— Ariela Basson/Fatherly; Getty Images

There’s so much parenting advice out there that it’s only natural to ignore some of it. No matter how good it might be, there’s a tunnel vision that can occur because the noise can be overwhelming and, well, you’re the parent and you want to do it your way. Only as you progress through the years do you realize that, well, there was truth to some — or even many — of the advice you were told. A cliché but no-less-true sentiment about slowing down because the years fly by or, say, a reminder about the importance of stepping back and letting your kids fail more become imbued with new meaning. Here, a dozen dads reflect on the parenting advice they received when their kids were little — and wish they applied sooner.

1. Let Them Find The Solution

“It was during a random conversation at a community event that a fellow parent shared what was a great piece of advice: let kids solve their own problems. When my kids were younger, my parental instinct drove me to intervene and resolve their issues, whether it involved a broken toy or a dispute with a friend. I believed that my love and support were best expressed through solving their problems. Over time, I came to recognize that this inadvertently deprived them of opportunities to acquire vital problem-solving skills. Allowing them to navigate their own challenges would have played a pivotal role in nurturing their autonomy and resilience—qualities that hold immense value in shaping their future success.” — Sam, 30s, Florida

2. Teach Them About Failure

“No parent wants to see their kids fail. It’s heartbreaking. But, as I’ve learned, it’s necessary if you want them to become well-adjusted, fair human beings. My older brother always told me, ‘You’ve got to let your kids fail.’ And I kind of puffed up my chest and scoffed. What I didn’t understand was the difference between encouraging them to fail, versus letting it happen as a life experience to learn from. As my kids grew into their teens, they acted very entitled and spoiled. And I think that had a lot to do with me holding their hands so much when they were little, because I didn’t want to see them upset if they failed at something. Looking back, that was a disservice. To everyone. They’ve certainly grown a lot since, but I always wonder what they’d be like if I’d taken that advice.” — Shawn, 55, New Jersey

I don’t think I was bad, but I do wonder if a healthier me could’ve done better.

3. Take Care of Yourself

“Raising kids is a whirlwind of responsibilities, and it’s easy to become wrapped up in everything involving everyone but yourself. You lose sight of what it means to care for yourself. At least, I did. I had tons and tons of friends always telling me I looked tired, irritable, and in rough shape. I just smiled and nodded, thinking, ‘That’s part of the job, right?’ When they told me their experiences with similar issues, and how they learned to implement self-care into their parenting routine, I just became more stubborn. Looking back, I see how stressed and unhealthy I was during that time. I wonder if, had I taken their advice, I would’ve been a better father and husband. I don’t think I was bad, but I do wonder if a healthier me could’ve done better.” — Kurt, 44, New York

— Ariela Basson/Fatherly; Getty Images

“Don’t just document the special occasions. Back then, I was so caught up in the hustle of work and life that I primarily focused on capturing only the big moments, like birthdays, holidays, and the first days of school. The ordinary days seemed just that – ordinary. I first heard this advice from a colleague who was a few years ahead of me in the parenting journey. They mentioned how looking back at random, candid photos brought them more joy than posed, event-driven pictures. Now, I realize those ordinary moments were actually extraordinary in their own right. The quiet breakfasts, the evening walks, the laughter over a shared joke – these are the memories that truly define parenthood and family life.” — Russell, 50s, Texas

It’s hard not to wonder if making more of a concerted effort to get to know my kids’ friends would’ve helped me bond with my kids in a more powerful way.

5. Get To Know Your Kids’ Friends

“I didn’t realize until my kids were grown how many of their friends I really didn’t know. I knew their names, and what they looked like, but I didn’t really ‘know’ them. They’re all adults now – my kids, and their friends — and I regret that I don’t remember more about getting to know them. I’ll see them once in a while, and it’s always nice, but then they’ll start talking with my kids and I feel like a stranger. My mom was great about getting to know all my friends, and they loved her. Her presence strengthened our friendships. It’s hard not to wonder if making more of a concerted effort to get to know them would’ve helped me bond with my kids in a more powerful way.” — Ted, 47, Washington

6. Embrace The Chaos

“The piece of advice I wish I’d listened to more when my kids were little was to embrace the chaos and unpredictability of parenthood. I heard it from an elderly man at a local park, who, upon seeing me stressed out while trying to maintain order among my energetic toddlers, simply smiled and said, ‘Let them be little hurricanes.’ At the time, I thought I needed to control every situation and ensure a perfect, quiet outing.

So, I didn’t follow his advice. Now, looking back, I wish I had let go of the need for perfection. The moments when my kids were running around like little tornadoes were the ones filled with genuine laughter and joy. The unexpected detours from my meticulously planned outings often turned into the most cherished memories. Embracing the chaos would have saved me a lot of stress, and I now realize that those wild, unpredictable moments were the true essence of their childhood. Sometimes, it’s okay to let the hurricane happen and dance in the rain of laughter and spontaneity.” — Eric, 40, Oregon

7. Share Your Interests With Your Kids

“I used to be afraid that my children wouldn’t find my interests intriguing or would consider them too complicated, so I avoided involving them. My hobbies, which included investigating security systems and tinkering with vintage devices, seemed specialized and unlikely to capture their interest. However, looking back, I now understand that engaging my children in my hobbies would have been a meaningful way to connect with them. It wasn’t about expecting them to become experts. It was about the bonding experience and igniting their curiosity. Children have an incredible capacity to find joy in various experiences, and I missed the chance to introduce them to new things.” – Eugene, 37, Connecticut

I do remember how exhausting and grueling some of the days and nights were. But what I regret is not doing a better job of embracing that part of our lives.

8. Slow Down

“I think every dad regrets not taking time to cherish more of the parenting journey. My mother-in-law always used to say, ‘Cherish this time, because it won’t come back.’ And I would try, but I always got caught up with my career, bills, the perceived importance of red folders and deadlines, and all that stuff. So I would end up missing things. I really wish that I had slowed things down even more, and tried to be in the moment as much as possible. My mother-in-law was right — that’s time with my kids I can never get back.” — Kendall, 51, New York

— Ariela Basson/Fatherly; Getty Images

“I wish I could say I got this quote from a friend or a family member, but I think I actually just heard it on TV. The quote is, ‘The days are long, but the years are short.’ I heard that as a young father, and I remember thinking, Yeah, right. These have been the longest years of my freakin’ life. I feel like I knew what the quote was getting at, but that it didn’t apply to me. Then, in the flash of an eye, my kids weren’t kids anymore and I understood. Parenting is a grind. It’s a 24/7 job that can’t be ignored. But somehow, even though the days are long, the years seem to fly by so fast. Looking back, I do remember how exhausting and grueling some of the days and nights were. But what I regret is not doing a better job of embracing that part of our lives as a gift and a blessing before they were gone.” — Andy, 35, California

10. Trust Your Instincts

“I’m a naturally anxious person, and have been for my entire life. After our daughter was born, my parents would tell me over and over that it was okay to make mistakes, and to listen to myself as I was trying to figure things out. That advice went in one ear and out the other, in favor of reading books, Googling stuff, and basically doing everything but trusting my instincts. What I regret is that most of the stuff I thought to do — or not do — as a parent was pretty close to what all of the sources recommended. If I’d ignored that need for outside validation, seeing my success as a parent would’ve meant so much more. Ultimately, I’m grateful I was able to keep my kids safe and healthy. But I’m still just as anxious and neurotic about other stuff, with no confidence in my own abilities or instincts.” – Mark, 43, Florida

11. It’s Okay To Praise Your Kids Sometimes

“I grew up with little-to-no praise for anything. My parents weren’t mean, they were really great parents. But it was almost impossible to get them to recognize an accomplishment with anything more than, ‘Nice job.’ It’s something I’ve been unpacking with my therapist for years, and it’s why I had such a hard time expressing how proud I was of all the things they achieved. My wife advised me early on that there’s a balance between fussing over every little thing, and showing genuine pride that can instill confidence and create healthy bonds. I’m not sure if I didn’t listen, or if I wasn’t emotionally equipped enough to follow through with that advice. My kids are still relatively young, so I do have time to do my best moving forward. But I definitely regret not listening to my wife when she told me — gently and with compassion — that I was acting just like my parents.” – Mike, 45, Ohio

— Ariela Basson/Fatherly; Getty Images

“I knew my kids loved me, but I wanted them to like me. I’m ashamed to say it, but I leaned into being the ‘cool dad’ when my kids were younger. When they hit double digits, I was really obsessed with them thinking of me as their friend. I was their father — that wasn’t going to change. And so I thought getting them to like and admire me as a friend would make our relationship stronger. A coworker of mine put it pretty simply when she said, ‘You have to be a parent first, and a friend second.’

Looking back, I think I thought the parent part was automatic, or assumed. Like, Well, I’m already their dad, so…check! What I failed to do was that active part of parenting that requires being the bad guy once in a while, allowing your kids to get angry with you and, honestly, hurting when there’s tension between you. I regret not concentrating on the balance between parenting and friendship because, in hindsight, I think we both could’ve benefitted from more of it.” — Tom, 60, Texas