I admit an honest truth: it’s tricky being a father today. Not because dads don’t desperately desire to succeed at their role, but because what we’re supposed to do is relatively unclear. But this just might be where the problem lies. Most of us dads fixate on what we can do and accomplish rather than what we are called to be.
Maybe the defining need of children moving toward and through adolescence is a close relationship with both mom and dad. This is where father’s get tripped up as we move into action and attempt to manage and monitor parent to child relationships. Developmental scholars label this relationship by the technical term of attachment. They emphasize that the most important aspect to this connection is the perception of the child, rather than the feelings of the parent.
Dads: cultivating a close relationship with our kids is more art than science. It is felt more than accomplished. What is vital is not how we perceive the connections are going but how our son or daughter feel and perceive the intimacy of their relationship with us. Here are several key ideas in developing a close attachment with our sons and daughters that I have tried to live out:
- Be available: not when it fits my schedule but in a way that works for my child.
- Be accessible: physically and emotionally. My kids need to feel that they have access to my time and your heart.
- Be present: I’m trying to look my son and daughter in the eye when I listen. Distractions abound and we must fight the temptation to fake attention.
- Be ready: look for and anticipate the moments when my children are open for me to meet their needs. Listen and look carefully for your teenager to articulate, maybe in an awkward or veiled way, a request for your help. Don’t pounce but respond with gentle help.
- Be encouraging: I’m watching the language I use as I connect with my kids. Look for ways to build up as you guide your son and daughter toward healthy development.
I’m not a perfect father, but I love my kids, and am trying to father them more than fix them.