by Jay Payleitner
Once again, this week we’re featuring a chapter from It’s Great Being a Dad—written by three committed dads who frequent this space: Carey Casey, Jay Payleitner and Brock Griffin. This blog comes with a twist. After reading the good ideas below, your challenge is to give us some of your even better ideas! Hey, we’re all in this dad thing together.
If you’re married, I hope you’re smart enough to surprise your wife with flowers once in a while. It’s really a no brainer. She’s delighted and you might get a bonus kiss out of the deal.
So . . . what if you used the same principle with your kids? How might you surprise your son or daughter?
For your daughter, it might be indeed be a modest $10 bouquet of flowers. That’s not a bad idea at any age.
For your son, it depends on how old he is and what he’s into. A plastic dinosaur. A pack of baseball cards. A pack of firecrackers (if they’re legal in your state). A nerf football.
Other inexpensive ideas include a box of sidewalk chalk, bubbles, a fresh can of tennis balls, or a card game like Uno, Milles Borne, Pit, or Phase 10.
The idea is to surprise your kids for no reason at all. These are not the “uh-oh” or “oh no” kinds of surprises; these are the “ah-hah” and “wow” surprises. Think of them as day-brighteners that say, “I’m thinking of you.”
Maybe they will be surprised because you haven’t been doing all you can as a father, and they’ll wonder about the real motives behind your actions. That’s okay. Just smile and keep them wondering.
Want other examples? Show up to support your child at a time and place you haven’t before. Ask questions and show interest in things you haven’t bothered with in the past. Anticipate your child’s needs, and be ready with a secret stash of poster boards, flash cards for the upcoming SAT, or a cold Gatorade at just the right time. Give your first grader a new box of crayons. Fill your teenager’s gas tank.
You can also use the element of surprise to break up the routines of life. For no reason at all, offer to take their turn doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, or any other regular chore. If they’re cramming for finals, surprise them with cocoa, lemonade, or fresh popcorn. If they’ve just finished a major project or assignment, surprise them with a box of Dilly bars or popsicles.
As they prepare for tryouts for the next sports season, surprise them with some new gear, an instructional video, or even some coaching lessons. Just make sure you don’t attach ridiculous expectations to your gift.
Surprises don’t have to be things or events. They can be zero-cost reminders that you’re thinking about them. What can you text to your son that would bring a smile to his face? What could you write on a sticky note and leave on your daughter’s mirror?
The goal is to keep surprising your family members with good things until they are no longer surprises. You’ll suddenly be the husband and father who delights, encourages, and blesses. Instead of the cranky, mean spirited, and nasty sourpuss you normally are.
Your turn, dad! Share some ways you have surprised your kids. Or confess a great idea you always wanted to do, but never made happen. (This might be the trigger for taking action!)
Jay Payleitner is a best-selling author of more than a dozen books on fathering and family life, as well as a speaker, radio producer, and long-time friend and partner of the National Center for Fathering. Recent books include 52 Things to Pray for Your Kids, The Dad Book, and What If God Wrote Your Bucket List? He and his wife, Rita, live near Chicago, where they’ve raised five great kids (and now have three grandkids) and have loved on ten foster babies.
This blog post is an excerpt, in part, from the book It’s Great Being a Dad.