A father's role is no longer in the shadows or confined to certain duties, but being 'present' shouldn't mean just being there physically with your child. In an age of digital distraction how can we ensure we're developing the right kind of 'presence' for our children?
Dads are increasingly putting paid to the dated stereotype of coming home and isolating himself from the family.
Gone are the days when men were seen as simply breadwinners and come home to eat and sleep. It is no longer acceptable (or desired) to live a life in emotional isolation from your children and nor is it acceptable for people to judge or to restrict how much involvement a dad should have with their children.
Rightly so, otherwise you are destined to miss out on some of the most memorable and important days of your children's development. This new era of fatherhood has really come to the fore in recent years, but with 'life admin' and work never more than a notification away, how can modern day dads ensure real presence with their children?
Here are a few ways for dads to develop more authentic presence in a child's life.
Planning ahead means more time to spread
Plan your time ahead so you feel more relaxed and confident in knowing exactly how to focus on your child. Whatever activities you plan, it will give you all the opportunity to get excited about your time together.
You will notice that your child is more receptive if they know it's something that they will enjoy. Take this one step further - if you are away from your child a lot or work away, then as a dad you have a duty to plan regular contact with your child. Regular set Skype dates and catch-ups can ensure you are there as a dad even if you can't be there physically.
Play, sing & read to fill every need
It's no secret that kids love to play, sing & read. If you haven't tried doing it with them, you are missing out on the most amazing and excited experiences as a father. It doesn't matter if it's not really your thing, they will help guide you and you will discover that you are actually a natural at it.
Sing anything you like, they will eventually join in whether it's those football chants of your team or those little lullabies we all grew up with. Don't underestimate or give up on reading either. The more you read to them, the more confident you will become. Make it exciting, change your voice and really help unlock their imaginations.
Don't get cross just show them who's boss
Keeping things in perspective, the reality is that sometimes your child needs your attention to see how much they can test you. Sometimes, being present for your child means teaching them the values of right and wrong combined with a basic sense of discipline.
If they are misbehaving or breaking some common house rules, give them a short sharp warning at first. No doubt, they will want to test your resolve so without further ado and silently take your child to a naughty step, corner or stool.
Actually, it doesn't really matter how you choose to discipline your children. If something else works for you, then great. The point is that by taking leadership and paying some attention to your order of discipline, the child is learning that dad is not happy with them.
For some parents, deliberately ignoring or walking out of the room is a clear indicator to their children to behave. It's all about the winning formula.
No matter how they react, be patient, keep cool and wait for the tantrum to be over. After a few times of this, they will know that dad means business and respect you for it.
When it's time to be alone, turn off your phone
That goes for all technology unless you're watching something together. If you are, then make sure you engage throughout it. Smile, hug, whisper, laugh, joke etc.
However, turning off anything else that might interrupt your quality time is definitely advisable. Work phones, emails or even that football match that you want to keep an eye on. By avoiding all distractions of the virtual world, you can really focus on getting to know each other and fully appreciate the time you both spend together.
In a world full of tech, it will also teach your kids the value of basic human interaction and improve their confidence as well as communication.
To show them how much you care, you have to share
When all's said and done, it's about taking an interest and getting to know each other better. Science can not quite put their finger on why this is important to us but it definitely is something that shapes our lives as children and stays with us as we grow.
Share your passions with your children whether it's football or music. They might not always appreciate the same thing but they will definitely understand that it's something important to their dad.
At the same time, give some thought into what they are passionate about. It doesn't matter if it's Peppa Pig or Spiderman, they will love that you are paying an interest in to their magical little world.
The memories we build up by simply being there for them are something to cherish and it's important we are there every step of the journey.
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