The Modern Guide to Being a Dad

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Every passing year, more parenting tips pop up on social media and the news, but it seems like being a dad is not getting any easier.

In fact, being a dad, these days can be complicated as our roles seem to have changed without notice. We are expected to uphold the traditional value of providing for our families and be homemakers. Most of us are ready to take on this challenge head on, with a little help. You don’t need to read heavy books to be a good parent. This modern guide to being a dad will provide some useful insight based on available research for you to understand how to be a great dad in this modern and busy world.


It’s important to keep in mind that there is no one way to be a dad. Remember to stay true to yourself, communicate with your partner/co-parent and have fun.


Start by taking good care of yourself


You should love yourself before starting to love and care for others, including your own children. While it is true that children take up a lot of time, especially when they are little, it is important that you take time for yourself and care for your own health. At the end of the day, your children depend on you and they need a strong and healthy dad, both mentally and physically. They need a dad that is confident and to whom they can come whenever they have problems.


First off, consider an exercise routine as a part of your daily activities. For many new dads, when life gets busy with a new baby, exercise is one of the first things to drop off. This makes sense as many new parents are tired and worn down. However, we know that exercise improves your mood, gives you a clear mind, improves memory, and makes you feel stronger and more reliable for your little kids. So put on the running shoes or get to the gym and lift heavy. It is an important aspect of self-care.


Have you ever noticed how good you feel after doing something you love? We all know that feeling of being cool, calm and collected that comes after a great experience. If you take a time for yourself to engage in things you enjoy, you will never see fatherhood as an obstacle to your goals. Not only is this fun, but we know that engaging in enjoyable activities is connected with improved health outcomes.  So, don’t forget to do things you really love from time to time like. Make sure you go to that game, watch that new horror movie or read a book you love.


Are you an outdoors guy? Enjoying nature is an excellent way to take care of yourself, especially if you do so in the company of your friends and family. If you’re an adventurer at heart, climbing, skiing, mountain biking or kayaking are great ways to get outside here in Colorado. If you enjoy the calmer activities, then hikes, fly fishing or bird watching are excellent as well. Whatever you do, don’t forget to take a moment and soak in the beauty and freedom that comes with being outside.


Work/family balance


As we’ve mentioned, the modern dad is more involved than ever in the process of raising their kids. We have left behind those stereotypes restraining dad to the workforce while moms stays home to look after their kids. But in the world we live in, some of us fathers are stepping back a bit. It is imperative to bring economic stability to our family, and kids will always like gifts and going-outs. But are we trying to provide all of this by giving up quality time with our family by working so hard that we never have time?


Work/family balance is essential if you want to be a great dad. Understanding this, some countries have even adopted policies for paternal leave and flexible scheduling for dads. But even if they don’t, there are individual strategies we can adopt.


Keeping good personal boundaries around work at home is important. But this is easier said than done. We all struggle with bringing work home with us; either mentally worrying about work or continuing work projects our home when it should be family time.


Here are two tips to create healthy work boundaries at home:


-Create a rule that you only do work at home after the kids are in bed.

– Try this mental imagery exercise to contain work concerns.


When you are commuting home use mental imagery to contain work concerns and stress back in your office. First make a mental image of your work concerns (your bosses face, that annoying email).

Then imagine yourself leaving each concern in your office.  Then visualize yourself closing your office door and locking in work-related worries and distractions inside.

If you find yourself distracted by work concerns when with the family try taking a mental snapshot of the concern, then mentally send it back to your office, behind the locked door.

Gently remind yourself that work is for work, family is for family time. If you must work try doing so after the kids are in bed.


At home, you could keep a shared family calendar to prevent miscommunication, share some of the workload, and ask for more help from your partner when needed. At the same time, always try to improve your listening skills at home, and give your kids some responsibility for home chores.


In fact, one idea is to make some chores into a family game. Who can rake the biggest pile of leaves the quickest? Who can count how many chips they found on the kitchen floor? These and many more individual strategies could turn into helpful parenting tips for dads to increase your quality time with your children.


Have you considered using rituals?


No, we are not talking about religious practices, which is up to you to adopt or not. However, throughout the years, your children will benefit from repeated activities you can do with them. Kids love bed stories, some of them enjoy a bath with daddy when they are little, bed cuddles during weekend mornings, and much more. They are all easy-to-adopt parenting tips.


Family rituals strengthen family relationships, especially between father and son. Studies show that this type of behavior is very common in couples with marital satisfaction. Moreover, mental health in adolescence might be influenced by several parenting strategies, including the adoption of family rituals.


So, instead of getting back home from work to turn on the TV screen, schedule some quality time together. At the end of the day, you will realize your kid’s laughter turns out to be much more refreshing.


Don’t underestimate playtime


Research points out that during their early years, children develop at least half of their intelligence and mental learning skills. However, that does not mean they should have less playtime and more time for academic work.


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During sensory motor play (as in running or climbing), children learn to interact with their environment and prevent sedentary behavior. In symbolic play (with imagination and role-playing), children create and re-create social situations and circumstances. During construction play, children learn to create with their hands and stimulate their creativity.


But what’s the link between playtime and parenting? Parents can stimulate and guide their children towards a type of play they need to promote their imagination, develop their language, and even solve their conflicts. We can also share values and instill good habits and principles through playtime.


So Dad, are you involved in your children’s playtime? Are you seizing the opportunity to share your values, knowledge, and physical abilities by playing with them? Doing so will not only benefit your kid, but it will also make you happier as a dad.


Being the dad your kid needs you to be


For many years, we have understood how important it is for children to have a deep emotional link with their fathers or caregivers. This initial link with mom and dad brings about the stability and security children need to embrace a successful social experience when they grow older. In other words, your children need you to be their very first friend.


This is called attachment theory, and a recent meta-analysis shows that it is still essential in our modern society. So, if you put more effort into creating a strong physical and emotional link with your children, this will have a profound influence on their social life through their lifespan.


Be especially attentive, because when children feel confused or stressed, they start displaying an “attachment behavior.” It’s a critical moment when you can stand up and be the support that they need you to be. So, keep quiet and alert. The time will come when they will need your help when you will be there to listen. Don’t freak out, don’t make them regret they ever came to you, and that’s how a deep emotional link will grow between you.




Denver Men’s Therapy is a mental wellness and EMDR-trained counseling center for men in Denver, Colorado. We are currently accepting new clients if you feel like this site authentically meets you where you are in your life right now. We are focused on helping you solve problems you are currently facing and strengthen your response to things out of your control. Contact us to learn more.


In summary…


Being a wonderful dad should not be difficult if you really care for your children, care for yourself, and give quality time to your family. Always keep in mind to balance work and family activities, the importance of playing with your kids, and being ready to listen at their concerns at all times. By doing so and loving them dearly, you will be on your way to be the dad you want to be.



Ainsworth, M. D. S. (1967). Infancy in Uganda: Infant care and the growth of love.

Baltes, B. B., & Clark, M. A. (2015). Achieve Work–Family Balance through Individual and Organizational Strategies. Handbook of Principles of Organizational Behavior, 581.

Fiese, B. H., Hooker, K. A., Kotary, L., & Schwagler, J. (1993). Family rituals in the early stages of parenthood. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 633-642.

Hauser, O. (2015). Maintaining boundaries: Masculinizing fatherhood in the feminine province of parenting. Qualitative Sociology Review, 11(3).

Kiser, L. J., Bennett, L., Heston, J., & Paavola, M. (2005). Family ritual and routine: Comparison of clinical and non-clinical families. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 14(3), 357-372.

McKinney, C., & Power, L. (2012). Childhood playtime, parenting, and psychopathology in emerging adults: Implications for research and play therapists. International Journal of Play Therapy, 21(4), 215.

Pallini, S., Baiocco, R., Schneider, B. H., Madigan, S., & Atkinson, L. (2014). Early child–parent attachment and peer relations: A meta-analysis of recent research. Journal of Family Psychology, 28(1), 118.

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