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Top 10 Ways to Be a Better Father

By Mark Brandenburg

The expectations for fathers are increasing both at work and at home. Here are 10 ways for fathers to be more effective in the most important job they'll ever have.

1. See your kids as capable.
The Achilles’ heel of many fathers is to see their kids as "not good enough." Your kids will feel this, and they'll live up to these expectations. The more you approve of them, the greater they'll be!

2. Make time for your kids.
There will always be more work, but you won't always have the chance to be with your kids. Are there ways to include them in chores around the house? Your kids will know if they matter to you by the effort you make to include them in your day.

3. Use positive forms of discipline.
Punishment is not very effective. It tends to create more of the very behavior that fathers are seeking to eliminate. Use natural and logical consequences instead — if you don't pick up your toys, they get put in a bag and taken away for awhile. Give them choices. Positive discipline methods help kids learn responsibility; punishment helps them learn to dislike you.

4. Have a great relationship with you wife.
You are the main role model for your kids, and this is the main source of information for them about how to have a close relationship. They're watching very closely to learn how to do it.

5. Be aware of your kids’ lives.
How much do you really know about your kids? Are you aware of their hopes and dreams? Do you know what inspires them? Do you know their friends’ names? What they like and dislike about you? If there are things you don't know about your kids, you can always ask.

6. Be nurturing with your kids.
Hug and kiss your kids, and let them hear plenty of "I love you." And also don't forget to wrestle with them. Both boys and girls benefit from wrestling with their dads. Kids need to see your "soft" side, so show it to them frequently.

7. Really listen to your kids.
Put down the newspaper and look your kids in the eye when they talk to you. Be aware of your own tendency to "filter" what your kids say. Reflect back what you heard from them. If you want them to listen to you, you've got to show them the way.

8. Examine your relationship with your own father.
A poor relationship with your own father will affect your ability to be an effective father. Are there things you want to say to your father? Ultimately, forgiving your father will go a long way towards allowing you to father to the best of your ability.

9. Take care of yourself.
It's difficult to be kind and nurturing to your family if you're not kind to yourself. Find ways to take the time to relax, exercise and keep your stress levels lower. And use friends and family to support you; don't become an "island" in your family. Your family will appreciate it.

10. Have a plan for your anger.
Men can have a difficult time with the overwhelming emotional intensity that families can experience. The result is often anger, which breeds anger in your kids and creates a vicious cycle. Make a plan with a specific relaxation technique that helps to defuse your anger. Remember that one bad episode can impact your kids for a long time.

© Mark Brandenburg.

NFO regular contributor Mark Brandenburg, MA, CPCC, is the author of 25 Secrets of Emotionally Intelligent Fathers. Sign up for his free bi-weekly newsletter, Dads, Don't Fix Your Kids, at

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