The 10 Commandments of Fatherhood
Thou Shalt Love Unconditionally
A father's love shouldn't come with a litmus test. You may not always like what your kids do and say. In fact, I guarantee you won't. But you can hate your kids' behavior and still love your kids -- without question or qualification. Make sure your children know that they can never lose your love, and tell them every day how much you adore them.
Thou Shalt Not Lie
Be honest with your kids. That doesn't mean you have to share every detail of your life with your children, or tell them all of your ambitions, fears and disappointments. These are your kids, after all, not your spouse or your confessor. Younger kids especially could probably do without the extra emotional weight. Just be sure that everything you do tell your kids is true. Always.
Thou Shalt Teach by Example
Kids watch what you do much more closely than they ever listen to what you say, and it doesn't take them long to figure out whether you do or do not walk the talk. Do you want your kids to really take to heart those life lessons you're trying to teach? Don't just tell them. Show them.
Thou Shalt Not Expect Perfection
All children, like all people, make mistakes. Yours are no exception. One of the ways good kids learn to be better kids, and eventually excellent adults, is by screwing up, learning their lesson, and trying again. Let your kids be kids. Forgive them their mistakes, and maybe they'll forgive yours.
Thou Shalt Pay Attention
Pay attention to your kids. If they're talking to you, don't just listen with half an ear. Give them your full attention. You may have a great relationship with your children, but they still won't tell you everything they're thinking and feeling. By paying attention, you may pick up on a signal you'd otherwise miss, just in time to step in with a hug or the right words of encouragement when they're needed most.
Thou Shalt Be a Role Model
Like it or not, you are the model for the man your children want to grow up to be or to marry. Make sure you're worthy of their trust and that following in your footsteps, or sharing their life with someone like you, is something you would wish for them. Live with integrity, honor your commitments, exercise and eat right, work at something you care about, and treat your wife or partner with love and respect.
Thou Shalt Not Ridicule, Humiliate nor Embarrass
Your kids need your support, not your criticism. Childhood -- or life, for that matter -- will give your kids plenty of reason for fear, anxiety and self-doubt. As a father, your job is to build your kids up, not tear them down. Never intentionally ridicule, embarrass or humiliate your child. Remember the Golden Rule, and treat your kids as you would like them, and others, to treat you.
Thou Shalt Laugh, Dance and Sing
Life has a way of grinding you down, but don't let that stop you from enjoying precious moments with your kids and showing them how to get the most out of life. Never let yourself get so caught up in your own concerns that you miss a chance to laugh with your kids. Dance and sing with your kids whenever you can. If you're going to allow something to overwhelm you, let it be joy and laughter, not worry and fear. Life is too short.
Thou Shalt Take Risks
While you're teaching your kids table manners and how to throw a ball, don't forget to teach them that it's OK to take risks. One of the best ways to teach your kids about risk-taking is to take a few of your own. Don't stay in a job you hate for the sake of a weekly paycheck if your heart is telling you to start your own business. Embrace life. Follow your dreams. Find joy. And show your kids the way.
Thou Shalt Respect Your Children’s Choices
You may be a role model to your children, but that doesn't mean they are going to do everything you do or like everything you like. If you're a sports fanatic and your son or daughter would rather play piano than baseball, suck it up and learn to appreciate Mozart. Every child is unique. Learning what makes your kid special and different from all others is one of the best parts of being a father.
Larry West, a freelance writer in the Pacific Northwest, has been a joyful and grateful father for most of his adult life.