1.Get real - It is not going to happen. Even those dads you envied growing up had off days. There are none of us that will get it all right all the time. Stop stressing about what you will never change. Take advantage of every minute you have. If you spend too much time worrying about being the world's greatest dad, when you look up you will see your child crossing the stage to receive a their diploma. Would you rather regret not being the greatest Dad, or not being a dad at all? Be what you can and your kids will love you in spite of your failings.
2.Don't dwell on yesterday - There is really nothing you can do to change what you have done in the past. If your kids are younger, then they probably don't remember you shouting at them yesterday anyway. If you accept your failures in the past, and move forward with your kids, then you will teach them a valuable lesson about life. They are not ever going to meet a perfect person. Everyone in their life will let them down eventually. Teach them to forgive and cherish all the todays and tomorrows in spite of disappointment. Just keep in mind that every minute you spend dwelling on what happened in the past you miss 60 seconds of being their Dad. That 60 seconds is what will make all the difference to your kids in the end.
3.Learn to laugh at yourself - Fatherhood can be hilarious. From the first time that Mom leaves you alone with the baby, to teaching them to drive. If you find yourself out of your element and out matched by a toddler, don't stress about it. I am certain other dads have done it all before. If your tween daughter grabbing her stomach awakens a horror you have never known, and the only thing you can think about is how the heck do you pick out maxipads, that is a great time to have a good hearty laugh at yourself.
4.Talk about God...ALOT - Adolescence was a difficult time for me in my faith. I found myself questioning everything that I had been taught since I was a kid. I grew up years ago. Kids today have their faith challenged on a daily basis. Friends and school will all challenge what they believe. Be real with your faith, and talk about it a lot. The bible talks about speaking of God. The list reads like a Dr. Suess book. At Home, on the road, when you stand up, and when you sit down. I am sure you get the point. Show them that it is not a childish thing to believe. Many responsible adults they know still believe in God. Be one of them, and make sure they know it.
5.Touch base with your Father - If we are honest with ourselves, none of us really won the lottery in the dad department. We love our dads, but they were broken in the same ways that we are. They fought a lot of the same demons that we deal with everyday. There is truly only one perfect Father. Get in touch with him. He wants to touch and heal you where your earthly father failed you. If we are ever going to be even decent dads then we need to apprentice with the one who created this job in the first place.
6.Get that you won't get it - Teenagers are so bizarre. I remember being such a strange character. Your kids will be no different from you. In an effort to exert their independence they may accept causes that make your hair stand on end. Shot they may even become a vegan (communist). If you stand back and try to figure them out, then you will miss the opportunity to just be their dad. If kids are anything like us, then those causes and abhorrent political views and dietary concerns will disappear with age. They may be just trying to see if they can make you have a heart attack! Accept who they are and love them. If you don't agree with them that just means you didn't brainwash them. That is actually a good thing. I would rather my kids have the ability to critically think about issues, then to just swallow anything they are told. It will make them better adults.
7.Our daughters are laughing at us - I am not sure exactly when it happened. I remember when my daughters were younger it was really easy to be spend time with them, then it just got awkward. Some of it is that I see that to my horror they are becoming beautiful young women. I am hoping if I don't mention it, then they will never realize they are not daddy's little girl anymore. When they were younger, I could treat them almost like boys. They loved to rough house and wrestle. They have since mostly grow out of that. At some point it got very difficult to find things to share together. I remember talking to my one daughter about how hard it was to find things to share. She laughed at me! She said all dads have trouble figuring out what to do with a teenage daughter! Crap. Someone gave her the secret dad book. Accept that it may be a lot harder to find daughter/dad stuff. Just keep trying. I am sure you will find a winning combination eventually. Honestly, in the end she just wants to capture your attention and delight in her company. That should be easy.
8.Get a CCW and buy a gun...or three - You bring home a tiny baby in little pink slippers, and the next day some delinquent is trying to take her to prom. We are guys and we know that there are no nice guys. Don't let your daughter buy that lie. Ok, so that is probably a little tongue in cheek, but having a high school daughter and a tween is more frightening than anything I ever faced in Iraq. I would seriously rather someone were shooting at me, then to see some little punk with his arm around one of my daughters. I am sure you all know what I mean. I was a teenage boy once. I know exactly what he is thinking about, and that is what has me scared to death. Tell your daughter what you thought about as a teenage boy, it will embarass the crap out of them and maybe they will get the point! Treat your daughter like a lady. Be so good to her that no boy will ever be able to hold a candle to you. Perhaps after being held up to your examples enough times, that little putz will give up and move on. We can only hope right. No boy ever died from being threatened with physical violence prior to a school dance, so do that often. Tell your daughter how precious her purity is. Let her know that if a guy can't respect that, then he is just not good enough. Tell her often that there are no boys good enough for her in area code. The best boys always live an hour or more away. Dad's love long distance relationships!
9.Not all boys play sports - Think back to high school. How many of the people you went to school with actually played on one of the sports team? It is definitely not all of them. Stop trying to raise the next Payton Manning! I am certain if you keep pushing him, then he is going to hate any suggestion you make. We are not all made for that type of competition. It doesn't mean that are boys are less masculine. Let them find their niche. I told you before that you will never get it, so stop trying. Stop trying to fit them into your own unrealized fantasy. Take them for who they are and support them.
10.Let them get bumps and bruises - Seriously, if you have never been to the emergency room with one of your kids, then you must be doing something wrong. They are going to get hurt. Pain is a valuable tool. It taught me to always look behind me when cutting across the road on my bike. In a few short years, their lives will be filled with its share of bumps and bruises. Let them learn how to cope with the pain in life. They may even learn that maybe jumping from the top of the swing set is not a wise decision.
11.Stand behind them - When they leave your home the world will spend countless hours telling them that are just not good enough. If you haven't taken the time to give them truth to refute those lies, then what will they do when they face that first big failure. Being in their corner will give them the strength to stand up and try again. This is can be a very cold world. Try your best to offer them enough warmth from dad, that they can weather the storms.
12.Celebrate real victories - When your kid is on the top, then be their biggest cheerleader. You should make it a point to try to embarrass them when they win. I mean real victories. I hate that they give out trophies for trying. That is not real life at all. If our job is to prepare them for the real world, then why would we delude them like that? Celebrate when they are a winner. Stand with them when they are not, and encourage them to try again. Celebrate their real victories and they will be pushed to do more than just try. When they don't make it. then they will try even harder.