I know my kids love me. Of course they do—I’m their dad. But until recently I did not fully understand just how much they love me, or how much they, as children, do to try and make ME, the parent, feel happy and loved.

My daughter and I have our moments, we argue and sometimes it's intense. But as she gets older, the good, loving moments where we develop closer bonds and appreciation get better. As I've gotten to know her, I've noticed that she unintentionally shows me how to be a better parent, husband, and friend. There are things I learned from the way she treats me as her dad that I wish I’d noticed sooner, giving me the opportunity to implement them towards loved ones earlier in my life. Pay attention, because I've learned that these traits I've picked up from my daughter are game changers. Remembering these important lessons and intentionally acting on them has changed my life for the better.

Each of us deserves unconditional love.

No matter how my kids are behaving, I know it’s important to show them unconditional love. That way, they know they can always come to me when they have a problem they might be nervous to talk about. If they don't trust that I can be calm and reasonable to communicate with, they might go elsewhere for valuable wisdom. Typically, to someone they trust like a friend, or a friends parent who is a better listener. Are they going to offer the advice that's best for my daughter? Who knows.

As I've practiced better listening and more thoughtful responses when talking with my daughter, I've seen this developing skill transfer to conversations I'm having with my wife, my friends, and my co workers. I'm becoming a better listener, really considering what's happening in the conversation, and it's improving my relationships all around. This improvement externally is lending to internal improvements about my personal self worth and what I have to offer as a friend which has been a huge boost in my overall demeanor.

Family is everything.

Ever since I was a little child, I looked forward to the day I'd be a dad with a family of my own. As adulthood came, so did college, travel, money, and a whole slew of adventure seeking desires. My young adult years were fun and exciting but it wasn't until I started a family of my own that I found real depth and purpose in my life. As my wife and I welcomed our children into the world, as our dinner table grew, and our schedules became routine and predictable, I found more join in simple things. Exauhtic trips with my single friends in my 20's have turned into day trips to the beach with my wife and kids. I'm so happy to have my family unit, my little buddies, and my wife who's my best friend to take day trips with, to share meals with, and to go to sleep with every night. My family has provided a solid foundation from which I live my life and it's very satisfying knowing that these little humans need me, just as I need them.

Real forgiveness is possible.

My goal has always been to forgive, forget, and move on. I thought I had done pretty well at enacting those principles in my life until my daughter came along. It is unexpectedly easy to forgive her, because I sincerely love her. Recognizing this aspect of our relationship helped me to see that I wasn't as good at forgiving others as I previously thought. No one received forgiveness with such ease as my daughter and I knew that was something that needed to change. As I receive forgiveness for mistakes that I've made, it aids in my self acceptance which in turn empowers me to be a better man. This is something I want to offer to my friends, family, and acquaintances. I don't want to add to their burden (or mine) by holding a grudge.

Appreciate subtle happy moments.

There are few joys in the world that compare to subtle happy moments of fatherhood. Cars are cool, travel is exciting, and golf is fun. But after a long day at the office and sitting in traffic all the way home, being greeted with screams and hugs from my children when I get there nearly wipes all the stress away. It's a quick moment and a simple gesture, but expressions of love and admiration from the people I work so hard for is priceless. As my children have aged, the screams and giggles have transformed into something less exciting. As we raise our tiny children, it often feels like they'll be challenging and utterly dependent forever, but we're wrong. In the blink of an eye, they're teenagers glued to their phones and dying to be anywhere but home. Raising my daughter has taught me to appreciate the smallest of moments. It has taught me to slow down and to quit wishing for "tomorrow"...

That movie "Click" with Adam Sandler, that's serious business. If we get stuck in the pattern of wishing for tomorrow to come, of cringing through the bad moments and the temper tantrums, and the fits at the grocery store, we'll miss all of the quick, joyful moments in between. You'll find yourself sitting at the dinner table with your teenage children, wishing they were toddlers again, asking you a thousand questions and giggling at every playful joke you make. I watch for the small moments now: happy rides in the car, family movie nights, pleasant encounters around the kitchen table, cheerful "goodbyes" as my daughter leaves to go see her friends. I watch for these moments and I cherish them. While there is always a new challenge to face each day, these small moments are what make life so good.

Author's Bio: 

Tyler Jacobson is a father, husband, and freelancer, with experience in writing and outreach for organizations that help troubled teen girls and their parents. Tyler has offers tasteful humor and research backed advice to readers on parenting tactics, problems in education, issues with social media, mental & behavioral disorders, addiction, and troublesome issues raising teenage girls. Connect with Tyler on: Twitter | Linkedin