I'll be the first to admit that being a dad is an inexact science. It still, to this day, feels like I'm writing the playbook as I go. But for every mistake I make as a father, there are several things I know to be true.
Make time to eat together. Call me old-fashioned, but I was raised to believe that families should eat together. As a boy, I remember meals around the table as a time to bond and talk. I want my kids to have that same experience. Plus, it's my chance to sit at the head of the table and act like a big shot.
Play with your kids. It's tough to be active with small children, especially given how exhausting they can be. But kids are perpetual motion machines and need a copious amount of exercise and playtime. Not only that, but this is my opportunity to be a "fun" dad and I'm not about to pass it up.
Show respect for mommy. I want my boys to respect women, so I make sure they learn this lesson at home by seeing me treat mommy with love and appreciation. Any person who's capable of carrying a tiny human inside them for nine months deserves the utmost respect.
Dispense discipline fairly. Nobody likes discipline, but it's undeniably important. I hold all my kids to the same standards, and if they deviate, they get the same reasonable punishment. I also make sure they fully comprehend the consequences of their actions.
Be emotionally connected. Being physically present as a dad is the easy part. It's connecting emotionally that's challenging. I encourage my boys to talk to me about whatever they want, even if I can't relate to, for example, recurring nightmares of being chased by monkeys. (True story, by the way.)
Donald S. Deane is the proud papa of three little boys who provide endless amounts of joy and sleep deprivation. He has held a variety of jobs, including college English teacher, newspaper reporter/editor, internet project manager, dishwasher and dogcatcher. Don has written for AOL TV, Moviefone, TheFW, ScreenCrush, GuySpeed, and Arcade Sushi, among others.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.