Seeing a dad being all happy, sweet, and tender with his kids is a melt-your-heart moment. That pride, that love -- it's a beautiful sight. But when I spoke to many dads for the father version of Secrets From the Best Moms I Know, I was so taken aback by how much thought all the dads put into their responses. Even the dads who responded fast had such sage advice. All the fathers -- from the new dads to the ones who have had the gig for years and years -- had impressive insight and wisdom to share. They are all very involved, very loving dads who truly impressed me.
Here are 12 parenting secrets from the best dads I know.
1. I always let my kids know that I am just a man and have made many mistakes. I tell them of the bad choices I made, the regrets I have, and my undying goal not to have them repeat it. I am honest with my kids and treat them like men. My Dad used to say I am your friend 90 percent of the time and your father 10 percent of the time. The key is be ready when the 10 percent has to kick in. Also, never let them win. I don't care if it's cards, basketball, chess, or stuffing the most peas up your nose. Let them build character on their own. Also they grow so quickly that these wins will soon be the last for me, and when they outpace me that first time, it will be a million times more important than letting them win artificially. - Don, dad to two sons, 8 and 12
2. I always encouraged my children to get a good education so that they would have more opportunities in life than I did. Also, I would tell any dad who has daughters to beware of the boys. - Ken, dad to two adult daughters
3. I expose my children to everything from sports to cooking. I do this to foster responsibility and independence. I do not want my daughter to grow up depending on a man financially. I want my son to know it's okay to know how to cook, vacuum, clean, and iron for himself. I stress total independence and self responsibility. - Mike, dad to a 7-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son
4. Since my son could walk and talk, I always reminded him that there are consequences for his decisions, and I try to provide the most extreme, weirdest, or funny scenarios as possible. For example, you can climb up there, but I don't think it's a good idea because it's going to hurt when you fall and break your skull. Or, it's just math, it's okay if you fail the sixth grade, you can be 19 and have a beard and be in the sixth grade. You can always override your kids' choices, but you can't be your kid, and they won't be you. All of their choices are theirs, you can never change that. Constantly remind them of the golden rule "treat people the way you want to be treated" and live by it. Don't be an asshole, because most likely your kid will be an asshole, too. - Jason, dad to a teenage son
5. Take time for your child -- go into work a little late every now and then. I would never have guessed that dropping my daughter off at school would be such a great experience. - Kevin, dad to a 3-year-old daughter
6. As new parents, what worked for us was to take bits and pieces from everyone's advice (because everyone has advice) and then form your own opinions. After all, nobody is ever 100 percent right, including doctors. We've seen some quacks! - Ed, dad to a 2-year-old son
7. You really can't learn parenting from a book. It's always a work in progress. Also each child is different. What might work for one child may not work for another. That rule applies whether you're talking about siblings or other people's kids. Don't let other people tell you how to raise your children (grandparents!). This rule should be established very early! - Tim, dad to two teenagers and a 9-year-old
8. The educator in me says to read Piaget and his stage theory or to just give your child the time and space to grow and develop the way they are meant to. Also, don't assume that someone with a quieter baby is a better parent. Their baby just cries less than yours. Oh, and always wait five more minutes before changing the diaper! One more thing, when your child is excited to share something with you, never tell them to wait! - Dan, dad to a 3-year-old daughter
9. The bond between mother and child is something supernatural and you must understand that it changes everything. Be there for your wife as well as for your children. Don't let work, business, or money come between you and the special moments in your child's life, your family's life. A dollar gets spent but you can never see your child's first soccer goal or home run again. Be there. - Miguel, dad to a 9-year-old son, 6-year-old daughter
10. As a parent no matter how much it hurts you, you must discipline your child. I don't mean spanking. I mean punishment and you must stick with it. No idle threats because children pick up on them quick. They must learn consequences for their actions. As a dad, you want to be a superhero in the eyes of your children. Every day you must give your kids a hug and a kiss and tell them you love them no matter how old they get. - Artie, dad to an 8-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son
11. Always pay attention to your kids, be a good dad, and teach them. They are sponges and are completely soaking up whatever you have to give whether you are aware of it or not. Never take for granted your time with them; they grow up very, very fast. Even when it's tough and you aren't sleeping or you are going through a challenging time, take deep breaths and relax. It's all a lot of fun when you look back on it. - Hans, dad to 3-year-old fraternal twins
12. It's not about how much time you're around your kids but that you're "in the moment" with them and are interested in the littlest things they do. Some of our best times were our long car rides picking her up on the weekends. She still remembers the tuck-ins at night with the ad-lib adventure stories with her as the main character! My biggest and best accomplishment in my life is my daughter. - David, a "weekend" Dad (since 2 years old) whose daughter is now 30
Thank you to all the dads! I've learned so much from you!
Which secret or tidbit is your favorite? What would you add to this list?
Image of dad Kevin with daughter Juliette courtesy of Lindsay of "Darling Clementine"