We try to encourage dads to “seize the day” with their kids—to recognize that life is short and we don’t want to miss out on the most important things. That means living with purpose and intentionality every day. It isn’t easy in today’s world, but it’s vitally important if we want to connect with our kids and help lead them toward a bright future.
The big question is: How are we spending that time with our kids?
This isn’t about quality time vs. quantity time. Kids normally don’t make that distinction; they just want time with Dad. And besides, it’s difficult to plan or schedule “quality time.” Most often it just happens when we’re spending quantity time together.
What’s the point, then? Giving more and more of ourselves to our children. And one great idea to keep in mind is:
It’s really being with our kids when we’re with them. We aren’t distracted or doing three other things at the same time. We’re thinking about them—what’s happening in their world, what they’re thinking and feeling, how we can affirm them, areas where they may need comfort or encouragement. It’s stepping out of our own issues and concerns and being all about theirs.
This is an important way to demonstrate love and high value to our kids. Through this intentional focus on a child, we are essentially telling him or her, “You’re important enough that I’m devoting my most valuable assets—my time and attention—to you, right now.” They probably know how precious your time is, and what a “gift” it is to spend that focused time with them.
As dads, we show affection to our children in many ways: maybe with hugs and saying, “I love you” often. But what sets many effective fathers apart from the rest is this focused attention, or active listening. It’s a key way to show affection to our kids.
Ross Campbell, author of How to Really Love Your Child, points out that our undivided attention communicates high value to our kids and builds their self-esteem, while also enhancing their ability to relate to others.
Practically speaking, one-on-one outings are great for this.
Getting out of the house to grab some ice cream or coffee together gets you both away from other distractions and allows you to better connect. Or make the most of bedtime to focus on your child and catch up each day. But it’s also important that we dads get into good habits on an everyday, routine basis. When a child has something to say, we need to demonstrate in obvious ways that we’re available and tuned in by putting down the phone or tablet, closing the laptop, pausing, muting or turning off the TV, turning toward them or even standing up and going over to them. (Or with a young child, squatting down to get on their level.) That’s what active listening means, and here are more great listening tips.
And if we’re really radical, we could ask our kids what they think gets our undivided attention. It can be humbling, but it’s worth it if it reveals an area for improvement in our fathering.
What works for you? How do you get that focused time with your kids? Share your insights and get tips from other dads on our Facebook page.