There is an epidemic in this country. Kids are becoming more detached and un-engaged. I was sitting at a restaurant with my wife the other night and saw a large family sitting nearby. Every kid had their own iPad out. The waiter asked them a question but their parents were happy to answer on their behalf. I didn’t once see the kids look up and engage with their family.
Dinner time was mixed at my house growing up. Sometimes we would all sit together around the table. No TV. No music in the background. Just us. I relished those times. Not because someone told me that’s how it should be, but because I naturally craved time with my parents. It was the only part of the day where we could have an uninterrupted conversion. I got to know my parents. They asked me questions about my day. I felt heard and appreciated.
Other times, especially if my dad had a tough day, everyone would grab their food and go their separate ways. My father would claim his spot on the living room floor, make himself a drink, and zone out in front of the TV. I had not seen my father all day and he would rather check out then check in with me. I felt rejected, unappreciated, and unheard. Not because someone told me that’s how it should feel, but because I wasn’t given what I naturally craved…quality time with my dad.
As a married adult, I often think about the dad I want to be. As the owner of a childcare company, I hear a lot of stories. I hear from the perspective of parents but also the perspective of kids. Here’s what I’ve discovered: of all the things your children will say they want, at the end of the day, what they want the most is you. In this busy, fast-paced, “get-to-the-next-thing” culture, we have to be increasingly more intentional about the time we spend with our kids. Here are three easy ways to do that:
Ask more questions
This seems pretty basic. But how often do we actually do this? Simple things like asking them how their day went if they are making new friends at school, and questions about what they are learning. Sometimes the parents are the last people to know their kids have a new crush, developed a new anxiety, or have a new interest. Get to know your kids. They want to share their lives with you. They want to be known by you.
The next step is to listen. Though you think you might have all the answers and solutions, don’t express they right away. Look them in the eyes. Let them know that you care about what they are sharing. If they feel shut down or that you’re really not interested, they will stop sharing. In the end, your kids with become more vulnerable and transparent with you. That’s sounds scary, but it’s actually a very good thing.
Block out more time
Finally, you need to intentionally block out more time with your kids. If you don’t, the day will get away from you and you’ll lay in bed at night realizing that you didn’t engage once with your children. Block out an hour once a day where you shut your phone off and you sit with your kids (or go for a walk). That communicates to them that they are a priority in your life. There is no perfect way to share time together, what’s important is that you do. It takes effort, but the fruits of these actions will have a lasting and meaningful effect.
John Brandon is the Co-founder and CEO of MyManny. He has been interviewed on CNN, Good Morning America, ITV (UK), as well as numerous other news outlets and major publications around the world. Having worked as a manny for high profile families in New York City, John brings a unique perspective and passion to the childcare industry. He is a published writer on the subjects of caregiving and mentorship. Growing up without a father, John understands the need for kids to have positive male role models in their lives and is committed to connecting families with the best possible care for their kids. John is a graduate of Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey and The McCallie School in his hometown of Chattanooga, TN.
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