I recall an occasion when I was walking through our local shopping centre and my two youngest boys, Robbie and Jamie, ten and eight respectively, were arguing.

I resorted to a tried and true behaviour management strategy – silly dancing while singing loudly – until they brought their behaviour into line. It was highly effective.

They told me I was so embarrassing. I explained that being embarrassing is one of the many things they teach new fathers-to-be at Daddy School.

They disagreed. They said the job of daddies is to give piggybacks, be playful and buy kids milkshakes. Perhaps we were all right.

I was fortunate enough to have had two good fathers – my natural father, Bob, and my emotionally adopted father, Neil.

My natural father, Bob, died when I was five. I have a handful of memories and photos. And mum was good at telling stories that helped me to know the good man he was.

When I was twelve, I latched myself onto my adopted father, Neil. I will never forget the warm hugs he gave this fatherless boy from that time forward. And how he stepped up to be a father to me, supported me, and has provided a good example for me for the past 43 years.

Both Bob and Neil were quite different. Bob was a big man with builder’s hands – the original Bob the Builder. He was also quite irreligious. Neil was a Pharmacist, has a love for musicals and ballet, and a very sincere faith.

But both men also had a few things in common. They both loved to sing. They shared silliness and playfulness, were generous with their time and money. And they both loved me.

Then there are the other young men in my life who have also taught me something about being a dad – my three sons, Damian, Robbie and Jamie – who I have made my share of mistakes with and who have also helped me to become a better dad.

So, what have I learned from my two fathers and three sons about being a dad?

There are all the usual things that fathers do, such as working hard, providing for and protecting the family.

But I also think good fathers …

  • Do things with their children, are present, and are interested
  • Don’t hold back in showing love to their children
  • Try to set a good example for how good men behave
  • Apologise for their own imperfect behaviour, when needed
  • Set an example with their partner of how good relationships work
  • Are playful and silly
  • Provide a balance of love and limits
  • Are physical with their children – showing affection, play wrestles, giving piggybacks and tickles to their younger children, playing sport together
  • And, yes, they need to be embarrassing as well

I think there is a wide diversity of what makes good fathers. You may have a few things to add to this list. And there are certainly no perfect dads. If you missed out on having a good father, then perhaps you should find one or, if you are a dad, model yourself on one.

We certainly do give our children a huge head start in life when they are surrounded by love.

With a nod to Harry Potter, I often say to my boys that my love, and the love of their mother, is in their very skin. And our love will help to protect them from adversity and to live a happy life.

Your love and example certainly made a difference for this boy.

Quote of the week

“I love my mother and father. The older I get, the more I value everything that they gave me.”

– Liev Schreiber