Here are some suggestions from National Fatherhood Initiative’s 10 Ways to be a Better Dad brochure, www.fatherhood.org.
- Respect Your Children's Mother or Father
One of the best things a parent can do for his or her children is to respect the other parent. Even if you are not married, it is important to respect and support the mother of your children. A father and mother who respect each other, and let their children know it, provide a secure environment for them. When children see their parents respecting each other, they are more likely to feel that they are also accepted and respected.
- Spend Time with Your Children
How you spend your time tells the children what's important to you. If you always seem too busy for your children, they will feel neglected no matter what you say. Treasuring children often means sacrificing other things, but it is essential to spend time with your children. Kids grow up so quickly. Missed opportunities are forever lost.
- Earn the Right to Be Heard
All too often the only time a parent speaks to his children is when they have done something wrong. That's why so many children cringe when a mother says, "Your father wants to talk with you." Begin talking with your kids when they are very young so that difficult subjects will be easier to handle as they get older. Take time and listen to their ideas and problems.
- Discipline with Love
All children need guidance and discipline, not as punishment, but to set reasonable limits. Remind your children of the consequences of their actions and provide meaningful rewards for desirable behavior. Fathers who discipline in a calm and fair manner show love for their children.
- Be a Role Model
Parents are role models to their kids whether they realize it or not. A girl who spends time with a loving father grows up knowing she deserves to be treated with respect by boys, and what to look for in a husband. Fathers can teach sons what is important in life by demonstrating honesty, humility and responsibility. "All the world's a stage..." and parents play one of the most vital roles.
- Be a Teacher
Too many parents think teaching is something others do. But a parent who teaches his or her children about right and wrong, and encourages them to do their best, will see the children make good choices. Involved parents use everyday examples to help their children learn the basic lessons of life.
- Eat Together
Sharing a meal together (breakfast, lunch or dinner) can be an important part of healthy family life. In addition to providing some structure in a busy day, it gives kids the chance to talk about what they are doing and want to do. It is also a good time for parents to listen and give advice. Most importantly, it is a time for families to be together each day or week.
- Read to Your Children
In a world where television often dominates the lives of children, it is important that parents make the effort to read to their children. Children learn best by doing and reading, as well as seeing and hearing. Begin reading to your children when they are very young. When they are older encourage them to read on their own. Instilling your children with a love for reading is one of the best ways to ensure they will have a lifetime of personal and career growth.
- Show Affection
Children need the security that comes from knowing they are wanted, accepted and loved by their family. Parents, especially fathers, need to feel both comfortable and willing to hug their children. Showing affection everyday is the best way to let your children know that you love them.
- Realize that a Parent’s Job Is Never Done
Even after children are grown and ready to leave home, they will still look to their parents for wisdom and advice. Whether it's continued schooling, a new job or a wedding, parents continue to play an essential part in the lives of their children as they grow and, perhaps, marry and build their own families.