to urs bc it may earn u some brownie points with her and result in a little less bitching from her you’ll get tonight. How about be a better dad by wearing a condom and sucking less dollars out of welfare and keep it in ur pants tj and quit sounding like a kiss ass. Its a list for fathers like the titlepresents.

  4. John says:

    ps – that is not my blog your website has erroneously linked to in my last comment.

    • Derek Markham says:

      John – The plugin I use to help commenters get their blog posts some visibility is CommentLuv, and it’s not perfect, so I apologize. I edited out yours, because of your comment. I can add something back in if you like. Cheers!

  5. The Pass It Forward Movement was so impressed with 100 Ways To Be A Better Father we have highlighted it on our website for your review http://www.aunitedworld.org/father.asp

  6. Brian says:

    Awesome list. In my opinion, #22 should be higher on the list (and creating a daddy blog is a great way to do that) — especially since a very small percentage of people, dads or others, will ever complete #47. #83 made me laugh (and so did the pics on that website). Thanks for sharing!
    .-= Brian´s last blog ..SEO Advice for New Bloggers: A GUEST POST with Tips for Daddy (and Mommy) Blogs Begging to be Discovered =-.

  7. Derek Markham says:

    Brian,

    I totally agree on #22 – It’s one way we can give back and help out our brothers.

    I thought about ranking them, or prioritizing them, but my brain hurt just to think about it…

    Thanks for reading!

  8. My beard is growing!!! lol, great post. I found quite a few that I need to work on.
    .-= DaddysFishBowl´s last blog ..Contraceptives, We Hate You! =-.

    • Derek Markham says:

      Thanks for reading, DaddysFishBowl. A big part of this exercise for me was brainstorming ways for myself to be a better dad – I have a long way to go!

      Cheers

  9. Andrew T. Harvey says:

    Derek:

    Thanks for giving me a wakeup call bigtime on my wife and family. I am new to the whole parenting thing. This made me realize how special my family is to me. I cried my eyes out when I read those 100 ways to be a good dad. I have yelled at my daughter like the way my dad would yell at me and it made me cry a lot. Now my daughter will not even stay with me while her mom is at work. How could I ask her for a second chance and not yelling at her and make this a positive change in my life?

    Thanks.

    • Derek Markham says:

      Andrew –

      Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing your experience with us.

      My advice? Be her friend first, and make sure she’s getting what she needs from you – a kind word, a snuggle, a feeling of safety and security. It may take a big effort from you to turn things around, but children can be pretty forgiving (unlike us adults sometimes). As dads, we need to remember that our voices and body language are much different from a mother’s, and we might need to ‘take it down a notch’ when interacting with kids.

      Cheers

  10. Servanda says:

    I just wanted to say that so far, I am loving these articles. Not really your target audience, I’m a 22 year old young woman – but I DO have a father! :)

    Despite not being male and in turn, not needing to be manly, I read your article ‘Advice to Myself as a Young Man’ and I nearly cried when I read about following your dreams, and not others. My WHOLE damn life I’ve been trying to find a way to put my art on the back burner what I learn something more lucrative. So while I gobbled up all the art classes I could in high school, I went into accounting my freshman year of college and almost immediately dropped out. It’s funny how it takes an article about manliness and fatherhood to wake up a 22 year old girl.

    Thank you thank you, for re-inspiring me. :)

    Servanda

  11. Mocha Dad says:

    Great list. I will share it with my readers.
    .-= Mocha Dad´s last blog ..Parenting By the Book or By Instinct =-.

  12. goofdad says:

    I have to say I found myself in almost all of these points. This is a great list. I’m glad I found you through the Daddy Blog Reviews!
    .-= goofdad´s last blog ..Bees! =-.

  13. Arohan says:

    Looks like you have touched on all the important aspects of fatherhood. Being a new father myself (well for last 3 years but still learning something new every day), I am constantly amazed at how my boys respond to whatever I am feeling inside. And every time they tell me ‘Daddy I want to be big and strong like you’ a little of that rubs off and makes me smile and gives me strength to keep working towards my dreams.

  14. Amy says:

    I realize this is an older post but I just have to say, to those that may judge or ‘accuse’ Derek of being a ‘stereotypical 1950′s dad’, if that’s what works for their family, who are you to judge? One of my favourite quotes about feminism is from my mother – she always said, “Sure, I’m a feminist, I do what I want to.” I’m a pretty fiery and independent woman (my husband would agree). I’ve always worked in a male dominated field (construction management) and can certainly hold my own with the boys. We now have a baby and I’m on maternity leave (1 year in Canada). Before our son was born I thought I wouldn’t mind to stay home but if we couldn’t afford it I’d go back to work. Now that he’s here I cry at even the thought of leaving him with someone else. My husband and I are trying very hard to adjust our lifestyle and budget as well as find ways to derive a little extra income here and there to make it possible for me to stay home with our child(ren). Since starting maternity leave I’ve assumed that if I’m home I can pick up the majority of the housework, including making dinner most days. This doesn’t mean my husband is/would be exempt from doing anything at all around the house, it just means I ‘work’ in the home and he ‘works’ at his job all day. Then we share the rest of the responsibilities. For example, he does all the yard work, vehicle maintenance, etc. and I look after cooking, cleaning and all the laundry but his (which he has always done for himself, bless his heart).

    I guess my (somewhat longwinded) point here is that it’s only oppression if the person feels oppressed. Otherwise it’s a mutual agreement in a symbiotic relationship. Sometimes the partners can switch roles but generally they have tasks they’re both responsible to complete. For me, feeling like I would HAVE to return to work would be oppression. For the next woman, staying home might be. Lastly, this is a blog about being a DAD, not about being a MOM.

    • Derek Markham says:

      Thanks, Amy! I like the way you put it: “it’s only oppression if the person feels oppressed. Otherwise it’s a mutual agreement in a symbiotic relationship.”

      Our marriage works for us, but different folks have different needs. Thanks for the reminder!

  15. Bobby Walker says:

    I do #23 quite a bit. My wife, duaghter and I have a conversation about once a month where we tell one thing the other person does that we love and the one thing we would change if we could.

    The rule is there are no hurt feelings or being hurtful and being able to talk about and adjust each other’s habbits has made my family a wonderful center for our lives to orbit.

    Ps.. Grow a beard :-) ha. My beard grows so quickly that I sometimes let my daughter pick what I wear that week. Gotee, soul patch, side burns, beard or mustache.

  16. Andrew Riley says:

    I like many of the suggestions here. But some of your assumptions are a little sexist. I mean “make a meal for your family”. There are lots of us guys who prepare most meals these days – myself included. I cook 95% of the meals in my house. Still I cut and pasted many of your suggestions.

    • Derek Markham says:

      Sorry you took it that way. I wrote this assuming that some of us do some of these, and that if you start doing any of these, it will add to your father factor. (And I know plenty of dads who never cook for the family, so if they begin to, it’s a step up.)

  17. Antonio says:

    i am having a hard time being a good father. I dont know what the problem may be but there is something that im lacking and i cant seem to put my hands on it. I had kids at an early age so its kind of hard to really be a father. To make a long story short i need some fatherly tips from a father that i never got growing up. Also this list is pretty impressive and i will try some of these things out.

    • AJ says:

      I was in the same boat as Antonio. My Dad left when I was 2. I find it most rewarding to watch my daughter involve herself in what ever, then try to take part in her interests. I often ask if she would like to try what I like. I’ve managed to get her interested in Golf (at 3 yrs.) and is now something we can do together (at 8 yrs old). She still has a liking for miniature golf (sigh), so we just have to make time for that instead of the real deal. I also think Lego’s and puzzles(oddly) let us know who we are to each-other. Hours of working through a project together is one way to learn a person. Much like doing a home remodel with your wife. What you didn’t know, you soon will.. 8^)
      I do stick to conformity and my patience are thin. I try to forgive myself for my failures as a father. I do know one thing though. As long as we both wake up in the morning, I get another chance to do better… I am often overwhelmed by how much energy and how inquisitive kids can be. It wears me down. Enough is NEVER enough and NO seems to have 2 silent letters. It is what it is and we’re in it for the long haul. Remember how cool it was to be a care free kid? Our reward is, we get to provide that feeling for them almost everyday…

      Rock on, Dads…

  18. wrk says:

    Let your past behind,but learn from your mistakes; Live for today, you may miss something; Pray for your future, tomorrow may never come.

  19. Chris Taylor says:

    Derek,
    First of all, Thank you for creating this list. As a father of a 9 year old girl and 3 year old twin boys I am always looking for new ways to become a better father.
    I do however feel the need to comment on other people who feel the need to make comments like you are “sexist” and how some of the suggestions you make would not be on a “moms” list. Correct me if I am wrong but I believe you made the list to help other fathers be better fathers. I am actually a stay at home dad and some of the points made would not apply since I already do most of those things. My wife works and I know that making a meal once in awhile would apply to her.
    My point being is that it frustrates me that when someone tries to do something nice and help others there are people out there you feel the need to criticize/correct. I loved the way you responded to those replies. It tells me a lot about your character by how you apologized (which obviously you need not do)and addressed/answered their concern in a very “pc” tone. What ever happened to “if you dont have something nice to say” advice.

  20. Troy says:

    Thank you for putting such a list together. I have been feeling for some time that I’m dropping the ball with raising my daughter but just couldn’t grasp what I’m missing. I have been making improvements for some time but was in need of some guidance. This list gives me so much to work with.

    God bless. and thank you again.

  21. Adam Lombardi says:

    Inspiring, just when you think you are doing a great job at being a father you shut me down and show me I have room for improvement. Thank you. I am a single father of the greatest 7 year old daughter in the world. I find it very hard to get along with her mother as we have two very different thoughts on parenting. I am not saying she is wrong, us wish we could come together on something and get along around our daughter. I want to be the best I can at everything I do and I would put fatherhood at the top of my list. Thank you for all your thoughts on the subject and I will learn to adapt some of these into my everyday life as a father. Good job!!!

  22. James says:

    Im only 22 years old but i have four kids 2 that are mine by blood and 2 that are my by marrage. I know im not a perfect father at all and i mess up . but imma start doin these things and maybe my relationshipwith my kids will get better.

  23. Ahmad says:

    Hi, great list, thanks for sharing your thoughts on how to improve on being a better dad. I completely agree with each and every one of the items, I guess the only thing i would add (if I missed it on your list) is to let your child know how proud of them you are. Those simple words carry a lot of weight, I would have loved to have heard more of that from my father while a youngster. Thanks again for sharing!

  24. Andrew F says:

    i gotta say the i find the list really empowering, i have two great kids both under the age of 5, a girl & a boy. But sometimes when my daughter gets cheeky & by that i don’t neccesarily mean naughty, i find that her & i butt heads continually together. I try to find ways to comprimise with her about behaving but in doing so i feel sometimes i’m really out of touch being a dad i mean my own father was no “father of the year type” but he gave it his best. I want to do so much better than that, i want to BE better than that. I love them both & want to be a better dad for them.

  25. Jim S says:

    I like and have enacted nearly all of these directives. My question is, when you have a spouse (in this case a wife) who doesn’t seem to appreciate the efforts of her husband by showing him respect, kindness and most of all AFFECTION (you know the kind of affection I mean here) thus continually creating a strain on the marriage, what do you suggest? I’ve repeatedly tried to get her to go with me to marital counseling, but she won’t go either because she has too much pride, she’s too worried she might have to give in in order to make me happier, or there is something buried in her past that is too emotionally painful for her to dredge up in couseling sessions. I’m nearing wits end with this and I’m worried my children will suffer emotionally. Can you help with this?

  26. Thank you for writing such an incredible list! I dig it and will try to use it as a reference point to look back on, and build upon if I see an opportunity!

  27. Hello! Thanks for the enlightening info. Shared it with single fathers empowerment and support group Their Eyes Were Watching Daddy. Thanks again!

    Eric

  28. I have two kids and this list is a good reminder and testament. Thanks for the list. My father pasted away when I was very young and it’s difficult sometimes to know what to do and how to act. I still don’t think I’ll grow a beard!

  29. Rick says:

    Thanks for your great list. Seems like every time I begin to think I’m doing a good job being a Dad I find a way to screw something up. I’m a bit older (60) and have young twins (12)and my wife and I are on opposite sides of everything (yes, Everything). I love my children more than I could ever put into words. They’re amazing and deserve the best.
    Thanks so much. You put a lot of great stuff in your list. I wish every Father on the planet were able to read it and follow your advice. We only get one chance to be a good Dad.
    Keep up the good work

Leave a reply