After the divorce, it was just the kids and me. Although my marriage failed, I was not going to fail my kids. All the things that I had taken for granted were suddenly my responsibility. Being completely responsible for them forced me to take a more active role in their lives and taught me what it takes to be a Rockstar dad. You don’t have to wait for a life altering event to be a Rockstar dad, you can start right now! I have put together what I have learned, in no particular order, as each step is as equally important as another.
Read with your kids every night. This sentence is probably included in every parenting guide, and for good reason. Not only are you spending quality time with your kids, but you are encouraging reading (by example) and have the opportunity to get your kids excited about reading. Take time to help them learn how to read. I have seen first hand the benefits of reading every night. My kids have confidence in their reading skills and capabilities, and this in turn helps build their self-esteem. Their teachers can tell they read regularly and their grades reflect this. This also ties in with the next couple of steps, routine is huge for development.
Be consistent, even if it is hard at first. Not all of dad’s responsibilities are fun. Part of parenting is setting rules and enforcing them. I know first hand how easy it can be to pick up after them, or give in, just to avoid the hassle, or worse, a tantrum. Thing is, you aren’t doing them any favors. If your kid leaves their clothes on the ground, don’t pick them up. While it may seem easier than to go downstairs and tell them to pick it up, it isn’t in the long run. Take the time to enforce good habits. Stick with what you say, don’t give in. It will pay for itself tenfold. Be consistent and you will have the confidence of knowing your kids will behave well in any situation. It is a matter of raising spoiled brats or grateful and appreciative individuals.
Structure. Kids thrive on structure. They find comfort in knowing what to expect throughout the day. There is a reason why schools have schedules. Having a regular mealtime, bedtime, and playtime will do wonders for your kids. In fact, when they do have the occasional late night, it becomes obvious how important a consistent structure really is.
Praise them. Build them up and support them. You are their role model, they want to be just like you. It means the whole world to them when dad says “good job, I’m proud of you.” Teach them how valuable they are. Building up their self-esteem goes along way and will follow them their entire life, start now. This is how leaders are made, build their confidence and support them in every way that you can.
Less stuff, more events. Kids aren’t likely to remember the toy you bought them for their birthday. They will remember the first time you took them fishing. Or when you taught them how to set up a tent or make a campfire. I’m not saying you should never get your kid a toy, but that your money is better spent on an activity they will remember forever. I forewent toy purchases and other things in an effort to save money for a family vacation. We went to Disneyland and had the time of our lives. The kids talk about the trip often, even the plane ride was magical to them. Neither the kids or I will forget that trip. This was definitely our most expensive event, however we have done other things, like camping, that have been just as memorable. Create memories that will last a lifetime.
Give them love, and lots of it. Showing your kids affection will benefit them and you. We all need love, there is nothing that beats a hug from your kid. Say “I love you” often, hug them often, give them love. There is nothing macho about being disconnected and cold to your kids. I would argue the opposite and I bet your kids would too.
Listen to them. This applies to all relationships in your life. A good listener is sometimes all a person needs. Even when your kids are little, listen to them. This opens the door for communication and trust for years to come. Let them know that they can tell you anything. When they do, just listen, avoid trying to fix the problem, give them the opportunity to come up with their own solutions.
Keep them safe. Let them know you will always protect them and will always be there for them. Being a protective parent comes naturally. Nobody wants their child to get hurt. It’s important that they know this. Continually reinforce the fact that you love them, care about them, and would do anything to keep them safe. Don’t let them worry about adult problems, their job is to be a kid.
Cook, clean and be domesticated. Not only will your partner appreciate you, but you are teaching your kids that there are no gender dividing roles. Societal norms have, in the past, dictated what the typical male and female roles are. Ask yourself this, do you want to raise your daughter to think that her role in life is taking care of a man, the house and other domesticated duties, or would you rather raise a daughter that believes she is capable of anything and is not limited to such a role? Remember that you are their role model, make sure you aren’t creating gender dividing roles. My kids see that it is normal for a dad to cook and clean (even sew a patch on their jeans), just as it is for a mom. Teach them equality and independence, they will thank you for years to come.
Teach them the skills they will need to be a successful member of society. Don’t short change them by giving them everything they want. Teach them about money, work (through chores), and doing the right thing. Teach them about civic duties and volunteer in the community. Have them donate the toys they no longer play with or rake the neighbor’s leaves. Talk to them often about the importance of an education. Although there are many ways to pay for college, give them a head start, invest in them, and teach them the importance of saving for college. Start a savings account or mutual fund. Invest in safe stocks, like Google, and involve your kids. Not only will they feel comforted in the fact that their father is investing in their future, but you can teach them about money, creating healthy living skills they are sure to be thankful for as they grow.
Be the best example you can for your kids. You know what the right thing to do is. Ask yourself if you would want your child doing or behaving the way you do. Be chivalrous, have good manners, be charitable, and help others. You are teaching your daughter what to look for in her future husband and setting the precedent of how she thinks she should be treated. Empower her, show her she is capable of anything. If you are a gentleman, then your daughter will likely marry a gentleman. If you are an ass and disrespectful, that is exactly the kind of husband your daughter will look for. The same thing goes for your son, you are teaching him how to treat his future wife. Remember you are their role model, they want to be just like you!
Spend time with your kids. Money doesn’t matter, kids just want your time. You don’t need to be a “Disneyland dad” to spend time with your kids. In fact, the little things often become my kids’ most talked about events. Although my back paid for it, they still talk about our sleepover in the living room. We built a fort out of blankets and chairs and spent the night in it. Bottom line, your kids just want to spend time with you.