The Difference Between a Dad and a Father

istock_000006211123xsmall.jpgAre you a dad or a father? A dad is someone who not only physically helped to create the life of a child, but also supports that child with the basic necessities (food, clothing and shelter) and provides guidance and advice to see his child through life.

A dad demonstrates that he loves his children by interacting with them daily, letting them know that they’re a priority and that they give purpose to his life. Yes, it’s far easier to be a father than a dad. The level of personal commitment that our kids require is challenging, sometimes even overwhelming.

Career Builders’ annual Father’s Day survey* found that 37% of working dads would leave their jobs if their spouse or partner made enough money to support the family. If given the choice, another 38% would take a pay-cut to spend more time with their kids. reports that 70% of working fathers have a difficult time balancing their professional and personal responsibilities.

When we became parents, we made a life decision that carries more responsibility than any other. Yet, it’s easy far too easy to get caught up in work and the rest of our lives, relegating our children to a lower priority. We don’t want to admit this because in our hearts, our family comes first. But actions speak louder than words.

What can you do today to be a better dad?

1. Check in with your family during the day. If the kids are at school, arrange for them to call you when they get home. Spending just a few unhurried minutes on the phone after school demonstrates that you care about what’s happening in their lives.

2. Spend time each day, just hanging out and giving your children your undivided attention. Listen to their ideas. Get to know who’s important to them and why. But you can’t do this while distracted. Step away from your email and cell phone and use this time to build your relationship with your kids.

3. Make time at least once a week to have some fun together. Each stage of your child’s life presents a new opportunity. Take turns picking the week’s activity. When your kids are young, the whole family might enjoy weekly trips to the park. As they grow, their idea of what’s fun will get a little more sophisticated. The important thing is to enjoy the process with them.

4. Talk and teach your positive values. Never assume that your kids will pick up your values strictly through osmosis. Wherever appropriate, tell them why you feel the way you do. And yes, model those values that you want your children to adopt.

5. Balance boundary enforcement and support. When you come home from work and find mandatory chores undone, how do you react? Is there a natural consequence that fits the “crime?” More importantly, should your first interaction of the day be one of boundary enforcement? How was his or her day at school? What joys or difficulties is your child facing? Be interested in your child before cracking the whip on chores!

6. Special tip for married dads: Nurture your marital relationship. For one thing, your children will grow up and move out of the house someday. But right now, you’re setting an example for you children. Boys learn how to treat a girl by watching how dad interacts with mom. Girls set their expectations of how they will be treated in the same way. Show them what real love looks like so that they’ll recognize it for themselves when they’re older.

Finally, cut yourself some slack. Nobody’s perfect. Having read this far means that you care about being a great dad. Simply commit to doing your best, then relax. When you fall down, just make sure you get back up again … and keep trying. Sometimes “good enough” is plenty.


Thanks to Night Writer for featuring this article in the Manival, to Discovering Dad for including this article in the Discovering Dad Blog Carnival, and to Her Family Blog for publishing this post in the Everything Family Carnival.

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