First Dads: The Parenting Styles of U.S. Presidents

They are the most powerful men in the world, but at home they’re just dad.

In the new book, “First Dads: Parenting and Politics from George Washington to Barack Obama,” author and biographer Joshua Kendall tries to uncover the connection between leading the country to raising a family.

“I was really surprised by the disconnect a lot of them had with their kids. Like Franklin D. Roosevelt (32nd President) for example, he was like a father to this country when he died in 1945. Most Americans felt like they lost their father but to his own children, he was totally different. He leaned on them. They were kind of parentified and he really kind of neglected them,” Kendall tells


Every U.S. president in history has been a father and out of the 43 men who have served, 38 of them had biological children and the other five had adopted children.

“John Tyler (10th President) had 15 children with his two wives but he also had a dozen slave children like Thomas Jefferson including a few slave children that he sold,” adds Kendall.


While most of the first children who were interviewed for the book said they didn’t resent their famous dads for being President, they only had a problem with the amount of time they spent away from them.

“I think they resented their fathers for putting politics over people. Lyndon Johnson used to say, ‘I only think about politics 18 hours a day,” he adds.

Though, most of them did find a way to balance running the country and raising their little ones.


“Theodore Roosevelt (26th President) would win as the silliest. He would be working in the White House in the afternoon and then he would go up in the attic to play tag with his kids.”

James Garfield, who served as the 20th President, loved jumping on the bed with his kids, while Jimmy Carter, the 39th President was the toughest when it came to homework.

“We tend to think of Jimmy Carter as kind of a softy but he was actually a military guy and was quite tough. His son Chip failed his Latin exam and Jimmy became his Latin tutor and that really helped him and he ended up getting an A.”

Kendall says there was a tie between who was the worse dad in the Oval Office.


“It’s a close race between John Quincy Adams (6th President) and John Adams (2nd President). They were both what I call ‘Tiger Dads,’ very strict disciplinarians.”

And the best dad award goes too?

“I think it may be a toss-up between two as well. I think our current President [Obama] whatever you think about his policies, I think that everyone acknowledges that he’s really available or I would say Rutherford B. Hayes (19th President) because he was very, very sweet. He’s the guy who set up the Easter Egg Roll at the White House.”