Dads often do things differently to mums, but their role should never be underestimated.
That’s the Father’s Day message from dad and author Rob Kemp, who stresses: “Dads are different.
The way we play with our kids, the influences we have, and the bonds we form differ greatly from the way mums do things.
“But never, ever underestimate your influence upon your child and your role as a father – especially in the first years of their life.
"The bonds you build and the habits that form in this first stage of fatherhood can and will set the trend for the relationship you have with your children for years to come, and will have a crucial influence on how they interact with their own offspring too one day.”
Father-of-one Kemp, author of fatherhood books including the Expectant Dad’s Survival Guide and the newly-published Dadding It!, adds: “Kids don’t come with an instruction manual.
"They’re shaped by life-forming milestones and learn-as-they-go mistakes which you, as modern, responsible fathers, must be there to help them deal with.
"You’ll find that, time and time again, your offspring will turn to you for the answers. Knowing what those answers are is all part and parcel of being a dad today.”
Here, he identifies some landmark moments for dads, and suggests how to deal with them…
1. First public nappy change
Some expectant parents live in fear of that first nappy change, but the fear is worse than the act itself.
Cover the surrounding area with an old towel, then:
Keep your head back: removing a baby’s nappy and exposing their nether regions to cooler air can trip their personal sprinkler system, potentially giving you a soaking.
Keep their back flat: change your baby on a flat, stable surface, ideally with a changing mat.
Keep your tools to hand: like a surgeon about to perform an intricate operation, you need to surround yourself with the tools (baby wipes, disposal bags, nappy cream, fresh nappy etc.).
Keep them clean: clean and dry your baby thoroughly and apply any creams you’re using before putting on the fresh nappy.
2. Toddler tantrums
When your kid first kicks off a tantrum in your company it can be an unnerving experience.
Screaming, shouting, running off, holding their breath, lashing out, biting, kicking or dropping to the ground and performing a ‘stranded turtle’ dance on their back puts them in a whole new light.
On the whole, tantrums are born out of frustration. He or she wants to communicate something but hasn’t yet developed the language.
When tantrums do happen, or look like they’re about to, tactics dads have employed include:
Give a warning: prepare them for a transition to prevent a meltdown.
When it’s time to let another kid go on the Noddy car, let them know they have one more minute, or a last go.
Change the setting: try removing them from the immediate vicinity, which you’ll no doubt want to do when they’re screaming down the whole place.
Wait until they’ve stopped bawling, then explain to them – calmly – why their behaviour isn’t acceptable.
Give them choices: ‘What do you want to put on first – shoes or hat? ’ Tantrums are also a by-product of them wanting to be more independent.
3. Dad’s first day at the school gate
Dropping off and picking up your child at school can seem intimidating for the uninitiated dad. You’ll find kindred spirits among both men and women, eventually – but there are a few things you should know as a new school dad…
You can’t just leave: lunchbox, book bag, games kit, homework diary, coloured pencils, school jumper, sun cream, sun hat, reply slip to confirm attendance at school trip/after-school club/parents’ evening … Check! Child? Ooops!
Dads don’t talk: it will take a school social event, a nod of acknowledgement during the dads’ race on sports day or a close bond between your kid and theirs before two dads will strike up a conversation in the playground.
Say ‘yes’: PTA member, school trip helper, Father Christmas’ helper, sports team assistant, reading mentor, manning the tombola, or even parking warden – you’ll be asked to perform at least one of these duties if you’re a regular male face at the school gate.
4. Teaching your teen to drive
In a bid to reduce the amount spent on driving lessons or just to put an end to their pestering, you may find yourself letting your teen drive your car.
Once their instructor feels they’re ready to go out on the road more, then the pressure will be on for you to give them lessons – cursing the aforementioned instructor while you do.
For this one we’ve called in another expert – Dave Dunsford, a driving instructor at RED Driving School, and dad, who has plenty of experience of introducing kids to the wheel of his car.
He suggests you:
Practise on roads you both know well: so probably ones the instructor uses – but before you go, decide what area to cover.
Bring an imaginary friend: Pretend you have someone else, maybe a friend of theirs, in the rear seat. That should help keep things good-natured.
Focus on the positive: Encourage them all the time by focusing on what they’re doing well – it’s a learning process, so they’ll make mistakes.
Your role is to help them build on their strengths, boost their confidence on the road and get them more familiar with driving.
Dadding It! Landmark Moments in Your Life as a Father… and How to Survive Them by Rob Kemp, is published by Bloomsbury. Available now.