The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Dads
Here’s a collection of seven habits that are often found in amazing dads — a collection of traits that each and every guy can develop on his journey to becoming a father:
- Confidence: It takes time to feel truly confident about handling a newborn, but you gain confidence by doing things and getting your hands dirty (literally in some cases), even if at first things don’t go right. Looking after a newborn, baby, or toddler can seem daunting at times but isn’t actually that hard. It just comes down to being attentive to the needs of your little one, making an effort, and learning a few tricks.
No matter how hard things get — you’re stressed out at work and the baby’s waking up every three hours at night, your partner’s sick, and you’re doing all the housework — you’ll get through it and you’ll be a more confident dad (and person) as a result. So don’t be afraid to wade in because it will give you a great sense of achievement, lift your spirits, and build your self-esteem when you don’t have to rely on mom for anything to do with the baby (other than breastfeeding).
- Creativity: Sometimes you truly have to think outside the box when you’re looking after babies or spending time with children. Children have no trouble with pretend play and let their fantasies run wild, so just go with it. Sometimes you’ll also have to find creative solutions to some basic problems, such as when you’ve run out of diapers. An old dish towel may have to do while you take baby to the store to get disposables.
- Endurance: Sometimes the only way to cope with a situation is to endure it. When your baby is colicky and wakes every few hours at night, or is teething and cries constantly, you may be at the end of your rope trying to work out how to put a stop to that noise. Often there’s no solution; there’s nothing you can fix or do to make a difference. It’s just the way it is, and you’re going to have to suck it up. But understanding that everything in parenting comes and goes — that one day, your little one will sleep through the night, one day, your child will have all his teeth, and one day, he will grow out of colic — will help you endure the bad times while they last.
Like patience, endurance can be hard to muster when you’re tired, you’ve had little sleep, and you see no end in sight. The early weeks of a baby’s life are a little like an endurance sport — just surviving the sleep deprivation, the crying that grips your brain and shakes it about, and the never-ending rounds of feeding, burping, changing, and settling can seem impossible. But even marathons end sooner or later, so take every day as it comes and before you know it you’ll be celebrating your little one’s first birthday.
If you’re having a hard time coping with a crying child and feel like lashing out — stop right now. Put your baby in a safe place, such as her crib, and take a breather. Count to ten. Even better, go outside for a minute or two, take some deep breaths, and calm down. When you go back, comfort your baby and call your healthcare provider or someone who can come and take over for a while, while you take a break.
- Optimism: Your life as a dad will be much easier if you try to see the funny side of things and take the “glass is half full” position. At times you may be overwhelmed, stressed, or totally exhausted, and then it’s easy to slip into thinking nature’s way of organizing procreation totally sucks. When you get annoyed and you’re feeling negative, your child is likely to pick up on it, and he might actively participate in making the situation even more difficult to handle. So shake yourself up and snap out of negativity. Try a different approach or do something to get in a better frame of mind. Chances are you’ll get a more positive response from your child if you’re more positive.
- Passion: Immerse yourself in all the tasks that need doing around your baby, toddler, or child. By doing that, you’ll develop a passion for being a dad, and you’ll love being a dad with all your heart. Your child picks up on your passion and will be inspired to learn, develop, and grow with you at an amazing pace.
- Patience: Patience is a virtue — especially for dads! Patience is your friend and makes things a lot easier when you’ve got kids around. Without patience, you would just pop with anger and there’d be tears all around, even for you. Most of the learning in the early years (and perhaps even throughout life) is achieved through constant and frequent repetition. As a father, you’re in the business of facilitating that learning, which means repeating yourself a lot, such as reading Where the Wild Things Are for the 53rd time, or telling your toddler not to pour his milk in the fish tank for the 17th time.
Adults often not great at dealing with constant repetition because it’s deemed boring or frustrating. By fostering your own patience, you’ll be able to elegantly deal with constant repetition and keep your calm. As a result your child will get the support and encouragement he needs to learn. By being patient you avoid putting unnecessary pressure on your child to achieve something, which helps reduce frustration or feelings of inadequacy on his part.
- Presence: Taking time to be with your child and partner in a family is important. How you spend that time with your family is also important. Children have a finely tuned awareness of your attention. They can tell right away whether you’re actually engaging with them or merely present physically, with your mind miles away. Being present means you devote 100 percent of your attention to your child and you focus on what he’s doing. You don’t watch TV, read the newspaper, or get a bit of work done at the same time as playing with your child. If you’re hanging out with your child, be fully present and in the moment.