12 Rules on Being a Good Father

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Being a father is a privilege, not a right.

We have three kids, two girls, and one boy and there is never a dull moment at the Espinosa house – and I love it.

Being a dad defines who I am as much as being a doctor.

My goal as a father is to prepare my kids to be well adjusted and happy when they grow up. My other goal is to prepare them for when I die, which can happen at any time.

(Wait, is this a happy father’s day article or a morbid blog post?)

I am extremely healthy, and this post is a celebration of fatherhood, but dads die young every day while having young kids at home and, despite the fact that I take good care of myself, I know I too am not immune to expiring early.

For all those reasons I’d like to share my rules on being a good father.

Why not rules to being a great father?

Because I know I am not a great father. I fall short often. I tell my kids, “you have a B+ dad guys. I hope that works for you.” That’s just reality.

Keep in mind these are my rules. Fatherhood is an imperfect experiment, and there are no go-to manuals to help us improve our fathering skills along the way.

My 12 Rules on Being a Good Dad and Raising Healthy Kids:

  1. Spend time with them. I know it’s hard, especially when obligations are competing for your day but your kids need to be one of your priorities. You likely don’t have to go on every business trip. I have turned down many speaking opportunities unless they were a “hell yes.”


  1. Kids have to play a sport. There are no options here, even if they are not the athletic type. Playing sports keeps kids active – a commodity in this virtual age. They learn sportsmanship, team playing, and to gets them out of their comfort zone. Also, once they commit to a sport or a team – they show up to every practice and game – with few exceptions. Once you commit to your team and/or your coach, you commit. And practice is taken as seriously as the tournament.


  1. Say “No” often. You can’t give your kids everything they want. In fact, I’d say don’t give them most of the things they want. That includes asking for things when we are out shopping errands – I am saying “no” every time. They get used to it and stop asking.


  1. Play with your children. That’s why you need to stay in shape, dad. My best moments with my kids are when we are shooting hoops, passing a soccer ball or running after each other. A family that is active together stays together


  1. Have family dinner at least once a week – two times a week or more is even better. Family meals are becoming uncommon these days as a result of life demands. I get it. In fact, I live it. The extra effort to be home by supper is important for bonding, catching up and conversing. You never know what you’ll learn.


  1. See your kids every day. It’s common for dad’s to leave for work early before kids are up and return after they are asleep. Long work hours are real, but I try to see my kids every day, either in the morning before they go to school or at night right before bedtime. The few times neither are possible, we face time on our “dumb” phones – this is where technology rocks!


  1. 7.   Saying “It’s not fair” is not allowed. “Don’t ever say it, because yes, it’s not fair. I know it’s not fair, now what?“ is my response when they say that. Life is not often fair – might as well get them used to it early.


  1. No participation trophies or over worshipping. Kids need to learn they will lose and screw-up, and they should learn how to work through those feelings. Also, someone out there will be better than them in something – that’s OK. You are not getting an award for participating though.


  1. Acknowledge the effort, not the outcome. If my kids work hard, I acknowledge that effort despite the outcome. If you only praise them when they get “A’s” and one day they get an “F”, they will internalize to mean something is wrong with them, not the preparation or lack thereof. Kids will do better if they enjoy and work hard on the process, the outcomes will take care of themselves.


  1. Let your kids fall. They are only going to learn by falling and getting back up. Don’t’ shield them from physical or emotional pain. Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, but not many.


  1. Know their friends. Just putting food on the table and giving them a roof over their head is not enough. Their friends have influence over who they become. Get to know them. “You’re a product of those you hang out with, “ my mom used to say. Play pick-up game of basketball with your son with his friends, see how they behave and have a talk with him about who you think is good for your son (or daughter, if she plays) who is not. That’s just one strategy. Another is to host events at your house with your kid’s friends.
  1. Be the man you want your daughter to marry. Kids learn what you do, not what you say. Not only treat your daughters with respect but also your spouse. You are their number one role model.

Of course, this “experiment” might not work out. In ten years I may write about how I was so wrong on my parental rules. We’ll see.

You might disagree with some or all my points. It’s OK. Let me know why on the comment section below. I am willing to learn something on the subject.

Perhaps I can go from good to great.

Happy Father’s Day!


Here is a short read from David, my partner at XYwellness on why what Father’s day means to him after prostate cancer.

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by Dr. Geo

13 comments… add one
  • Al Merritt 06/18/2017, 3:00 AM

    Dr. Geo,
    I love your advise on father’s day, excellent! I would add
    one more around faith and surrender to
    God, shown by weekly attendance at
    your local house of worship. Being engaged
    in a faith community in a meaningful
    way provides our kids with values and
    other families who don’t try and do everything
    on their own. Worshiping God as a family
    modeling faith, learning about our religious
    traditions anchor our kids in a way as parents
    on our own we can not. Praying before meals
    at bedtime, reading sacred texts with them
    all provide a path for them to develop
    their own relationship with God.
    Thank you for your blog today!

    • Amen to that 08/30/2017, 12:56 AM


  • Bob Cefalu 06/18/2017, 9:08 AM

    great thoughts Dr. Geo. Happy Father’s Day to you.

  • Siree 06/18/2017, 9:27 AM

    Dear, Dr.Geo

    Thank you so musch for an advice l am as sing mom and father in thailad that it the best one as thuroght our devilop as good family additional my kisd we are maek will be wich like as your from adviec me as for all but I am had only one kids thsnk you agin for everly think you it for me as all time so an yor family to be that nice too.

    Your sincerly

  • Jerry d 06/18/2017, 9:28 AM

    We are raising 3 grandkids. You are spot on!

  • Melvin 06/18/2017, 10:25 AM

    Not much to add…. As a father of three myself (two girls one boy) I find myself challenging my own limits in the sense I show my kids not the man I want to be but the man I want to become… So, for all fathers the true reward for us is to grow beyond our own perceived limits and show our kids our true better selves… In doing so we tap into our most powerful tool…Faith. because on those days when life will challenge them and it will they have to be equipped with the understanding that nothing is impossible and by their own personal Will Power inspired by GOD the world can be manifested in there image.

  • George L 06/18/2017, 11:42 AM

    Terrific list, Geo. Sounds more like an A+ than a B+ dad, so give yourself a break.

    Somewhat related to Al’s comment, I would add a brief point about being a moral and ethical role model in these materialistic, secular and divided times.

    I agree with your overall observation that as parents (and grandparents), we do these things as best we can.

  • Richard Coppola 06/18/2017, 5:52 PM

    Excellent advice Dr. Geo! Well said.

  • Gela 06/18/2017, 6:24 PM

    Wise words! Happy Fathers Day.

  • richard manser 06/18/2017, 9:20 PM

    Spot on Dr. Geo .
    Happy Fathers Day

  • Ty 06/18/2017, 9:31 PM

    Great post bro! I agree with you on all points (as usual…lol)!

  • Augusto Rabellino 06/18/2017, 11:20 PM

    Gracias Geo!

    Hermoso y difícil trabajo has emprendido pero te quedo muy bien!

    Felizzzz paternidad!!!!


  • Marty Berenberg 06/19/2017, 6:00 PM

    Great advice, Dr. Geo. Sounds to me like you’re a terrific dad. Your kids and wife are lucky to have you.


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