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12 ways to be a better dad
Rupal Patel
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April 30, 2007

What do I do with a three-year-old who's grabbing my trouser leg just as I am on an important call?'

'I don't really want to play house-house or hide and seek or football after a long, hard day at work.'

'I'd rather watch the news/ financial channels, instead of watching cartoons.'

'How am I going to get this adamant child to eat his food?'

'Isn't this all in the mommy's domain? Isn't my role that a provider?'

And that last is a wail for help! If these questions plague you, then you must be a Dad. And here's what you can do to remove the struggle out of being Daddy.

1. Spend time with your children

How much time a father spends with his children tells them how important they are to him. Spend at least 15 minutes everyday having FUN with your children on a one to one basis, more when you can.

Find something that both of you enjoy, be it a sport, board games, laughing together, tickling, dancing, painting� absolutely anything that is fun for both of you!

Remember, just filling their cupboards with toys and other material things is not going to build the bond, spending time together is what will get you closer.

2. Respect your children

Talk politely to your children. It is very important for us to respect to them if we want them to respect us. Listening to them when they are talking, not interrupting their conversations, allowing them to make some of their own decisions, all go a long way in showing respect.

3. Communication is important

Talk to your children. Talk about their day-to-day routines and tell them about yours. Be aware of your child's life, know their friends, the activities they do, their hobbies, and their interests. Get to really know your children.

4. Don't just hear, LISTEN

When children talk, what they are saying is very important to them. Don't jump in and start giving advice, just listen to them. Try and understand the feelings behind the words.

Even if the talk seems childish patter to you, it is very important to listen, to really listen to your children.

Be available for them. Keep the newspaper aside, switch off the television, put your mobile on silent. Maintain eye contact and give them your undivided attention.

This will tell your children how important they are to you. It will go a long way in increasing their self-esteem and also set the stage for more meaningful conversations, as your child grows older.

Though if your children come to you at one of those times when you are really busy, tell them you will listen to them once you are done. Fix up a time -- it could be half an hour later -- to listen to what they have to say, and make sure to follow through with it.

5. Teach and encourage

Many times fathers think teaching is something their spouses or the school has to do. But a father who teaches his children about right and wrong, and encourages them to do their best, will see his children make good choices.

Fathers who are involved in the daily routines will teach their children the basic values of life through everyday examples.

6. Discipline with love

All children need guidance and discipline, not as punishment, but to set reasonable limits.

Discipline should always come from a place of love to teach the children responsible behaviour.

You have to keep in mind that as the child grows older, the freedom should be increased and the limits have to be reduced. Take something as simple as bedtime. An older child can stay up till a much later time than a younger one.

Use choices where possible, though always remember that the choices given should be acceptable to you. Use positive forms of discipline such as logical consequences; wherein the consequence is connected to the misbehaviour.

For example, if the crayons are not put in the box after using them, the child loses the privilege of using them for maybe two days. Be sure to discuss this with your child beforehand and follow through with it the next time the situation occurs.

7. Demonstrate your love

Children need the security of being loved and accepted by their families. Showing affection is a wonderful way to demonstrate the love you have for your child. Hug them, kiss them and be there for them at all times.

Let them know they have your unconditional love and support. This will strengthen the parent-child bond and make your discipline and communication an easier process.

8. Respect your child's mother

One of the best things a father can do for his children is to respect their mother. If you are married, keep your marriage strong. Show your love and affection for your spouse. When you have a conflict, demonstrate how two people can make up. This teaches your children a lot about relationships.

If you are divorced, it is still important to respect the mother of your children. Don't ever badmouth your spouse in front of the children. When children see you respecting each other, they are more likely to feel accepted and respected as well.

9. Eat together as a family

Mealtimes are special times for bonding as a family. Sharing a meal together is an important part of healthy family life (breakfast, lunch or dinner).

Besides providing stability to busy days, it is a wonderful opportunity for the entire family to share the happenings of their lives with each other. It is a time of togetherness and strengthening the family ties.

10. Take your children for outings

Take your children to the zoo, museums, the beach. Take them for walks; take them swimming, bowling, to the park. Take them to the temple. Fly kites with them, play Holi with them.

Give them your undivided attention and take the opportunity to teach them at these times. Spend time on a one-to-one basis or as a family. But, most importantly, enjoy yourself with them!

11. Be involved in your children's lives and make them feel important

Give priority to your children over other things and other people. Attend parents' days, sports day, annual day celebrations and any events they are participating in or which are important to them.

No matter what you say to them, children know you would give your time to those things and those people who are important to you. Remember this the next time you have to take a decision on whether to attend an event that is important to your child.

Being a part of their important days will not only build your child's self esteem but also go a long way in strengthening your relationship with them.

12. Be a good role model

Practise what you preach. Don't tell your kids that honesty is the best policy and then ask your spouse to say you are not at home when an unwanted person calls.

Children will model themselves on your actions more than your words.

When you make promises, even to your children, follow through with them. Be the same
man behind closed doors as you are in public. This will increase the respect your children have for you.

Rupal Patel has done her child psychology from the National School of Health and Sciences, London. She also holds a diploma is early child care and education ORT India and Oxford. Rupal has been holding workshops for parents for the last five years.
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