The responsibilities of being a husband and a parent can be overwhelming for many young men. Unlike women, men generally don’t take the time to research and prepare for relationships and parenthood. And before you can say the word “dada,” they find themselves in the brand new world of fatherhood.
Being a husband and a father are two of life’s most challenging—yet fulfilling—responsibilities. The roles are full-time, the learning is never ending, and the benefits are priceless. As a man, if you approach these roles with dedication and intention, you will enjoy a life filled with purpose as you have never experienced before. With that in mind, here are some great strategies for becoming a great husband and father.
Dads and Pregnancy
Being a first-time mother is an amazing journey and becoming a first-time father should be just as special. Don’t miss out on experiencing the pregnancy alongside your partner. Make the pregnancy a journey that you both can be a part of...
- Accompany your wife to prenatal appointments and child birth preparation classes. Take an active role in your wife’s prenatal appointments to demonstrate your commitment as husband and father. You also have a role in childbirth, so participate in the birthing preparation classes so that you can adequately coach and support her during delivery.
- Exercise patience, understanding and support for your partner. Your wife’s body will go through dramatic changes during pregnancy. She may feel ugly, unappealing and downright miserable. She might also express concern about being a good mom and feeling unprepared for the baby. It is important to be sensitive to these dramatic physical and emotional shifts and reassure her of your love and support.
- Read aloud, sing to, or talk with your child while still in the womb. Reading stories to your new son or daughter while he/she is still in the womb will help establish a natural bond with your child once he/she is born. The baby will instinctively recognize your voice. It is best to do this as a daily (or nightly) routine. This is also a great way to stay connected with your partner and demonstrate your commitment to her and your growing family.
- Protect your husband-wife intimacy in the delivery room. This topic may be a very sensitive issue since it is becoming more commonplace to open the delivery room audience beyond the parents-to-be. Discuss this topic in advance. More importantly, show your wife your readiness to be the logical and only person in the delivery room beside her during this event.
Dads and Babies (newborn to two-years-old)
Women are wired for parenting much more strongly then men. Mothers expect to be “in charge” of babies and in most families, they assume this role early on. So when a father picks up the baby, he’s moving into her world; therefore, he needs to understand that world from her perspective. Keep in mind the natural connection your wife has for your child, but don’t shy away from playing an active, participatory role in the baby’s life.
- Be present and involved in your child’s day-to-day development. Playing with dad and hearing his voice has a profound impact on a baby’s cognitive development. The more you interact with your baby, the less likely he/she will experience learning delays. Simple routines like putting your child to bed, reading a bedtime story, changing diapers, feeding or soothing your baby when he/she cries is huge. Talk with your wife about what you are experiencing and remember—you are parenting together.
- Behave consistently around your wife and child. At a very early age, babies begin to make associations. Associations occur through repeated interactions, which then become familiar to the child and he/she will respond accordingly. The same holds true for how you interact with your wife. If you are kind, thoughtful and considerate (on a consistent basis) to your spouse, you are more likely to maintain a healthy and loving relationship. It is also important for fathers to be consistent with their mannerisms and behavior around the children.
- Share the parenting and household responsibilities with your wife. Maintaining a home is difficult, especially when children are part of the equation. Do your best to be helpful and share in the household chores. This sends a clear message to your wife that you are there for her and willing to do your part to support the family. Couples struggle to find time for work, care for each other, and take care of the house and children, so talk openly about these issues together and develop a plan that works best for everyone.
Dads and Kids (three to 12-years-old)
Research shows that fathers who spend significant time with their children strongly increase the positive long-term benefits for these children including the development of self-esteem, learning and socializing. Further evidence shows that they also have better-quality relationships and are less likely to get caught up in the criminal justice system.
- Spend time with your child and make family activities a priority. You cannot make up for lost time when it comes to your child’s development. Be around as much as possible and spend time together as a family. Something as simple as taking a bike ride or flying a kite is priceless.
- Remember, every child needs to be accepted and loved. A child requires constant positive reinforcement, acceptance and love. Home is the best environment in which to receive these and the greatest person to provide this is a child’s parent.
- Keep your promises. A child learns at a very young age that a person is as good as his or her word. Do not be flippant about the promises you make to your children or to your wife. Your child will either hold you in high regard, or lose his/her trust in you because of the way you keep (or don’t keep) your promises.
- Compliment often and lead by example. Children respond to positive reinforcement and have an innate desire to please. Be sure to congratulate your child when he/she learns something new or does something right. Avoid becoming a “do as I say” parent; instead, lead by example and demonstrate the behavior you expect in your children. You can also instill in your kids what a healthy relationship is like by treating your wife with respect. Remember, you are more likely to be respected if you show respect to others.
- Be supportive and encourage your spouse in her role as mom. Being a parent takes work and it is often “on the job” training. If your wife is the day-in/day-out care provider, then she deserves as much encouragement and support as you can offer. Make sure she knows how much you appreciate her and keep the lines of communication open to discuss parenting strategies.
Dads and Teens (13 to 17-years old)
Helping teens succeed in life is a major undertaking, particularly when outside influences start (music, television, movies, peers) affecting a teenager. Fathers should seek out opportunities to improve communication, and learn what makes teens tick. This will help you be more effective in the role of father during your child's teenage years.
- Recognize that your teen is developing into his or her own person. The job of a teenager is to establish his or her identity. However, watching them invent and reinvent themselves can be frightening and even painful for parents. The teenage years require a whole new (and very uncomfortable) level of trust between you and your son or daughter. It’s time to believe that your teen will make good choices rather than bad ones. You must also trust that your spouse will “have your back” on decisions about curfew, driving, dating, etc. Likewise, you must stand by her as well so that the two of you form a united front.
- Understand that a one-size fits all approach to parenting will not work. If you think you have parenting all figured out – think again! Every teen is different and the manner in which you connect and communicate with them is just as varied. Maintaining trust and taking periodic visits inside your teen’s world are invaluable, and be sure to remind yourself what you were like at that age. Also, you and your wife will need to work together to share information and understand that sometimes “only mom” or “only dad” will do.
- Set clear boundaries and expectations for your son or daughter. Teenagers want more freedom, and their very happiness depends on stretching curfews and relaxing boundaries. Don’t buy a word of it! Teens need boundaries and expectations. Communicating what is expected of your teen is the best way you can show love. As parents, you must be reasonable, consistent and unified in the boundaries and expectations that you set.
- Recognize that during this phase, everything really IS “about them.” Expect to see and experience excessive levels of narcissism during the teenage years. Get used to it because it is “all about them!” Your son or daughter’s narrow point-of-view is part of the process of spreading his or her wings and becoming independent. This can be very difficult on your marriage relationship if you don’t have a clear understanding of what is going on with your teenager.
- Remind yourself and your partner that this (phase) too will pass. Raising teenagers is like enduring an obstacle course. It requires every bit of diligence, creativity and unconditional love you can muster. Remember and remind each other that this phase will eventually pass. There is great consolation and comfort in knowing that there is a light at the end of the teenage tunnel.