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The Daily Routine That Makes Me a Better Parent, According to 15 Dads

These small daily rituals help this group of dads be their best for themselves and their family.

Routines and rituals are important for families. They give us a sense of identity, security, and belonging. And the right routines work to provide the same for our kids. A consistent parent is often a good parent.  

The best daily routines doesn’t have to be elaborate or strict. In fact, their mere presence in our lives serves to remind us that we still maintain a sense of control amidst the craziness of parenting, marriage, and trying to keep our heads above water. We look forward to them. Even if we don’t know exactly when they’re coming, they help us remember why we’re waking up each day. As silly as some of them may seem, they’re a function of our greater sense of purpose, giving us moments of clarity, peace, and composure that benefit our entire families. 

We spoke with 15 fathers who all shared the daily routines that make them better, more centered or more engaged parent. Some are light and silly. Others are deep and sentimental. But all of these rituals help the men that observe them stay present and grounded as fathers and husbands. 

I Workout For an Hour Before Everyone Else Is Up

As a dad, my early morning exercise routine helps me stay grounded. Before the family is awake, I have valuable ‘daddy time’ to train, focus, let off some steam, and be 100% ready to confront my daily tasks. Taking an hour or so each day for myself helps my growth, personally and professionally. I feel better as a person. And then I’m able to devote even more meaningful time to my family. The time management aspect, and having the right balance, is essential for me to be a better parent, and I’ve found that doing one thing at a time effectively is better than doing multiple things poorly.” – Alain, Ottawa, ON, Canada

I Feed Our Animals

“I’m a big nature lover. My favorite place is our backyard. We’ve got trees, a pond, and all sorts of wildlife. My morning ritual is putting food out for all of the animals that come to visit. I’ll fill up all of the bird feeders – we have about ten. Then, I put out some cracked corn for the deer, corn cobs for the squirrels, and sunflower seeds and peanuts for everything else. It’s such a nice feeling, being out there while everything is quiet and serene, and just waiting for everything to wake up. When I walk back into the house, I’m refreshed and energized, and ready to start my day in a good place.” – Andy, 39, Michigan 

I Reset My Racing Thoughts with a Word Game 

“My biggest challenge as a parent and husband is dealing with my own anxiety. My brain is always going a million miles a minute, and that makes being present and staying focused very difficult. Through therapy, I’ve learned that it’s good to distract myself to ‘reset’ those racing thoughts, and I found this word game called Kryss that just seems to do the trick. It’s like a combination crossword puzzle/word search/picture game that takes about 10 minutes to play. So I usually play one round in the morning, and one round right when I get home from work. The one in the afternoon is my time to decompress, zone out, and get ready to concentrate on my family for the rest of the evening.” – Rudy, 39, Florida 

I Write In My Journal 

“I’m a new father to a beautiful baby girl. I’ve always been one to jot down my thoughts on paper so, when I became a dad, I decided to start a journal to keep an account of my experiences as a new parent. I thought I’d do it only for a year but found that taking stock of what happened with the fam that day lets me reflect on things I could have done more of or done differently. And so it’s become a very productive daily ritual.” – Stephan, Georgia

I Take an Hour-Long Walk with My Wife

“We’re fortunate enough to have my parents live close by so every night, my wife and I drop the kids off at their place and we go for a stroll around the neighborhood. Having this daily ritual of ours has allowed me to keep that spark alive with my wife, away from parental responsibilities and the demands of the business and her job. During these hour-long walks, we just focus on us and our relationship. This has allowed us to stay connected and be more in-tune with one another. It has deepened our love for each other and made us better partners in parenting.” – Thomas, Toronto, ON, Canada 

I Have One-on-One Time With Each of My Kids

“Family is the most important thing in my life. It comes before my passions, personal goals, and business pursuits. My wife and kids inspire and keep me grounded at the same time. As a dad, I believe it’s important to have one-on-one time with my children, so I hang out with them separately for an hour each day. My kids are 18, 14, and 2, so you can only imagine that they have varying interests. My routine right now is to make dinner with my eldest and only daughter, I play video games with my 14-year-old son, and then read my youngest a bedtime story before tucking him into bed. It’s a ritual that keeps me grounded, and involved in my kids’ lives.” – Yurii, California 

I Give Myself a Morning Pep Talk

“My boys are all grown up now (21 and 24). But the one thing I would say helped me become a better parent in terms of a daily ritual was a morning pep talk. A pep talk to myself, that is. I think many parents set very high standards for themselves. They try to do everything and are hard on themselves when they are unable to do the million-and-one things for the kids and the house and their jobs. I am no exception. But over the years, I’ve learned to be kinder to myself, in the form of those honest pep talks. As long as I’m there for my wife and sons, and I provide for them, I’m good with that.” – Daniel, California 

I Make Breakfast For My Family

This all started last year when the pandemic hit and I began working from home. My wife still had to go to the office a couple times a week so I volunteered to make breakfast for the family. Her and my son’s delighted reactions when they smell bacon as they enter the kitchen or see the fun pancake shapes I’ve made really give me a boost. It’s been more than a year, and by now making breakfast has become that daily ritual that I look forward to. We get to start the morning bonding as a family before we each do our own thing and that time in itself is priceless.” – James, California  

I Look Over Our Family “Owner’s Manual” Every Morning

“My ritual is re-prioritizing the support systems for our family. I’m a big believer in services that free up time throughout the day, like grocery delivery. So, to ensure my wife and I are putting our kids above any of our business priorities, we have to keep a schedule. It’s a Google Doc we call an ‘Owners’ Manual’. We also use a Slack channel to communicate specifically about these priorities. It sounds like a lot, but I’m consistently encouraged by all of the Dads I see at the playgrounds on Saturday mornings and all of the Moms I see mountain biking by themselves. I think this means that we are moving closer to equitable parenting and time to ourselves.” – Craig, 43, Colorado 

I Give 20-Second-Hugs to My Wife and Daughters

“I read somewhere that the ideal time of a hug is 20 seconds. That’s supposed to be the perfect length for a hug to release all of the positive chemicals in your brain, or something like that. My ritual is giving 20-second-hugs to my wife and two daughters at least once a day. Not only is it great for physical closeness, but we’ll often talk quickly or say silly stuff while we’re hugging. It always makes me feel good, even if I’ve had a terrible day. Three 20-second hugs means that I’m reconnecting with my family for one minute each day, which doesn’t seem like a long time. But it’s enough to remind me how much I love them, and what’s important about being a husband and father.” – Neil, 40, Arizona  

I Pray

“Every night, I pray. I wouldn’t call myself a traditionally religious guy. I was raised Catholic, but began forming my own religious identity after graduating college. Basically, I use the time right before I’m about to fall asleep to talk with my higher power, calm myself, and reflect on my day. In terms of making me a better father and husband, praying makes me feel more at peace. When I’m at peace, problems seem to be solved more easily, I find myself being more attentive, and I’m able to prioritize my family with more clarity. I ask for strength, and express gratitude for all of my blessings, and I think it’s a ritual that helps me stay focused on what’s important in my life.” – Chris, 46, Ohio

I Do Secret Handshakes With My Kids

“My two sons and I have secret handshakes that we do before we leave the house to start our days. Usually I leave for work before they leave for school, but sometimes they beat me out the door. The last thing we do before we say our ‘I love yous’ is our secret handshakes. I made up one with each of my boys, and it’s been our daily ritual for years. We’ve added on little things here and there, but the routine remains the same. It reminds me of what I love about being a dad. It’s a physical expression of the bond I have with my sons, and I think it’s the best reminder of how important it is to stay present in their lives.” – Anthony, 41, Pennsylvania   

I Take a Bath in the Morning

“I’m a bath guy. Always have been. So, to start my day, I wake up about 30 minutes earlier than everyone else and soak in the tub. All I know is that it’s relaxing. The house is quiet. The warm water and bubbles are soothing. I’ll light a scented candle. And I’m able to just close my eyes and breathe. It’s basically like meditating. I try not to think about what I have to do that day, or what frustrated me from the day before. It’s a very calming sensory experience that helps me ease into the day, rather than hit the ground running, and that helps me be more present and attentive with my family.” – Jon, 35, New York

I Text My Mom

“I’m very fortunate that my mother is still alive. She was in a terrible car accident almost 10 years ago, and should’ve died. I text her at least once a day just to say, ‘I love you, Mama.’ Sometimes she’ll reply with, ‘I love you, too’ and that will be it for the day. Other days we’ll chat about random stuff. And sometimes we’ll have actual conversations. My mom is a constant reminder that something you love can be taken from you without warning. So those simple text exchanges make me a better father, husband, and person – and son – by helping me remember how grateful I am for my family, and how lucky I am to be able to cherish them everyday.” – Adam, 38, Oregon

I Read My Daily Joke Calendar

“It’s silly, but I love my daily joke calendar. I’ve had one since I first moved out on my own, and it was something that helped me establish a sense of normalcy in every day. Like it was something I could control, and look forward to. Most of the jokes are terrible, but I feel very accomplished when I chuckle – or roll my eyes – and tear off the piece of paper. Like it’s my official start to the day. That in itself helps me kick into ‘father/husband mode’, and my kids get a kick out of some of the jokes. It’s a small thing, really, but it’s a big part of my life.” – Jimmy, 37, Massachusetts 

I Touch My Wife

“I know fellow dads and husbands who go for days at a time without physically touching their wives. They just exist in the same space, without any sort of physical contact. It blows my mind. So I make a point to actually touch my wife every day. Sometimes it’s a full-on hug. Sometimes it’s an inappropriate squeeze when the kids aren’t looking. Sometimes it’s a rub of the small of her back. The point is, my ritual is physically touching my wife. It seems like such a small, insignificant thing. But it’s a source of connection, which strengthens our bond as a couple, and as parents. Touching her still gives me goosebumps, so that’s a high I chase every day.” – Bryan, 42, Connecticut