When you’re with your kids, are you really with your kids?

We dads can get a lot done at once. We can have the TV on while we’re checking email or texting on our phones, and then carry on a conversation at the same time. Well, we might think we can, but we’re very likely giving less than our best attention to the person with whom we’re talking.

Since multi-tasking can be a valuable skill in some areas of life, like maybe at work, that can easily bleed over into areas where it isn’t always positive, like with our kids.

Bottom line: we need to be intentional about focusing on those we love. That’s a challenge for all dads, and if you’re a new dad this is an important idea to pick up on right away.

Here’s a common scenario for dads of infants. You’re caring for your baby by yourself one evening. At this stage your little darling doesn’t do much and most of what you’re thinking about is when to feed and change her. Mostly, she just kind of sits there (although there’s really a lot more going on than that).

So you set her in a bouncy seat and she’s content for the moment. You turn on the TV, pull out your cell phone or laptop, or maybe a book or magazine. You’re still there for her; but you’re multi-tasking. You have things to get done while you’re with her.

The problem is, that isn’t best for your baby. Dad, you can’t afford to be distracted.

Worst case, this could actually be a safety concern. If your focus is elsewhere, you might miss something important and she might hurt herself or get into a dangerous situation. It isn’t likely, but it’s something we should all be thinking about.

The other big factor is that those distractions take you away from bonding with your child. As you give more and more of your attention to those other things, pretty soon your baby will become the interruption or the distraction. Then, when she cries or needs something, it will be a frustration for you. Caring for her will be like a dreaded chore you have to do until you get back to things that, in that moment, are more important to you. And so you’re more likely to lose patience, and maybe even get angry. Clearly, all of this doesn’t add up to you giving your child your very best.

And this isn’t about all dads giving their children all their attention with every waking moment; there really are other important things we need to accomplish in a day. This is about balance and prioirites, letting our kids know every day, over and over, that they are precious to us.

For any new dads: decide beforehand that your baby is your first priority. If she’s awake, plan to give her lots of face-to-face interaction and other kinds of stimulation. Be with her or at least be right there close.

And it’s a good reminder for all dads. When we’re with our kids, we need to really be with our kids. We can’t let them think our phones, a video game or some sports event on TV is more important than they are. That time is precious, so let’s make the most of every opportunity to bond with our kids.

We can’t afford to be distracted dads.

Need more ways to show your child that he or she is special? Check out our inexpensive but meaningful gift ideas at Gifts from Dad.