Editor's note: The following content originally appeared on Playground Dad. It has been shared here with the author's permission.
Truth is, I never really gave much thought to being a dad. I didn't make plans or anything. In fact, I feel like I've stumbled through this crazy ride, tripping up plenty of places along the way. But despite my buffoonery, my 14-year-old and 11-year-old seem to be turning into quite fine human beings. Therefore, I must have done something right along the way. To help my fellow dads and dads-to-be, I feel I must share my five things:
Read to them
It isn't just a good way to teach your children; it also teaches them to use their imagination and mastery of the language. My wife and I read to our kids every night when they were younger. Both my kids are excellent students and writers in school now, and I attribute that to reading. My son has even published a book at the age of 9 (thanks to lulu.com)!
Have family dinners
It sounds cheesy and cliche, but sitting down at the dinner table every night as a family is an excellent way to stay connected. We all share two "highs" and two "lows" of our day, which helps teach conversation and keeps everybody up to date.
Play with your kids
Go to the playground, play video games, sit in your child's room and build Legos with them — whatever it takes. Again, this teaches them to use their imaginations. It also strengthens your relationship with your kids.
Teach them stuff3 comments on this story
Include your children when you do something. Not only do they learn a valuable skill (like mowing the lawn or putting away dishes), but you get to impart some serious, grade-A knowledge on those little people.
Just be there
This goes hand-in-hand with my third item, but takes it a step further. This is going to their dance recitals, taking them to Cub Scouts, driving them to the other Target to find that special toy. When you give up your time, you show them that they mean something to you. You're their dad. No matter what they say or how they act, they look up to you. Show them they're important to you. There's no better way than giving them your time.