Action Steps

Close relationships with your kids that you and they will enjoy and will last a lifetime do not happen by chance. They are planted as seeds early on, nurtured throughout their lives, and carefully managed when your kids need a father’s love. I’ve coached and taught hundreds of dads how to do this. I’m here to help you if you want help. The easy-to-master fathering skills I teach work wonders for busy dads, married or not, who want to be great dads. Check out my FREE training videos for more.

An essential step in moving from information to transformation is taking action on all the good ideas you’ve read as well as your own strong desire to become a great dad.

With the worthy goal of real transformation in view, I’ve gathered together on this page all the practical suggestions and ideas I provide in my book How to Be a Great Dad—No Matter What Kind of Father You Had. This page on this site is provided so you can regularly come back to these action steps for inspiration and simple, practical ideas of activities you can do with and for your kids—activities that will help you love and enjoy them, affirm and encourage them, and foster your relationship with them as you shape their character and build their self-esteem, respect, discipline, and security.

You can also download a copy of these to post where you can see them regularly.  To download a pdf of these action steps, click here.

Verbal and Written Affirmations:

  • Verbally affirm each of your children every day for something. Catch them doing something right, and then surprise them by telling them you caught them. Specifically name what it is you saw them do or say or decide. Then praise them for it. The Great Dad Challenge™ is designed to help you do this.
  • Write a personal letter to each of your kids, and send it in the mail to them. Tell them in it some of the characteristics you see in them that you admire, appreciate, and love. Tell them how much you love them and how grateful you are that you get to be their dad. Tell them how special they are to you and why.
  • Print something like this below and leave it for them at breakfast one morning (or dinner one evening). Or stick it in their lunch bag so they find it at school. Print this one, or create your own with your own words.

Mom and Dad work hard to provide the money needed to house, feed, clothe, and provide recreation, vacations, and sports opportunities for our family. We do this because we love you so much and value our family time more than anything.

We really appreciate the contributions you each make toward the family’s well-being and happiness by doing the household tasks we ask of you. That really helps to make things manageable.

Thank you for all you do.

  • You can write the following affirmation starters on an index card and keep them with you or in the car. Then use them at random times or moments to verbally affirm your children.
  • One thing I admire most about you is . . .
  • One of my favorite memories with you is . . .
  • One of the funniest things you have ever done is . . .
  • One of my proudest memories of you is . . .
  • I like it when you . . .

Dads, we need to tell our daughters and sons:

  • How great we think they are.
  • How proud we are of them.
  • How great we think it is to be their dad.
  • How we wouldn’t want any other kid in the world besides them.
  • How lucky we think we are to have the kids we do.
  • How much we love them.

Unconditional and Unending Acceptance:

  • Print something like this below, and tape it to your children’s bedroom wall. Then read it out loud to them.

No matter what you do, no matter where you go, no matter how long it’s been, no matter what it costs. . .

As long as I have a penny, you’ll never be broke . . .

As long as I have food, you’ll never go hungry . . .

As long as I have a coat, you’ll never be cold . . .

As long as I have an arm, you’ll always be hugged . . .

And if I don’t have a penny or food or a coat or if my tired arms are too old to hug any more, then come and stand by my bedside and hold my hand, and know that as long as my heart beats in my body your daddy will always love you!

  • Consciously think about the difference between approval and acceptance. This is a tricky distinction many dads fail to make. We can disapprove of some action, behavior, or choice our child makes and still express unconditional and unending acceptance of them. That is so much easier said than done. But it is essential to being a great dad and helping our kids feel secure in our loving acceptance.
  • Write down for yourself (without showing it to your kids) what you disapprove of (for example, their hairstyle, a choice of a friend, their music or entertainment, or tantrums they throw), and then write next to each thing of which you disapprove: “But I love and accept you no matter what.” Do this as often as you need to in order to remind yourself and to help yourself act and speak in loving and accepting ways to your kids, even while still disapproving of whatever it is you don’t like.

Spoken and Physical Affection:

  • Tell each of your kids every day at least once how much you love them and how lucky you feel to be their dad. Then repeat this again in the quiet moments of saying good night at bedtime.
  • Show some sort of appropriate and warm physical affection to each of your kids every day.
    • Give them a hug, a kiss, a pat on the back.
    • Hold their hand.
    • Scoop them up and snuggle them on your lap.
    • Wrestle with them.
    • Stroke or brush their hair.
    • Tickle them.
    • Just get physically close to them and show them your love so they can actually feel it through your body.

Helping Your Kids Feel Your Love:

Here are a few practical suggestions you can use as you practice affirming, accepting, and showing affection to your kids. Try these, and make up your own.

  • Tell them daily something you see in them that is positive (affirming something about them). Say it out loud. A spoken affirmation is clear and powerful. If at all possible, touch your kids while you affirm them.
  • Tell them every day how much you love them and how glad you are that you are their dad. Something like, “I love you so much, my son/daughter. I’m so happy that you are my child and that I get to be your dad. I love you, and I’m so, so proud of you.” If you have a daughter, tell her often how competent and beautiful that you think she is and that you’ll love her always. Affectionate touch is important. For your son, tell him you’re proud of him and believe in him and you’ll love him forever.
  • For no apparent reason and at seemingly random times, hug them, hold them, and touch them in some appropriate and affectionate, even playful way to show your love for them and help them feel it.
  • Affirm them nightly at bedtime, especially when they’re young. If you pray, you might pray something like, “May God bless you and keep you and show his great and tender love for you this night, and always. And may his peace be with you. You are my beloved son/daughter, (use your child’s name here), and I am so well pleased in you. I will never leave you. I will never forsake you. For you are my son/daughter, and I’ll love you forever, no matter what.”
  • If you don’t pray, you can express the picture you have of a bright future for them and why you see that. Be as specific as you can. Point out and praise character qualities, interests, and skills you see in them and some ways you can imagine them using these to benefit others, perhaps even ways to build a career out of them or start a business. Help them feel the bright picture you have of their future and how proud you are of who they are becoming, what they have accomplished, decisions they’ve made, and people they’ve helped.
  • Make the most of special moments in their lives, and make them even more special by adding your affectionate affirmation to the moment.
  • Think deeply about milestone life transitions in your children’s lives—rites of passage. Plan a special affirmation for them to mark the occasion and imprint their soul with your delight in them and love for them.

Other Practical Suggestions:

Remember the following suggestions by the first word of each. Use the first letter of each word to spell three trees: a PALM, a FIR and an OAK.

PALM:

  • Practice regularly these action steps.
  • Attend live and virtual events with other men on fathering. I’ll keep you informed about the ones I present and others I support.
  • Listen to inspiring reminders and teaching related to fathering, life transformation, and healing. I do this often while I drive. Get CDs (such as the ones I produce for our Community of Dads, and others), audio messages, podcasts—whatever you can find. I will recommend specific resources for dads to The Community of Dads.
  • Meditate daily on the vision these practices will create in your mind of your best self as a dad. Napoleon Hill, the man Andrew Carnegie commissioned to interview 100 of the world’s most successful men and who recorded his observations in his phenomenal bestseller Think and Grow Rich, famously asserted, “What the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.” I teach dads how to do this, as I practice it daily myself.
  • Find and regularly visit websites such as www.thegreatdadsproject.org, www.tumblon.com, www.teachinghappines.com, www.zelawelakids.com, and others, as well as daddy blogs that inspire you toward your goal. See my suggestions in appendix B.
  • Identify some potential dad mentors and ask them, one by one, if they will spend some time with you, talk with you about fathering, answer your questions, and help you grow. Get my eBook or audio CD on “Fathering in Community” to learn more about this.
  • Read good books on being a great dad regularly. I help our Community of Dads identify these.
  • Organize family goals based on a Great Dad Purpose Statement and review them regularly. Get my eBook or audio CD that teaches dads how to do this: “Craft a Great Dad Purpose Statement.”
  • Attend or start a small group with other dads who share your commitment to being the best dad you can be. Get my eBook or audio CD, “Fathering in Community.” Then download a sample small group discussion guide from my website (www.thegreatdadsproject.org/smallgroups).
  • Kraft a Great Dad Purpose Statement, memorize it, and say it daily to yourself every morning during some quiet, reflective, meditative time. Think of creative ways to live your purpose statement each day in some way. I teach dads how to create their own Great Dad Purpose Statement and why to do so.

FIR:

  • Find and regularly visit websites such as www.thegreatdadsproject.org, www.tumblon.com, www.teachinghappines.com, www.zelawelakids.com, and others, as well as daddy blogs that inspire you toward your goal. See my suggestions in appendix B.
  • Identify some potential dad mentors and ask them, one by one, if they will spend some time with you, talk with you about fathering, answer your questions, and help you grow. Get my eBook or audio CD on “Fathering in Community” to learn more about this.
  • Read good books on being a great dad regularly. I help our Community of Dads identify these.

OAK:

  • Organize family goals based on a Great Dad Purpose Statement and review them regularly. Get my eBook or audio CD that teaches dads how to do this: “Craft a Great Dad Purpose Statement.”
  • Attend or start a small group with other dads who share your commitment to being the best dad you can be. Get my eBook or audio CD, “Fathering in Community.” Then download a sample small group discussion guide from my website (www.thegreatdadsproject.org/smallgroups).
  • Kraft a Great Dad Purpose Statement, memorize it, and say it daily to yourself every morning during some quiet, reflective, meditative time. Think of creative ways to live your purpose statement each day in some way. I teach dads how to create their own Great Dad Purpose Statement and why to do so.

Some Great Questions to Ask Your Kids to Generate Conversation:[1]

Fun, get-to-know-them questions:

  • What has been your favorite book? Movie?
  • What’s your most prized possession?
  • What’s one of your big dreams?
  • What is your favorite meal? Restaurant?
  • If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? And why?
  • If a fire started in our house, what three things would you take out?
  • Who are your top three heroes?
  • When did you have the most fun?
  • If you had $100 to spend, what would you buy?
  • What would you do if you won $1 million?

Some deeper questions that will help you get to know what your child is thinking—who he or she is becoming:

  • What makes you really angry?
  • What embarrasses you? And why?
  • When did you cry the hardest?
  • If you could do three things to change the world, what would they be?
  • What are five things you are really thankful for?
  • What is your greatest fear?
  • What causes you the most stress?
  • Who is your closest friend? Why?
  • What three things bug you most about your friends?
  • What makes you the happiest?
  • What makes you the saddest?
  • What was your greatest achievement this last year?
  • What was your greatest disappointment this last year?

Helpful, but risky questions to help you be a better parent:

  • What do you like to do best with me?
  • What do Mom and Dad do that hold you back?
  • What do we do that bugs you the most?
  • What do you like most about the way Mom is raising you?
  • What do you like most about the way Dad is raising you?
  • If you could change three things about the way Mom and Dad parent you, what would they be? And why?
  • What do you want most from me?

[1] I have adapted and revised these questions from Robert D. Hamrin, Great Dads: Building Loving Lasting Relationships with Your Kids (Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications Ministries, 2002) and Canfield, The Heart of a Father .


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