Each of us knows some things intuitively. For instance, as fathers we know that spending intentional uninterrupted time with your child has eternal rewards. No matter how much “stuff” you have bought for them, it will never compare to simply being with you and having your full attention.
Personal confession time here – Did I spend every waking moment engaging with my two children when they were growing up? No – I did not. To be sure, it is important to teach your children to play independently of you or with their siblings. After all, I had a job to go to each day, I had (and still have!) my wife to spend time with, I had tons of involvement in our church, as well as a drive pursue my individual interests and hobbies. I did, however, make an intentional effort to spend intentional time with them daily.
Child development experts tell us that frequent little bits of “Daddy Time” will create an increased trust level and an emotional or relational bond between us that will enable them to feel secure about themselves and make them less likely to act out in unacceptable ways in order to gain our attention. But also it is important to note that these experiences also build the foundation for our future parent to adult child relationship. And it sets a pattern as they leave the home and begin families of their own.
Your children’s ages make a big difference in how we spend time with them. Consider attempting to have several 5 to 15 minutes periods of “Daddy Time” rather than engaging for one long block of time with toddlers and preschoolers. But as they grow older, the time blocks will need to extend.
Here are some tips to consider to plan your special “Daddy Time”:
- First, be sure to foretell or alert your child, “We are going to have some special daddy time together.” Let them know when it will happen. You can use this as a motivator for other actions. For instance, after they have finished a few chores, after school, or dinner, or perhaps while a younger sibling is napping.
- However, do not take special time away as punishment for behavior earlier in the day. Being able to depend on special time with you provides them a sense of your unconditional love and a connection with you that is not performance based.
- Tell them when you are in the midst of the special time. “This is my special time with you.” Make positive and affirming statements to them such as, “I love doing things with you. You are fun to play with.”
- Tell them that this is not an isolated event and when you will have the next special time together. Tell them when the next special time will be. Remind them to be thinking about what they would like to do.
- Give them notice before the time is up and say, “Soon our time is over for today. Daddy needs to get back to what he was doing a little while ago.”
- Later, remind them about the special time you had together earlier, and that another special time is coming. Help them to communicate what they did and share the fun times with mommy.
“Daddy Time” provides children with some structured way of knowing that you are available to them and that they are a priority to you. It meets the fundamental need they have to feel connected to you, they belong in the family and to have a confidence about their overall place in the family. But more importantly, it allows us as fathers to really get to know our children in ways that can only be known through spending intentional time with them, interacting with them at their level and watching how their thought processes work.
Tune in next week on Fatherhood Friday for some potential age appropriate activities for you and your children for “Daddy Time” that won’t break the bank.