Ten Qualities of a Good Father

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Me and my dad in our backyard in the 1960s.

My dad wasn’t perfect, no parent is, but he was a good father. He was already forty-seven when I was born, but I was lucky to have him until he was ninety-eight. He’s been gone for a long time, but I still reminisce fondly about him when Father’s Day approaches. My dad was nurturing, supportive, and consistently present. I never wondered if he loved me because he told me every chance he got. Remembering my dad prompted me to think about the qualities that make a man a good father. With the help of input from Facebook friends, this is a list of ten qualities a good father possesses. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a starting place.

1. He shows up

A good father is there for the big things like birthdays and graduations, but he also shows up for the science fair and spelling bees. It seems like a low bar to set, but being present is highly underrated. Be fully present without looking at your phone or other devices. Show up and focus on your kids.

2. He sets a good example

Children are always watching and learning. A good father will be honest and have a good character. Several people in my informal survey mentioned the importance of integrity. A good dad should strive to have admirable characteristics that their children will want to emulate.

The Baby Boomers I talked to felt like modeling a strong work ethic was essential. People in my generation mostly had dads who grew up during the Depression, so they believed in working hard.

My younger friends are more impressed with a man who can find a good work-family life balance and be a parenting partner to their significant other.

3. He treats the mother of his children with respect

Even if there has been a difficult divorce, a good father will treat the mother of his children with respect. A good father sets the tone for how the children view and treat their mother. Through words and behavior, a good father will always show respect and kindness towards the mother of his children.

Friends of my generation were more likely to think the partner should be treated “like a queen,” whereas my younger friends favored an egalitarian relationship.

4. He takes joy in his kids

The sound of laughter and play is one of the happiest sounds in a home. A good father will take joy in being with his kids, whether talking, playing, or just hanging out together.

5. He disciplines fairly

The word “discipline” actually means “instruction and training” and is derived from the Latin root word discere – “to learn.” In speaking with one of my friends, he mentioned respect as an essential part of discipline. Because he respected his parents, he chose good behavior. Forming a close relationship that involves two-way trust and respect is the foundation for effective discipline.

6. He listens

Fathers love to share stories of their glory days and give advice. That’s OK sometimes, but a good dad also needs to listen. Children should feel they can talk to their dad about any problem, and it will be met with understanding.

Achieving that level of trust begins early with good communication. Ask your child questions to know them on a deeper level. Here are some suggestions for questions to get started.

7. He verbally expresses love and pride

Tell your kids you love them. Tell your kids you’re proud of them. They need to hear those words! My dad was generous with his words, never missing a chance to tell me he loved me, and I cherish those memories.

If saying it is too difficult, write notes for their lunchbox or write words of love, praise, and encouragement in a letter. Just don’t leave any words of love go unsaid. Hearing expressions of love has a significant impact on a child’s development!

8. He spends the most precious asset: time

Where a person invests their time shows their priorities in life. Unfortunately, the intense period of a person’s career is often at the same time as the intense period of parenting. It’s essential to provide a good living to provide the basic needs for your children, but it’s also important to invest your time in their life. This is correlated with #1, showing up for the important things, and yes, nightly family dinners and tuck-in times are amongst the critical events in a child’s life.

I think of time like grains of sand on the beach. Each grain might be small, but together, they form a beach. Each minute you spend with your kids is like adding a grain of sand to the beach that is their life. Build a solid beach that won’t be washed away easily.

9. He is protective

Good parents want the best for their kids. It’s sometimes walking a narrow line to find the balance between allowing a child to be as independent as possible while also protecting them if necessary. As one of my friends said, he would gladly fight a bear to protect his daughters. Yet, he’s raised such strong, smart kids that he rarely has needed to intervene on their behalf. However, I bet his kids know that he would make any sacrifice for them, and that knowledge gives a person an inner armor of security.

10. He is supportive

A good father supports and encourages his children. This is easy if your kids follow the path you hope they choose. The real test is if they choose a lifestyle or career you don’t like or don’t understand.

Children should not be seen as a chance to live out our unfulfilled dreams vicariously. They are individuals with their own goals and plans. If you dreamed of your child being a quarterback in the NFL, but they prefer painting, it’s your job to go to their art shows with a smile on your face.

As the saying goes, there is no way to be a perfect parent, but there are hundreds of ways to be a good one. With the input of Facebook friends (a big thanks to them), I came up with these ten qualities, which I think are fairly universal. If you’ve noticed, none of these cost a penny. I also never mentioned genetics because sometimes the best fathers have no genetic connection to their children.

Being a good father costs time, energy, and investment of your heart and mind, but I promise the return on your investment will be abundant. Wishing you a Father’s Day filled with love!

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This is one of my favorite pictures because it represents my dad’s love. When I was a single mom, he often was at my house helping me work on projects. He gave me his time, his energy, and his heart.

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