This post is geared towards Dads with younger kids (4-11).
If you’re confused about the title of this post, grab some tissues and listen to the song Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin when you have time.
He’s a busy man. He has a job, chores, and obligations. After a hard day’s work, he comes home worn out. He has a tendency to make a beeline to the sofa and take his evening post in front of the TV. Sometimes, the screen he’s fixated on is smaller with an apple-shaped logo. He just needs some peace, quiet, and relaxation…he deserves it!
But there’s a problem with the sitcom approved male described above. His wife and kids are missing something important; her husband, their dad, their leader.
Perhaps you yourself are caught in this daily cycle. I’ll admit I’ve been there. But when I broke out of the habit and became an engaged husband and father in the evening, I became a much happier and more content man. And of course my wife and daughter were happier as well.
The benefits of engaging with your kids daily. You can draw on your own childhood experience to answer this one. Maybe you didn’t have much quality time with your dad and you wish you did. Or perhaps you shared plenty of quality time with your dad and you’re glad you did. Kids want an engaging dad. They’re desperate for it. You will learn more about your child’s likes, dislikes, wishes, and dreams than you ever thought you’d know. As a dad, you’re in the perfect position to influence your children in a Godly direction. But outside influencers will compete more and more as your kids get older. Take advantage of the time you have, while you have the upper hand!
How to make a habit of being an engaged dad. Like replacing any habit, this too will take some intentional action at first. But soon, it will become second nature. Here’s what worked for me:
- Set a time. Between my arrival at home and dinner is when I’ve dedicated to spending time with my daughter. Regardless of how my day at work went, the first thing I do is play with her…after hugging and kissing my wife and baby of course. Say a prayer asking God for the energy. You’ll be surprised how fast your exhaustion melts away once you start playing with your little guys or gals.
- No distractions. My phone is off and out of reach during this time. We don’t watch much TV these days, but I ensure it and other electronics are off as well.
- Communicate with your spouse. Let your wife know about your plan for improving this area in your life and work out the details (scheduling, etc.).
- Pray. We are fallible men. Humbly and consistently ask God for strength, wisdom, and energy.
- Engaged Activity. The things that my 6 year old daughter likes to do and the things your 10 year old son likes to do will probably be different (although my daughter loves wrestling with her dad, so maybe not). But I strongly recommend being engaged. In other words, watching a movie together doesn’t count for what we’re trying to accomplish here. It won’t take long for you to learn what your kids like to do (if you don’t already). But if you’re not sure how to spend time with your kids, here are a few ideas:
- Wrestle on the floor
- Play catch
- Color in a coloring book
- Engineering (Legos, erector sets, etc.)
- Make believe
- Nerf battles
- Arts and Crafts
Regardless of how you spend time with your kids, just do it. Don’t wind up living out the Cats in the Cradle. Be thankful for what God has given you and be a good steward. That’s what the Christian Dad is all about.