You’re a great dad– or at least trying. Great!
Now it’s time to begin thinking about upping your game, by setting your sights on the real prize: Winning Your Children’s “World’s Greatest Dad” Award OR AT LEAST the title of “Hero.”
But what does it take to become our kids’ champion?
It’s probably not what you think. Oh sure, “things” are nice.
Kids always enjoy stuff, after all. … Another pair of Vans shoes. A new A&F t-shirt. The latest and greatest mobile phone.
But then what? What do we do after our kid’s survival (aka “hygiene”) needs are secured? Easy. Kids are Relatively Easy to Please
Most kids are surprisingly easy to please– much easier than other people in our lives (you know who I’m talking about!). Kids, first and foremost, want YOU; not stuff you give them. Now, that doesn’t mean that our kids don’t have moments of weakness. They are, of course, susceptible to the occasional materialistic binge. That’s understood. But, when it all comes down to it, our kids want to believe– and to know with certainty– that we love them unconditionally.
And to them, unconditional love means having your time. Relax– not “all” of it. Nobody said that. But SOME of it. That’s reasonable, yes? As someone rightly said, “Love” is spelled “T-I-M-E.” So giving OURSELVES to our kids is the quickest way to be coronated as the Official “King” of Your Castle. And failing to give time to our kids is a great way to slowly fall from the pedestal of paternal glory into irrelevant ignobility. (Don’t know what ignobility is? Well, it ain’t good). Read: “Distraction Free” Time
So kids want some of our time. And they want it undistracted from whatever it is that distracts us.
You know, like… your preoccupation with work. Or griping about cutthroat fast food drive-through workers and slow baristas. Or that phone of yours.
Now, I’m “as OR more” hyper-connected to technology as anybody. But there are boundaries. Like going to dinner tonight without my phone, so I could focus on my family. The fact is, we need these types of boundaries. We have to remember that Technology is a “Little G-god” that can command all of our thinking and time. Not because we’re bad people, but because we need a distraction from the crushing weight of, you know, running the world– or whatever we do.
The key to giving our kids “time” isn’t taking them to Dairy Queen and buying them a giant Dilly Bar to occupy their mouths, so we don’t have to talk to them about their day. Sorry– just trying to keep it real.
So, to summarize, kids (wives, anyone?) want “focused-only-on-them” time; distraction free. If you can do that, you’re half-way to Goal Line Glory, where you can spike the Father’s Day football for winning the day.
But then what? Or, better, HOW exactly should we spend this distraction-free time with our kids? Ahh. Good question.
That’s a question I was discussing with a trusted friend just today. A friend who, by the way, has had an ongoing and significant influence on the way I am building this ministry.
The Sure-Fire Way to Clinch Your Kid’s “Hero” Title
First, as I said, let’s assume that basic survival/called “hygiene needs” are already met. Now, if not, then let’s make that happen. Without essentials being met, kids become insecure. That that insecurity leads to fear. Unresolved fear leads to bitterness and the embrace of someone or something who promises to provide the security that we can’t or won’t. Don’t let that happen.
But on to the central issue here: Becoming Our Kid’s or Kids’ (for all you English majors out there) Hero.
I believe that there are 3 things better than mere material things (“stuff”) that will utterly excite and fascinate the imagination of your kids and draw them infinitely closer to you. Here they are:
1. Provide Memorable Experiences
Experiences can produce memories, but for life-changing experiences and riveting and unforgettable experiences, you’ll need to do more than just “show up.” I suggest planning for memory-making… Otherwise the experience alone (and whatever happens to happen, planned or not) can dictate the content of the memory.
So my advice is to begin by creating a meaningful experience. And what, exactly, constitutes this type of experience?
First, create an experience that is novel-different/utterly unique OR at least a different version of something familiar.
Second, make that novel experience multi-sensory. Making experiences multi-sensory means deliberately thinking about how you can include the five senses.
Sense 1: Engage their Hearing or sound. Try playing fave songs-radio or relying on the diverse sounds from the place or event or experience.
Sense 2: Engage their Sight or vision. Think about visually -stimulating visuals, views, or perspectives. Example: instead of just going to dinner, wait on a seat with a view of the vineyard (disclaimer: stock art, not my bottle of wine) or on the top floor, in the kitchen itself like at Buca de Peppo, or in the private dining room like the Pope Room, or wherever.
Sense 3: Engage their Sense of Taste. Enhance the memory with a drink, food, or meal. For example, a trip down to Balboa Island in Newport Beach isn’t complete without the added memory of a frozen banana. There’s about a million ways to enhance the experience in nearly any situation.
Sense 4: Engage their Sense of Smell. Smell is perhaps the strongest sense and provides powerful memories. It can be highlighted or remembered. Imagine retelling the story where you say, “Kids, do you remember the overpowering salty smell of the foaming waves on our trip to La Jolla Beach on the afternoon we searched for new sea shells to decorate your bathroom?
Sense 5: Engage their Sense of Touch. To touch is to experience and to know. There is something about the tactile nature of things and the impression they make on us.
Sixth Sense: Then seal the deal and make it memorable with cheap or expensive, but most importantly “meaningful” keepsakes, tokens, whatnots, photos, or photo albums (like chatbooks), or by adding meaningful discussions, prayers of remembrance, and so on.
You’ll find that a little planning can make it really unforgettable… Then your kids have tons of memories, all good, all shiny and polished, and experiences with you that can’t be forgotten… And those reduce the impact of material things– which (often though maybe not always) will be viewed as little more than useless trinkets when compared to these amazing experiences you provide your kids.
2. Spiritual Wisdom and Godly Advice
Add to those things providing your kids with “spiritual wisdom” or godly life advice. Kids want AND need your wisdom. You have experienced more life than they have. You, of all people, can give your kids loving direction. That doesn’t mean overdoing it. Kids have a certain tolerance level for sage advice, even ours. So it’s important to give life advice and wisdom to our kids, along with an open door and our encouragement to discuss “things that matter” to them at any time. One thing I’ve said over the years, particularly the last 11 years since my mom passed away, is that I wish I’d gotten more advice. It’s not so much that I didn’t figure some things out along the way, but experience is a cruel teacher. Life’s touch is not as soft as a loving mom’s or dad’s advice. For that reason, I give my own sons advice. And mostly I think they appreciate it and take it for what it is. Our kids need that, whether or not we think they need (or want) it. And they often do!
3. Inject Experiences With Adventure and Play
Finally, deliberately work to make events with your kids to be fun and ‘times of play,’ mingled with adventure. If you do this, you’ll always win with your kids.
Make It Happen
We all want to be great dads. We want to win the day. That is a title that is earned. And we can rightly take the Throne of our Family Fiefdom if we’ll give our kids and families these important things: memorable experiences, wisdom, and adventure.
Give these, all wrapped up in T.I.M.E., and you’ll quickly become their hero. That’s something all the material things in the world can’t compete against.
Make Plans Now to Make This Father’s Day a special time with your amazing kids– and they’ll celebrate you as their amazing dad!