I take my daughter with me to the office every day. She goes on nursing home visitation with me. Sometimes she goes with me when I visit parishioners in their homes. She spends about 8 hours of every day with me. Unfortunately, there is a difference between time when she is playing with dolls in my office while I work and quality time. I’ve spent some time in previous posts discussing daddy-daughter date nights and tea parties. Those sorts of activities are great, but tend to be spread out. It’s important to spend time with your kids daily. I encourage dads to try to spend at least an hour with their kids daily, just focusing on them. This sort of invested time is important to children and will impact them well into the future. This time investment may seem difficult, but I’ve discovered that it’s all about how you spend the time. It’s easy to look at an energetic kid at the end of a long work day and cringe at the thought of trying to keep up with them for 5 minutes, let alone an hour. Or to look at your daughter’s Frozen dolls with horror at the thought of reenacting a few of the dance numbers. However, there are a few tricks that work well for making the time more enjoyable for both you and your child.
- Focus on the Big Picture– Everything is about the mindset you bring to it. It’s important to remember that the time you are spending is an investment in the life of a person you love and who loves you unconditionally. That investment will help shape their sense of self worth, confidence, and your influence on their values and beliefs. Further, your child is also a child of God, one who you are preparing for a life of knowing Him. Part of how they perceive God will be shaped by their relationship with you. This isn’t time wasted when you’d rather be unwinding. It’s time spent on a job that is far more important than the one you get your paycheck for doing.
- Spend Time Reading– One of my daughter’s favorite daddy-daughter date night activities is going to the comic book store. I pick up a few comics for her every time we are in town and several times a week she sits in my lap and I read her comics. We do this because I figured out that Wonder Woman comics are more interesting to me than Elmo books. I will happily read old Batman issues to her, largely because I enjoy them, too. She wouldn’t be too excited about getting the books if we didn’t read them to her. My point is that most kids love being read to and reading is a very low key activity that requires little chasing around. It’s possible to find things to read to them that you enjoy as well. Further, reading to kids is one of the best ways to get them to read when they are older.
- Be Creative- I recently found myself playing with my daughter’s frozen castle and toys on the living room floor. I cannot stress enough how little interest I have in princesses. Rather than phoning the time I was spending with her in, I took out some batman toys I had picked up during one of our trips to the comic books store. Before long, Batman was saving Elsa from the Joker. There was fighting and adventure and princess stuff. She loved the silliness of it, though I suspect that my enthusiasm and energy was what she really appreciated. Kids like being the center of their parents’ attention. Bringing a little creativity to the table is important for making sure that you are able to enjoy the time as well. Don’t hear me saying that spending time with your kids is dull or that it’s all about you. What I am saying is that adult men don’t necessarily enjoy the same activities as small children. Bringing your own interests into the mix can raise the entertainment factor and make it easier to consistently put the time in every day.
- Let them help- My daughter gets a huge kick out of helping me do almost anything I do. She wants to help do dishes, vacuum, cook dinner, change lightbulbs, and almost anything else I do during the day. Letting her help do my honey-do list often makes the tasks more difficult to complete, but it’s time that she enjoys. She loves unloading things from the car or sweeping the kitchen. Letting them help do the things you need to do is a great way to spend quality time while accomplishing other tasks.
- Be physical– It’s important to rough house and be physical with your kids for a few reasons. First, children are often extremely energetic. Playing in a high energy way with them is valuable for burning off excess energy. Boys, in particular, need to physically engage and play rough. Doing this with their father is a huge deal. Beyond rough housing, sitting with kids in your lap, cuddling, holding hands, hugging, tickling, etc. are all important. Humans experience affection in all sorts of ways. One of them is touch. Being physically close and touching is something kids need. I worked with a client in a mental health setting who would become aggressive every day, forcing the staff to physically engage him daily. After months of this, one of the staff started hugging the child several times a day. The physical aggression stopped almost completely after that. He wanted to be held, so he found a way to force other people to hold him. Kids need affectionate physical contact, particularly from their parents.
- Pay attention to them– Kids catch on pretty quickly when you aren’t interested in what they are doing. If you sit and surf the internet on your phone while you play with them, they’ll notice. If you ignore the stories they tell you, they’ll catch on. It won’t make them hate you. It’ll adjust where they think they land on your priority list. While you are giving the time they are getting from you, give them your undivided attention. Ask questions. Tell them things. Take the time to teach them new things.