5 Lessons in Fatherhood (from One Boston Dad)

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John Rich turned 40 in April. He is married to Boston Moms contributor Rachel Rich, and together they live in Scituate with their five children (ages 7, 5, 3, 2, and 4 months). John is the vice president of operations for Rich Dairy Products, which is his family’s dairy trading business. He has worked there with his family and team for 20 years. In his free time John enjoys working out and training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu while he finishes up a double master’s degree program at Northeastern University.

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One silver lining of all this time at home has been the opportunity to spend a ton of time with my family. It has given me a chance to think about what I’ve learned so far about fatherhood. I still have a lot to learn, but I have picked up some good nuggets over the last seven years. For Father’s Day I am taking this opportunity to share five things that I feel are important for being a good father.

Be present

As a businessperson who has traveled often and who has friends who work crazy hours as police officers, doctors, nurses, etc., I understand we can’t all physically be with our families as much as we want to be sometimes. However, we can control whether we are present with our children whenever we do spend time with them. I am often guilty of getting caught up with work, my phone, and other distractions while I’m with my kids. Being present just means making my kids the focus. It’s hard in this day and age but also very important.

Set an example

It may seem cliché, but for me, it is hugely important to be the example for my kids. I start with how I treat them and their mom. I know I am far from perfect, but I am working to be more mindful that my words, thoughts, and actions are being imprinted on my kids all the time. My goal is to be the person they look to as the example to follow. I do not want them looking to celebrities or pro athletes or others.

Participate with them

When your kids are participating in their sports or activities, participate with them. It is tempting to look at kids’ activities as an opportunity to drop them off somewhere and get a break, but I have found that by engaging, it can be a hugely rewarding experience. Our oldest child is involved in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). He started when he was 4, and when he was 6 I started training with him. It is one of the best things I have ever done, not only for my relationship with him but also for the friends I have made and all I have learned. On Saturdays we do class together, and we have even participated in a competition together. Think about being a coach for your kids’ sports teams, or, if your kids want to ride horses, sign yourself up too. Find time to volunteer at their school or in their classroom. I grew up learning golf with my dad and grandfather, and it is one of the fondest memories of my life. 

Surround your children with good people

Our kids won’t always listen to us. I am young enough to remember that it wasn’t always easy to hear everything from my parents. Therefore, it is important that we surround our kids with the type of people we would hope they become. Whether it is their teachers, coaches, teammates, friends, or any other group of people in their lives, it isn’t a bad idea to ask ourselves if these are the type of people we want our kids to learn from. I am very grateful for the group of people we have become associated with. They are not only good people but good role models. I know that if my kids need someone to talk to, there will be plenty of people around them who care about them and who have good values.

Be humble and learn from your kids

Perhaps the most important thing I have learned so far in seven-plus years of fatherhood — including having five kids — is that I can learn from my kids as much as they learn from me. I picked up this concept by doing Jiu Jitsu with my son. One of the key lessons on the mat is that we can learn from everyone, no matter their age, rank, or experience, and that we should be humble in order to keep this idea in mind. I have learned so much from my kids already, and if I do my job right, we are building a relationship where we will be learning from each other for years to come.

As we emerge from this current situation there will be a lot of changes and adjustments to make. It is going to be important to understand how our roles as fathers and mothers will change. How will we adapt to whatever the new normal is? A lot is uncertain, but these are five things we can all do for our kids, no matter what.

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