Dad: Communicate High Value to Your Kids

Rick and his family were out at the lake, staying in a cabin for a week, getting some well-deserved vacation time. One morning they were getting ready to go fishing, and Rick was walking along the dock toward the boat with his arms full of gear. He stumbled on a loose board and lost his balance, and in the process of flailing around to avoid falling in the water, he dropped a few things he was carrying and they fell into the lake … including his cell phone.

For a good half-hour, Rick and several of his kids took turns diving in to find it, but it was no use. They finally gave up and went on with the day’s plans. Rick tried to put it behind him and enjoy the time with his family, but he couldn’t relax. He was still thinking about his lost phone, getting it replaced, restoring all his data and settings, and so on.

That night at bedtime, Rick’s 10-year-old son said, “Dad, I’m sure glad you lost your cell phone today.”

He was surprised. “Why, son?”

His son said: “Because if you hadn’t, you would have been talking on it all day.”

Now, Rick’s first thought was, That isn’t true. He really was enjoying being out in nature and spending time with his kids; he just wanted to be available if something urgent came up at his job. It was later that night when he realized the deeper message: His son perceived that Rick’s cell phone and work responsibilities were more important than spending time with him. And even though Rick knew that wasn’t true, he wasn’t doing a good job of living it out.

There are two lessons here:

Sometimes we dads have to put aside the urgent in favor of what’s most important.

We can too easily get into the habit of letting our cell phones, our work schedules or even our hobbies rule our lives at the expense of investing in our families. And we don’t want to admit it—probably because we all tend to judge ourselves based on our intentions and then judge others based on reality.

If investing in our kids and spending time with them is important to us, then it should show. We should plan those times, schedule them, and then protect them when other options or responsibilities come along that could get in the way. And sure, there are occasionally times when we do have to reschedule something with one of our kids, but even then we shouldn’t just brush it off with an excuse. We should show them that our commitment to spend that time with them is serious to us, express some heartfelt regret, and find another time soon to follow through.

We need to remember the importance of focused attention.

We’ve trained ourselves to multi-task so we can get more done every day. That’s great at work, but it isn’t usually a good idea at home. Do you ever catch yourself asking your daughter about her day while scrolling through emails on your phone, while eating dinner, with the TV on?

Listening is a vital skill for fathers, and it isn’t just about hearing what a child is saying. It’s about putting other things aside, showing with your eyes and body language that you’re interested, and really tuning in to your child—verbally and with body language.

More than that, focusing on your child includes being intentional about creating one-on-one time to have fun and share life together. If you think there’s even a possibility that your child could have thoughts or feelings similar to Rick’s son—where he thinks your phone or other things are more important than he is—then maybe it’s time to give him lots of evidence to the contrary. Start new habits of interacting with him, like a weekly activity together or an everyday check-in to see how he’s doing.

Dad, they are good questions to consider: What do you need to throw into the lake or otherwise get rid of? What is standing in the way of you being the best dad you can be for your child?

What meaningful changes are you willing to make to make sure each of your children feels highly valued by you? Share how you’ve handled this and learn from other dads at our Facebook page.

Action Points & Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  • How did it go on your last family vacation? How tuned in were you to your kids? Were you “on call” in some way to work or other responsibilities?
  • When is the last time you “fasted” from technology for a day or more? What benefits did you see? Plan another one in the next few weeks and invest the extra time in being a dad.
  • Devote some time each day (or at least each week) when you’re unavailable to your job and engaged with your family—your phone and computer are off, you don’t check email, etc.
  • Is there a promise you’ve made to a child that you haven’t kept, or some other way you couldn’t follow through with what you’ve said? Do it soon. And if you can’t think of anything, ask each of your kids if they can.

Watch the replay of the Fathering Breakthrough Event

Join Dr. Ken Canfield and a handful of friends and partners as we give an update about our efforts to inspire and equip fathers all over the world.

There may be no more important work than turning the hearts of fathers to their children, and that’s what this is all about. We’re seeking to repair, rebuild and restore effective fathering for the benefit of children and families everywhere.

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