There are lots of lists on how to be the best dad. They range from the complex to the simple—take them huntinglisten to themlove their mom.

We can focus on externals, things we can’t control, or lessons we should teach them (make your bed, eat breakfast, talk nice). I’m more concerned about how we treat them and what we model for them. I always wanted to be a supermodel, and this is my best chance.

RELATED: Being a Dad is the Best Gig There Is

I’m a father of four. I don’t always get it right. A lot of the time I get it wrong, sometimes very wrong. When I’m tired, hungry, and grumpy, sometimes the kids carry the brunt. I’m not the perfect dad, nor the best.

What I have done is listen.

I’ve listened to people speak about their deceased parents (I’ve officiated about 100 funerals), I’ve heard fathers with grown children speak of their regrets, and I’ve listened to youth speak of the struggles they have with their parents (eight years as a youth pastor).

From my experience, study, and trial and error with my children, these three things appear to be the most important:

1) Apologize to your kids.

If there is one thing the world needs, it’s for people to be able to admit when they’re wrong, say sorry, and act differently. We teach our kids to say sorry to each other or their superiors as though the only people they need to apologize to are their peers and those who are in charge of them. But what about those they assert their power over? What about parents and children? Or as they grow older, bosses and employees?

When we apologize to our children, we teach them that even though no one can force us to say sorry, we choose to, because it is what is right. It teaches children that accountability is essential and that, first and foremost, we need to be accountable to ourselves. If we expect others to apologize for their mistakes, so should we.

It would probably be a surprise to hear that a repentant parent is a strong memory. I hear about it countless times when interviewing a family for a memorial service. Even my strongest memory as a child is when my father apologized to me. Let’s teach our kids that we’re not perfect while they’re young—they’ll realize it for themselves soon enough.

2) Show affection and say “I love you.”

The best advice I ever received from someone was to say “I love you” and hug and kiss your kids. I recall a former boss/pastor telling me, “My biggest regret as a father is that I didn’t tell my kids that I love them enough, and I didn’t hug and kiss them often enough.”

Children need to know what appropriate masculine affection looks like. They need to know how to give it and how to receive it. In a world that is confused about how to express emotion, let alone affection, dads need to step up to the plate.

RELATED: You Need to Believe You Have What It Takes to Be a Great Dad

It probably has never been modeled for you. It will probably be hard. I know it was and is for me. Each year as my kids get older, I fight the thought that my sons are too old for me to kiss them goodnight. That’s when I remember the wisdom that was passed on to me. This world needs men and women who know what masculine love looks like.

3) Use your manners.

I have to be honest, number three is a hard one for me. I grew up in a military home—when your parents asked you to do something, you did it (and don’t make me tell you a second time). There was no “please” and “thank you.” While I do believe there are times when a task needs to get done, manners—as I have come to learn—are essential.

My wife and I increasingly strive to say “please” and “thank you” to our kids. Why? After all, you’re the parent and they’re the kid, they’re supposed to listen to you and do what you say. When we do not use manners with our children, we inadvertently teach them the powerful can demand compliance.

Manners teach our children about equality and free choice. In a world that is demanding, where violating rights is the norm, where we marginalize and divide people into categories according to stereotypes, we need to teach our children about humanity and equality. It seems like a daunting task, but when we use our manners when speaking to them and others, in a small way, we show them what that is all about.

Furthermore, we teach them about honor. When we use our manners, we demonstrate that other people have inherent value and we should give them dignity and honor, whether they deserve it or not.

Here’s a bonus tip from Jaidon, age 7 (who is home sick with a cold and fever):

4) Take care of your kids when they’re sick.

When I was a kid this meant chicken noodle soup, The Price is Right, and warm ginger ale. Now it is non-GMO dairy and egg-free chicken noodle soup, Youtube, and organic ginger and lemon tea.

Times change a little, but they still need us.

As parents, our most important job is to show them what it looks like to be a functional adult.

None of us will get it right all the time, but if we approach raising our kids with humility and grace—to them, ourselves, and others—we have taken an enormous step in making this world a little bit better.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Josh Trombley

I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia with my wife and four kids who keep me plenty busy. I also pastor a church I planted called, Life Boat Church. In my free time, I enjoy writing music, books, and blog. You can find more of my work at

God Redeemed the Broken Parts of My Infertility Story

In: Faith, Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Two young children walking on a path near a pond, color photo

It was a Wednesday morning when I sat around a table with a group of mamas I had just recently met. My youngest daughter slept her morning nap in a carrier across my chest. Those of us in the group who held floppy babies swayed back and forth. The others had children in childcare or enrolled in preschool down the road. We were there to chat, learn, grow, and laugh. We were all mamas. But we were not all the same. I didn’t know one of the mom’s names, but I knew I wanted to get to know her because she...

Keep Reading

God Has You

In: Faith, Motherhood
Woman hugging herself while looking to the side

Holding tight to the cold, sterile rail of the narrow, rollaway ER bed, I hovered helplessly over my oldest daughter. My anxious eyes bounced from her now steadying breaths to the varying lines and tones of the monitor overhead. Audible reminders of her life that may have just been spared. For 14 years, we’d been told anaphylaxis was possible if she ingested peanuts. But it wasn’t until this recent late autumn evening we would experience the fear and frenzy of our apparent new reality. My frantic heart hadn’t stopped racing from the very moment she struggled to catch a breath....

Keep Reading

My Husband Having a Stroke at 30 Wasn’t in Our Plans

In: Faith, Living
Husband and wife, selfie, color photo

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV) This verse in the book of Jeremiah has long been a favorite of mine. In fact, it’s felt relevant across many life events. Its simple, yet powerful reminder has been a place of solace, perhaps even a way to maintain equilibrium when I’ve felt my world spinning a bit out of control. In this season of starting fresh and new year intentions, I find great comfort in knowing...

Keep Reading

She Left Him on Valentine’s Day

In: Faith, Marriage
Husband kissing wife on cheek, color photo

“Can you believe that?” Those were the dreaded knife-cutting whispers I heard from across the table. I sunk deeper into my chair. My hopes fell as everyone would forever remember that I had left my fiancée on Valentine’s Day. Maybe one day it would just dissipate like the dream wedding I had planned or the canceled plane tickets for the Hawaiian honeymoon. Some bridesmaids and guests had already booked plane tickets. It was my own nightmare that kept replaying in my head over and over again. I had messed up. Big time. To be honest, if it made any difference,...

Keep Reading

God was In the Room for Our Daughter’s Open Heart Surgery

In: Faith, Motherhood
Child's hand with IV

I’ve had a strong faith for as long as I can remember, but I always felt bad that I never had a “testimony.” I had never gone through something that made me sit back and say, “Wow, God is real, He is here.” I have always felt it to my core, but no moment had ever stopped me dead in my tracks to where there was no denying that it was God. And then, that moment happened to me on December 5. After five months of fervently praying for a miracle for our daughter, the day came for her heart...

Keep Reading

A Benediction for the Worn Out Mother

In: Faith, Motherhood
Woman leaning against kitchen counter, black-and-white photo

Blessed are you, Father, for bestowing upon me the honor of motherhood. For allowing me to experience the deep joy of bringing forth life—a joy I often take for granted and instead choose to begrudge. My children’s cries and demands have worn me down. I do not recognize myself. I selfishly long for the old me. My thoughts are an intangible mess of never-ending tasks, self-criticism, and comparison to those around me. RELATED: God Sees You, Weary Mama But Your word says you are near to the broken-hearted and downtrodden. You do not forget the cause of the tired and the...

Keep Reading

God Doesn’t Forget You When You’re Lost and Unsure

In: Faith, Living
Woman looking into camera, color photo

I’ve been wandering around feeling lost for over a year. Wondering where I’m going, what I’m supposed to be doing. Nothing seems to make sense. I felt purposeless. I felt stuck. I questioned everything: my faith, my marriage, my career—if it could be questioned, I doubted it. And I was completely clueless how to fix the funk. For over a year, I’ve been in the wilderness. I’ve wanted to find my way, but every path seemed like another dead end. The wilderness. I’ve been residing there. Not feeling fed. Not feeling heard. Not feeling seen. Struggling to find a purpose....

Keep Reading

And Then, the Darkness Lifts

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother with baby smiling

Today when I woke, it had lifted, like sunshine peeking after rain. And as my toddler clicked on the lamp beside my bed to see her mama, I saw me too. I got out of bed and I walked down the hall. And the coffee pot sat there waiting for me, as always, like my husband at the kitchen table with his books. He smiled at me, and I think he could tell as I took my medicine, took down a mug, and poured my coffee. I opened the secretary desk and pulled out the chair and my Bible, like...

Keep Reading

Joy in This Stillness

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother holding sleeping toddler, color photo

I woke up suddenly in a sweat while it was still dark. Except for the humming of the oxygen machine, the house was silent. For a moment, I thought I might have time to enjoy a cup of coffee before my son woke up. However, a glance at my daughter’s crib told me that feeding my caffeine addiction would have to wait. My daughter has a terminal brain disorder called Lissencephaly, a side effect of which is uncontrolled epilepsy. Many mornings, a subconscious recognition that she is having episodes of repeated seizures rouses me from my sleep. Throwing on a...

Keep Reading

Sometimes All We Can Do Is Say How Hard Motherhood Is

In: Faith, Motherhood
Tired mom with baby in foreground

I have been sitting in the peace and quiet of the office to do some long overdue Bible study for all of five minutes when the baby wakes up. With a heavy sigh that is becoming all too common, I go to the bedroom to pick up my fussy, probably getting sick, 8-month-old daughter who has been asleep for approximately 15 minutes. I bring her to the office and put her on the floor with some new books and toys. Sitting back down in front of my own new book of Bible maps and charts, I begin reading once again....

Keep Reading