The National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) has been working to reverse the devastating trend of father absence since 1994. Through their years of research and work with dads, doctors, and psychologists, they've put together the following list of ten tips that'll help you be the best dad possible. For more on the NFI's tips, click here. And for more insights about fatherhood from celebrities and public figures, be sure to check out our Notable Dads section.
Respect your children's mother. When children see their parents respecting each other, they're more likely to feel that they are also accepted and respected. Otis Livingston, a sports anchor for CBS, knows that the healthiest thing he can do for his five children-Alexandria, Hayley, Otis Jr., Marcellus, and Marquis-is to always treat their mom as an equal. "My wife Nikki and I are best friends and partners as parents," says Otis, who is a member of the board for both the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the New Jersey Music Workshop for the Arts. "I'm careful never to talk down to her because I want to make sure our children grow up honoring and respecting her. It's also important to us as parents that the kids never feel like they're the cause of any issue we may be having with one another, so we do our best to keep any disagreement or problem we may be having with one another well out of their earshot."
Spend time with your children. Spend time with your children. Treasuring children often means sacrificing other things, but it's essential to spend time with your kids. Missed opportunities are lost forever. That's why former New York Mets first baseman Marlon Anderson tries to steal home as soon as he gets the chance. "I've got three children, and they're so much fun to be with," says Marlon, dad to Zoe, Caleb, and Hannah. "We all love going to the park together and just running around and having a good time. Sometimes we just relax at home, goofing off as we play their favorite board game."
Earn the right to be heard. Earn the right to be heard. Begin talking with your kids when they are very young so that difficult subjects will be easier to handle as they get older. Take time and listen to their ideas and problems. Kevin Clash, the man behind the voice and movements of Elmo on Sesame Street, always made sure he kept the lines of communication open with his daughter, Shannon. And now he's reaping the benefits of having a daughter who lets him know exactly how she's feeling. "I love how she communicates," says Kevin of his daughter. "If there's something she really doesn't want to talk to me face-to-face about, she'll get on the computer and e-mail it."
Discipline with love. All children need guidance and discipline, not as punishment, but to set reasonable limits. Remind your children of the consequences of their actions and provide meaningful rewards for desirable behavior. And never underestimate the power of positive parenting. "Limit the number of times you say no," advises Commissioner Robert Doar, head of the NYC Human Resource Administration Department of Social Services. "Kids want to hear 'yes.' I can't stress that enough. Children respond to positive reinforcement much better than they do to negative reinforcement." So be sure to "catch" your kids when they're being good and behaving correctly. Praise them for it! In the long run, it will cut down on the number of times you'll have to discipline them for poor behavior.
Be a role model. Your child looks up to you whether you realize it or not. Fathers can teach sons what's important in life by demonstrating honesty, humility, and responsibility. Dads even serve as role models to little girls too. "I'm the first man to have ever fallen in love with them, and they'll always know that I love them condition free," says Billy Bush, cohost of Access Hollywood, of his three daughters. "My job as Dad is to set the example for what they should expect from their own future husband. It's the only legacy that truly matters to me. I once heard that women get 90% of their ability to love from their moms, and 90% of their self-esteem from their dads. I believe it, and I'm working very hard to deliver confident girls who truly love and like themselves."
Be a teacher. A father who teaches his children about right and wrong and encourages them to do their best will see his children make good choices. Hip hop artist and children's book author LL Cool J is dad to four kids, and he stresses the importance of making some life and career choices with both his children and his young fans in mind. "Hip hop often gets a bad rap as being overly violent, and while that is certainly some artists' reality and therefore their music's content, there are also positive aspects that are often overlooked," says the music legend, who hopes that his brood can learn from both the good and the bad in his past. "There is a lot of pressure today to be perfect and the truth is there is no one who truly is. All we can do is teach our kids to always strive to be their best and to make smart choices. Kids need to be influenced in a positive way, and hip hop is a powerful medium. It's had a positive and transforming effect on my life, and to not utilize it to teach that new generation is a waste of its potential."
Eat together as a family. Sharing a meal together gives kids the chance to talk about what they are doing and want to do. It's also a good time for fathers to listen and give advice. When he's not working for the people of New York City, you can bet that Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is engaging his own kids-Chiara and Dante-in lively discussions at the family dinner table. "I always like to catch up on everything that's going on in my kids' lives, from what happened at school to what type of music they're listening to and what they did with their friends all afternoon," says Bill. "Meal time is a great time to just relax and catch up with one another, and really reconnect as a family. I also like that my kids know that there's a time of the day where they can have my undivided attention and ask me for my advice on anything that might be going on with them."
Read to your children. Instilling a love for reading in your children is one of the best ways to ensure they will have a lifetime of personal and career growth. And it's never too early to start. CBS 2 News at 5 and CBS 2 News at 11 anchor Maurice DuBois started reading to his son Brandon practically right after he was born. "We've started reading some very basic kiddie books, like Horton Hears a Who," says Maurice, "He sort of lights up. I think colors and the pictures grab a newborn's eyes. I'm not sure about the words necessarily, but as long as you can get it in there that words and books are important, and this is something that is part of what we do, I think that's a great start."
Show affection. Children need the security that comes from knowing they are wanted, accepted, and loved by their family. Fathers need to feel both comfortable and willing to hug their children. So even though he's got to put his game face on when he's on the field, New York Yankee Jorge Posada admits to being a big softie when it comes to his son Jorge and daughter Paulina. "There's no greater feeling in the world than coming home from a game, whether we won or lost, and getting a big hug from my kids," says the Yankees catcher. "And I love it when the Yankees play at home, because then I know that I can be home to tuck my kids into bed and give them a kiss goodnight. I want them to always know that I love them and I'm there to protect them. During the day, I'm also big on head pats and high-fives."
Realize that a father's job is never done. Even after children are grown and ready to leave home, they will still look to their fathers for wisdom and advice. Former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson, for example, has always been eager to share his life experiences with his daughter Jennifer. "Every lesson that I have learned, I am sure she has learned-or will-as well," notes Bill, a lifelong resident of Brooklyn and the son of a judge and a teacher. "My daughter knows that she can always come to me to talk about any hurdles or to ask for advice. I do my best to help, and am proud to see that she is grounded enough to figure out much of them on her own. But it is nice to know she still appreciates her father's insight!"Meet the real NYC DADS in the advertising campaign