If you’ve been keeping up with March Madness, you know that tonight Villanova and Michigan will play each other for the NCAA National Championship. Right now, the coaching teams are looking at their game plans and discussing their strategies for each play. They know that in order to win the game, they have to focus on the plays.

It’s the same with parenting.

If you’re a young dad or a soon-to-be dad, you are probably pretty frightened right now. I understand that. I’ve raised kids of my own. Parenting is a great challenge for both parents, but dads tend to think it won’t come as naturally for them. Many times they question if they will be the right influence on their kids.

Dads, let me reassure you. You have everything you need to be a great dad to a great kid. Your child needs you. You are the center of his world in many ways, even if it seems like his mom is more at the center right now. You really are his hero, and how you interact with your child now will affect him for years to come.

Dads, let me reassure you. You have everything you need to be a great dad to a great kid.

But don’t let this overwhelm you. Like the NCAA coaches are doing right now, I like to tell young dads to focus on the play, not the entire game. This is something that I once heard my friend, and tight end for the Baltimore Ravens, Benjamin Watson say:

“Coaches tell us that when we focus on the plays, not the game, we’re more likely to win the game,” he said. “For dads that approach really works. Focus on what’s in front of you; focus on the task at hand, and the big picture will take care of itself.”

Good parenting happens slowly, over time, by making a choice every day to be intentional with your child. Instead of getting bogged down by thinking about your child’s entire life, here are some plays you can focus on now that will help you win the game of raising a happy successful kid.

01 Play with your kids
This might not seem important, but taking time to play with your kids, no matter how tired you are when you come home from work, is one of the best ways to build a relationship with your child. There is actually evidence to prove that when a father plays affectionately with a child, the child gets along better with peers later in life.

Good parenting happens slowly, over time, by making a choice every day to be intentional with your child.

02 Pray with your kids
I always tell parents, God is good for kids. I mean it. Even if you aren’t religious, your child is more spiritual than you think she is. Children are naturally inclined to a belief in God. Praying with your child is another good way to connect with her at a young age.

If you ever prayed with your father, as I did, you know what I mean. Having a strong, powerful, smart dad kneel by your bedside, close his eyes and pray, brings a child closer to his father than any activity or conversation ever can.

03 Be steady
Your child experiences a lot of different emotions throughout the day, and he isn’t old enough yet to control them. When you are steady, this will help even out his emotional ups and downs. When he is agitated, stay calm. When he is weak, be strong. When he is fearful, be confident. This will make you a hero in his eyes and will help him know that you are a rock he can rely on no matter what.

Dads, winning your kids is all about strategy. Focus on just a few plays and make a strategy for each one. I guarantee that if you do that, you’ll win at not only being a great dad but being your child’s hero.

By Lisbeth Splawn