As a father, you have a big impact on your children’s development. The most significant contribution you make is through your everyday interactions with your kids. High quality interactions with your children happen when you do that little bit more than simply caring for them.
Here are some simple ways to make ‘dad time’ even more special:
Talk To Your Children
Tell them stories and jokes. Listening to grown-ups talk helps babies and young children learn, even if they can’t understand what you’re saying. It also brings you closer emotionally.
Read With Your Children
Reading aloud with your children is a great way to spend time together. Even better, reading and storytelling helps promote language, literacy and brain development.
Point out things that are worth noticing or remembering – for example, a digger on a building site, or a cicada shell in the backyard. Explain how they work if your child asks questions. Moments when your children have your exclusive attention are truly golden. If you stop what you’re doing and give your child your full attention, you’re also giving a great boost to his development and self-esteem.
Be A Good Role Model
Your child learns how to interact with others through her interactions with you. Every parent has to say ‘no’ and ‘don’t’ sometimes, but even these can be ‘learning moments’ if you’re clear about the behavior you want. Praise your child when she cooperates, and model politeness. This gives her a powerful example to follow.
Create Challenging Learning Opportunities
If you watch carefully, you’ll work out how to keep a game just within your child’s ability – not too hard, not too easy. For example, you might point to where a puzzle piece could go, rather than letting him flounder, or just doing it for him.
For example, instead of saying, ‘Put your t-shirt on’, you could say, ‘Do you want to wear the red t-shirt or the green one?’ A choice is a good alternative to an instruction. It helps build independence and encourage responsibility and gives your child the feeling she has some control in decision-making.
Use your sense of humor when you’re reading or explaining things. Tease playfully. Humor and playfulness can help children’s wellbeing as they grow.
The good news is that you don’t need special training to make these interactions happen. Chances are you’re already doing lots of good things. Not every minute with your children will be high quality, but knowing what great interactions look like will help you create more of them.