“The most important fifteen seconds of a man’s day is when he walks in the door after work.”

A dad recently made that comment to one of our staff members, crediting one of the pioneers of the fathering movement, the late Dave Simmons, for making the point.

What’s the most important 15 seconds of your day?

You could argue that some other fifteen-second period is just as critical—such as when your feet hit the floor in the morning, prayers at dinner, tucking in at night, and so on. But you can certainly see the point. Dads often set the tone in their households. Will the evening be fun? Is the atmosphere one of acceptance and connection, or is there an underlying tension?

Establishing a home environment of mutual love, trust, respect and joy would be a great goal for any dad, and it isn’t easy. Sometimes you come home in the middle of a discipline issue, so there’s already a lot of tension. Sometimes the first thing you hear about is what went wrong during the day.

Also, there’s the daily mental adjustment you’re trying to make. Your workplace might leave you with a “perform or else” mind-set and possibly a number of high-stress issues or decisions. At home, you suddenly need to be nurturing, sensitive and interested in everyone else’s day.

Plus, you’re probably just plain tired, and that can make you edgy or impatient with your kids.

It helps to understand these challenges, but we can also prepare for them. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Do regular reality checks when you’re at work. Keeping some family photos at your worksite, taking breaks during the day, and calling your wife to check in are some great ways to help you keep a healthy perspective.
  2. If you need to, take five minutes to decompress before you leave work, in the car, or right before you walk in the door at home.
  3. Be very intentional during those first few moments when you get home—fifteen seconds, five minutes or whatever. Set aside other agendas. Find each family member and give a high five or a big hug. Think of something affirming to say, or just say, “Boy, it sure is good to see you.”

Ideally, you can establish a positive routine where your children look forward to that time. Maybe that could include taking a few minutes and play a game, romp on the carpet or take a short walk.

Intentionally make those fifteen seconds affirming and fun, dad, and see what a difference it makes.