No one would doubt that father of four Michael Strahan has a lot of wisdom to impart when it comes to parenting.
But the former football star and successful television personality admits that his kids — 12-year-old twin daughters Sophia and Isabella, son Michael Jr., 21, and daughter Tanita, 24 — have given him one of life’s greatest lessons.
“Sometimes life gets serious for us as adults, but looking at my kids, it lets me know that you’re allowed to have fun — you’re allowed to have mindless fun,” Strahan, 44, tells PEOPLE. “And you’re allowed to be yourself and act like no one is watching.”
Continues the Good Morning America co-host, “I think that is the most valuable lesson that I’ve learned from them. They keep on teaching me every day, so I’m always willing to learn.”
Want all the latest pregnancy and birth announcements, plus celebrity mom blogs? Click here to get those and more in the PEOPLE Babies newsletter.
Strahan’s willingness to soak up new information in his quest to learn and grow as a parent comes at least in part from two very special people he looks up to: his mom and dad.
“The most important thing my mother and father taught me: respect,” he says. “And when I say respect, [I mean] respect for other people but most of all, respect for yourself. If you have respect for yourself, then I think you’ll definitely treat other people and go about things the right way. And I love that.”
The former Live with Kelly co-host emphasizes the importance of laughter no matter what stage of life you’re in.
“I want them to have fun around their family and their dad,” he says of his kids. “I have fun with my dad still. I think [it’s] important for them to see that: No matter what age, laugh.”
The proud dad says if he could offer new parents one piece of advice, it’d be to enjoy the time as a parent “as much as you can” — and make sure to embrace the shut-eye while you have the chance.
But then again, there’s only so prepared you can be.
” ‘There is no advice — they don’t come with a manual!’ ” Strahan recalls telling a friend of his who was preparing to be a dad for the first time. ” ‘You have to figure it out. That’s the excitement about being a new parent.’ ”
RELATED VIDEO: Michael Strahan’s Musings on Fatherhood Will Make You Melt
He continues, ” ‘They won’t break. They’re tougher than you think, and you’ll find out when you have more that you were over-exaggerated on the first one.”
Strahan adds that keeping in check will ensure parents are passing on the best of themselves to their kids.
” ‘Remember that everything your kids learn for the most part — like their real core values — they’re gonna learn from you,’ ” he says. ” ‘So make sure that you’re very strong in what you’re teaching them.’ “