top of page

How to be a Great Dad for Young Kids: 3 Simple Ideas

How to be a Great Dad for Young Kids: 3 Simple Ideas

The message dads have heard from family and in the media is that women are natural caregivers. Here is an example shared by the Institute for Family Studies of a blog post that tries to convince women that they cannot be career-oriented:

"Women's bodies bear babies. Hormones produce differences between the sexes in their brains and behaviors. Placing career achievement first creates a domino effect that shrinks the fertility window for women along with the pool of marriageable men." 

This is hogwash for a number of reasons.

Explicit or implicit, these messages exclude fathers, leaving fair-minded folks to conclude that fathers are not built to be caregivers. 

How we form our family units is deeply personal. There is great value to mothers without interest in prioritizing a career outside the home. In the same breath, men can do the same. The Company of Dads is highlighting many of these examples. 

It's common to beat the drum that a mother's brain and hormones change in preparation for a baby. What needs to be more widely reported is that this is also happening to fathers. 

Research finds that men who got married or became new fathers experienced much larger declines in testosterone than men who remained single and childless. Specifically, new fathers' testosterone dropped about 40 percent in the first month after they became dads. 

The study's author found through lab experiments that fathers with lower testosterone are more sensitive to infant cues, more in tune with their babies, and more affectionate with them.

Suzanne Venker failed to provide this insight in her post for the Institute of Family Studies. 

Here are three simple ideas for men to be exceptional fathers just after the baby arrives.


Subscribe to the Modern Husbands Newsletter for ideas sent to your inbox every couple of weeks. You will even receive a few gifts by subscribing.


1. Learn by doing

Women are often expected to magically understand the ins and outs of motherhood. At the same time, fathers are often seen as helpless men who need someone to explain to them how to do every parenting task, from changing diapers to burping the baby.

In our Transition to Marriage Toolkit, Dr. Coleman shared that such assumptions are bad for parenting and marriage. They lead to mothers often carrying an unfair weight of caregiving responsibilities, which can lead to maternal gatekeeping. 

Dr. Joshua Coleman is a psychologist and a Senior Fellow with the Council on Contemporary Families who has written for The New York Times and been a guest on the Today Show and Sesame Street. 

First-time parents are equally unprepared for parenting, irrespective of gender. So when the baby's diaper needs to be changed, take turns changing it. New mothers are not responsible for showing new fathers how to do it, and vice versa. According to Dr. Coleman,

"Both parents should learn by doing."

Making a bottle, burping the baby, and holding the baby tight when they cry are all parenting responsibilities that women should not feel compelled to explain to men, nor should men feel like they are not their responsibility. 

2. Take paternity leave

Dr. Brenda Volling is a developmental psychologist and, award-winning educator and researcher at the University of Michigan. Dr. Volling shared in our Transition to Marriage Toolkit that:

"When fathers have time to form early emotional bonds with their babies they are also laying the foundation for a strong secure attachment with their child, which is the most significant benefit. That attachment relationship is the basis for all good things to come." 

Here is a longer excerpt from the recording: 



paternity leave

3. Play

Play is important in a child's life and begins at birth. Simple, playful interactions between adults and babies form the building blocks of resilience. According to Dr. Volling,

"Rough and tumble play with Dad helps the child learn to regulate emotions." 

Along these lines, Dr. Volling brilliantly shares in less than 60 seconds THE most important toy to give a child.

As children play games and engage in play activities, they develop key executive function skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives, such as learning to focus their attention, developing their working memory, and practicing basic self-control.

The Harvard University Center on the Developing Child developed Brain-Building Through Play: Activities for Infants, Toddlers, and Children. It is a series of games and play-based activities parents can participate in with their children based on age.

Modern Husbands Podcast

Dr. Brenda Volling who is a developmental psychologist and award-winning educator and researcher at the University of Michigan. 

Her research focuses on early social and emotional development with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, parent-child interaction, and family relationships.

Dr. Volling works primarily with young fathers during the perinatal period and the transition to fatherhood and studies men’s mental health, father-child relationships, and co-parenting. Her research has been showcased on CBS Sunday Morning, the BBC, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Parents magazine. 

On today’s episode we discuss the essential role fathers play in the early years of a child’s development. 

🔔 Click here to listen and subscribe to the Modern Husbands Podcast on Apple.

🔔 Click here to listen and subscribe to the Modern Husbands Podcast on Spotify.

Questions Answered

00:00 Introduction

01:15 From a 20,000 foot view, can you share a bit about your research on the role of fathers for infant development?

13:56 What steps should fathers take to prepare for their first born? 

25:13 What outcomes have you found with fathers who form a strong bond with their children as infants? 

32:43: What can fathers do as caregivers that is most meaningful for their child's development? 

40:14: Where can folks turn to learn more about you and your work?

41:25 What advice do you have for our listeners that is simple and actionable?

Follow Modern Husbands

For engaged and recently married couples who want to manage money and the home as a team.

Winning ideas to manage money and the home as a team delivered to your inbox every two weeks. You'll even receive a few free gifts!


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page