Father’s Day is right around the corner and, just like every year, the emphasis will be on recognizing and rewarding fathers for everything they do. Many fathers will receive gifts such as golf clubs, grills, power tools. But let’s be honest: we all know that the real rewards of fatherhood don’t come from a hardware store. The work of being a dad is its own reward, and the stronger the bond you have with your kids, the sweeter it gets.
If you want to forge a stronger bond with your children, here are three ways you can bring your “A” game to fatherhood and reap the rewards all year long.
It’s important for kids to feel worthy of your concern; to know that you hear and understand them. Talk to your child frequently about how they are experiencing life and, every now and then, restate what you’ve heard them telling you. Then ask a non- “yes” or “no” follow-up question to take it deeper. There are fringe benefits to doing this, of course. For one, you’ll be better able to catch problems as they arise for your kids. But you’ll also get to savor your kids’ increasingly complex evolution from little people to adults. Plus, the attunement that you provide to them now will bear fruit throughout their lives, and they’ll never forget it.
Wear More Hats
In recent years, more and more dads are playing the roles of Psychologists, Guidance Counselors, Companions, Moral Compasses, and Care-givers. If your idea of a father (or a man) is the “strong, silent type,” then these kinds of roles might sound unfamiliar, but let’s be clear: they aren’t new. In some ways, they represent a return to Ward Cleaver—who, frankly, isn’t a bad role model. Being an attuned, engaged father requires you to be a complete man—a complete human being, really. That means being willing to accept roles that are new to you or make you a bit uncomfortable. In these new roles, you will be required to talk and listen more, sharing your feelings, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Even the good ol’ Disciplinarian role, approached in a consistent, caring, and transparent manner conveys to your kids that you care. When you accept all aspects of fatherhood, you’ll be firing on all cylinders and create the strongest kind of relationship with your kids—not to mention, you’ll be modeling healthy human development for them.
Explore More Territory
It can be easy to fall into ruts, doing the same activities, with the kids over and over. You might enjoy playing catch with your kids, but if that’s the only way you engage with them, you’re missing out on broader experiences. Stretch a bit and see how many different facets of your child’s life you can be involved in. You can help with homework or be a sounding board for ideas they have. You can let them teach you about something they’re interested in. Explore different areas our your children’s lives. You will be surprised by how much you learn about them and about yourself.
These tips, by the way, are really applicable to anyone in your life that you care about having a strong relationship with. We humans are multidimensional, sensitive beings, and the more real you can be with those capacities, the better you’ll relate with other people.