A general definition of a “skill” is to be able to do something well. Most skills are obtained through schooling, reading, personal experiences, and practice.
The following “skills” are from my personal experience. I’m not an expert parent, nor do I pretend to be. I have no technical training on being a dad, no schooling in kissing boo-boos, and only hands-on experiences to give you this compilation.
Good Dad Skills…
Rather than type out an organized list of what every dad should do, I’m just going to start typing some stuff, and hopefully at the end of this blog you’ll either get it—or you won’t. I, of course, hope for the former.
The first diaper I changed on my oldest daughter was the “tar poop” one. I kind of had an idea of what to do, but not really.
All I knew was I needed to wipe away from the front business end towards the back business end. I’m sure I crinkled my nose at the smell, and cringed at this fragile baby in my hands. I remember my mom laughing at me as I set out the clean diaper next to her, and gently laid her onto it. She tried to explain to me that I should have just lifted her little bottom up by her ankles and slid the diaper under her. About a week later, as I was sliding the clean diaper under her little bitty bottom (taking my mom’s advice), she took a giant poop all over my hand and arm. I’m not sure which way is “right,” but either will work. I say do what’s best for you. I only have daughters so I can’t really give any advice to you new parents trying to change a little boy’s diaper. I know when I was younger, I peed over my mom’s shoulder and right into the inquiring face of my older sister as she tried to watch what mommy was doing over her shoulder. We’ve all seen the funny videos where the dad is gagging at the very sight of a dirty diaper. Try not to be that guy, and hopefully when you’re older (if they need to) they’ll return the favor.
The ABC’s should be self-explanatory, but I realize they may not be. If you are a new(er) parent it would be wise of you to brush up on your ABC’s. Counting is a life-long skill. Hopefully you still have it. If so, pass it on. You should probably learn a handful of nursery rhymes in general, and I promise you, sometimes (not all of the time) you will heal their pain. You will bring smiles of joy, to both your child and yourself. If you are a terrible singer, it’ll give you guys something to laugh about one day. Teaching your child is a never-ending task you have taken on. Singing songs, rehearsing your ABC’s over and over and over again will teach them their letters, teach them about music, teach them to listen, teach them to watch, and overall give you a great bonding experience. Teaching them to count may have unexpected results—soon they will know how much money to ask for. They could surprise you by practicing long division on their day off from school (mine did just this morning)!
Obtain lots of books. Read to them! Then, read to them some more! Let them read to you. My two-year old a few weeks ago pointed out the letters to Chrysler on the side of the car individually—then ran her fingers across them and said “car!” Yeah, it’s not right—yet—but she’s learning. Read, read, read.
The art of making a bottle is definitely something a new father should be skillful at. Your child’s mother will not be there 24/7 (nor should she be, for that matter). You have a responsibility to this child, man up, and learn how to make a bottle. As much as I wished it was as easy as pouring milk in a bottle and heating in up in a microwave, alas, it is not. Depending on your household, you may use formula, or you may use breast milk. Without getting into a debate on which is better for your child, realize that whatever you choose, is how your baby gets it’s nourishment for at least the first few months. If you choose the breast milk way, realize that you may have half a freezer filled up with small frozen bags of what looks like yellowish milk. You must learn how to correctly thaw it out, and get it the right temperature for their delicate mouths. If you choose formula, you must learn the correct amount of formula to mix with the correct amount of water. It is usually best NOT to heat it up in the microwave. Practice makes perfect. Some formula companies have pre-packaged amounts of formula that is very handy to take with you while you are out and about.
Packing a diaper bag. Whew! If I had a dollar for every time I forgot something in the diaper bag, I’d have enough to buy a jumbo package of diapers probably! First of all, you have to realize your new baby has no control over their bodily functions. It is wise to keep at least one spare outfit in your diaper bag. Realize also that your baby will outgrow that spare outfit in a week or two sometimes.
You should have a burp cloth (at least one), wipes, diapers (that fit). You should carry tissues with you. Toys, teethers, and nose-suckers are also highly recommended. Bibs should never be forgotten, nor should baby tylenol, baby orajel, and teething tablets. Most importantly, try to remember your humility with you at all times. Sometimes we may not have all the tools necessary to perform our fatherly duties to our best of abilities, but remembering these few items will truly help save face sometimes.
My only real advice is to be gentle, and if you choose to bathe with your child, please discontinue to do so when they start to notice you look different than they do.
Your child will throw tantrums. It is your job to acknowledge what the tantrum is about, and if you can do anything to make them feel better. From my personal experiences, kids usually throw tantrums when they are tired, hurt, hungry, or just plain want attention. If you know they just woke up from a nap fifteen minutes ago, you can rule out the tired possibility. If you have been ignoring them while you try to play Call of Duty on your gaming system, they may just want a little attention. If you have a baby, there is a high possibility they are hungry or teething. Figure it out dad. Maybe, they just want you to PLAY WITH THEM. In fact, chances are pretty good, they’re going to be wanting you to play with them many more years than you expected them to.
Good manners are not genetically obtained. They are taught. If you sit and swear all the time, belch, and pass gas all the time, chances are your child will copy your behavior. If you don’t teach your child how to say “Yes, Ma’am, and Thank you, and Please, etc.,” chances are they will have a more difficult time later in life learning these very important skills. Part of being a responsible parent, is teaching your children the difference between right and wrong. It is teaching them responsibility for their own actions, that may be one of the hardest and most rewarding tasks we have. Have you ever been to a restaurant and you notice a family with children sitting to one side of you, and the kid(s) are loud, rude, standing up, interrupting, crying, etc.?
Have you ever noticed that family and then saw a family to the other side of you whose children are being mild-mannered, well-behaved, ordered their own food for themselves, and were polite? Which family do you want to be?
There will be times in your and your child’s lives where you will just click. You’ll realize that it is time for them to learn something new. Perhaps they will learn how to walk with your patience and guidance. Perhaps you’ll hear their first word coming from their mouths because you were a big part in helping them learn how to say that word. When they’re a baby—they’re going to look at you a lot. Let them. Look back at them. I know you’re not telepathic, but it may seem that way sometimes. Trust me—there’s a connection there. Maybe you taking time out of your busy schedule to help your child ride a bike, will be an “Aha!” moment. For me, I remember making macaroni and cheese with my dad. I still to this day, will let the two oldest girls help me make dinner. I have ensured they know a stove is hot. I have made sure they know an electrical outlet can shock them. I’ve made sure they know that water can be dangerous, it can be hot, it can be cold, and it can be deeper than it looks.
I have taught my children to look both ways—and then look both ways again (just because). I have taught them how to ride a horse that looks frightenly similar to me. I have read to them, and I have let them read to me. I have sang songs, ran beside, played soccer with, thrown footballs to, danced with, and just chilled with my kids. They have seen me at my best, and sadly, they have seen me at my worst. They know I’m human, and they know that they are too. They understand that we all will make mistakes, and that we all have the ability to change for the better. They have learned to be caring, respectful (usually), courteous (usually), and helpful. They know how to dust, vacuum, fold clothes, and pick up toys.
My children do exceptional in school. I expect it, and they know it. It is my responsibility to teach them everything I know. I refuse to tell them the world is perfect, and I have given them many examples of why it is not. I have tried my hardest to teach them to make the best out of every situation, and that they are not in control of many things that will happen in their lives. I have taught my children to love their family, and they know that we love them back. My kids are told daily they are loved. Growing up, I almost never heard the words “I love you” from my parents and I knew how that made me feel.
I have different approaches to disciplining all my kids because they are all different. They learn differently. One of the greatest feelings a dad can have is when he watches his child do something right, because you taught them. There are still many things I have to teach all of my kids, but realizing what an integral role I have in their lives is exciting. I love all the good dad skills I have acquired so far, and I hope my kids love them too.
Tonight I had one of the best conversations with one of my oldest daughters. I seriously felt good after our long talk, and I know I gave her a ton to think about as she dozes off tonight. We were driving on the way home, and somehow started talking about nuclear war. I know, I know…What?!
Anyways, I was trying to tell her about the atomic bomb, World War II, Pearl Harbor, Adolf Hitler to the best of my ability. I haven’t been in school for a long time, so my recollections weren’t all there. Not wanting to tell her anything false, we got on the computer tonight and had a serious conversation about Hitler, and about the Concentration Camps, and the Holocaust. We starting talking about Anne Frank and how important her story was. We wikipediad (yeah, I realize that’s probably not a word-yet) the heck out of the Nazis. I tried to explain to her that no matter how beat up or tired she feels—that there are plenty of people in this world that either did or do have it way worse than her.
As we were looking up Anne Frank, there was a quote from her diary I’m going to post. This quote, coming from a fifteen-year old girl just about sums up everything I wanted to say to my daughter tonight. I really hope it hit home with her, and I hope she truly does reach her full potential one day.
This quote, taken from Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl is from Wednesday, April 5th, 1944:
I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that’s what I want! I know I can write …, but it remains to be seen whether I really have talent …
And if I don’t have the talent to write books or newspaper articles, I can always write for myself. But I want to achieve more than that. I can’t imagine living like Mother, Mrs. van Daan and all the women who go about their work and are then forgotten. I need to have something besides a husband and children to devote myself to! …
I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside me!
When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that’s a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?
Her last post was written August 1, 1944.
I guess one of the greatest “dad skills” you can give your kids (in my opinion) is to give them hope for a better future. Teach them to believe in themselves, and show them that you love them and will always have their back—and I think you’re on the right track.
Good luck in your parenting adventures—don’t take them too seriously. Remember to smile often, and laugh at least 10 times a day. Oh, and tell your kids you love them—and tell them often.