Every year around this time, I think back on how I performed as a dad the year prior.
As usual, I grade myself a B+. That means I too fail at it at times.
Being a dad defines who I am as much as being a doctor. It’s also my most important job.
But its tough to juggle everything at times, I admit.
Recently, I have discussed the most important things in life a man can focus on to be successful and happy with friends. One wrote a book about raising his five kids on his own.
Here they are the most important things for a man to be successful and happy and in hierarchal order:
Of course, we can debate on any of these points or in the order listed but that type of discussion day.
The reason why these six points are so important,
a) six is a lot, especially when you consider all the elements that come under each -it’s impossible to be 10 out of 10 in all
b) it’s easy to spend too much time on things that are less important.
When patients tell me they don’t have time to exercise, for example, we take a close look at their schedule and learn that about two hours a day is the average amount of time wasted.
And these are busy men with their careers.
Places men waste time include watching the news excessively, watching too many sports, attending unproductive meetings, committing to too many boards, hitting the bar too often and browsing the internet too long, just to name a few.
What does this all have to do with fatherhood?
We should be careful where we spend our time. Fatherhood comes under relationships on those six points of importance listed above. It’s essential to spend time, not only with our children but with one’s spouse. In fact, to have emotionally healthy kids requires a healthy relationship amongst parents, even after divorce, I believe.
Last year I wrote that my goals as a father are to prepare my kids to be well adjusted and happy when they grow up. Also, to prepare them for when I die, which can happen at any time.
I still believe that.
Being in the medical field one sees many men die young. And while there are many things one can do to reduce the risk (the premise of my vocation), the risk is precisely that, reduced, not eliminated.
The intention is not to be gloomy on this celebratory weekend, I am just being real as I continue to try to be the best father I can be.
For all those reasons I’d like to share my 14 rules on being a good dad.
I added a 13th and 14th rule this year as I now have two teenage daughters to raise. (God help me.)
I know “14” is not a “sexy”, round, even number – but that’s what I’ve got.
Keep in mind these are my rules.
Fatherhood is an imperfect experiment, and there is no go-to manual to help us do better.
Be prepared to disagree with some or all my points.
My 14 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 they 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. Lastly, if more than one sport are options, one has to be a team sport.
- 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 is 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 together are becoming uncommon these days as a result of life demands. I get it. In fact, I live it, but the extra effort to be home by supper is crucial for bonding, catching up and conversing. You never know what you’ll learn.
- See your kids every day. It’s common for dad to leave to work before the kids are up and return after they are asleep. Long work hours are real, but I work on seeing my kids every day, either in the morning before they go to school or at night right before bedtime. The few times seeing them is not possible, we face time – this is where modern technology rocks!
- Saying “It’s not fair”is not allowed in my house. “Don’t ever say it, because yes, it’s not fair. I know it’s not fair, now what do we do,“ is my response to that comment. 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 with 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. Our daughter just graduated from 8thgrade with second honors. She worked really hard in managing her hectic schedule with sports, high school exam prep and regular school work. We are proud of her effort.
- 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. 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 influence who they become. Get to know them. “You’re a product of those you hang out with, “ my mom use to tell me. 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 right 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.If my daughter brings home some kid with his underwear showing, pants down to his knees, then I did something wrong. Be respectful to her and your spouse. When you fail, own up to it and apologize.
- Teach your teenage daughter to manage her brain despite the hormonal changes occurring. I have no idea what it feels like with what the female body is going through during that time of the month. Still, I remind them to talk less when hormones are flaring. Like this, they will not get in trouble.
- No sleeping past 9 am, ever. Not even on weekends. Sleeping until noon or beyond makes kids lazy. It’s not like they wake at two pm with an abundance of energy. They don’t. They are just perpetually tired. Get up and do something. There’s plenty to do.
I hope these 14 rules or any combination of them helps you become a better dad or inspire wonderful moments in thinking back for when you too had kids at home if you are an empty nester.
Happy Father’s Day!
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