Every dad has parenting fears — that he won’t be a great dad, that he’ll mess up, that he’ll be a failure — it comes with the job of fatherhood. Unfortunately, what doesn’t come with the job is a simple set of instructions. Think of this list as a cheat sheet or rather Fatherhood 101 that you can refer to anytime if you need help.

  1. While difficult at first, it gets easier. The first couple of months are the most difficult — when the baby is brand new and wants to feed at all hours of the night. Trust me, it gets easier.
  2. Let them play. Play with your kids — build forts, role play, dress up as ninjas, imagine you’re characters in a movie or book. The possibilities are endless.
  3. Let them be themselves. Instill good behaviors and values in your child, but give your child freedom to be themselves. Children, like adults, have quirks and different personalities. Let those personalities flourish.
  4. Model good behavior. Model the behavior you’d like your child to learn. Bad manners, inconsiderate behavior, sloppy habits, anger, a negative attitude and laziness. All these behaviors will rub off on your child. The real lesson your child will learn is what you do.
  5. Teach them independence. From an early age, teach your children to do things for themselves gradually letting them be more independent as they grow older. It’s worth it in the long run, for the child’s self-confidence and also in terms of how much you have to do.
  6. Read to them, often. Reading to your children (from the time they’re babies onward) is crucial. It gets them in the habit of reading, and prepares them for a lifetime of learning.
  7. Limit TV and technology.  I’m not saying you have to be Amish or anything, but too much of this type of entertainment keeps them from doing more imaginative playing like reading and getting outside to exercise. I recommend keeping it to an hour a day of “media time”, but you can find the amount that works for you and your family.
  8. Learn how to say “no.” While I’m all for giving kids the freedom to choose, remember there should be limits. Parents who don’t set boundaries are going to have children with behavior problems. Teach them that your “no” is firm, but only say “no” when you really feel that it’s a boundary you need to set.
  9. Treat their mother with respect, always. If you treat your child’s mother with disrespect, your child will not only learn that behavior, but also grow up with insecurities and other emotional problems. Treat your child’s mother with respect at all times.
  10. A sense of humor is required. There will be times when your child does something that might make you blow your lid like writing in permanent marker all over the walls or spilling some kind of liquid on the couch. While you need to teach your child not to do these things, it’s better to just laugh at the humor in the situation.  It will definitely help keep your sanity in check.

To all the dads reading this, Happy Father’s Day!