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While being a dad may look daunting, unpleasant, demanding or frightening to the uninitiated, nothing can prepare you for how you’ll feel when it’s your baby. Before our first, my wife wanted to borrow someone else’s baby for a weekend to “try it out.”
Luckily, I nixed that idea or I’m afraid the experience would have kept us childless forever. Someone else’s child is bratty, stinky, demanding, squawking, a noisy nuisance …all of these things and sometimes at once. But your own is the little thing you’re sworn to protect. So, given that your attitude changes when it’s your baby, what parenting skills are most necessary?
Parenting skill 1: Patience
Probably the greatest parenting skill is the one that keeps you from screaming or throwing a baby across the room when he has been crying for a few hours straight. The good news is that being a dad puts a lot into perspective and places where you lost your cool before are easier to manage. Never downplay your own anxieties if you feel you can’t control your emotions. Everyone has moments where they think they might lose it. If you think you are about to do something dangerous, call for help immediately.
Parenting skill 2: Sense of humor
Keep laughing through all of it and repeating that it’s short and will end soon, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly diaper changing becomes a mere memory. Parents who are able to laugh when their hands are knuckle deep in a diaper genie are better able to weather the stress of sleepless nights and the drudgery of feeding-wiping-washing-swaddling.
Parenting skill 3: Consistency
Despite how babies seem to rule the house from the moment you bring them home, they actually thrive on consistency in routines. If you feed them and give them naps at the same time every day, they will be more secure and cry less. As they grow older, more routine (brushing teeth, family meals, daily piano practice and so on) gives them structure. Too much choice is hard for littler kids. This puts a big responsibility on parents who need to be present to “nag” about all the things kids need to focus on. There is a big payoff. Older kids appreciate this effort.
Parenting skill 4: Real skills out of a book
Changing a diaper, making formula, installing a car seat – all of these things take real learning to accomplish and do over and over again. The early baby years are all about learning a ton of new information and studying small print to build things for your baby or even feed him the right amount of medicine.
Parenting skill 5: Love and affection
Whether you call it a parenting skill or not, love and affection is the most important thing for your new baby. Many studies indicate that physical contact between parent and child is important for development. Dads, because they will engage in down on the floor “rough and tumble play,” play an especially important role in developing kids growing social skills. You’ll hear many people challenge this idea and suggest that babies need to be “toughened up” by letting them cry themselves to sleep or even go without a bottle to stay on a rigid schedule. This is plain wrong. While some animal babies are able to fend for themselves very quickly after they are born, the human baby is meant to be nurtured and protected for quite some time after birth. For example, human baby brains alone are only half the size they will be just one year after birth. Some say human babies complete gestation period should really be 21 months, combining nine months in the womb and another 12 months after birth. Babies need physical attention as much as possible during this time period, as well as for many years beyond. There is no such thing as loving a child “too much.”
Luckily for you, many of these parenting skills come naturally to new dads if you’re able to grow with the role of being a dad.