How To Be a
Good Dad

There’s a wealth of evidence to show that fathers’ positive involvement in parenting and care work is great for children, families, and for dads themselves. Here are ten ways dads can be better fathers to their kids, now and into the future.


There’s no doubt that the past few years of the pandemic have been a challenge for many families. But one of the unexpected benefits has been the opportunity for some fathers to have greater flexibility at work, and to take a more active role in their children’s lives.

It’s a trend that many hope will continue, and studies show that it has huge benefits too.

When fathers focus on being supportive, warm, and consistent, their children flourish. Children experience fewer behavioural problems, delinquency and emotional struggles, and their developmental and educational outcomes are better.

In heterosexual relationships, increased involvement from fathers has positive benefits for mothers. When fathers contribute more to parenting and domestic work, mothers are more satisfied with their inter‐parental relationships, and feel they can be better parents themselves. More widely, a fairer division of unpaid care work is also crucial for gender equality.

Men’s own wellbeing also improves the more time they spend caring for their children. Involved fathers develop a greater capacity to express emotions and experience empathy, and overall they report being happier and healthier.

Of course, all of this doesn’t mean that a father’s presence is a necessary condition for children’s wellbeing. Children raised in a variety of households and family structures commonly do extremely well, including in single‐parent or same-sex parent households. What ultimately matters is the overall quality and circumstances of parenting.

But for those dads who are looking for ways to be a better father to their children, here are some of our counsellors’ top suggestions:

 

Walk the walk

Be a good role model for your children and lead by example. You can teach your kids to be better, more respectful people just by the way you act. Remember that your kids look up to you, copy you, and will learn from you. You can also be a positive adult male role model for other kids in the community, on the sporting field, and on the street.

 

Value open gender roles

Discuss negative gender stereotypes and their impacts, on boys as well as girls, with your kids. Discuss with your son what it means to “be a man” or to “be masculine” — what ideas come to mind? Question sexism, the attitudes and behaviours that maintain unfair gender inequalities. Help your son to break down and challenge limiting and sexist ideas. Support and celebrate positive and ethical qualities and behaviours, and encourage your kids to talk about their feelings. Support your children to pursue their passions beyond gender stereotypes.

 

Encourage and celebrate self‐expression

“Real men don’t cry.” Sound familiar? It’s time to do away with outdated tropes about how men and women “should” behave. Let boys know that it’s okay to step outside set of traditional assumptions about how they should act. Let them know that it’s beneficial and healthy to adopt behaviours and make choices which have in the past been stereotypically associated with girls and women.

 

Be an equal partner

If you live with a significant other or spouse, be a fair and supportive partner. Be respectful — listen, affirm experiences, and value their opinions. Support your partner’s goals in life, and respect their right to their own feelings, friends, activities, and opinions. Show them that their parents are a united team. If your kids see you and your partner as equals, this is what they will look for in their own relationships.

 

Take responsibility for your behaviour

Parenting can be incredibly demanding and frustrating. But it’s important to always use safe, respectful ways of dealing with your anger and other negative emotions. Ensure you examine and take responsibility for your own behaviours. Admit being wrong, and communicate openly and truthfully. Talk to your partner respectfully, even when you’re under pressure. If you have behaved in a way which doesn’t reflect this, acknowledge it, apologise, and make amends. Reflect on, and change, any abusive or controlling behaviours of your own.

 

Do your fair share

Pull your weight. Share the responsibility of caring for your children. Create an open dialogue with your partner about the care of your children. Become involved as an equal partner. Engage in open and fair discussions with your partner about how to divide the housework. Recognise that care and domestic work don’t just involve the tasks, but responsibility for planning and managing what needs doing.

 

Show and encourage respect for your children’s mother

If you’re in a heterosexual relationship, support the relationship between your children and their mother. Value the contribution of the stay‐at‐home parent. If you are the main breadwinner in the family and your partner stays at home to care for your children, ensure that you value her contribution as being equal to yours.

 

Manage conflicts well

Conflicts and disagreements are an inevitable part of almost all relationships and family life, and don’t always have to be a sign of bigger problems. But learning how to manage conflict well is key to healthy relationships. Talk things through in an open and respectful way, and negotiate and behave fairly. Seek mutually satisfying resolutions to your issues, and be willing to compromise.

 

Take time

Flexible work is here to stay for many organisations. Make the most of leave entitlements and family-friendly work conditions. Check out the options available at your workplace so you can manage your work commitments while still being available to your family and children when you’re needed.

 

Stay healthy

Take care of your own emotional and physical health. Maintain a network of friends with whom you can share trust, support, and fun. Ask for help early when you need it. If you’re going through a separation, find support both from friends and professionals. Keep healthy so you can enjoy spending time with your kids — and their kids — for as long as possible.

 


 

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