The first rule of The Manual For Dads is being there for your kids.
If you notice your kids, show interest in their thoughts and actions; if you demonstrate that you care about what they feel, then you are there for them. And they will have the security of knowing that they matter to you. And as you know, you are the most important man in your kid’s life.
But how can you be present to kids at different stages of life. Being present to a toddler is so much different than being present to a teenager (who is probably trying to establish independence from you). Each stage of life requires a different form of engagement. However the basic strategy of dadding is this: when you are with your kids, some of the time put your own thoughts away and show them that you know they are with you and that you like having them there.
Pre-teens and Teens: It is pretty easy to say to a teen in the car on the way to school, “I sure do like this time we have together”. That’s it. It is that simple. That is a powerful affirmation, and it is powerful because it comes from you.
College age: With your college age son or daughter, ask them to explain something to you that they are studying. Or, get their take on sports they are playing or talk about the classes they like. It is these simple engagements that will lead to more penetrating conversations when they need to occur.
Little kids: You can be present to toddlers and kids under six in a lot of different ways. It’s real easy, since kids this age love your company and attention. Take time to watch cartoons with them and talk about the action. Laugh at things along with them. Explain what is going on if they don’t understand. Try to talk like one of the characters and have them do the same. Then sometime later, at a meal or at bedtime talk like that character. Now you have something special going between the two of you.
You do have to be a little careful at times. I know of a dad who was alone with his three year old, and she wanted him to come to her tea party. Being a good sport he said he would like that but asked her to bring the tea to him in the family room. He said they could play “restaurant.” Little Sarah was delighted. She set a few little dishes on the table in front of the couch and carefully brought him a cup of tea (which of course was water). He finished it quickly and soon came another and another. Suddenly his wife came home and saw the fun. But reminded the dad that Sarah was too short to reach the sink so she was getting the water out of the toilet!