You love your kids. You want to be a good dad. But you aren’t sure if you’re “good enough” at this whole fatherhood thing. Plus, how do you even measure something like this? Do you just wait until your kids are 18 and hope for the best?
As someone who had a really good dad and wants to be a good dad himself, I’ve learned that small consistencies over time is what makes all the difference in the world.
The only question is, what small and consistent things should you do?
Here are five easy routines you can implement today to help you be the father you want to (and can!) be:
1. Schedule 15 minutes of playtime every day.
One of the most impactful things my dad did for my brothers and me growing up was to assure us that, no matter what, we would get to play with him every day. In fact, at one point he had a schedule with designated days where each one of us got to pick what we would all do.
Commit to 15 minutes every day of uninterrupted playtime. The easiest way to make it happen is to plan for it soon after your workday is complete. 15 minutes isn’t a lot of time, but to a kid, it tells them they are important to you.
The activity is irrelevant, what matters is the time you spend with them. Stick to it, and your kids will remember this for the rest of their lives. I know because it’s what happened to me.
2. Go on monthly one-on-one “dates” with your kids.
Whatever you want to call them, intentionally schedule one time a month where you do something outside the house with your child (if you have more than one kid, do this with each one individually). It doesn’t have to be extravagant and it doesn’t need to last all day. Two hours will do just fine.
My daughter, Finley, asks me all the time, “Dad, when are we going on another date?!” It most often consists of McDonald’s, going to a park, and walking around the pet store. That’s it. While we do simple things that she likes, she also likes that it’s only me and her.
So look at your calendar and pick a two-hour time slot this month to do this. Your kids matter to you, so schedule your time with them first so you’re not scrambling to find time for them later.
3. If you’re married, watch the kids so your wife can get away.
Men, please do this. Watching your children is not babysitting. You’re not doing your wife a favor. You’re their dad, so be their dad. Change their diapers, put them to bed, help feed them. If you’re married, don’t make your wife do everything. That isn’t honorable to your wife nor loving to your kids.
This means one of the best things you can do is intentionally have your wife plan a time or two each month where she’ll be able to get out of the house without the kids and do what she wants to do. It’s good for your marriage, good for your wife, and shows your kids you like spending time with them and love their mom.
Like dates for your kids, it’s best to proactively pick times for this at the beginning of the month so you can plan the rest of your schedule accordingly.
4. Speak well of your kids.
Raising children is hard and tiring. It’s OK to be honest with friends about your struggles and discouragements. That’s needed. I’m not saying you can’t ever complain or vent. But you should also be sure to talk about how you care about, appreciate, and are thankful for your kids.
As frustrating as parenting can be, you would do anything to protect and help your kids. Just speaking about how thankful you are for them helps you appreciate them, even when you don’t feel it.
Don’t let the only times you talk about your kids to others be when you’re annoyed with them. You love your kids, so make sure you speak well of them as well.
5. Eat dinner as a family without any devices.
I get it, the calendar is crazy and everyone always seems to have something going on. However, having at least a few undistracted dinners with your family every week goes a really long way. It shows your kids you value your family and don’t always have something “better” to do (as this is how your kids perceive it).
Turn the TV off and don’t put your phones on the table. Texts and phone calls can wait. It’s not even about how long you sit together but simply that you sit together.
These days, Christina and I have two young children. This means dinner is often short and filled with “Stop touching your sister” or “You have to take a bite.” But our kids know it’s time we are going to spend together. And whether they admit it or not, kids really like to spend time with their dad.
Being a father is a big deal, and you can do it well.
Don’t believe the lie that you don’t have what it takes to be a good dad. All it takes is choosing to do small things consistently. These five tips are easy to do, but their impact is immense.
You can do it. Your kids believe in you, and they are right to do so!
This post originally appeared on the author’s blog.