12 Rules on Being a Good Father
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:
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.