7 traits of awesome dads

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America - one in three - live in homes without biological fathers present.

"Kids want and need a father figure," explains David VanLandegen, a Rock Island father of two who helped start the Boot Camp for New Dads in 2002. He noticed that when he went to his kids' activities, there were few dads around.

He wants to raise the bar for area dads.

Children without a father are more likely to have health and behavioral problems, be obese and suffer abuse. Worse, children in households without fathers are more likely to have drug and alcohol problems and be incarcerated. (See more from the National Fatherhood Initiative.)

Here at now what?, we highlight those who care for children - including dads. Here's a few traits we see in awesome dads.

He's good to himself.

Your kids look to you as a model of how to live their own lives. By treating yourself well, you are teaching your kids that they should treat themselves well, too.

Eating healthy and exercising may not be at the top of your priority list as a busy dad - but they should be.

He's willing to learn.

Being a dad can be hard work. At times, it can feel like a thankless job with long hours, little training and low pay. But the rewards are more than worth the work.

"It's not necessarily something that comes naturally," says Jesse Anderson, a dad of two in LeClaire. "I really have to work to be a good father."

Awesome dads never stop growing and learning - reading, taking classes and talking with other dads. (Dads - you need a parenting tribe, too.)

He creates stability.

What children need more than anything is safety and stability. And as a dad, it's your responsibility (along with your partner) to provide a safe home environment for your kids.

The world isn't always simple. But you can be a rock in your child's life.

"Having both parents around gives kids a richness of care," David says. "Moms and dads accent each other. This gives children more experience and resources."

He shows affection.

Babies don't know what love means. But, it's clear that they know what it looks and feels like.

Many dads avoid the "touchy-feely" parts of parenting. It may feel less manly, but great dads know they're never too macho for affection.

Give hugs. Snuggle. Kiss. Hold Hands.

A true man (and a great dad) can show love through affectionate touch. And this is an important lesson for all children to learn.

He's good to his partner.