10 of the Best, Most Useful Things Readers Have Learned From Their Dads

published Jun 16, 2021
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Fathers and father figures are often a wealth of advice, from how often to actually change your oil to the ideal cooked egg method to how to get the best deal on a new appliance. Many enduring life lessons have been taught to us by our fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and more; they prove that you can learn more from your father figure than changing tires, mowing the lawn, loading the dishwasher just so, or keeping the thermostat at a cool 65 degrees. 

In the spirit of Father’s Day, I asked a handful of people to share the best life and living tips they learned from the dads in their lives, and the wisdom provided shows that sometimes, fathers really do know best.

Keep things in working order now so you don’t have to fix them later.

Even if your father isn’t a pro fixer, chances are you’ve gleaned plenty of advice about how to keep your home and car in working order. Reader Emily Crane says her father recommended doing the work before it’s necessary. “Fix it before it’s broken,” he told her. 

Kate Turner learned a similar lesson from her dad. “As long as you care for things, they’ll last longer. It can be 20 years old, but if you care for it, it’ll be just as good as a new one,” she shared.

Some dads taught their kids to take care of their possessions and store them properly — even if they had to learn that lesson the hard way. “Always hang your tent to dry before putting it away,” shared Caitlin Doyle. She remembers the way her dad taught her this valuable lesson: “He taught us this by making my sister and I use ‘the cheese tent’ — a tent that had been folded up and stored wet one time, never to smell good again.”

Stock a tool box with the basics — and know how to use them.

Other fathers advised learning to do basic home maintenance yourself to save money and develop important skills. “Be self-sufficient. Have a drill and a tool box and know how to use them,” shared Jennifer Hirschi of what her dad told her. Not sure where to start? No problem! Apartment Therapy’s How to Be Handy is a crash course in DIY tasks and tricks.

“‘Measure twice, cut once,’” said Alle Connell. “It’s valuable not just for repairs and building stuff, but for everything in life.”

Yes, drain covers are worth it.

Save yourself a house call from the plumber, especially if there are multiple people with long hair in your home. “Always use a drain cover,” shared reader C.J. Sinner, one of three daughters with long hair.

Tidy up before bedtime.

Doing a few simple chores in the evening will make the next morning so much better. “Go to bed with a wiped-down kitchen and a pillow-fluffed and blanket-folded family room,” said reader Rachel Brown.

Be thoughtful and practical with your money.

If your father figure is a master budgeter, planner, and checkbook balancer, chances are you’ve learned more than your fair share of financial lessons here. “When considering a big purchase, divide the cost by what you make in an hour. Is it worth X hours of work?” shared Olivia Auriat. 

“Don’t spend money you don’t have! With the expectation of my car, house, and college education, I have followed this,” Molly Epstein shared of her father’s financial lessons. 

It’s also important to be realistic about lending money to a friend or family member — in short, don’t do it if you absolutely need to get that money back. “Money is never a loan. It’s always a gift,” Nora McInerny’s father told her. Extend a financial helping hand when your loved ones need help and you won’t regret it.

Stick to the basics.

For many, dad is a wealth of good old valuable advice for everyday life. “Pay your bills the day you get them, never let your gas tank get below one-forth of a tank, and wash dishes as you cook so you don’t have to do so much cleanup at the end,” shared reader Danna Kedrowski.

“Listen to others, be generous, be humble, always step up and help, use your turn signals, and don’t slurp your tea,” shared Norah Allison.

Dress for the occasion.

Being prepared means wearing appropriate footwear — dad sandals and New Balances included. “Always wear shoes that are appropriate for the weather, even if you’re just getting into your car and going to your destination,” said Molly Cooper. 

Your clothing choices can also impact your outlook on life, according to dear old Dad. “There isn’t bad weather. There’s just bad clothing choices,” Kristy Deeds’s father shared with her. 

Don’t let what others think of you hold you back.

Tamara Anderson’s father taught her to remember her value. “It’s a little gruff, but not wrong: ‘Why the hell are you worried about what they think? Who are they?’” she explained. “It’s my forever mantra when I start to take non-constructive criticism to heart.”

Tara Olson Medina’s father agrees. “It doesn’t matter what you do in life as long as you’re happy,” she shared. “He doesn’t care if I’m a doctor, lawyer, whatever … no judgement, just find something you like to do.”

Don’t stress over the small stuff.

My aunts and uncles always recite a quote they heard often from their late father — they even have it framed in their homes! “The main thing in life is not to get excited,” he often said. Don’t get too worked up or anxious about something if you can help it — take it one step at a time.

Other dads agreed that just like the old proverb, slow and steady wins the race. “My dad says, ‘You have to step on many small stones to cross a big river,’” said reader Melissa Manke.

And yes, sometimes even Dad’s go-to chores can wait.

“Spending time with the people you love is far more important than getting all the chores done. Yes, some things need to get done now, but the dishes or the lawn can wait. If a friend wants to hang out, leave the dishes for later,” shared Jennifer Moe.

“Most importantly, my dad taught me never to be too busy to help out a friend or family member in need,” shared Niki Robison. “He’s the type to drop everything and run to anyone’s aid in a crisis. My dad rules.”