I asked thousands of dads for parenting advice, here is what they said:
You can read books or you can read internet articles but the best parenting advice comes from those that are in it every day. Parenting can be demanding and exhausting so why do we try to do it on our own? I am a member of several dad groups and I asked the question: “What is the best parenting advice?”. Several of the dads had some good solid advice that overlapped and I would like to share some of the best advice I saw across the responses I received.
Be there and be the example
This is something I always try to do with my kids. I make an extra effort to be there for them and be the example. Sometimes I might be a bad example and get scolded by my wife. But I try my best to be a good example and demonstrate how things should be done. Especially with my older boys who will become fathers sooner rather than later.
Have integrity in everything you do. If your kids are around don’t tell lies to people even if they seem harmless. Don’t talk bad about other adults because believe it or not your kids are listening and paying attention.
Show your kids how to love others. Most of the time I say when you do charity or give to someone in need you should do it in secret. But the big exception is your kids need to know that you do these things. If possible get them involved and show them how to love those that need the most love.
Pick your battles
Picking my battles is hard to do as a parent. I am fairly strong-willed and I like for my kids to listen at all times and behave at all times. But I have learned more and more throughout my time as being a dad that winning every battle isn’t the best option. You may have to give up on the fact that they will eat all of the food you put on their plate. It may bother you and you may have worries that they will go to bed hungry but so far it has worked out and just letting them not eat has prevented a lot of headaches.
This could apply to the mother of your children. Pick your battles with them. Maybe you are separated and you have different styles on how to raise your kids. Don’t let it always turn into a fight. That doesn’t mean you let everything slide. It just means that there are some fights not worth being fought.
Your kids don’t need to change. You do.
This one kind of stings. I have had to learn this especially being a foster parent. When these kids come into my house I expect them to change and follow my rules. But that is really not the best course of action. You must adapt and go with the flow. Give them time to learn how your household works. Earn their trust and compliance will come with time and with love.
The other thing to watch out for is how social norms and technology change us. Just because when you grew up you didn’t have a computer or a cell phone doesn’t mean that your kids don’t need these things. More and more schools are moving toward digital learning and our kids need to know how to use these technologies.
A change to love, kindness, respect, and guidance along with discipline
Discipline I have found can steer the behavior of your kids for better or worse. If it isn’t done with the four pillars of guidance given here (love, kindness, respect, guidance) then it can actually lead to worse behavior.
When disciplining your kids make sure they have guidance as to why their behavior is unacceptable. When they are toddlers they are still learning and thus we get the terrible twos. You can punish them for something and put them in timeout and within five minutes (or less) they will be doing the same thing that just got them in trouble. The pieces of the puzzle haven’t clicked as to why they are getting into trouble so often.
Being patient can be tough when kids are on your last nerve. It could be a child acting out over and over or it could be a crying baby that can’t be soothed. Just remember to keep calm and be patient. Sometimes babies just need to soothe themselves. Sometimes they did something that caused some pain and you have to wait until the pain subsides.
Build trust with your kids
Building trust is a core principle every parent needs to do. If your kids can’t trust you than who can they trust? If they don’t trust you then they may reach out to someone you don’t want them to trust in and can lead to some major issues.
Be honest and respectful towards them. Don’t say that you will do something and not follow through on that promise. I know from experience that my son gets devastated if I tell him we are going fishing and something comes up and I can’t take him. It’s not that I purposely lied to him, but he doesn’t always understand that things happen and it makes him lose a little trust. I have to refrain from getting upset with him and try to explain that life doesn’t always go the way we hope it will.
They care more about your time than anything you can buy them
I am trying more and more to get this through my head. A few years ago my middle son wanted to go to a big theme park with just me and him for his birthday. The problem was the theme park isn’t open around his birthday. The next year he asked again and I thought what could be a better present than spending a day with him.
I got online and bought the tickets, reserved a hotel room, and took a day off during the week so we could avoid some crowds. And it was totally worth it. I think he enjoyed that one day more than any gift I could have bought him that year. Your kids want your presence, not your presents.
Remember they are kids. Let them act like kids when appropriate
This is another one I have trouble with. I imagine a lot of parents struggle with this. You want your kids to be well-behaved and have proper manners at all times. And when they act like a kid it upsets you. What do you do? Do you punish them? Or do you think about the situation and realize they were just having some fun?
Kids need to be kids. They are not mini-adults who need to act years beyond their age every second of every day. They don’t need to be saddled with responsibilities at all times. It isn’t maintainable and it isn’t healthy for them. If you are outside and your kid wants to act goofy then let them act goofy.
Now, are there times when your kids need to act in a well-behaved manner? Yes. There are times when it calls for them to be serious and to concentrate on their manners. But they don’t have to be this way 24-7.
Most parenting you see on TV is fake. Nobody is a perfect parent.
I can remember watching the show Full House and thinking that Danny Tanner the dad always had the right thing to say at the right time. I never have the right thing to say. Parenting is messy. And we are all humans and will mess up more often than not. We try to be perfect. We try to always have the right words to say. We try to always know how to react in the best possible way. And we fail over and over.
Don’t be hard on yourself. Don’t measure yourself to other parents. Don’t get run down by parenting experts who give you all this advice but they can’t keep a family together themselves. If you are doing better today than you did yesterday then you have already succeeded.
Parenting is a collective action.
It took two of you to make these children. And it may take more than just two of you to raise them. The phrase it takes a village is not far from the truth. Find your village and raising a child is so much easier. When we were younger and had no clue what to do it was a Godsend to have our parents around to help us out when we needed it.
Maybe you are divorced or maybe you were never married, to begin with. Start to find those to help you out. As a parent, you need a break sometimes. Find some family or trusted friends to watch the kids so you can have some time to just be alone. I love my kids and I love spending time with them. But every once in a while I have to get some time to be kid-free.
Parenting is not easy.
I would hope that most people don’t think that parenting is easy. Some people make it look easy but I assure you that they have either had lots of experience or they are really good at hiding their struggles. Are some situations for parents easier than others? Yes. But that doesn’t mean that everything is easy. Take the good with the bad and I always suggest preparing for the worst.
Schedule time to give your spouse a break. For me, if we are both in the room with our little ones they want to equally bother both of us. Sometimes I have to tell my wife to go and do something else whether that is going to church by herself or going to the bedroom and binge-watch a show. And letting them go do chores is not a break. If your spouse says they are going to fold laundry that doesn’t count.
Stop parenting the way you should. Parent the way you do.
What works for someone else doesn’t always work in your situation. A father that has 5 boys would parent those boys much differently than a father that has 2 girls. Each family situation is unique and requires a unique parenting style. And you know who is the best person for the job? You. Stick to your gut and love those kids every day.
All parents make mistakes.
It’s not so much if you make mistakes. It is when you make mistakes and how you respond to them. I don’t know how many times I get on my kids for doing something that their mother told them to do. Then I feel like a big jerk because here I am saying the opposite of what my wife just told them and now they are upset and confused.
Don’t beat yourself up over the mistakes you made. Just make sure you learn from your mistakes and move on. Always have the mindset of improving yourself. And make sure if your kids are old enough to understand tell them about your mistakes. Apologize for them and help them understand why you screwed up. Hopefully, they will grow up and see how you handle mistakes and incorporate that into their own life.
Read to your kids.
I have said this before but I have one major rule when it comes to my kid’s education. I will (almost) never refuse to buy my kids a book. We have an agreement that I will always buy them a book they ask for but they have to read it. And so far this arrangement has worked out really well.
All three of my boys love to read and have never struggled in school. Now is this solely because of my book buying policy? Maybe not. But I think it has helped them be ahead of the game tremendously. Why? Because they have never had to struggle with reading and most schoolwork requires a lot of reading.
To take this further I always read to my kids when they ask. My youngest ones are always bringing me back the same book over and over to read to them. I take full advantage of this to help teach them new words, expand their vocabulary, and teach them basic ideas such as numbers and colors.
Being a parent can seem like a daunting task. But following some of this parenting advice can maybe lessen the sting. Find yourself a good village to help you raise these kids and realize that everyone makes mistakes. Just remember that if you are a better parent today than you were yesterday then you are already winning.
Have any other useful parenting advice that wasn’t covered here? Let us know in the comments or drop us a note on our Facebook page.