25 of the Most Important Things a Dad Can Teach His Kids

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About Tom Burns

Tom Burns is a husband, a dad, and a veteran of the educational publishing industry, living just outside of Detroit Rock City. He’s also been a writer and contributing editor for a number of web sites, including 8BitDad, and founded BuildingaLibrary.com - a website devoted to helping parents find the right books for their kids. You can find him on Twitter at @buildalibrary.


  1. Great list of unconventional essentials, Tom.
    26. Read. Cultivate in them an appreciation for story.

  2. Beautiful. wonderful. made me smile. :-)

  3. paul kidwell says:

    How to tie a bow tie. When you meet a girl and you are wearing a bow tie; and she likes you, you know that she likes you for who you are, and not how you look.

  4. I have to respectfully disagree with you on the hot dog issue my friend. Mustard is concentrated evil.

  5. Thank God for good fathers!

  6. John Schtoll says:

    Ketchup is only for 2 things, French Fries and Fried Egg Sandwiches.

  7. paul kidwell says:

    Have been wearing a bow tie for nearly 30 years and it is my experience that it goes with all condiments.

  8. I think that you should teach your kids to eat what tastes good to them not what tastes good to YOU. Also, I love Doctor Who but bow ties are just awful. This article was about what a dad should teach his kids not just his sons. Just saiyan….

  9. Love it! But, strongly disagree with no. 1. Everytime I beat my 4 year old on UNO it teaches me that yes, I am smarter than my preschooler. In all seriousness, winning teaches you how to win, succeed and compete. Accepting repeat failure is disempowering and can lead to acceptance of mediocrity. Failure teaches. But so does success and winning!

    • I don’t entirely disagree with what you’re saying. I do think winning is great for positive reinforcement and I don’t think kids should be taught to accept failure. But, that being said, I think even kids who are driven and crave success learn the most by trying and failing. I worry more about kids who are constantly being affirmed as “winners” by their parents – the kids who are never really getting a chance to compete at high levels and, as a result, are never forced to push themselves, fail occasionally, dust themselves off, and try again until they get it right.

      So, I’m not anti-winning, but I don’t think kids really experience true success until they pay their dues, get some knocks, and learn to win – and, in my experience, kids learn to win by failing and then takign what they’ve learned and trying not to fail again.

      This is why I love the game-based model of learning. There’s an amazing experimental public school in NYC called Quest to Learn – http://q2l.org/about – where the curriculum is designed around game theory. At the school, “games work as rule-based learning systems, creating worlds in which players actively participate, use strategic thinking to make choices, solve complex problems, seek content knowledge, receive constant feedback, and consider the point of view of others.” It is a very cool educational model that creates a pedagogy model around some of the best aspects of game-based play, namely creating a safe place for students to learn through trial and error and rewarding accomplishments for hitting developmental milestones. (They actually refer to their tests as “boss battles”!)

  10. Also, how to climb a tree, fish, hunt, shoot, and paddle a canoe. Try getting your kid outside.

  11. Character is not about what you do when people are watching, it is about what you do when nobody is watching.

  12. Great list! It’s a lighthearted take sprinkled with some topics that are hard to approach with our kids. The simplicity of the harder topics is such a great approach.

  13. If a burger needs ketchup, it’s not a good burger. Nothing needs mustard, because mustard is disgusting.

  14. My god, Tom. This is so great, and I fucking hate list posts. And not only because it is fashionable to say that. There is so much subtle, nuanced wisdom in these 25 things worth teaching children. The biggest compliment, I guess, is that I wish to hell I wrote this!


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