Happy Father’s Day! If you’re a dad lucky enough to still have kids at home, here’s something to think about on your special day.
Every minute, every hour you spend with your kids – whether doing something fun, something important or something mundane – is an investment with intangible results.
Read to your kids, play board games, shoot hoops in the driveway, or coach little league. Wrestle on the family room floor. Teach your kid the difference between a wrench and pliers. It’s even OK to watch TV and play video games together – exercising good parental judgment, of course.
“Everything in life comes down to time,” said Dr. Geoffrey Putt, a pediatric psychologist and director of Parenting and Family Support Services for Akron Children’s Hospital. “It’s why we look forward to vacations and weekends. It’s why we want to keep in good health. We can’t bank time. Nothing is more valuable and, with children, there’s no substitution for your time and attention.”
The ‘quality time’ myth
A lot of good things happen when you don’t plan it, according to Dr. Putt.
During the idle time between turns in Scrabble, your child is more likely to mention getting bullied on the playground than if you sit down and ask direct questions about what’s going on at school.
“If you are already talking about something else – anything else – you are more likely to veer into `important’ talk,” he said.
Type A dads will be glad to know that “quality time” is productive time. All those hours spent teaching your child to ride a bike, swim and catch a baseball lead to lifelong skills.
Australian researchers have found a positive link between dads’ roughhousing and early childhood development.
“This type of physical play builds trust, teaches kids boundaries and that persistence pays off,” said Dr. Putt.
Like David and Goliath, kids see that they can defeat a more powerful adult, building their self esteem. And fathers who resist their children teach their kids you don’t always win in life.
Some parents think “quality time” means having to spend money and plan something special like a night out at the movies or a trip to Cedar Point.
Not so, said Dr. Putt.
And don’t exclude kids from chores and life’s more mundane tasks because you assume it will be quicker and easier to get things done.
A few weekends ago, Dr. Putt and his wife were planning a garage sale and involved their 9-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son in every aspect.
The kids cleaned out their rooms, decided what toys they had outgrown, and helped price, merchandise and man the sale. They used art supplies to transform a large cardboard appliance box into a lemonade stand.
“Although they decided to give away free lemonade and water, they still made a killing in tips,” Dr. Putt said.
Involving their kids in the garage sale taught them valuable lessons in teamwork, commerce, and seeing a project from start to finish. They even got to spend hours outside socializing with neighbors.
“As a society, we’ve come a long way in breaking down gender roles and families today look much different today than the one-size-fits-all model of the ‘Leave it to Beaver’ model family,” said Dr. Putt.
More moms than ever are working outside of the home, and dads, more than ever, are cooking, cleaning and attending to their children’s doctor’s appointments and teacher’s conferences.
Single-parent, blended, and same-sex parent families add to the diversity of our communities.
Dads are roughhousing with daughters and coaching their teams as much as their sons, and they are teaching kids not only how to use traditional “tool box” tools, but also the tools of the kitchen and garden.
Time will tell
When they’re young, kids tend to send the message they value you for the things you buy them. Teens may send the message that they don’t want you around at all and that friends are more valuable than parents.
As adults, we can be selective when it comes to our childhood memories.
“But, when we are grown, we tend to remember things like patience, homework help and our parents cheering us on in our activities,” said Dr. Putt. “They remember parents being there, being present.”