Advice for New Dads: 8 of Our Favorite Survival Tips

April 20, 2022  |  Published by

Congrats, you had a baby! I know you're nervous. Maybe even a little scared. I get it—you don't want to mess it up. And no matter what I say to you, you're going to feel that inevitable uncertainty of the future. But I can give you a few tips on what personally helped me during this new stage in life...

Chance, his wife Sumaiya, and their son Caleb
Chance, his wife Sumaiya, and their son Caleb

Do not put off until tomorrow what you can do today. My wife and I made a cross-country move while she was 7 months pregnant with our first child. Then, due to apartment issues, we moved again just weeks later. Whenever the topic of putting together the crib, stroller, or car seat came up, the mantra was “Eh, we’ll just do it this weekend.” And SURPRISE! Our son did not wait for us to finally put everything together. Instead, he decided to make his grand appearance that week, throwing a wrench in our plans to complete our to-do list that weekend. Not only did this add a lot of stress to an already stressful occasion, it gave the nurses a good laugh watching me struggle to install the car seat while my wife and son eagerly looked on.

Draw a line in the sand. Then write rules in stone. As soon as I found out we were expecting, I started noticing kids and parents everywhere. I observed parenting styles and silently debated with myself how I would handle the situation I was witnessing. Like most non-parents, I was very confident in my hypothetical parenting prowess. Now with an active 2-year-old, I’ve abandoned most of those principles. I gave in. I folded. I caved. I surrendered to a toddler. When we go out to a restaurant, the iPad comes along for the ride. It is an epic surrender that I swore would never come, but have you ever seen a man go months without a peaceful meal? Yet while I may have given in on some deeply held beliefs, there are others that I am determined to stand my ground on. The iPad might make an appearance at the dinner table, but the downloaded programs are educational. Or as much as I would love to cuddle my little man after a rough day, we stand strong and make sure he sleeps in his own bed at night. Compromises are fine, and lines in the sand can be erased or adjusted. But make sure the truly important things for your family are set in stone.

Presence, not presents. I come from a large, dispersed family. We don’t get together as much as we used to in the golden days, but we still celebrate birthdays and holidays, especially for the youngest family members. When we had our son, there were baby shower gifts, birthing gifts, first birthday gifts, and first Christmas gifts. These gifts still litter our living room, his playroom, and his bedroom. He constantly has toys, books, and other materials at his disposal. But what are his favorite things to do, you ask? Sit on my lap and read a book, roll around tickling on the floor, and going for a walk in the park. Because what’s truly important are the people in our lives, not the things.

Remember… they are always watching. Young kids are sponges – they soak up everything they see and hear. My son’s playroom is in the loft where all of the bedroom and bathroom doors are. When he started crawling, I started closing every door in the loft so that he couldn’t crawl into a room that wasn’t baby-proofed. Today, he can’t stand to see an open door and immediately has to close everything he encounters. While the door example is relatively harmless, this reminded me that he is watching and listening to our language and actions. Whether I'm stuck in traffic or my favorite team is losing a close game, I have the opportunity to model excellent behavior. I smile every time he says “please” or “thank you” without needing a reminder because these were things I consciously tried to teach him through example. But I also cringe when he picks up some of my less desirable traits or mannerisms.

Find a healthy outlet. I remember college… the good old days. I was constantly surrounded by friends and spontaneous activities. And besides attending class, I could do anything I wanted at any time I wanted. Nowadays? Not so much. I work from home so there are a lot of days where my wife and son are the only people I see in real life and not on a computer screen. I can’t just decide that I don’t feel like changing a diaper, taking my son to the park, doing the dishes, or taking the trash out. My chore-filled, work-filled time greatly outweighs my “me” time. But, fellow fathers, it’s crucial to take some time for ourselves. Whether it’s working on your car, watching a game, or hitting the gym, find something that you like to do and set aside the time to do it. And who knows? Maybe it can become a great bonding moment for you and your child in the future.

Raise your expectations of them. I have to credit my wife with bringing this to my attention. I frequently found myself talking down to our two-year-old, and making excuses for some of his behaviors.

“But he doesn’t know any better!”
“He can’t help it!”
“He doesn’t understand what we’re asking of him.”

Then I noticed that when my wife would ask him to do things (that I thought were far too advanced for him) he would do it! He wasn’t always successful, but he understood the task and would try his best. I started to follow her lead and demand more of him. Without fail, every time I asked more of him he delivered more. Kids are amazingly smart and capable, so raise your expectations of them.

Raise your expectations of yourself. A lot of us can look back on our childhoods and notice that we almost idolized our fathers. We saw them as superheroes. But as we grew older, we realized that they were mere humans like the rest of us. They had faults and failures. One of my faults is playing on my phone or sinking into my recliner after a long day, not spending time with my son. I have coasted through with a “fake it ‘til you make it” approach. Superheroes don’t do that. We do not have to be perfect… we just have to raise our expectations of ourselves.

Don’t blink! I have tried my best to avoid clichés, but some things are cliché because they’re simply undeniable. I asked other fathers in my circle what they considered to be the best piece of advice to give to a new father and this won by a landslide. You’ll look back on photos from a year or two ago and see that the tiny human struggling to keep his head lifted on his own is the same person jumping from couch to couch avoiding the lava. So even though it’s cliché, don’t blink. You’ll miss so much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *