A Simple List of 100 Ways to Be a Good Father

100 ways to be a great father photo by kamsky

Derek Markham wants to share with dads what he has learned, in hopes it will help. Please add to the list. 


How do we learn about Fatherhood? We all want to be great dads, but chances are, our fathers never sat down with us and taught us how to be one. And we don’t necessarily want to be our fathers. I mean, we want to emulate their positive influence on us, but we also want to do it our own way. No matter who we are, though, we can always improve our relationship with our kids and our spouses, and we can redefine the meaning of fatherhood each and every day.

There’s not as big of a movement toward better “fathering” as there is toward better mothering. No big fancy fatherhood magazines, no Oprah for dads, no real exchange of fatherhood improvement programs. But there’s a bunch of great dad blogs out there and more and more fathers who are out in the world setting great examples.

I may be a crappy dad sometimes, but I hope that I’m always learning how to be a better father, so here are some of my thoughts on fatherhood I wanted to share with you.

If you have something to add, I’d love a comment about it.


100 Ways to Be a Better Father

  1. Be present with your children.
  2. Heap lavish amounts of praise on your kids.
  3. Focus on the positive when speaking to your children.
  4. Say I love you. A lot.
  5. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions to your family.
  6. Work on improving your relationship with your wife or partner.
  7. Take time out from work for family time.
  8. Laugh at yourself. Regularly.
  9. Listen to your kids with all of your attention.
  10. Learn new things by teaching your children about them.
  11. Start a personal journal.
  12. Hold your kids accountable for their actions and words, but don’t use punishment to teach.
  13. Leave your watch and phone on your desk sometimes.
  14. Make a meal for your family.
  15. Do something wacky and unpredictable in front of your kids.
  16. Spend some time one-on-one with your child.
  17. Get moving. Have a fitness plan in place and get your kids to join in.
  18. Take more walks, and leave the car at home.
  19. Fall in love with your wife. Again.
  20. Admit you’re wrong when you are.
  21. Forgive your dad for any grudges you hold against him.
  22. Teach a new dad what you’ve learned so far.
  23. Take time for yourself, so you can bring that sense of fulfillment with you to the family.
  24. Remember what you hated to hear from your parents as a kid and vow to be different.
  25. Read out loud to your children.
  26. Leave your work issues at your job. Don’t dump on your kids because you had a rough day.
  27. Drop your change in a jar each day. When full, open a savings account for your child.
  28. Once in a while, ask your kids what you can do better. Then do it better.
  29. Hugs and kisses are golden. Be generous.
  30. Let your kids make their own choices. Sometimes.
  31. Get out in nature with the family.
  32. Count to 10 before you react to your children’s actions.
  33. Remember that kids mirror our actions, so watch what you say and do around them.
  34. Parenting is a shared responsibility. Jump in and do something mom normally does.
  35. Learn from your elders—ask them what they’ve learned as fathers.
  36. When a child does something not so nice, separate their actions from them in your mind. A child is never bad, even though their actions may be.
  37. The next time you feel like giving up on something, do it anyway and use it as a teaching moment.
  38. Remember that everyone is somebody’s child.
  39. Listen to yourself. Do you sound like your dad? Is that a good thing?
  40. Give yourself a break. I haven’t met a father yet who doesn’t make mistakes.
  41. Unplug the TV and pretend it’s broken once in a while. Or hide it.
  42. Go with your child to school once in a while. Meet the teacher and ask how you can help.
  43. Make your health and fitness a priority so you’ll be around for your kids for a long time.
  44. Teach the value of service to others by volunteering in your neighborhood, church, or school.
  45. Write love notes and leave them for your kids to find.
  46. Read a book about fatherhood.
  47. Write a book about fatherhood.
  48. Make some snacks for the kids as a surprise.
  49. Speak as one with your wife, so your kids don’t play you off on one another.
  50. Do you say yes all the time? Use no when you mean it, even if they don’t like it.
  51. Do you say no all the time? Say yes once in a while.
  52. Snuggle with your kids.
  53. Show your wife respect always. Make sure your kids do also.
  54. Take the time to really explain things to your children. Don’t just say “because I said so.”
  55. Ask for help if you need it. Don’t suffer from excess pride.
  56. Accept who you are, but don’t settle. Strive to improve yourself every day.
  57. Smile at your children and your partner.
  58. Make amends when you’re wrong or grumpy or harsh with your kids.
  59. Periodically assess your life and change course if needed. Don’t be unhappy just because you think you can’t change.
  60. Take a class or learn a new skill with your kids.
  61. Act as if you’re the best dad ever.
  62. Imagine you’ve only got one week left to live. How would you treat your kids? What’s stopping you from doing that right now?
  63. Let your kids see you cry.
  64. Explore every park in your town.
  65. Once in a while, take a day off and spend it with your family.
  66. Find out about your family history and start sharing it with your kids.
  67. Give high fives for each tiny accomplishment they make.
  68. Get out of debt as quick as you can, and teach your kids about the value of being debt-free.
  69. Take a big leap; teach your children about trust, faith, and the virtue of following your dreams.
  70. Get down on their level and try to see things as they do. Chances are, you’ve forgotten what it’s like.
  71. Learn some really corny kid jokes and use them often.
  72. Hold a family meeting and get your kid’s input on important decisions.
  73. Don’t just give your kids the answers to questions. Show them how to find the answers.
  74. Remember, they’re never too old for piggyback rides.
  75. Have patience with your children. Don’t expect them to be perfect.
  76. Don’t insist on conformity. Let your kids follow their dreams, not yours.
  77. Hold their hands, literally.
  78. Remember to let your children save face. Embarrassing them in front of their friends is not cool.
  79. Keep your relationship issues between you and your wife. Don’t let your kids take on all your crap.
  80. When your children were babies, you gushed over them. Do the same thing for them now.
  81. Don’t gossip around your kids.
  82. Stand up for the weak, the oppressed, the underdog.
  83. Grow a beard. (Actually, I just put that in to see if you were paying attention.)
  84. Take your child to work with you and explain what you do for a living.
  85. Make something by hand with them. Don’t worry about perfection, just enjoy the process.
  86. Once in a while, give them a “get out of jail free” card.
  87. Tell your children how much they mean to you.
  88. Follow through on your promises to them.
  89. Give your kids responsibilities.
  90. Speak to your children as your equals. Give them the respect you ask for.
  91. Plan surprises for them and keep them guessing.
  92. When speaking to other adults, act as if your kids were listening.
  93. Play games with your children. Let them win sometimes, but don’t make it obvious or easy.
  94. Before you walk in the door from work, take some deep breaths and leave your work outside.
  95. Give mom the day off once in a while, and get the kids to help you pamper her.
  96. Be generous with your time, your energy, and your money. Give freely to those in need.
  97. Cultivate your Fatherhood Superpowers.
  98. Don’t let other adults get away with unacceptable behavior around your kids.
  99. Remember the Golden Rule. It applies to your children as well.
  100. Find your center and define what truly matters to you. Make that your inner retreat when life throws you a curve ball, and share that with your kids.

What have I missed? Please leave a comment with your addition to this list.

Photo: kamsky / flickr

About Derek Markham

Derek Markham is a writer, father, and social media butterfly who builds websites and teaches small business owners how to integrate new media into their marketing and PR efforts.


  1. I have only one aim:- to try to show my son how to be a good father. That’s it – everything else in my life leads to that one goal.

  2. Mathinson Rondon says:

    i want to be a good father and some margin on her truth like so many other dads.

  3. Great list! Thank you!
    I would like to add that learning how to communicate with empathy is very important, especially for those days they come home from school having a hard time dealing with drama. On that note I would suggest learning the method of Non-Violent Communication (NVC)… Truly amazing stuff that I’m already finding to be life changing.

  4. Awesome! I find it also works to swap “dad” for “teacher” in most of these. Is anyone on this site a trained teacher? ALL your blog entries correspond extremely well to the value ground in the curriculum. 🙂

  5. Chris Hoffman says:

    Teach them to dance like waltz,jive, salsa,folk,Irish, from your culture! Tell boys ok to enjoy dancing! Often boys told at young age,only sissys dance & then expected to dance. With girls when their older. Maybe why nervous dancing later for many. Tell girls if nice boy asks you to dance, probably took courage to ask her.dance with or if keep asking & saying No,he will stop asking forever. If jerk ok to say No. Not have to dance all night with nice boy but you may both enjoy it.

  6. I had an absent, withdrawn, neglectful Dad, but I had a Mother that made up for the vaccum in every way she could, and lo and behold, I write parenting books and give conferences trying to remind BOTH PARENTS to fall in love with their children and with life, all over again, day after day… I thoroughly enjoyed your list, agree with all 100, but I think that parenting is figured out in the doing, in the daily interactions, the curved balls, the unexpected challenges, angles and catastrophes that test our mettle, and that’s where we truly show our kids we are in it for the long run, and we are never, ever giving up on them. I grew up a lot by reading “Far From the Tree”, and I think my definitions of parenthood and humanity have been forever altered by that phenomenal read. A Big Hug to you and your intentions across cyberspace! much love, Lina.

  7. lbrother517 says:

    Hmmm I’m Wondering about “Hold your kids accountable for their actions and words, but don’t use punishment to teach.”

    “Don’t use punishment to teach?” I don’t get it. Every time you punish your child IT SHOULD BE TO TEACH them something… You hit your sister. You have a time-out. You lie to me. You get spanked. I mean… This is why you punish you child?

    So how do you hold them accountable without punishing to teach? Sounds to me like a contradiction?

  8. 101: Stand up for your child, and your way of parenting, when you truly believe the mother to be in the wrong.

    • lbrother517 says:

      This should NOT be done in front of the child though. Should be done between Father and mother in privet. And if the outcome is that the mother or father is in the wrong. They should confront the child and apologize for wrongful behavior together. They should operate and 1 unit.

  9. Wonderful list, Derek. Agree with all of them!

    Here’s my contribution I wrote for Expert Beacon.


  10. This is simply wonderful. From a mom of 4…great words of wisdom! ♥

  11. It turns out I look good with a beard …

  12. Great list, Derek. As an (older) father of 6 (and a stepfather for another two, and a host father to two more), I can very much rely to these 100 tips. And I’m going to work on all those I haven’t achieved to this day. Would you allow me to translate it into French (my native language). I would like to post the translation and link to this page on my professional website, http://www.martinwinckler.com (i’m a physician and a fiction and non fiction writer). Let me know. And thanks again for this.
    Marc Zaffran, a.k.a Martin Winckler

  13. Great list Derek, you’re a Good Man and I like a lot of your tips.
    For me the best one is #40 (“Give yourself a break. I haven’t met a father yet who doesn’t make mistakes”). So true! Perfection is an image in our minds that can make us feel we are loosers if we make mistakes.
    I found out that for me the secret of improving myself is
    (1) accepting fully the man I am today and
    (2) keep on striving to be a better one tomorrow.
    You wrote that sometimes you are a crappy dad. I’d say you already are a good father who is always trying to be a better one. For me this is what makes you a Good Man!
    Thanks for sharing,

  14. MaximumZero says:

    As a single father, a few of those don’t apply to me! I want my money back! 😛

  15. Derek Gillette says:

    Great list. Not to self promote too much, but my new book for Dads follows a similar theme. “How to Be a Man: a Father & Son Guide” offers talking points for traits to pass on to the next generation, creating young men of high character. http://t.co/iPyiK946

  16. 2. Lavish praise. I’m in favor of praise, although a lot of people out there seem to think that over-praising kids = the downfall of our Republic.

    22. Teaching new dads – the best advice I got as a flustered new dad was “the dust will settle”. Anything more could possibly morph into Daddy wars.

    43. Fitness. This is important for you and Mom, too. Those jogging strollers work for some people, but that 20 minutes or so a day of healthy, grownup exercise however you get it does wonders for your morale. I suggest putting big commitments like triathlons, climbing Mt. Everest, etc. off to a later date, especially if you are already working big hours. The kids are only little once.

    71. Kids love jokes. You can tell some pretty clever family-friendly jokes, which leads to…

    72. Kid input on family matters. My attitude has always been: don’t dumb it down for the kids. You can dumb some things down, but chances are your explanation to the seven-year old how an air conditioner works won’t be to complex anyway. Use the appropriate vocabulary. Kids get smart at home more than they do at school.

    I would also add: Hobbies. Don’t forget what you like to do outside of working and being a Dad. Your kids will pick up on these interests. Hint: the hobby should probably be non screen-related. Also: Friends. Sometimes you end up making friends with your kids’ friends parents. But at any rate, have friends.

  17. Ng kong wee says:

    This my first child in my life, I been waited for four years. Everything I do is for my son Louis ,but my wife feel i am over anxious. You can understand how I feel. Want to make thing right but people don’t appreciate .

  18. Ng kong wee says:

    Maybe i am not the best but iwill try.

  19. Michael Nellis says:

    101: Teach your children to read by plunking them down in your lap, or next to you in the big comfy chair if they can sit on their own, and read to them as if it was a game. Make up silly voices for the characters, make up sound effects for the actions going on, and do this every time he or she brings a book to you.

    102: When they are still young enough for it: Read to them at bedtime, BUT — only one story at bedtime; this must be a hard and fast rule so they cannot use the bedtime story read as way of stalling.

    103: When they are old enough: Bedtime should mean: in bed, resting quietly, although not necessarily going to sleep immediately; the child should be allowed to stay awake with the lights on and to read for as long as he or she wants. They’ll turn the lights out for themselves when they are ready to actually go to sleep; of fall asleep anyway and you can turn the lights out for them later.

    104: Trust your child to choose what to read for themselves; they will pick will pick whatever is interesting for their age and skill level. But do read what your child is reading; not to pre-approve it, but because it will give you common frames of reference when he or she comes to you for advice.

  20. I’m going to print this wonderful list out and give it to my husband who is also a great dad for father’s day! If you would like to share something you are thankful for about your dad visit my blog http://www.sharingthanks.blogspot.com and leave a comment. All comments will be featured in my father’s day sharing thanks post.

  21. Ricardo says:

    Very nice! I became a father last year and I’m discovering everyday the magic of my child. Your list will be very useful to me. Thanks.
    The point 97. is about Fatherhood superpowers but the link is not working anymore… where can I find the article. I’d like to develop some!

    Regards and happy Father’s Day!

  22. Thank you for the tips, I will put them to use with my son. And mym wife doesnt like my scratchy beard.. ;)..

  23. Your child says:

    Fantastic list, although speaking from experience, #53 should be #1.

  24. To be a good father first to be friend second try to be a good father

  25. Great article, ever thing about making this a book to go a little bit more in depth?

  26. This is a great article! We have posted it on the Men Stopping Violence facebook page and hope that others will pick it up.

  27. as a father of 3 and soon to be 4 I foget some things sometimes but your list just reminded me of some of them and gave me new ideals great list and I already have a beard : ) thanks for taking the time to post this

  28. as a new and very nervous dad, i find your list full of many things that are really simple to do. thanks so much for taking the time to post this!

  29. Love the list, except for number 2.


    • Thanks! While I concede some of those points in the article you linked to, my intent was really just to compensate for all of those dads (or moms) who NEVER give praise or acknowledge their kid’s accomplishments.

  30. you are an inspiration, thank you.

  31. great list. i see a book with 100 chapters!!

  32. A fantastic list. Not one objectionable item, which is rare in a list of 100 , and several outstanding ones.
    My addition: Throw your kids high in the air and dangle them from their ankles – it improves brain development – at least that’s what I tell my wife.

  33. AWESOME list. I’m working on my beard 😉 . There are many items here that I try to practice daily, fail at daily, and try again the next day. Thanks for taking the time to publish this.


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