Becoming a father is one of the greatest joys and most difficult challenges a man can experience. First-time dads wonder all the time, “Am I doing this right?” “Is this going to get better?” “If my child doesn’t eat organic vegetables, will they get into college?”
I know because I’ve been there before and have had to learn from my mistakes.
So, here are 6 tips for new fathers. They are life lessons from a dad who learned from experience and who was fortunate enough to have friends speak truth into his life when he needed it.
It’s not all about me
Okay. This first one might be obvious to you, but it wasn’t to me when I became a new dad. It wasn’t like I brought my child home from the hospital with a brand-new outlook on life, immediately knowing that my old way of doing life was over.
Before having a child, I could:
- Sleep in on Saturdays
- Watch whatever shows I wanted to watch… with no interruptions
- Leave the house whenever I wanted… and not need a babysitter
- Have regular dates with my partner
- Use the restroom in peace
Once I became a parent, any expectation that I could live the same way I did before needed to quickly leave my mind. For some first-time dads, that’s a bad thing. But, listen, it doesn’t have to be!
I had to change my perspective and realize that there were other, breathing human beings dependent on my every decision. If I could change my perspective to find enjoyment in helping other people, I could find joy in waking up early on Saturdays, watching Sesame Street, picking the right babysitter, having stay-at-home dates with my partner, and always having company when I use the bathroom.
Enjoy the present
This isn’t just hippy-talk. At every stage of my child’s life – crawling, walking, eating solid food, potty-training – I thought to myself, “I can’t wait until she can…” or “When he’s old enough, he’ll be able to…”
My mind was constantly set on the future and the opportunities that an older child would bring to my life.
Eckhart Tolle is quoted as saying, “the more you focus on time, the more you miss the NOW.”
Looking back on my experience as a new dad, Tolle’s words are absolutely true. I was so focused on surviving my current season of life, or getting my child prepared for his next milestone – crawling, walking, reading, swimming, sleeping through the night – that I missed out on making some significant memories.
A huge life lesson from this dad to you is that you don’t realize how fast it goes by until it’s gone. So, enjoy the now.
Focus on the positive
They don’t really tell you this in the baby books, but the truth is that it’s going to get tough. Really tough. You’ll find yourself discouraged and looking for someone to pluck you out of your life and onto a beautiful, deserted island.
When that happens, though, remember this advice: make a list of all the things that are going well. Write down what’s working in your relationship with your partner, what your child is doing well, and what you’re doing well as a parent.
More often than not, we can focus our attention on everything that’s discouraging when, in reality, there are way more good moments than bad.
A helpful tip is to express gratitude whenever you can. Expressing thanks actually changes our psychology from negative to positive. Try it!
Nothing is forever
You’ve heard the old adage, “This too shall pass.” From one dad to another, it’s completely true. Don’t get me wrong, there are seasons that drag on for what seems like forever, but they get better. They really do.
- Your son WILL eventually stop hitting other children.
- Your daughter WILL eventually learn to use the bathroom.
- Your son WILL figure out how to use his words… one day.
Understanding this helps you focus on the positive. Why? Because you know that being a father, being a kid, being a human is a process full of ups and downs. Over time, we all get better.
Podcast Ep. 162 – 6 Life Lessons I Learned As a Father
They watch everything you do
I learned how to be a better father when I realized my child watched all of the good and bad ways I treated others, spoke about others, and reacted when things went wrong. When I was kind, my son would be kind. When I was a jerk, I would notice he was being a jerk. Let’s just say it was eye-opening!
Author and psychologist, Jordan Peterson, argues that one of the ultimate goals of parenting is to raise children you want to hang out with.
It ultimately rests on you to accomplish that goal by giving your child an example to follow. Do you want your child to be nice? YOU have to be nice. Do you want your child to be compassionate? YOU have to show compassion.
Monkey see monkey do.
Empathy solves many problems
All good leaders, parents, teachers, speakers, and authors have one characteristic in common: they show empathy.
They are able to put themselves, even if just for a moment, in the shoes of another person so that they can understand the world through different eyes. Why does empathy make these people so successful? The answer is two-fold.
- Empathy helps build trust.
- Empathy helps people to be patient and understanding with others.
When you’re in the thick of learning how to be a dad, you can make the difficult seasons better by showing empathy toward your child – understanding how they might see the world – and by showing empathy toward your partner – demonstrating patience with them.
If you can figure this out, you’ll enjoy being a dad a LOT more. Trust me.
What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way?
After reading this article, what ideas come to mind that would helpful for other dads to hear?
What steps are you going to take to be a better dad?
We’d love to hear about them!