Great Dads Meet Their Children At Their Level
It is encouraging to know and understand that even as our children grow a little bigger year after year, even so we as fathers grow in our knowledge and understanding of fatherhood and in wisdom as the time passes. It is also important to understand that as ‘the parent‘ we have to be the instigators of the many procedures that will help to strengthen our long-term relationship with our child. So how do we go about meeting our child at their level?
Playing with them
I have to admit that probably one of the most fun things I enjoyed while raising my children was playing with them. Getting down on the floor and showing my son how cars drive on imaginary roads, making the sounds, changing imaginary gears and beeping imaginary horns was one of the ways that we connected as father and son. With my son it was usually toy cars, knights on horses or the latest Star Wars figurine that kept him entertained, but boys are only restricted by their imagination in how they play.
Playing with my daughter was a little different as expected but still fun, I had to let her lead a lot of the time as I really had no idea how girls play. Many girls seem to focus more on the relational aspects of life at the core of their play, tea parties with imaginary friends, dressing up dolls to go shopping together, doing their hair and nails together with friends etc.
Now I know that these examples are cliches, and in truth my own daughter was just as likely to ride into an imaginary battle with a sword drawn as my son. In the end I truly enjoyed playing with her as I learned how she liked to play and joined in with her.
The ways that each child likes to play are different because they are all individuals, and it is important that we as fathers learn what THEY like to do and join in with them.
Reading to them
Probably one of the most beneficial things we can do as a father is to read to our children. Bedtime stories are often a good idea as it can settle a child’s mind and prepare them for a peaceful sleep. This can be especially true in situations where your children regularly request a bedtime story. Fathers should not miss this wonderful opportunity to bond with their child over the sharing of stories and adventures that can teach many life lessons.
Sitting in bed with my children surrounding me with a children’s story book open was a common occurrence in our home. It’s bright pictures and my own pretty awful vocal impersonations of the characters in the book bring back many happy memories to us all. Even now many years later when my children are young adults they still like congregating on ‘the big bed’ for a chat and a laugh.
Teaching them to use their imagination
One step further than merely reading them stories was actually making up stories for my children. I used to ask them what characters they wanted in the story and then proceed to make up the funniest story I could come up with. Often this involved a hero, a quest of some type, some funny things happening along the way and a successful conclusion with a happy ending.
Eventually we all took turns in making up stories with the characters that the other family members provided. I believe this has been beneficial in my children’s mental and emotional development in life as it taught them to think outside of the box. Some of the elements of those stories are still brought up around the dinner table discussions years later.
Talking to them
I often think that some of the more beneficial times I have had with my children are when we have gone on long drives or walks together. I enjoyed telling them about what it was like for me growing up and the things I have seen and done when I travelled as a young man. As we communicate with them we have opportunities to impart knowledge, wisdom and our values to our child.
I began talking to my children while my wife was still pregnant and although they might not have understood what I was saying, yet they certainly came to recognise my voice as I spoke loving and encouraging words to them while they were still in the womb.
Showing them things
It doesn’t take much to teach children new things, just head out into the garden or local park and enjoy nature together. Show them how all the leaves of the various trees are shaped differently. Find some insects for them to look at and point out some of the aspects that stand out to you eg. number of legs, wings, antenna’s etc. Listen to the sounds of birds and see if you can spot them in a tree together. Look at the different flowers and show them how the colours and shapes differ in each one. Simply sit on a bench and watch the clouds floating across the sky and answer the inevitable questions that arise in young minds.
If you are working on the car or a project in your shed or garage show the children what you are doing and explain to them why you are doing it. Whether it’s changing the spark plugs in your car, or building a bookcase to go in their room, invite them to be part of the project and participate in a way that is safe and age appropriate.
In all these areas there is a wonderful opportunity for fathers to connect with their child at the child’s level. To meet them where they are and build bridges of love and understanding between you.
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