Being Dad

Confidence is the key to fatherhood

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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Men might be born with an innate ability to grasp a pint glass but dealing with kids is a skill that takes time. FQ asks ten readers and discover how they increased their confidence to take on the challenge of fatherhood.

Find a mentor

“I was lucky in that both my brothers had kids before me so I’d spent time around kids and when my own came along I had people to turn for advice. I think it’s important that you have someone to turn to as a dad – someone who knows the pitfalls. I’d tell them stuff I was doing and they’d laugh because they’d made the same mistakes. The feelings of panic I had only came when I tried to muddle through. So my advice is to accept advice wherever you can and to spur yourself on by celebrating the little successes you have!”
Mark, 40, dad to Paula, 10 and Daniel, 7

Do what comes naturally

“To me the secret about gaining confidence around kids lies in discovering what works for you as well as them. I’ve always enjoyed swimming so I relished the opportunity to teach Dan and he loved it. There were some aspects of fatherhood I didn’t exactly excel at – and that really knocked my confidence – but teaching him how to swim was one of the things I was good at and it boosted my confidence no end. I ended up thinking ‘actually, I’m better with kids than I thought.’”
Jaz, 36, dad to Dan, 8

Crack the crying game

“I think what really throws dads off at first is the amount of crying babies do. It can make you feel totally helpless. Whenever I was alone with my first one and she was crying I just panicked and felt totally out of my depth – it’s the one thing than can really shake your confidence. Then I read somewhere that babies can often cry for up to three hours a day and that was really reassuring! You need to discover for yourself what’s ‘normal’ – after that it’s much easier to relax.”
Jaye, 36, dad to Miranda, 7 and Jack, 4

Play rough

“I was always afraid that if I was too rough with Liam that I’d harm him so at first I was always a bit nervous playing with him but I read – in FQ I think! – that babies benefit from the rougher kind of play they get with their dads. Apparently, it’s supposed to boost their confidence – but I found that it boosted mine too because it made me realize that kids aren’t made of glass!”
Patrick, 25, dad to Liam, 2

Get close

“For me, there’s only one way to boost your confidence around babies and that’s to spend as much time bonding with them as you can. I learnt that from my first baby and now we have twins I have no option! Ultimately, the more time you spend in close physical contact (my youngest used to sleep on my chest) the more relaxed you become around them. My wife and I also learnt how to do baby massage and they absolutely loved it. It’s a great way to increase your closeness.”
Geoff, 39, dad to Sylvie, 6 and twins Gabriel and Jodie, 3

Don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself

“Funnily enough one of the hardest things for me was getting over my self-consciousness when I was with my baby son. If people were watching me I’d behave differently – a bit nonchalant and cool – but as I got more relaxed I forgot about that. If you want to feel more confident around kids you have to lose your inhibitions and allow yourself to come down to their level. As soon as you’re able to say ‘look at that big doggy-woggy over there!’ in front of a group of mums, without batting an eyelid, you know you’ve made it!”
Nik, 30, dad to Pierce, 3

Don’t be afraid to ask the obvious

“What I knew about babies you could’ve written on the back of a postage stamp and it’s an understatement to say I felt a bit lacking in the parental skills department. Actually, I knew nothing! But I quickly learnt that you have to be prepared to ask for help. Luckily, my mum was brilliant and was loyal enough not to tell my girlfriend all the stupid things I was asking – which is just as well given that I once asked whether I needed to change the nappy more than once a day.”
Otto, 30, dad to Victoria, 3

Be sociable

“The only way to really become comfortable around kids is to throw yourself headlong into situations where there’s load of them. My baptism of fire came when my wife forced me to organize Lily-Jo’s fifth birthday party I’ve been a manager for five years but nothing could have prepared me for that day! Tears, tantrums, food everywhere and one sever toilet accident later, I survived. Just. If you really want to be relaxed around kids you’ve got to have them around you all the time. Certainly, after that day I can face anything.”
James, 36, dad to Lily-Jo, 6

Gen up

“I’ve never been particularly good around children – in fact I’d do anything I could to avoid them! I’m an only child so never really grew up around babies. So when I found out I was going to be a dad I totally panicked. I hit the library and swotted up on the basics. And I’m really glad I did because, when Johnny came along, I knew how to wind him and everything, which really boosted my confidence. It’s all about being prepared and knowing what to expect.”
Karl, 27, dad to Johnny, 2

Learn on the job

“The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that babies don’t come with instruction manual and, regardless of what people may tell you, you’re not born knowing how to deal with them. I can’t honestly say I took to handling my first kids like a duck to water – every day way a challenge in fact – but by time the second one came along I was a natural and felt totally at ease with changing her, playing with her and feeding her.”
Chris, 40, dad to Dudley, 10, Martyn, 7 and Flora, 3