What 5 Qualities Make a Good Dad?

Medically Reviewed on 10/12/2021

Why good fathers are important

Your parenting will have a real effect on what kind of grown-up your child becomes. Children are born with a set of genetic traits, and these are important. But parenting matters. We know this because children with problem behaviors frequently improve when their parents learn better child-rearing practices.  

For years, mothers did most of the work of parenting, while fathers supported the family. Today, mothers and fathers often share both parenting tasks and the job of providing for the family. Research tells us that the father's part in these twin tasks is just as important as the mother's. Research also shows us that children with loving fathers have fewer behavior problems.  

Children benefit from having both fathers and mothers because fathers and mothers behave differently. The ways they differ include:  

  • Physicality. Fathers often interact with their children in a physical, energizing way, perhaps roughhousing with them. Mothers' actions are often calming and soothing. 
  • Protectiveness. Mothers often smooth things over for their children. Fathers are more likely to let their children become frustrated, so they can learn to deal with their feelings. 

Certain qualities contribute to being a good dad. You may have some of these characteristics naturally. Others may require a little work.  

#1 Good Dads Are Involved

Good fathers spend a lot of time with their children. Even children realize that people spend time on what is important to them. Fathers who prioritize time with their kids are showing their love in a concrete way.

Spending time with kids is important for other reasons, too. It's difficult to get to know your children if you seldom interact with them. It's also hard for them to know you. 

#2 Good Dads Encourage Independence

While involved parents are good for kids, some parents take it to extremes. They may protect children from the consequences of their actions. They may deny their children age-appropriate activities, such as going to camp or learning to drive. This practice is sometimes called overparenting. 

Moms can overprotect children, but dads can be guilty, too. The overparenting school or sports dad is as common as the helicopter mom who worries over letting her child out of her sight. The negative results of overparenting can include:

  • A lack of resilience. Children need to face setbacks so they can learn to recover from them 
  • Feelings of entitlement. When you fix things for your kids, they may begin to expect special treatment
  • Lack of life skills. If you do everything for your children, they may not learn responsibility 
  • Inability to regulate themselves. Overparenting can keep your children from learning self-control
  • Anxiety. If you are anxious about your kids' challenges, you may pass your anxiety on to them

#3 Good Dads Discipline Appropriately

To many fathers, discipline means punishment, possibly because that's what it meant in their own families growing up. It's helpful if you think of discipline not as a way to control children but as a way to teach them. If you have spent time in positive interactions with your children, they are more likely to be open to correction from you.  

Appropriate discipline is geared to the age of the child.

  • Babies. Infants don't misbehave, because they don't know the rules. You can redirect a baby's attention, but you shouldn't use discipline
  • Toddlers. With children aged 1 to 3, you can enforce basic rules that keep them safe and protect your property from damage
  • Preschoolers. As your children get older, explain in simple terms why they can and cannot do certain things                        
  • School-age children. Pair explanations with both positive and negative consequences

Many pediatricians and child experts do not recommend spanking as a method of discipline. It can make children who struggle with anger or aggression angrier and more aggressive. That leads to more spankings and often creates a negative cycle. 

#4 Good Fathers Are Financially Responsible

We are well past the days when fathers were the sole supports of their families. Still, research shows that jobs improve most men's self-image and feelings of manhood. Also, men with full-time jobs have better relationships with their children than those who are unemployed or underemployed. 

Of course, you may give up full-time work in order to care for children or go to school. At other times, jobs can be hard to find. Still, fathers have a role to play in providing for their children. Good dads are financially literate. They know how to deal with banks and credit card companies. They know how to ask for help in a financial crisis.  

You can help your children grow into financially responsible adults. You can teach your children how to spend wisely and encourage them to save money.  

#5 A Good Father Works With the Other Parent

How you interact with your children's other parent is important. If you and the other parent are still partners, show affection to your partner every day. Model good conflict resolution and demonstrate the art of compromise. Show forgiveness rather than holding a grudge.

If you are no longer involved with your children's other parent, you don't have to show affection, but you should show respect. Your communication style is a good place to start:

  • Be businesslike
  • Ask instead of tell
  • Listen to your ex
  • Focus conversations on the children
  • Train yourself not to react to hot-button issues
  • End the conversation if you can't stay calm

Your children are more likely to be happy, healthy, and well-adjusted if they don't witness conflict between their parents. 

Good dads benefit everyone

The same qualities that make you a good dad can also improve your life. Involved fathers:

  • Are less likely to have problems with substance abuse
  • Have fewer admissions to the hospital
  • Have fewer contacts with law enforcement and the criminal justice system
  • Are less likely to suffer a fatal accident or die prematurely

Your community gains from actively involved fathers. Children benefit from good fathering. In short, everyone wins. 


 

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Medically Reviewed on 10/12/2021
References
Sources:

American Psychological Association: "The Changing Role of the Modern Day Father."

Annual Review of Psychology: "Parenting and its Effects on Children: On Reading and Misreading Behavior Genetics."

Zero to Three: "The Influence of Fathers on Young Children's Development."

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children."

Journal of Psychologists and Counsellors in School: "Can a Parent Do Too Much for Their Child? An Examination By Parenting Professionals of the Concept of Overparenting."

American Academy of Pediatrics: "What's the Best Way to Discipline My Child?"

Health: "Fathers and Discipline."

National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse: "Economic Stability & Employment."

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children."

HelpGuide: "Co-Parenting and Joint Custody Tips for Divorced Parents."

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children."

Minnesota Fathers and Families Network: "InfoSheet 3: Positive Father Involvement."