Kids Say THIS Is the Best Way to Be a Better Dad

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As is often the case, the most profound truths are pretty simple.

Every year we conduct essay contests in different areas of the country, where thousands of children write about “What my father means to me.” We always get priceless stories and comments, expressed as only kids can. The entire experience is truly heartwarming.

But today I want to pass on a challenge from these essays. Reading them, our staff couldn’t help noticing a common theme.

Typically, the kids describe some of the fun things they do with their dad, or how he demonstrates his love and dedication. Then, toward the end, they’ll add something like this: “If there’s one thing I wish was different with my dad, it would be that we spend more time together.” Or they’ll say, “I wish I could do more things with him.”

Now, these kids love their dads. And maybe we can say some of this is based on unrealistic hopes, like a child saying, “I wish I could live at Disneyland,” or, “I’d like to have ice cream for dinner every day.” Sometimes kids say those things.

But if we’re honest, dad, most of us would have to admit that we could give our kids more of our time. I know I could.

Photo: © Orangeline | Dreamstime Stock Photos &Stock Free ImagesWe play a huge role in their lives, and the more time we spend with them, the more they benefit from our loving, coaching and modeling—using teachable moments, affirming their character, building a strong relationship, passing on our values and our faith … all the great things that fathers do.

Clark Smith, one of our bloggers and a good friend of the Center, provided this word picture: “Fathering is a pasture fenced with time. The size of the fence determines the size of the relationship. Increase your parenting time even a little and the relationship grows greatly. Nip a foot or two out of the fence and watch the pasture shrink.”

That’s another way of saying that time is a basic need for any good relationship. The amount of great activities and conversations and memories you share is directly related to how much time you spend together. Time with your children may or may not have immediate rewards for you, but you’re building a legacy that will likely last for generations, minute-by-minute and hour-by-hour.

Please don’t let this be a guilt trip. But couldn’t we all pledge to be more aware of the time we’re devoting to our children and make that a higher priority?

Build time with your kids into your schedule, so it doesn’t get squeezed out when other things come along. Plan those daddy-daughter dates and outings with your son. Get into routines that naturally bring you together over and over. They need your undivided attention.

Also, be intentional about one-on-one time with your kids. Schedule regular time alone with each one. Treat him to frozen yogurt, practice volleyball with her, or just go for a walk. Mix in a daddy-daughter date or an overnight trip every now and then. Carve out blocks of time regularly, and then make sure you’re focused on your child and nothing else.

Dad, make sure that if your child ever writes something about you, his or her essay doesn’t include the words, “I wish my dad could have spent more time with me.”

What creative (or routine) ways do you use to make sure you’re getting time with your children? Please help other dads by sharing your ideas either below or on our Facebook page.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Do your children ever ask, “Daddy, can we …?” Or, “Dad, do you want to …?” Savor those opportunities, and make the most of them.
  • Make the most of mealtimes, bedtimes, doing dishes, raking leaves or those minutes riding in the car with your kids. Have some stories, jokes or other interesting things to contribute to the time together.
  • Invest some time to watch your child during a practice or rehearsal. (Your presence really does make a difference.) Afterward, ask questions about some things you noticed.
  • If you can’t be with your child every day, send short texts or emails with words of encouragement or updates on what’s happening, or what you’re looking forward to doing with him soon.
  • Sit with your child and let her talk about her day, without any interruptions, for five or ten minutes. Just listen. Then be ready to share if she asks about your day.

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.

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  1. Kyle Maynard says:

    I am a stepfather of a six year old boy who is playing football. I work 50 hours a week and when I get home it is time for dinner, bath and bed. I have off every Sunday and every third Saturday so finding extra time to spend with him is hard. His biological father only shows up on special days (birthday and holidays). He says that he wishes he could see his daddy more, but it’s hard for us to explain to him that his father is hard to reach. It’s hard for me to be a father to him with having to be the one to discipline him all the time since his biological doesn’t ever make rules for him. He looks at me as the bad person. How do I find a way to show him that I’m the same fun person as his biological and not be the “mean” dad?

    • Kyle – Thanks for responding. First, it’s clear you’re playing a huge and vital role in his life, especially if his biological father isn’t that dependable.

      Maybe some other stepdads will chime in with their thoughts if they’ve had similar experiences.

      What comes to mind on this can apply to all dads. Sometimes we get so focused our kids’ behavior that we forget to do fun things that build a stronger relationship. As the saying goes, “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.” Maybe it would help to be intentional about doing things with him that he enjoys.

      A lot of times, it seems that when we invest that time and energy into just hanging out and having fun together, kids are motivated to behave better by that stronger connection. It’s persuading them more with our influence than our authority or control.

      Just a thought to consider. Best to your family.

  2. Mark gosney says:

    Regarding today’s message. It’s very simple and rewarding. It’s all about priorities. My daughter is priority 1. She is a special needs child, which may make my situation a little unique, however, the way I see it, all children are special needs. What I mean by this, is that all children need love, guidance, security, etc…
    Once you’ve made your child priority number 1…it becomes a habit…and more rewarding every single day. And yes, believe it or not, it is incredibly more fun than you could ever believe possible!!!

  3. Rony Wise says:

    Steven Curtis Chapman sings a great song that deals with the relationship between a Father and Daughter. It’s called “Cinderella” and I encourage all of you to watch the video. If this doesn’t motivate all Father’s to spend more time with their children, nothing will.


  4. This is a great article Mr. Casey. One thing I’ve noticed recently is that sometimes, although I’m spending time with my son, I wasn’t spending time WITH my son. Even though he was with me physically, my mind was elsewhere and not giving him the full attention he deserved.

  5. I have always admired and appreciated the work that Mr. Casey and his team put into helping us be better dads. I find the tips in each week’s email very helpful, and they help remind me that the challenges of the day don’t need to be brought home to the wife and kids. Kids never care about those things, they just want dad.

  6. Great article. I am a father of four. I have two boys and two girls. I have been my boys dad since they were 2 and 3 years old. I helped make the girls. I really believe that the more time you spend with them the better they will be able to be dads and moms to their own kids someday. My family created a family game that you can get from our kickstarter campaign. here is a link to show you my the game we made. If you would like. I could use any help I can get in getting the word out. Thanks in advance. GO.. Dads…

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