35 Things I Hope My Kids Will Say About Their Dad

“To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while.” ―Josh Billings

Children learn more from watching their parents than from listening to them – more is caught than taught. As parents, this puts great weight on how we conduct our lives. It requires us to be intentional about how we live. It requires us to self-reflect and evaluate if our lives match our words. And it requires us to be intentional about identifying the lessons we hope our kids will take from us.

Here then, as my two children get older, are the 35 Things I Hope They Will Say About Their Dad. They represent the 35 most important lessons I hope they will learn from my life.

1. “He loved us.” I could see it in his words, his face, and his actions.

2. “He loved our mom.” And was always faithful to her.

3. “He was honest” Both to us and to others. I never remember him telling a lie.

4. “He was spiritual.” He valued things bigger than this world and kept his eyes open for them.

5. “He worked hard.” He understood the value of a hard day’s work and wasn’t afraid of it.

6. “But he always came home on time.” He worked hard at his job. But he knew when to quit for the day.

7. “He cared about people more than money.”

8. “He was a good friend.” He taught me what that meant in a world that doesn’t.

9. “He helped others.” He looked for opportunities to serve—especially those who couldn’t help themselves.

10. “He was generous.” with his home, his money, his time, and his energy.

11. “He made us laugh.” It was always fun to spend time with him.

12. “He loved to read.” He read for work, for pleasure, and for self-improvement.

13. “He loved life.” He cherished all the moments of life—the big ones and the little ones.

14. “He always had great hope.” His hope was new, it was alive, and it was lasting.

15. “He had our best in mind.” We were disciplined, but it never felt motivated by anger, only love.

16. “He was proud of us.” He told us often.

17. “But he pushed us to improve.” He parented out of love and a genuine desire for us to succeed.

18. “He saw the best in people.” And sought to learn from them.

19. “He loved his family.” He cared for his parents and loved having everyone together.

20. “He was always good to mom.” His love for her provided a healthy model for my family.

21. “He had a smile every morning.” Each day provided a wealth of opportunity. And he chose to greet it with a smile.

22. “He lived within his means.” We were taken care of. We did fun stuff. We had nice things. But he knew where to draw the line.

23. “He was unselfish.” Life was always about more than getting the most for yourself.

24. “He was wise.” He had a healthy grasp on people, life, and situations.

25. “He was quick to forgive.” He knew that he had been forgiven much. And was quick to offer that same grace to others.

26. “He didn’t let culture dictate his beliefs.”

27. “I knew I could count on him when I needed him.” Anytime, day or night.

28. “For some reason, I couldn’t get away with lying to him.” He demanded honesty and I respected that. He could read me too well.

29. “He was always asking about my friends.” He wanted to know everything he could about the people I chose to spend time with.

30. “He knew how to rest.” He knew when and how to take time refreshing his body and soul.

31. “He dreamed big dreams for me.” Even when I didn’t believe in myself, he did.

32. “He loved eating meals together.”

33. “He treated his body well.” He knew the importance of keeping his body healthy – not for vain reasons, but to remain effective to this world as long as possible.

34. “He loved his job.” He worked hard at his job not because of the money, but because he believed in what he did.

35. “He knew the difference between want and need.”

And with this many life lessons to teach my children, I better not waste a single day—including this one.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. Sarah says

    I would add one more, “He was human.” My own father missed a few points on your list, and ultimately there were some lessons I would later realize were not good ones, but overall I know my father was a good man who was doing the best he could with the hand he was dealt. This helps me forgive him for the times he fell short.

  2. Jen says

    Joshua, just wanted to say as a wife of an amazing husband who strives to be all of the things you listed for our six children… these are the important things out of all the clutter of life. I loved the comparison of “He worked hard, but he always came home on time.” It says so much to our kids when they know dad is pulling up in the driveway at a certain time.. and then he is THEIRS! :) They watch the clock, they plan for him, they say things like, “I can’t wait till dad gets here”… and they know they are important enough to want to come home to. My husband does an incredible feat of switching between job mode and home mode… and it makes such a difference in our home to have him present when he is present. I know my husband has been encouraged by your blog… thanks for the motivating articles. You are influencing men for the good! Thanks!

  3. says

    This is absolutely beautiful Joshua! I can totally say all these 35 things about my dad and I just know your kids will say these about you too! :)

  4. says

    This is striking and beautiful. I hope my kids will say the same things (aside from my being mom rather than dad), and also – “She made us her first priority.” There are good and bad for that, but it’s my choice.

  5. says

    Many thanks for a list to inspire. As a parent of two who is in his early forties i really loved no33 as people often think i am bonkers for wanting to be strong active parent for as long as i can. May not be superman but aspiring to stay a super dad!

    Keep up the good work


  6. says

    I really #4. More specifically, I like your assessment of what it means to be “spiritual”. It’s obviously much more than believing in God and attending church.

    To me God exists in all of us. He also shows himself – or, for some HERself – in our actions.

    The best way to be spiritual is to live the way you want the world to live.

  7. says

    Great list Joshua. What a gift!

    May I say, I disagree with the Geddes quote: “Any man can be a father but it takes someone special to be a dad.” – Anne Geddes

    I believe: “Any man can be a ‘dad’ but it takes someone special to be a father.” A father looks out for his children’s best interests even when it might not be the most popular decision. A ‘dad’ will look more toward being a buddy to his kids lacking better judgement about true parenting. This might be seen as ‘splitting hairs’ but the terminology we use does play out in how we parent. As a mom of a 16 year-old son, I can tell you that kids will pay very close attention to terminology : )

    If I might add a bit more to #1. “He loved us.” I could see it in his words, his face, and his actions.
    and #2. “He loved our mom.” And was always faithful to her.

    1. “He loved me.” I never had to guess, he told me everyday. He gave me lots of hugs and kisses.
    2. “He loved my mom.” I never wondered, he told her everyday before he left the house and every night he came home. He gave her lots of hugs and kisses and every day he told her how much he appreciated the things she did for our family.

    The above two (and much more) are what my son experiences with his step-father of 8 years. Something he never saw or heard from his dad. I can tell you that this has had profoundly positive affect on who he has become and how he treats others.

    Thanks for inspiring us all to be better parents.

  8. Bill Coady says

    My daughter sent this to me and said she thinks she can say these things about me. While I’m not sure that is quite true I am walking on cloud 9 right now and am steeled to do my best to live up to her belief in me.

    Good writing and great thoughts Joshua. Thanks.

  9. Christophe says

    A BIG “Hello” from France. I had read all your blog this week. I love it. You seem to be a simple man (in the good way), honest, loving with others. Blessings.

  10. liz says

    How about he was Fun? My father was pretty much all the things you listed above, but he was not fun. Rarely, if ever played with his own kids…

  11. says

    My father is the most amazing man I have ever met. If I am half the man that he is, I will be proud of myself. Raising a child is the hardest thing in the world.

    Thank you for the great list!

  12. says

    Great list. And knowing how we want to be remembered is a great way to evaluate how we’re living our lives now and if we’re on track with where we want to end up.

  13. Tony says

    I am a new dad and reading your list truly inspired me even more than the first time I laid eyes on my firstborn and felt how my life had taken a major turning point. Thanks for sharing this list.

  14. Tim says

    Thanks for a great list. My kids are almost adults but I’m still working on this list! There is no substitute for being purposeful about life! “if we aim at nothing, we will hit it every time!”

  15. says

    This is a really inspiring list, and what’s good is that even though I am not a father yet, I can use it to compose my own list and start working towards that now. In fact, I think I will go and write a similar one titled ‘How I hope my girlfriend will remember me’ or ‘How I hope my friends will remember me’. Its a nice perspective to start looking at things. I love ‘He didn’t let culture dictate his beliefs’ and ‘I couldn’t get away with lying to him’.

  16. Pål says

    Started off nice, then “He was spiritual.”.
    Please let us know why our kids would benefit from a father that is caught up in a fantasy world with pretend people and outdated morals?

  17. Morghan says

    Hopefully I can manage all of those, there’s only number two that does not apply, though maybe someday I’ll meet another woman and can show my kids love for my partner as well as love for them.

  18. dusty chantel reamey says

    Wonderful list. It gives one the motive to contemplate their own list. I’d add a few to my list such as, he was compassionate, always in my corner, treated animals gently, loved nature & taught his/her children to love the great outdoors….along with, fun and laughter!

  19. Kristi S says

    Josh, I am thankful for the reminder. I’m far from perfect but I try every day I wake up and get another chance to love my kids. Unfortunately, I waste a lot of energy wishing my spouse was part of the team and trying to get him to see what he’s missing. I do my very best but I’m only one parent and in a house of two, my poor kids are missing out. You can lead a dad to his kids but you can’t make him SEE them.

  20. Frances (Bigmama ) says

    I wish my father

    He knew how to listen.
    He knew how and when to compromise.
    He never quit.
    He knew how and when to laugh at himself.
    He knew how to not take things too seriously.
    He was creative and inspired creativity in
    He was fair.
    He Treasured and enjoyed his children.

  21. says

    As I read this, I try to remember it is never too late for the children, or maybe the grandchilden to say this about their Dad. Yes I agree this is what we all want.
    Thank you

  22. Don Cuin says

    God I would hate to hear terrible comments from my children about me while in heaven. That would be Hell.

  23. T4Teacher says

    He listened to me and was interested in what was on my mind.
    His questions helped me to know and understand.

  24. says

    This is an awesome list — beginning with the end in mind is always have I parented… makes today seem much more important to the big picture!
    Thanks for this! (I’m a little jealous and wished I had come up with this myself) but I am thankful to have found it!
    Thanks for sharing!

  25. Linda says

    Great post. I think a couple of people might possibly be missing the heart of it though. It’s not about Joshua’s list! I mean… It’s a great list. But the point of the story is that we need to live what we hope to instill in our children. Your list might look radically different than Joshua’s. If you want your child to be an activist, then you have to stand up for others. If you want your child to be scholarly, then you have to read and study. Our children will reflect our behavior, thus, we must be worth reflecting.

  26. Mom of four says

    This is nice but it forces me to inquire about where the teaching exists with some of the realistic moments of life where dads get discouraged or and the importance of admiting failure. The reality that Dad may not be prompt and that being on-time and always optimisitic isn’t a condition of his love. A tall idealistic list of the perfect dad isn’t what our children need to thrive, it’s honesty and love in real moments of humble admission.

  27. says

    My Father was a great Dad yet was missing a few or more of your “35”. I have no regrets about my upbringing because he and my mom did the best they could with what they knew and understood about raising children at that time, beginning in the 50’s. It’s my hope that my children can respect me and my deficiencies yet knowing I also did the best I could raising them. No child can brag that a Father had all 35 points but we can be grateful our Dad’s did the very best they could. I’m proud of my Dad and thats all I can be ….

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