What makes a REAL dad?

by Michael Mitchell

I’ve written a lot on one of my other blogs on the many qualities I think of when I think about what makes a man a REAL man. Qualities like generosity, courage, simplicity, contentment, strength, and many others. And in many ways, those same general qualities also apply to being a dad.

Even so, as I’ve become more comfortable in my role as a new father, I’ve begun to ponder what it really takes to be a good father. Thankfully, I had a pretty good example in my own old man and so that’s been helpful, but (much like everything in life) I want to come up with my own set of standards for the kind of dad I want to be. With that in mind, I’ve started a list (for some reason, I’m really into lists these days) of what I think it means to be a REAL dad. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1. A real dad gets on the floor and plays with his children.
2. A real dad looks for ways to add joy to his children’s lives.
3. A real dad is intentional about setting loving, but firm boundaries for his children.
4. A real dad doesn’t blow up at his kids.
5. A real dad is there.
6. A real dad is willing to drop whatever he’s doing from time to time just to be in the presence of his child.
7. A real dad protects, stands up, and fights for his kids.
8. A real dad gives his children increasingly more freedom to explore and test themselves the older they get.
9. A real dad imparts wisdom to his children.
10. A real dad is interested in the lives of his children.
11. A real dad seeks to know his children by asking lots of open ended questions without making them feel like they are being interrogated.
12. A real dad makes a habit out smiling at his children.
13. A real dad hugs and kisses his children often.
14. A real dad shows up for his kids activities.
15. A real dad does not walk out on his family.
16. A real dad does not berate, abuse, or otherwise negatively treat his children’s mother.
17. A real dad models healthy relationships with other men.
18. A real dad is not afraid to let his kids see him cry.
19. A real dad sings to his children.
20. A real dad reads to his children.
21. A real dad apologizes to his children when he makes a mistake.
22. A real dad spends quantity AND quality time with his kids.
23. A real dad forgives his children when they screw-up.
24. A real dad is not afraid to appropriately discipline his children when they make bad choices.
25. A real dad is an equal partner in parenting his children.
26. A real dad frequently puts his kids well-being ahead of his own.
27. Even so, a real dad still makes his own mental and physical health a priority.
28. A real dad models the virtues he wants his children to learn.
29. A real dad says good night to his children EVERY night.
30. A real dad learns from his mistakes. He may fall down from time to time but he always gets up a better, stronger, more-loving father.

Like I said before, the list above represents the kind of dad I want to be. I think each man will have his own list that will not be identical to mine, though I wouldn’t be surprised if my list was similar to the lists of many other dads out there. It’s also not a complete or exhaustive list, nor was it meant to be. In fact, if I were to go back to and reflect on this list every day, I could probably add a new item to it each day depending on the events of the previous 24 hours.

So there you go. That’s my list.

If you were to come up with your own list of what it means for you to be a REAL dad, what would you include?


Michael Mitchell is an (almost) thirty-something dad who blogs daily tips and life lessons for dads of daughters at lifetoheryears.com. While consuming copious quantities of life from a glass that’s usually half-full, he spends the majority of his days trying to balance his efforts to be a good husband & dad, a man of God, a professional raiser of philanthropic funds, and a defender of all things awesome. On the rare occasion he’s not tied up with all of that, he enjoys fighting street gangs for local charities and stuff like that.



10 thoughts on “What makes a REAL dad?”

  1. i have 3 girls, their mom cheated on me at 25 years of faithful marriage but I still love my girls

  2. I honestly feel eveything that was said on this note cause niether one of my kids father’s are in my son’s life because they are far away but i think it would be an effort for them to read this here to get some sense knocked into them of what a father should be Like.love it.

  3. I agree with everything that was listed and I would go one step further.
    For the real men raising teenagers because a wise man told me that your not truly parenting until you parent a tenager. Ask them for a list of ten things they love about your parenting and ten things you do that breaks their hearts. Real talk and my son and daughter have a real father not a friend. But they can communicate to the friend within their father when neccessary.

  4. i decided to have my 12 year child research what is areal dad is i agree on the feed back!she has been curse with a demonic something i need…………………………………… help

  5. I’m writing a paper for school on what defines a real father and this really helped me. Thank You!

  6. Wonderful list. All I’d add is a Real Dad loves their mother and models what a real, caring, adult relationship looks like *that way, they’ll know it when they see it.

    Cheers! MJ

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