Children learn who they are and how to identify, value, and communicate needs and feelings through interactions with their parents. Thus, how you communicate with your children is critical to the formation of their identity and to a large extent determines how secure their sense of self and self-esteem are. Here are traits of healthy families that allow children to develop into independent, functional adults:
1. Give time to your kids before they ask for it.
If your kids are anything like mine, they are constantly asking for your time. “Dad, can you play basketball with me? Want to throw the football in the back yard? Can you help me with my homework?” Kids love spending time with their fathers. And why shouldn’t they? In your efforts to be a “yes” parent, learn to offer your time to your kids before they ask for it. “Want to play some basketball or throw the football around?” “Do you have any questions about your homework that I can help you with?” Seek to give time to your kids freely and intentionally rather than reluctantly.
2. Don’t avoid tough conversations (or easy ones).
“One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is availability to talk.”
Intentional dads don’t look to get out of conversations with their kids but instead, look for opportunities to talk with them. Kids naturally have a lot of thoughts running through their minds and issues to process mentally and emotionally. One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is availability to talk. Better yet, use intentional questions to tap into your child’s thoughts and feelings. “What have you seen or heard about this specific topic?” or “What’s the biggest struggle you’re facing right now and what can I do to help?”
3. Create space for engagement with your child’s heart.
Every child is different, so finding ways to creatively and personally connect with a kid takes intentional effort and awareness. What are some of your child’s current interests or needs? While my son might need me to spend time with him in the back yard or playing his favorite video game, my teenage daughter may need me to engage positively with her social media memes and videos. Whatever it is, dads must figure out how to intentionally create space for such engagement.
4. Provide accountability for your kids.
Kids have never had as much access to the world around them as they do today. And never before have they had less accountability. But children need that and they need male leadership. Dads can and should purposely provide both. This not only includes what your kids are doing with their devices (know passwords, monitor device time, activate filters, and so on), but also accountability with their friends, their attitudes, and their choices. Holding your kids accountable to your rules and expectations doesn’t make you a bad dad; it makes you an intentional one.
5. Catch your kid in the act of doing great things.
This ensures that your child knows how happy you are about what they are doing. (“Wow! You remembered to put your clothes in the hamper. What a big girl!” or “I like how gentle you’re being with your baby brother”). Let them know (with words, hugs and high-fives) that you notice and appreciate them, and you’ll go a long way toward satisfying their appetite for attention.
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