Wisdom//

7 Pieces of Fatherhood Advice That Could Change the Way You Parent

Hard-earned wisdom from dads to dads.

Illustration by Joamir Salcedo for Thrive Global.
Illustration by Joamir Salcedo for Thrive Global.

While dads encounter many of the same parenting challenges as moms, they may not be seeking out as much support. A 2015 Pew study on parents and social media found that 66% of moms have found helpful parenting info on social media in the last 30 days, compared to only 48% of dads. And while 50% of moms found social or emotional support about parenting on social media in the last 30 days, that’s true of only 28% of dads.

As Father’s Day approaches, we wanted to extend some of that community support to fathers, so we asked the Thrive Global Community to offer their best, most actionable, advice about fatherhood, either from their own hard-won experience as fathers or drawing inspiration from their own dads.

Because developing a stronger relationship with your kids — and to fatherhood in general — brings many research-backed benefits, not only for children’s development and your family dynamics, but for dads’ well-being as well. One study found that dads who have good relationships with their children are less prone to stress-related health problems, such as chest pain, insomnia, fatigue, and indigestion.

So share this advice with fathers you love, and thank them for all they do to enrich our lives.

Treat errand time as bonding time

“Time management is key. We tend to think we should run errands without our kids so they don’t slow us down. Instead, I learned to bring my kids almost everywhere. We get to talk in the car, the checkout lines, and run down aisles. It takes longer to get things done, but I’m present with my kids.”

—John Whyte, M.D. MPH, physician, Great Falls, VA

Check your emotional clutter at the door

“Life can be challenging. Work can be draining. Finances stress us out. Children can be exhausting. Keep a big box by the front door and drop into it all your emotional clutter from the outside world whenever you come home. See your children as a source of joy, not an inconvenience. Talk to your kids over dinner and, more importantly, listen to what they have to say. Play games. Read books. Go on family outings. Discipline them when necessary, but always allow a spirit of joy fill your home.”

—Rabbi Yonason Goldson, ethics speaker, St. Louis, MO

Soundtrack your parenting experience

“Having a child has been the most amazing and emotional rollercoaster ride of an experience. I feel like I have always been prepared to be a father, but never realized how much emotion I would feel in every aspect of her life and ours. One thing that I will always cherish is the quality time I get to spend with just her and me… which always involves music. I will put on a playlist and we will dance away, or just lay on the couch relaxing and jamming out to our favorite songs!”

—Benson Kurian, senior analyst, Dallas, TX

Learn from your own father, for better or worse

“I had a father with a demanding career that included travel. I am now the one myself with teenage boys. As an 80-year-old looking back, he said that he did his best, balancing the goal of providing for his family, and being in the moment whenever he was with us. With the tables now turned, I have read countless books on parenting and have strived to provide the best resources with any challenges my sons have faced. But it is not an exact science. I have done my best so far with the foundation being centered in love, belief in their gifts, and expectations for living with character.”

—Steve W., sales executive, Raleigh, NC

Don’t be too harsh with your kids — or with yourself

“I love being a father. The best advice for me has come from seeing what happens when I or other fathers deal too harshly with our children. The child may begin to perform for you and lean toward perfectionism and anxiety, or they may become afraid and hide themselves and their behaviors for fear of punishment or consequences. My advice now is to love your child(ren) and be loving and firm. Let them know they can come to you with any thought or feeling, and nothing is off the table. I would rather my child come to me after making a poor decision rather than hiding it and driving home drunk, entering or remaining in an abusive relationship, hurting themselves or others, questioning my love for them or unnecessarily holding onto pain without getting help. Lastly, don’t be too hard on yourself as a dad. We’re in this together and truthfully, neither fathers, mothers or children are perfect and that’s just fine — we all need each other and have a lot to learn from one another.”

—Josh Neuer, licensed professional counselor, Greenville, SC

Let your children fail — and help them learn from it

“The advice I learned from my father, I passed to my daughter. It helped build my character and be a better parent. He didn’t protect me from the world early on. When I lost, he worked with me to improve. When I didn’t win an award, he encouraged me to try harder next time. When I heard ‘no,’ the reason came from knowledge he shared. I could handle losses as I grew. Keeping children ‘safe’ from disappointment limits their ability to lose, grow, and show caring for others’ losses. I shared these lessons with my daughter early, and now she’s a strong woman with a caring heart.”

—Scott Miller, marketing director, Wilmington, DE

Allow your child’s interests to take shape and surprise you

“Tennis was in my DNA, but it wasn’t my destiny. My grandparents loved tennis and they wanted me to love it too. When I was little they bought me a tiny racket and sent me to camps. They even hired a coach. After losing a tournament, I cried. My grandmother said I should practice more. I wanted to play basketball instead. My grandmother wouldn’t let me quit. I wish I could have done both.As a father, I want my boy to pursue his own paths — not my preconceived ideas. I saw my toddler’s eyes light up as he rushed over to a set of plastic neon golf clubs at the store. Now he curls up with his clubs to sleep. He’s only two, so he might soon put the clubs down when he plinks a piano key for the first time. Or — fingers-crossed — when he finds that tiny basketball I keep leaving around. Whether it’s golf, tennis, or something else entirely, my son’s pursuits are his to explore.”

—Shawn P. Walchef, restaurant owner, San Diego, CA

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