by Steve Lucey
Our culture tells us that teenagers don’t want to be with their dads; they think we’re weird and out of touch. But I’m convinced that’s a lie.
We are all wired for relationships; I believe there’s a God-given desire deep in the heart of your children to be loved by you and to love you in return. And for us, it’s an incredibly powerful and “magical” thing to be able to shape our children toward character and integrity. And the greatest way to do this is to spend time with them.
In order to fight against the lie and continue to win the hearts of our children, we need a strategy. For me, one great strategy is captured in two words: connect points.
Connect points are specific activities or ways to bond with your children which capitalize on what’s unique about them, their interests, and the things they love. As you become a student of your kids, you will quickly notice their unique gifts and passions, which will lead naturally to connect points. (And be aware that these will most likely change as they grow and mature, so as dads we need to keep learning and adjusting.)
It’s important to understand that the focus of these connect points should not be the actual activity you do, but the fact that you’re spending time with your child and deepening the relationship by doing something fun together. Some examples might be helpful here:
With my son Luke (19 years old and a college freshman), I’ve had several connect points. When he was younger, it was all about soccer. We kicked the ball around in the backyard, I coached his teams, and we watched games together. When he got to be a bit older he wanted to learn to hunt, and hunt we did—quail, ducks, turkeys, deer and more. We’ve been having a blast (pun intended) ever since! And recently, when I was in his college town on business, he asked if I would take him and 5 friends out to dinner. College students are always looking for a free meal, but he also wanted them to meet me. Why? Apparently he thinks I’m cool!
Becca (17 years old and a high school senior) is a different kid. Through the years, we have had soccer, dancing, hunting, hiking, horseback riding and college sports as our connect points.
With Jenna (15 years old and all girl), it has taken a little more effort since she’s very artistic and I am not. However, we have shared music, dance, outdoors and even hunting. (She’s the best shooter in the family.)
As you can see, there are all kinds of connect points you can use with your children—and don’t wait until they reach 13 before you start. It should be a natural continuation of your parenting as they hit the teenage years. You can’t just start being cool, but you can continue in your coolness during those teenage years if you continue to be a student of your kids and aggressively pursue quality and quantity time together.
To be honest, the teenage years have been my favorite years as a dad. We can finally do things together on level ground: dancing, shooting, cooking, hiking, hunting, fishing, working out, etc. And it is so fun!
Be encouraged, men. You can be a cool dad to your teenager if you are an engaged dad. Fight the fight! Don’t believe the lie!
Connect and be cool!
Steve Lucey, M.D., is an orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Sports Medicine & Joint Replacement, which serves the orthopedic needs of the Piedmont Triad community in North Carolina. Steve and his wife Stacey have three children and live in Greensboro, NC.