How to be a responsible dad
They say that anyone can be a father. But it takes someone special to be a dad.
This is so true. I think as a man you can have children with someone and never really be a dad. I’ve seen the all too familiar story of a young man that gets his girlfriend pregnant and bails. Maybe they were scared, maybe they weren’t ready for responsibilities, maybe they didn’t want to be a dad.
I’ve even had people tell me their dad was around their entire childhood but they couldn’t honestly say he made a difference in their life. And that saddens me to the core.
Being a responsible dad means that you are more than just someone who impregnated another person. Being a responsible dad means more than just going through the motions.
Being a responsible father means that your lights stay on in your house even though money is tight. It means your kids have something to eat even if you go hungry.
I myself had to learn at an early age what being a responsible dad meant. Fortunately, I had my own father to look up to. And without him, I might not have made it.
I failed often as a young dad. I struggled to get out of being a kid mode and getting into being an adult.
It took years of trial and error of learning and here are some things that every dad needs to do to be a responsible dad.
Wake up before everyone else wakes up
Unless you work a schedule that physically prohibits it, you should be the first one up in the morning. Somedays your wife might beat you out of bed if she works, but your priority is to be up and ready so you can help get your household on the right track.
Why should you wake up before everyone else?
Kids like to sleep. Especially after they get older. Getting them out of bed may be a multi-step process. With mine, I go in and turn off fans and open curtains and give them the first chance to wake up. If they don’t get out of bed shortly after then they get the in-your-face wake-up call.
But besides being there to wake up your kids, because honestly young kids might wake up before you do. It helps give you some time to get your morning together.
If I wake up earlier than expected I am a bear in the morning. I try to avoid caffeine early but if I must I will ingest some to get me going. And most dads need something to get out of that morning mood.
So make sure you take the time and get yourself going before trying to get kids ready for their day. It will just be more pleasant for everyone.
This is probably the biggest struggle in my challenge of being a dad. If you have never had issues with patience as a parent then your kids must either not exist or be perfect angels.
What does patience have to do with being a responsible father?
Let me give you an example:
Say you need to work on a project with your kid. Your kid really needs to do most of the work because this is for a grade and it is critical for them to learn the material.
But you don’t have patience and after your kid failed to do step 3 the right way you just take it and do it for them and tell them to go on and do something else.
What did your kid learn from that situation? They didn’t learn to keep trying after they fail. They did learn that if they struggle with something then it’s ok for mom or dad to take over.
Being patience is not something that will happen overnight. It takes time and it takes work. Your kids will test your patience on a daily basis, so look for opportunities to work on it.
Make sure you are ready and on time
Just because you are late doesn’t mean you aren’t responsible. There have been too many times my kids have had complete meltdowns and caused me to be late.
But knowing that you need to make sure you are doing everything possible to be on time. Especially if you are taking your kids to an event or taking them to school.
This is another reason you should wake up early. There are always things that happen last minute in the morning that can make you late to drop off your kids for school.
The other day my son needed a belt because he was dressed up for school pictures. If I wasn’t up and ready to go we would have been late because I had to scramble to find him a belt that fits and when I found one I had to alter it so it would fit him.
Don’t be the reason your family or your kids are late. If you get ready too early, then you are good and you can maybe sit down and rest for a few minutes or get something done while you wait.
Make sure the bills are paid
Not every dad works. I realize this. But just because you may be a stay-at-home dad doesn’t mean you are excluded from making sure the bills are paid.
Even if your wife is the main breadwinner in the family you can handle paying the bills and making sure not only that they get paid but they get paid on time.
Online banking makes it easy to manage bills and even automate bills so you never have to worry about whether or not you paid a bill.
If you are the main source of income for your family, then keeping a steady job is your main responsibility.
This means you don’t get to quit your job because it was an inconvenience for you. You have to either have a backup plan or another job lined up before you quit a job that pays your bills.
Don’t work a job that will ruin your family life, but make sure if you leave for another job that everything is taken care of during the transition period.
Be present with your kids
I’ve spoken at length about how to be present with your kids. But it’s worth saying here again.
Don’t allow ANYTHING to distract you from your kids. No hobby, game, friend, family member, or job should keep you from being present with your kids.
If you are at the park with your family don’t sit on your phone and ignore your kids while they play. Get in there and play with them. Put your phone down, those work emails will still be there when you get done.
If you are sitting at home and watching your favorite show and your toddler hands you a baby doll. Interact with them, help them change a baby doll diaper, or pretend to feed the baby doll. You can pause that show or watch it again at a later time. And if not your kid is more important than a TV show.
Your kids will notice when you are present. They may not say anything now but as they get older they will wonder why their dad wasn’t more involved.
Good communication with your kids
You can’t be a responsible dad without talking to your kids and knowing what is going on in their life. I am not the greatest communicator. But I try really hard to know and recognize if something is off with them.
Your kids will have times in their life they will not voluntarily give information that is making them sad or affecting them in a personal way. Maybe they are scared to divulge the info or embarrassed by what is going on, but regardless of the reason, they will not want to tell you what is going on.
And sometimes our kids are just bad at relaying information that we need. Then we get upset because they didn’t tell us about something. But if we are communicating daily and paying attention we can help them relay that information.
Love and respect their mother
If you don’t love and respect your kid’s mother you may not have to worry about being called dad for very much longer. She may get rid of you. And the crappy part of that is she will probably get majority custody of your kids.
Take care of the mother of your children. Married or not you are now forever connected to this person. And even if she doesn’t want to be in your life, don’t disrespect her. Your kids see more of this than we would hope but being kind and loving to an estranged partner will be a great role to model for your kids.
If you are married take care of your wife. Make sure she is happy and you are spending just as much time with her as you do with her kids. Date her continually and show affection to her in front of your kids so they know how to treat their future spouses.
Be your kids biggest cheerleader
I have seen families where one parent or both parents never showed up for their kids. I never understood this. They would show up to an event, drop them off, and leave. Or worse yet they would be there but not paying attention the entire time.
Don’t do this to your kids. A responsible father will be an involved father in every extracurricular activity they do. You don’t have to be your kid’s coach but you can show up to the games/events and cheer them on the whole time.
Or maybe it is something you can’t actively cheer you can still find out how to help out. When my son was on the speech/drama team I would volunteer to be a judge during home events.
Just don’t go overboard and cause too much of a scene. The idea is to support and cheer your kids not embarrass them and make them want to quit.
Make sure your kids are prepared
My kids have been doing Boy Scouts for years. And they know to be prepared. But they are kids and rarely if ever are they prepared. But this is your job as a parent. Especially if you want to be a responsible parent.
Don’t let them show up to soccer practice with no water bottle, no shin guards, and wearing jeans. Even though you reminded them to get dressed the day before, make sure they are prepared for practice.
The same can go for life lessons. I wrote about how there are things in adulthood that our kids are just not prepared for. It is up to us to make sure our kids are prepared for the time when either they leave our house or worse case if something happens to us.
Teach them things you always wanted your parents to teach you. Remind them that second, third, and fourth time that they need to make sure and have a water bottle ready for Scouts. Just make sure they are prepared. Eventually, they will get tired of hearing you and will do it without thinking.
Be consistent with your message to your kids
To be a responsible dad you need to be consistent in your messaging.
What does that mean?
It means you don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth. You don’t tell your kids to not eat junk food but a few minutes later you are eating half a box of girl scout cookies.
It means you don’t tell them to get off the couch and go play outside but you are sitting inside playing on your phone all day.
Don’t send them mixed messages when you tell them how to run their life. Don’t just talk the talk but walk the walk right with them.
Don’t let jealousy drive your life
Do you look at your neighbor’s house and think “wow I wish my house was that nice!”?
Stop doing that. Stop being jealous of other people. Once you let that jealousy sink in then your life will become a big drive to fulfill those wants.
Your kid doesn’t care if you have a big house or drive a fancy car. They care more about the time you spend with them. If you are working 60 hours a week and only see your kids a few hours a week. What does it matter if you drive one of the nicest cars on the block?
And don’t compare your kids to other kids. Maybe your nephew is a star quarterback and a straight-A student. But your son is struggling every day in math. That’s ok. Kids are different and don’t be upset because your kid isn’t as good as other kids in everything they do.
Accept the things around you and learn to be content. The sooner you do these things the better your life will be and the more responsible you can be because you can worry about the things that matter in your kid’s life.
Our love for others reflects tremendously on our kids. They notice really quickly how you react and treat others and will model you.
For instance, the other day the farmer who works the field next to our house drove his tractor through part of our yard. My youngest son was really upset about this.
Because he has heard me say how much it bothers me when he drives the tractor through our yard.
Does it really matter?
No. In fact, it really isn’t a big deal. He is just trying to harvest his field. But because I make a big deal about it and my son hears it, he parrots that sentiment when he sees it.
Show love for all those around you. You should do it all the time but when your kids are around you should really pour on the love. Even in times that you don’t really like the person. Just love them and help them out.
There may be things that happen in your life that you cannot control and will cause your health to deteriorate. But if the only thing between you being healthy and not being healthy is a lack of effort. Stop right now and take control of it.
Your kids need you around. And they don’t want a version of you that is sitting on the couch eating chips and drinking soda all day. They want a dad that will get up and go outside and jump on the trampoline. They want a dad that can get out and chase them around the yard and play tag.
The younger you are the more you can get away with ignoring your health. But as you get older not staying in shape will start to bite you big time. Eat less and exercise more and make sure you can keep up with those kids all the way from toddlers to college.
Pick up the slack
There will be times when your spouse isn’t feeling her best. Or maybe she has had a busy week. Help her out, get the chores done. Don’t let things pile up.
Or maybe your kids have set chores they do each week. But this week they had some type of practice or school function every night so they didn’t have time to get chores done and homework. Help them out and do it for them.
Don’t make it a habit but help them out and pick up the slack when needed.
It’s hard to say someone is responsible when they can’t even stand up on their own two feet. Don’t be a drunk. Even if you don’t have anywhere to go and the kids are in bed, stay sober.
You never know when a kid might wake up and need you. If you’re too drunk to take care of yourself then you are not going to be able to take care of a kid in the middle of the night.
If you have a history of alcoholism then I would say to get help and get it under control. Having a drink every now and then is ok but staying drunk is not a responsible thing a parent should do.
The responsibility we take on when we become a dad can be overwhelming. Especially if you are not prepared to be a dad. But take it one day at a time and provide for your family. It doesn’t take a lot of effort but it takes a lot of love and patience.
You may feel like you need help. And if that happens then reach out, get help from friends or family. Don’t let that feeling that you let everyone down overwhelm you. You can do this and you will do this.
Is there anything that you would add on how to be a responsible dad? Let us know in the comments or send us a message on our Facebook page.