Everyone is telling their dad this Father’s Day that he’s the Father of the Year, but only a few men can say they were actually given that title at an awards ceremony. This year, Mario Lopez (as well as Willie Geist and PVH CEO Manny Chirico) were honored by the National Father’s Day Council for their work balancing career and fatherhood – though in Lopez’s case, he says it really is as easy as he makes it look.
“If it doesn’t involve my family or the well being of them, it’s all the small stuff, and I don’t sweat it,” he tells PEOPLE. “Your whole thought process changes. No matter how long or how stressful the day, when I open the door and I hear the little feet coming and yelling ‘Daddy!’ it kinda makes everything feel better.”
Clearly his kids (with wife Courtney Mazza) Gia, 7, and Dominic, 4, already think their dad is the best, but what does it mean for a council dedicated to promoting fatherhood role models to give him the designation? “I gotta tell ya, out of all the different accolades I have received over the years, whether for wrestling or other sport, or my Emmys and all that kind of stuff, this is cool because it’s based on my character – judging your sense of responsibility on things that really matter,” he says. “Being a father is my favorite role yet, and to be recognized for it is truly incredible. I embrace it, love it, and every moment is cool.”
So as the official Father of the Year, does Lopez feel qualified to dispense advice? “You will hear a lot of advice from various different people, but if you come from a place of love, you can’t go wrong,” he says. His top tips?
“Some people want to go be their friend, you gotta be a parent first. Kids respond to respect, structure and discipline.”
“You gotta listen to your kids too, though, you can’t just talk down to them.”
“Get as much help as you can whether it’s grandma, or nannies – any and as much support as you can. Don’t try to be a superhero all by yourself.”
“I think children respond to positive attention and positive atmosphere. So, if they see Dad loving on Mom and see you happy, I think that’s a beautiful thing.”
“Last thing: monitor your child’s use of the Internet. That’s another important one.”
Does he take advice from other celebrity dads? “I’m not really into taking advice from other celebrities, but there are other dads out there that I like and respect,” he says. “I like Mark Wahlberg a lot, he’s got a few kids, he’s Catholic like I am. I love the Rock, the way he is with his daughter, he’s another dad I admire who I’ve known for a long time.”
Ultimately, Lopez relies on his own parenting philosophy to be the best dad he can to his kids. “If you come from a place of love, you can’t really go wrong. But have structure, maintain a strong form of discipline; you gotta be a parent first. Stay united as parents,” he says. “I am a little better when it comes to the tough disciplinarian stuff, I think I’m pretty good at laying down the law and being firm. My wife is pretty much better at everything else!”
So what does the Father of the Year want for Father’s Day on Sunday? “Just laying in bed and sleeping all day. I’m always running around and doing something. Chilling in bed, falling in and out of naps.”
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