20 Pieces of Advice My Father Taught Me

father-advice Father and daughter via Shutterstock

Father’s Day, a day filled with pancake breakfasts and barbecues, is always a little bittersweet for me. A holiday that reminds me of what I no longer have and everything I have missed over the last thirty years, and yet it is filled with great joy, excitement and the making of beautiful new memories now that we have children of our own.

I love sharing stories with my children about their grandpa, and what I remember most about my dad, other than his warmth and sense of humor, was his fatherly wisdom. He loved to dispense his fatherly lectures advice and like a typical teenager I tried to tune him out with my Walkman plugged in my ears. However, when I sat down to write this list I was amazed how many things actually sank in. I know he’d be delighted and surprised I was actually paying attention.

So parents, if you think your kids aren’t listening just because they are looking bored and rolling their eyes and fiddling with their cell phones – think again! Let this be proof things do sink in even when you’re trying your hardest to ignore them. I can almost hear his deep, rich baritone chatting with me over a plate of gooey chocolate chip cookies…

1. Your reputation is everything. Don’t do or say anything that can tarnish that. Always be good, and if you can’t be good, be discreet. In the age of Facebook where people tend to share too much this can be tricky.

2. Make someone smile. Be polite, friendly and treat people well, regardless of who they are or their position in life. This includes knowing when to say: Please, Thank you, and I’m sorry.

3. Don’t wear baggy and unflattering ‘boy repellant’ outfits and dress like a lady. Which meant no red fingernail polish or lipstick. To this day I don’t like it on myself.

4. There are three kinds of people in the world: those that watch things happen, those that make things happen, and those that say “What happened?” Be a person that makes things happen.

5. Beauty will fade, so develop your brain. Read. Get an education. We had special reading and snuggling time with our Dad where we’d take turns reading aloud. He also created vocabulary lists for us to hang on our bathroom mirrors and occasionally there would be pop-quizzes at dinner. I usually did well on those since I spent so much time in front of the mirror!

6. Just like me, he couldn’t play an instrument to save his life, but our home was always filled with a variety of beautiful music.

7. Tip well. It could be you on the other end.

8. Believe in God.

9. Always be a gracious host and make people feel welcome in your home.

10. Put yourself out there. You won’t meet anyone or make friends as a shut-in.

11. Marry someone smart, kind, and hard working, who treats their mother well.

12. Don’t flirt too much or be too available, let them come to you. He was a big fan of playing hard to get.

13. Watch what you say, as you can hurt and alienate people with your words. I wasn’t afraid to go toe to toe with my Dad (well maybe just a little, but I did it anyway to show how tough I thought I was), so I always thought this one was particularly directed to me.

14. Be a good friend. Always be affectionate. Be generous. Take care of those around you.

15. Money doesn’t grow on trees, so don’t be wasteful. Although, he didn’t mind spending on nice meals and a beautiful ambiance.

16. Give back to your community and give often.

17. Family comes first. Love and honor your parents and siblings and remember to call your grandparents.

18. Don’t lie, it’s too stressful to have to remember what you said. Don’t be a know-it-all. And don’t brag.

19. My dad was fond of saying “One hot day doesn’t make it summer.” In other words, don’t be so quick to judge a person or situation – good or bad. (I repeat this often to my kids.)

20. Chocolate helps with the parent/child bonding experience. We spent many a late night watching TV or chatting devouring Reese’s Mini Peanut Butter Cups or freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

Do you have any Fatherly advice you’d like to share?


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  1. Nicole says

    My dad drilled me into being a “defensive driver,” meaning you can’t trust that other cars on the road will do what they are supposed to do (over even what they signal they will do). As a new driver, I thought he was being ridiculous, but I have avoided a good number of car accidents over the past 17 years while following his advice.

    Also, my dad is very cynical (he would say “realistic”), and we had many disagreements over family dinners. But the lesson I learned was that respectful debate was healthy and fun, and people can disagree without raising their voices, resorting to name calling, or severing relational ties. That lesson is pretty important.

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  2. says

    That children are precious. Not perfect, and not incapable of being mischievous little snots, but precious, and deserving of our protection and affection. I was his youngest, a surprise at 60 years old (Mom was 40), so I think I got the best of both worlds- an awesome dad who had the wisdom of a grandpa. <3

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  3. says

    Got a couple of good ones.
    If one person says you’re an arsehole they could be wrong. If everyone starts saying it, chances are you’re an arsehole.
    If you’re going to bother doing something, always do your best. Otherwise what’s the point?
    Argue your case with logic, not emotion, or people won’t take you seriously.
    Be both ambitious and realistic. It’s a combination most people struggle with

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