When it comes to my fatherhood report card I think I’m getting a passing grade. I may be better than some, but I still have a ton of room for improvement. There is that constant battle of my good intentions against what I’m actually doing. My concern: Is what I’m doing actually helping my kids, or really just messing them up?
You may have the same concerns as well. You have great intentions, but your intentions don’t always play out the way you hope or expect. It leaves you with a little uncertainty, a little seed of doubt about whether your kids will be better off because of you or completely jacked up.
Is just being there enough?
We all understand our presence in our kids’ lives is vital. We’re taking that responsibility on to the best of our abilities. Yet there seems to be a fine line between making your kids better off or worse from your parenting skills. There is one thing no matter our skill level in fatherhood that will have a profound positive impact on our kids.
I realized I was failing in this area several months ago when I listened to something which revealed a statistic revealing that on average dads spend only 14 seconds of meaningful conversation with each kid on a daily basis. Yes, 14 seconds! That blew me away!
We have to check ourselves
It would have been easy for me to say, that’s not me. I have way more meaningful conversation time with my kids than that on a daily basis. Then reality set in as I started to think about the conversations I have with my kids. Most centered around getting ready to do something or go somewhere.
Or asking them if they had done this or that. Or telling them “no” or “maybe later” when they ask can you play with me or do this or that. Yes, there is the occasional or obligatory, “How was your day?” But that seems almost like a greeting.
As I continued to think about the type of conversations I have with my kids each day, I felt an emptiness in my stomach. That is me. I’m that dad (in the study)! I may not even reach the 14 second threshold.
Realizing this hurt me deeply. As much as I think I’m a good dad, I was completely stinking it up in this area. Not to negate the time I spend in other areas, but to me this was a gaping hole in my “fatherhood game.” One that only I can fill, and one that I want to fill.
We can be more than just present
I want my kids to experience and remember rough-housing, days at the ball park, playing basketball together, and meaningful talks with me. I knew I had to do something different.
One of the first things I did was to block out time in my calendar to spend time weekly with each kid on a rotating basis. But since then I’ve realized there are other things I was doing, inconsistently, which, when done consistently, will create the opportunities to have more of these meaningful conversations.
Here are three ways to have more meaningful conversations with your kids.
1) Have Daddy-kid days.
This was the first thing I did when I realized I was falling short. I decided to stop working every Friday two hours earlier than normal to spend time with each kid. Every Friday one of my kids has me completely to themselves for a couple hours. I set a $5 budget for this time and we go to have French Fries, a slice of pizza, or play games at Chuck E. Cheese.
The $5 budget doesn’t go a long way, which puts the focus on the time together versus what we do. This has been amazing. Each of our three kids look forward to their daddy day, and we really enjoy our time. And there has been more meaningful conversation during this time than just about anything we’ve done before.
2) Have a bedtime routine.
When our daughter was young, and an only child, we had an established bath and bedtime routine. It included bath time, story time, prayer time, and tuck/talk time. I can remember her coming up with anything to talk about before we walked out of the room and turned the light off.
I’d be frustrated sometimes with her talking about random stuff, but now I realize those were great and meaningful conversations for her and me. We haven’t been as consistent doing that with our boys, but it’s something when done consistently leads to more meaningful conversations.
3) Pray, read, and talk about it.
Praying together with your kids is a game changer for your parenting relationship just like it is for your marriage relationship when you pray with your wife. Praying leads us to be transparent, which is crucial for meaningful conversations.
Reading the Bible and other books will allow you to settle in and spend some time together which fosters conversation. I’ve found that discussing the books you’re reading, even if it’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle or the book of Revelation will open the doors to meaningful conversation.
Show love, spend T-I-M-E, and make it count
As dads we know that love is spelled T-I-M-E. Many of us do great at the “dad things” of sports and rough-housing and the like. But we also know that time has to be meaningful and some dialogue is important.
You want to make the dialogue you have with your kids meaningful to them. The ideas mentioned above will help you to have more of those meaningful conversations with your kids and ultimately lead to you having more positive and meaningful influence in their lives.
[reminder]What is another way to have more meaningful conversations with our kids?[/reminder]
Photo credit: Dimensions Photography