One of the greatest privileges I’ve ever been given is the opportunity to be a dad. Yet, while fatherhood is special, it also comes with significant responsibilities. As such, when we don’t fully embrace this privilege, we not only miss out on shaping future generations but also lose the emotional rewards of fatherhood. 

Emotional rewards that are only fully realized when we feel like we’ve done our job well.

But what determines if we did a good job? And, if we did do a “good job,” how much does it matter in the end for our children, and why? These questions are not easily answered. Because society’s depiction of the stereotypical ‘good’ father has shifted over the years, often influenced by toxic masculinity. 

We’ve been told that dads should be strong and stoic, good providers, tough, and not overly emotional, as well as protectors and spiritual leaders. However, more liberally minded individuals would say that fathers should be involved in their children’s lives, physically and emotionally present, and less bound by traditional masculine stereotypes, being more flexible with gender roles. So then, what are the most important qualities when it comes to defining a “good” dad? 

Here are five that both personal experience and empirical evidence support.

1. Emotional Expression 

Fathers who openly express their emotions demonstrate to their children that it’s normal and healthy to talk about feelings. This openness creates a safe space for children to share their own emotions, knowing they won’t be judged or dismissed. Encouraging this emotional expression helps children develop a vocabulary for their feelings and a greater awareness of their emotional states

2. Emotional Availability

When children do express their emotions, fathers play a crucial role in responding with empathy and understanding. By being emotionally available, fathers demonstrate that they care about their children’s feelings and are there to support them through difficult emotions. This kind of responsiveness helps children feel validated and understood, which is essential for building strong emotional connections and promoting healthy emotional development and regulation (Cabrera et al., 2017). 

3. Communication 

Open communication between fathers and children fosters trust and understanding. When fathers are open to discussing difficult topics and listening without judgment, children are more likely to feel heard and supported which helps them better manage their emotions and be more open to emotional exploration (Cassano et al., 2018).

This does not imply that fathers must have all the answers to their kid’s questions. Nor does it mean that every conversation needs to have some sort of resolution. Life is messy and so open conversations are often messy too. But ultimately your children will value your openness and honesty far more than your expertise.

4. Adaptability 

Fathers who are open to change and willing to adapt their parenting strategies based on their child’s needs contribute to a more resilient and emotionally regulated child. This adaptability helps children navigate life’s ups and downs with greater ease. It also communicates a certain level of humility and willingness to learn on the part of the parent. Two qualities your children will admire and appreciate.

5. Engagement in Child’s Life 

Active engagement in a child’s life is key to building a strong father-child bond. Simply put, one of the greatest qualities of any father is their availability to be there for their kids. In fact, studies have shown that fathers who spend quality time with their children and show interest in their activities contribute significantly to their emotional development (Sarkadi et al., 2008). This involvement provides children with a feelings of security, belonging, and sense of worth which are essential for optimal emotional well-being.

Ultimately, fatherhood is a complex journey filled with many moments that profoundly impact a child’s development and emotional resilience. And while the dynamics of father-child relationships vary from family to family, certain key qualities consistently emerge as crucial for a child’s emotional growth. As such, it is our responsibility as dads to model the qualities and characteristics that best support our children’s needs rather than trying to adhere to outdated stereotypes or social definitions of what it means to be a “good” dad.


Cabrera, N. J., Volling, B. L., & Barr, R. (2017). Fathers are parents, too! Widening the lens on parenting for children’s development. Child Development Perspectives, 11(2), 73-79.

Cassano, M. C., Zeman, J. L., & Sanders, W. M. (2018). The role of fathers’ emotional availability and inflexible discipline in children’s emotional regulation. Journal of Family Psychology, 32(2), 233-242.

Sarkadi, A., Kristiansson, R., Oberklaid, F., & Bremberg, S. (2008). Fathers’ involvement and children’s developmental outcomes: a systematic review of longitudinal studies. Acta Paediatrica, 97(2), 153-158.