7 Ways My Dad Treated Me As A Kid That I’m Incredibly Grateful For Now

7 Ways My Dad Treated Me As A Kid That I’m Incredibly Grateful For Now
Parenting is hard, but rewarding.

“The imprint of a dad will forever remain on his son.” – Unknown

The connection between a father and his son is unique.

It influences them more than any rock band, high-school crush, or awkward first sex ever could because there are some lessons only a dad can teach you.

That’s why I feel for the 25% of children who live without a father at home. I was one of them, but luckily, my dad was still involved in my life. If you look at the statistics, he did me a huge favor.

Involved dads…

  • Improve the emotional well-being of their children
  • Make it less likely for the child to be mistreated
  • Reduce boys’ behavioral problems and girls’ psychological issues later in life

Being involved is great, but whether you have a son or daughter, parenting is difficult.

No matter how hard you try, you will make mistakes, especially if you’re busy with work and providing for your family. Good intentions don’t always mean good outcomes and dads often struggle with a society that diminishes their role in parenting.

Once I realized that, I stopped pointing fingers and started appreciating instead.

Even though my parents split when I was four, he still taught me a great deal about life and helped me become the well-rounded man I am today.

He Let Me Make My Own Decisions Instead Of Lecturing Me

If there’s one thing I learned about life, it’s that you are responsible.

Nobody is going to save you. Your government doesn’t care, your teachers might give a small damn if you’re lucky, and your parents will only be there for so long. You have to take responsibility for your life.

A few years ago, I thought about quitting a prestigious Master’s program to become a full-time writer. Most of my family called me stupid, but not my dad. He didn’t tell me it was a smart thing, either.

Instead, he wrote his opinion in a short letter without patronizing. He encouraged me to do what I think is right since I’ll have to live with the consequences.

These two short pages contributed more to a decision that made me happy than any “that’s what you have to do” sermon ever did.

I know it’s easy to assume you know what’s best for someone. You love your children, so you don’t want to see them make painful mistakes. But if you take responsibility for their decisions, you overlook two crucial factors.

  • You don’t know for sure what’s better for them. You have the life experience and foresight, yes. But you’re also subjective, biased, and caught in your perspective. Your life goals aren’t always theirs.
  • People have to make their own mistakes. Nothing teaches you more about burns than placing your hand on the stove. It’s tough to see, but sometimes your kids have to fall on their faces to learn the lesson. Let them make mistakes and support them in the aftermath.

Today, I’m glad I decided to become a writer – even if it didn’t work out, I’d be grateful for the experience.

What this will teach your children:

  • Responsibility for their life
  • Analytical decision-making abilities
  • Doing what makes them happy instead of what makes others proud
A boy standing next to his father with the text "Instead, he wrote his opinion in a short letter without patronizing. He encouraged me to do what I think is right since I’ll have to live with the consequences."

He Helped Me Escape My Comfort Zone

I’m 29 years old and have seen more than 99% of people my age.

At 18, I traveled through Australia for a year followed by another two months in Southeast Asia, the first trip of many. My mum asked me to come back instead of risking my life in dangerous places – mother’s love. My dad encouraged me to keep at it, hooking me up with a friend I could stay with.

One of the biggest gifts you can give your children is to support them when they break out of their comfort zone. It's tough, especially if it takes them 9000 miles and ten time zones away. But you’ll have to let them grow up.

If you want to give them the best the world has to offer, let them walk their path and find it themselves.

What this will teach your children:

  • Curiosity about the world and its countless beautiful places
  • Growth happens outside their comfort zone
  • Many amazing experiences they’ll never forget

He Told Me He’s Proud Of Me

“Boys do not ache for their father's masculinity. They ache for their fathers' hearts.” – T. Real

Boys – girls, too – will always seek their father’s approval.

Unfortunately, it’s something many dads keep locked up like gold reserves at Fort Knox, depriving their children of much-needed validation. I know tons of guys who stack money, girls, and achievements only for an approving nod from the man whose DNA makes up half of theirs. They’re caught in an endless cycle.

During one of our long, beer-fueled talks, my dad reflected on how I grew over time – from a partying womanizer to a man with values who’s serious about his goals.

When you’re a small boy, your dad is your hero. Unless he messes up like the guy who used indoor paint on my Grandma’s exterior house walls, he will always be. And few things feel as good as a sincere pat on the back from someone you admire.

What this will teach your children:

  • They are loved
  • They are valued
  • They are competent and have all reason to be confident

He Treated Me Like An Adult And Led By Example

Kids are much smarter than you think.

They do what they see you doing, not what you tell them to do.

When I was 15 and fought daily with my mum and grandma, I wanted to move to my dad’s place. Long story short, German legislation and a more than complicated situation between his new wife and my mum threw a wrench in the works. He handled the situation gracefully.

  • He treated me like an adult with adult needs, thoughts, and feelings.
  • He explained what was happening as it was, showing me the legal documents and everything related.
  • He didn’t smear shit on my mum despite her swinging the trowel.

If you want your children to become an adult, treat them like one.

When you tell them to behave a certain way but do the opposite, they’ll get confused at best and mimic your bad behavior at worst.

The best thing you can do is be a good example.

What this will teach your children:

  • How the adult world works
  • The importance of treating others with respect
  • How to be a good man

He Spent Quality Time With Me

No amount of gifts, words, or money can replace quality time.

When I was twelve months old, my dad did a parenting year and lived with me in a tiny apartment. A few years later, we tackled the final mission on his favorite computer games again and again until we succeeded. Once my legs were as long as his, we went on hiking trips together.

These are memories I’ll never forget (except for the parenting year where all I could do was babble and poop my diapers. I’m sure it was a great time though.)

If you want to leave an imprint on your children, give them the one thing that’s most valuable to any human being: Your time.

I’ll forever look back at ours with a smile.

What this will teach your children:

  • You enjoy spending time with them (basic, but important for a child to understand)
  • How much it means to be present with someone
  • The value of quality time

He Was Always Honest With Me And Admitted His Mistakes

“Do I want to be a hero to my son? No. I would like to be a very real human being. That’s hard enough.” – Robert Downey Jr.

The worst thing you can do is lie to your kids because they will find out.

When I look back at childhood talks with my other family members, I find more gaslighting than on an 1800s village street. I don’t blame them, but it left a bitter aftertaste. It’s also why I have a zero-tolerance policy regarding trust and lies. I don’t want my childhood trauma to repeat.

My dad was always honest with me and admitted his mistakes. When I asked him why he cheated on my mum and left us, he didn’t mince words. But even the most painful truth hurts less than a soothing lie.

This doesn’t mean you should blurt out all the ways your kids drive you nuts. There’s a huge difference between being honest and unnecessarily hurtful. But if they ask, don’t lie.

You’re not perfect – nobody is. But what you can be is real. That’s what your children will be grateful for.

What this will teach your children:

  • The value of trust and honesty
  • That it’s okay to make mistakes and admit them
  • Speaking the truth is always the better path in the long run

He Gave Me Space but Made An Effort To See Me

At one point, every kid wants to break free from home. It’s a natural and healthy process.

My dad has never pressured me to call, message, or visit him. At the same time, he has always made me feel welcome and put in effort to see me, riding his bike for hours and sleeping outside so we could spend a weekend in my city. Yes, he’s a little bit of an outdoor freak, but still.

You can’t force someone to be close.

Your children don’t owe you anything – they don’t have to visit you, give you regular calls, or come home to mow the lawn.

Instead, you have to let them go. It’s what makes them enjoy coming back, calling, and finding ways to spend time with you. When you meet or talk, it’s infinitely more valuable because they want it instead of feeling the obligation.

What this will teach your children:

  • The importance of giving people space
  • That there’s always a way if you want to spend time with someone
  • Appreciation for you and the value of your time together

Thanks, Dad

As a father, you have a huge influence on your kids.

It’s a huge responsibility and one of the biggest challenges you’ll ever face. Parenting is difficult and you will make mistakes no matter how hard you try. But you can also do many things your sons will be grateful for later.

  1. Let them make their own decisions instead of forcing your views on them.
  2. Support and help them escape their comfort zone.
  3. Tell them you’re proud of them.
  4. Treat them like an adult and lead by example.
  5. Spend quality time with them.
  6. Be honest and admit your mistakes.
  7. Give them space but make an effort to see them.

Do these and your kids will one day say the same thing I’m saying right now:

Thanks, dad.

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