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Our Top Eight Tips for Dads

parents look at baby on couch

We asked ZERO TO THREE staff to share their top advice for dads. Here are their stories.

At ZERO TO THREE, we honor dads and all those who step into the role of “Dad”—grandpas, stepdads, uncles, and friends. We may have access to all the latest research on child development and tips for weathering parenting challenges, but when we think about our own roles as dads, our partners as dads, and our memories of our own dads… well, our favorite stories and best bits of advice are below. Wishing you wonderful moments with the children in your care—not just on Father’s Day, but on each and every day.

1. Ask Questions

man sitting with two daughters

Bernard with his two daughters.

“Taking care of the greatest love of your life—your child–is terrifying no matter their age. But someone has figured out a response to any problem. From getting a newborn to sleep, dealing with a toddler’s tantrum, doing hair or dealing with a bully, there’s a book, YouTube tutorial, or friendly parent that’s addressed the issue. Asking questions will save your sanity and make you a great parent.”

Bernard Fulton
Director of Government Relations

2. Check-In With Your Co-Parent

father kissing newborn

Donna Ruhland’s son-in-law with Nicholas, his sixth child.

“Make sure you and your partner are on the same page as much as possible when it comes to parenting philosophy. Explore ideas about infant care, social-emotional support and guidance, child care and education. You may find areas of differences or disagreements. However, work to find common ground so that you can always present a united front.”

Donna Ruhland
Senior Subject Matter Expert-Professional Development Systems
National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching and Learning

3. Find Ways to Stay Connected

father in rocking chair holding newborn

Jackie Kay and Dad Lon Yeary.

“My husband was gone a lot because he was in the military, so that was our way of life. He always sent our daughter and son their own little letters, drawings, and token gifts while he was away. We recorded video of him reading stories. He even made a read-along recording of a book so my kids could “read” a book with him, turning their own pages when they got a little older. It helped him stay active in their lives even when he was far away.”

Julia Yeary
Director of Training and Resources for Military Family Projects

4. Understand the Importance of Dad Time

father standing with son touching statue

Cathy’s son, Ian, playing with his son, Aiden.

“My dad was always present to share moments of play or discussion. He was down on the floor with puzzles, in the audience at recitals and always willing to drive the car pool. He paid attention to what my siblings and I were excited about. His caring extended to showing respect of others and to participation in the community. It is a joy to see how this caring participation in their children’s lives is being carried on in my son and son-in-law.”

Cathy Bodkin
Sr. Technical Assistance Specialist, Project LAUNCH and Healthy Start

5. Share Your Interests

parents looking at newborn sitting on couch

Kathy Kinsner with parents, Jack and Betty.

“Know that your kids want to spend time with you, doing what you’re doing! My dad invited us (three daughters) into the fabulous world of his basement woodshop, where we drilled, sawed, sanded, and stained under his watchful eye. To this day, I can’t go into a hardware or home-improvement store without thinking of him!”

Kathy Kinsner
Senior Manager, Parenting Resources

6. Embrace Your Parenting Style

dad washing baby in kitchen sink

Julia Richards and Dad.

“My dad was unapologetically himself – silly and goofy but also sensitive and emotional – with me. Seeing him be his “real” self was such a good example. It gave me confidence to be equally myself as my own personality was developing and to accept and embrace my own strengths and sensitivities.”

Julia Richards
Director, Products & Member Services

7. Be Confident In Your Role

father holding newborn in body wrap

Victoria Prieto’s son with his newborn.

“Dads, be confident in your own potential and competence in your caregiving abilities. Rise up and be present! My late husband was one who thought he would not be good enough to be a caregiver. All it took was a little nudge from me. I don’t think he ever regretted his involvement in the care of our two children.”

Victoria Prieto
Co-Director of Transcultural Initiatives

8. Find Time To Play

father sitting on floor with child

Cynthia and her Dad, Bob Dehner, circa 1972.

“My Dad was a great playmate! He was always ready to use his imagination and spend time with me. To this day, we still share those special memories that were made when we were playing.”

Cynthia Dehner
Senior Research Analyst/Writer


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