Five ways I’m learning to be a better dad in 2018


“The five of us in 2018” Photos by @sullivanandcophotography

I can’t believe it has been three years since my first post on The healthy GP where I reflected on the five things that my sons needed from me.

Since then:

We had another boy! (Benjamin)

I’ve changed the dynamics and focus of my work (Aged and Palliative care)

Kylie started to study and run her own business from home, creating cake masterpieces!

More than ever I am convinced that the key themes that I reflected on in my very first article, haven’t changed.

Being present.
Use your words wisely and encouragingly
Having fun!
Lovin their mum and growing your marriage as a priority

In 2018, entering my ninth year as a dad, twelfth as a doctor and fourteenth as a husband, I realise that I am still early in my training.

Whilst I am attaining competence, there are many areas for improvement and refinement.

Often in our work life, we are rewarded with advancement and increased remuneration, praise and commendation for our diligence and commitment. Whilst our roles within our family life as wives and husbands and mums and dads, are not as outwardly recognised with the same fanfare and direct reward.

It is a humbling experience to arrive home, fresh from a significant win at work, to be thrust into the realities of family life. Upset children, never-ending dishes to be washed, dust and mess abounding everywhere and within this busyness, trying to grow a beautiful marriage.

But as I have seen in palliative care, not one of my patients wishes that they had spent more time at work. Instead, the patients who are at peace, know that the time that they invested in their marriages, children and friends is what matters on your last day.

Perhaps it is with that perspective and three years on from my first post as a dad, that I have refined my initial thoughts.

More than that they are an honest reflection on areas that I need to grow in.

Here is the quick list, if you don’t have time to read further:

Prepare a stop-doing list
Practice gratitude each day
Save your best for your children
Accept them for who they are
Compound one activity of play each week

Stop doing to be present

Prepare a stop-doing list of certain activities, thoughts and actions and you must eliminate from your home life to be fully present and engaged with your children and their lives.

For me, my stop-doing list to be present involves not watching the 7pm news each night and putting my phone away as I return home each night.

I noticed that during the most integral part of the evening routine, I had checked out and was mindlessly watching the news and scrolling on Instagram and Twitter.

**Since 3rd of January, I’ve stopped consuming any news and reading the paper and will reevaluate in one month whether to keep going!**

What would be on your stop-doing list to be present?

Practice gratitude

Practice gratitude together and as a family, because grateful children have been shown to be more well-balanced adults, able to regulate their emotions and perform better at school and work (Making Grateful Kids).

I’m learning that to raise grateful children, it begins with me. I’ve noticed that if I am not intentional about gratitude, even though I am an eternal optimist, I will drift into cynicism and complaining, or as Kylie affectionately calls me, “Complainathon!”.

I try to practice gratitude each night as I read and pray with the boys. I usually ask them about their day and what they were most thankful for and who was responsible for making that memory happen. It is a helpful reflective process that places value on people within their gratitude.

Save your best your children

Save your best qualities and talents for your children and do not simply spend it all at work and in the pursuit of your own private goals.

If you are blessed with an adventurous mindset or a talent for words or a technical mind, be intentional about sharing that knowledge, passion and skill with your children, they will never forget it.

The one thing that I’ve decided, is to intentionally use my best words for my three boys and Kylie, to encourage them, uplift them and write lasting words to them.

They deserve my best talent and not my left-overs.

Accept them for who they are

Accept your children for who they are and not what they’ve done and who wish they could be. Whilst this is core knowledge, we live in a performance based society which often attributes success to achievement and appearance and as I have painfully found with my children, this leads to an unfair and narrow standard which they were never meant to reach.

I learnt that we can only love our children for who THEY are when we accept ourselves for who WE are!

We are vulnerable and beautifully imperfect human beings with unique hopes and dreams and personality like no other.

Compound one key activity each week to grow your relationship

Adopting one key weekly practice will undoubtedly help grow your relationship with your children.

As dad’s we have an important role for setting the tone at home and developing our family’s culture.

Looking for one key practice that allows you and your children to play and have fun together and scheduling this weekly, will help to align your priorities on your calendar.

This is a fun step because it is individually tailored to your family and your children will benefit enormously your presence and commitment to them.

Examples of this could be a weekly breakfast date with one child, rotated each week (this is what I’ve decided to do), a family walk or fishing adventure every weekend, but whatever you choose, it is one activity compounded over the course of the short time with your children, which will leave a permanent brain tattoo of your love for them.

What practice do you think you could implement that would change their year?

“Boys and their sticks” Photo by @sullivanandcophotography

I hope this piece has been helpful and provided you with encouragement in the new year.

I will forever be a dad in training because I need to be better and my boys deserve that! And I promise to share that journey with you.

The one thing that I’ve learnt in the last few months in recovering from injury is that we only have a very short period of time on earth to leave a lasting impact and legacy for our little ones.

So, live life intentionally!

Love relentlessly

Enjoy your children and your best health.

Dr Jonathan Ramachenderan

Call to action

What one thing will you be doing in 2018 to be a better dad? Please feel free to share, I’d love to hear from you!

Please subscribe to The Healthy GP to hear more from me.

2 comments on “Five ways I’m learning to be a better dad in 2018”

    1. Thank you so much! I’m still very much a dad in training but happy to share my experiences along the way!


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