Operating guide to fatherhood

Comedian Steve Bedwell shares some gems of wisdom on being a good parent – without losing your mind.

Set out like a retro car manual, comedian Steve Bedwell’s new book Toddler Owner’s Manual is a refreshing, light-hearted take on the challenges of raising young children – and having plenty of laughs on the journey.

We had a chat with Steve to find out some of his top lessons learned…

What were your expectations of the role of a father before you had children?

Before fatherhood descends upon you it is difficult to know exactly what to expect. Everything that I expected happened but in far greater quantities than I could have predicted. I expected dirty nappies and lost sleep, but certainly never expected for them both to occur concurrently and so often.

What have you learnt is the actual role of a father?

The role of a new father seems to be basically one of keeping out of the way, and trying not to do anything stupid that may make the baby cry and earn the ire of the mother. Of course, this role evolves as the child gets older and suddenly you find yourself in the challenging role of ‘setting a good example’.

How does having children change your outlook on the world?

When a child is born and during the early toddler stage, the home is their world. And once they come along your whole perspective and outlook on your home changes. It is a potential minefield of burns, cuts and falls. Suddenly every cupboard door becomes a fortress and every hard surface an invitation to trouble.

What are the top ‘buyer beware’ tips for parents whose children have just hit 18 months?

My top tip would be to watch what you say. At 18 months kids are sponges and what are the words they seem to absorb most readily? Yep, the bad ones, and they will repeat them at the most inappropriate times.

What challenges do parents of toddlers face?

The two biggest challenges that parents of toddlers face are escaping and tantrums, which ironically are the two things that toddlers make parents want to do. The escaping toddler is a real problem – they love to be free. My advice for this problem is to keep all door and widows closed and don’t leave anything lying around that they can climb up on to facilitate a break for freedom. As for tantrums, the worst thing you can do is give in, as it sends the wrong message and will only invite further performances. Just let them cry it out – tough at the supermarket, I know, but still the best course of action.

What are the hardest and best things about being a dad to a toddler?

The constant vigilance required is very challenging. It seems that no time is your own and you are on permanent high alert. Apart from watching them grow through this rapid stage of development, I would have to say the best thing is the sense of relief when they go sleep at night.

You want to watch football on TV and you have a toddler who needs attention – how can you do both?

The greatest ally any father can have in the battle that is keeping a toddler entertained is the iPad, and food. These days, kids are so adept at technology that a game or two on the iPad will keep them busy for at least the duration of a football match and at least part of the post game review. Throw a snack or two into this equation and silence is virtually guaranteed.

What are the best things about being a dad that people don’t mention?

It’s hard to go past the smiles and the hugs that tell you that not only are you loved, but in a small way that you are also doing a good job.

How do you keep toddlers on vegetables after they have had their first taste of something sweet?

The trick is to hold them off from the ‘sometimes foods’ (a term I learnt from the maternal health nurse) as long as possible. But once they have had a taste, it’s hard to go back; sugar is like heroin for toddlers. Introducing the concept of dessert after dinner is a way of both satisfying their cravings and being able to monitor their overall dietary intake.

Head here for more information on Steve’s book

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