Resources for professionals
How to Be a Great Dad
babies need their dad's attention
talking to baby is important
reading to baby
play is the most important work
a positive transition to parenthood
other benefits of being an involved father
communicating with his partner
having a positive attitude helps
How to Be a Great Dad
A parent's most important work is to make sure that their newborn feels safe, loved and respected.
Babies Need Attention
Dads need to know that babies need their attention. This is the most important thing. Babies learn from face to face interaction. The more time a father spends in stimulating play with his baby – such as playing pretend or telling stories – the better the children’s maths and reading scores will be at 10 and 11 years old.
Dads need to be doing things with their baby. That’s what builds the father’s bond and creates an attachment for the baby. Doing things are simply the same things the mother does:
talking to them
listening to and responding
changing the nappy
going for walks
putting to bed
These are what establishes their relationship. Doing these things creates an emotional bond that just becomes stronger and stronger with repetition.
Talking to Baby (a lot) Is Important
Fathers need to know that talking to the baby develops the parts of their brain that makes them clever. Talking to the baby (well before they can talk) teaches them how to listen and. A baby learns to speak by mimicking their father and mother talk to them.
One way a father can talk to his baby is for him to simply explain what he is doing as he is doing it, no matter if he’s doing the dishes, driving the car or making lunches. Asking the baby questions, waiting for them to take it in and paying attention to their response (even if it is gibberish) – as well as praising them when they do things – builds the baby’s brain. 52 Fathers need to know that they build their children’s IQ and EQ by talking to them a lot, right from the beginning.
Being told off is not the kind of talk that builds their EQ and IQ. Children who hear themselves being told off more have lower self esteem. And a baby will not understand what they are being told off for, so it does no good.
Talking to a baby is not all one way. When the adult talks to the baby and then leaves a pause, the child learns that it is their turn to response - and they learn that that's how conversation works. This is can important part of language development.
Reading to baby
Fathers (and mothers) reading to their children is another form of talking and is one of the important ways children learn language and reading skills them self.
Fathers need to know how important it is to to have books in the house and to read to their baby/toddler. Very young children may want to play with the book rather than read every page, and that’s fine. The important thing is that the father spends time with his child and that a book and story is involved. Reading to a baby stimulates the baby’s brain and motivates then to want to learn to read.
Toddlers often want to read the same book over and over again. Repetition is comforting for a baby. Knowing this may make it easier for fathers to read the same book for the 70th time! Reading to the baby should be enjoyable for the baby. If the baby isn’t into it, it's better not need to press it. Do something else with the baby and come back to reading another timer.
Like talking and reading, babies also enjoy being sung to. Singing is another way of building their sense of well-being. The father shouldn’t worry if people have told him he can’t sing, his baby will be an extremely forgiving audience.
Playing with the child, talking to, reading to, singing to them, are key predictors of the child being ready for school when the time comes.55
Play Is the Most Important Work
Fathers need to know that children need being played with. Playing with the baby is like putting money in the bank. The more playing-attention they get as a baby, the greater the reward later on.
Fathers need to know that babies love routines. Routines help them make sense of the world. Routines can also help parents create order around things like feeding, winding, dressing, the father (or mother) coming into the house after being away, playtime, changing the nappy, bathing, reading and putting down to sleep.
Fathers need to know that babies learn through repetition. Establishing routines and being as consistent as possible about how things happen to and around the baby creates patterns that the baby will learn to anticipate and help them feel reassured. Routines are good for baby and make caring for them more straightforward.
A Positive Transition to Parenthood
The transition to parenthood is challenging and it tests all couples’ relationships, sometimes beyond the skills or commitment of one or both partners. Some women may not understand this because they find themselves utterly absorbed with a baby who meets most of their emotional needs and takes so much of their energy. If the mother allows the baby to replace the couple relationship, the longevity of the couple relationship may be in jeopardy.
Other Benefits of Being an Involved Father
Fathers need to know that it supports their relationship with their partner when he is highly active in infant care. A mother whose partner is very involved with the baby will feel more satisfied with her couple relationship and is more likely to describe the family unit as being solid. And fathers who form an early bond with the baby are unlikely to drift away as the child gets older.
A father may need to be assertive about taking an active role in infant care if his partner wants to do all the caring herself or believes that baby care is her job alone.
Communicating with Your Partner
People strengthen their relationships by talking to and listening to each other. New parents’ lives are constantly changing and talking things through as they go will help them make the adjustments. Couples who have a positive transition to parenthood tend to be those who know each other well, communicate with each other honestly and care deeply about each other. If these aren’t all present before the baby is born, they can be expanded on after the baby arrives.
A Positive Attitude
The focus of the mother and father on how interesting and challenging (rather than on how hectic, difficult and exhausting) things are plays a role in how well they make the transition from being a couple to being parents. Noticing the cloud’s silver lining (rather than a pending thunder storm) is helpful for a positive transition to parenthood.