by Rick McCray
As men, too often we allow the women in our lives to take care of the details of home life including almost everything that has to do with the children. This attitude can be burdensome to your wives, and it also impedes your ability to create meaningful relationships with your children. FEAR NOT! Here are a few great tips on getting more involved in your children’s lives.
1. Play with your children.
Personally, when I get in from work, my mind is still racing with the events of the day. I also run my own business so as soon as I walk in the door, I start planning all the things I still need to do. It’s often challenging to slow myself down enough to engage with my children. However, as soon as I get home, they are the first to greet me and playing is the first thing they want to do.
In television mogul Shonda Rhimes‘s 2016 Ted Talk, she related a story of feeling stressed and pressed for time when one of her daughters asked her to play. Although everything in her screamed “No,” she challenged herself to say “Yes” instead. Albeit challenging at first, while playing with her daughter, she was surprised at how much fun she had. She learned to relax, listen and be engaged. She was also surprised to find how play time focused her own mind. I find the same to be true. Play time with my children challenges me to slow down. It also encourages my children’s creativity and strengthens our relationship with each other.
2. Include your child in your hobbies.
I admit that I am not “Mr. Handyman.” However, I have a neighbor who I am convinced could build a car from scratch. Every weekend, he is under the hood of a car turning a seeming hunk of junk into a functioning automobile. He also does the most amazing thing at least once a month. He is out there with one of his kids showing them exactly what he is doing, letting them work on a certain part of the car, and most importantly bonding with them.
Although I am not a car guy, what I learned from him is to share my hobbies with my kids. Your kids (especially if they are older) may not show interest in your hobby, but they will appreciate the fact that you are doing something you love with them. Instead of secluding yourself from the family every time you want to play your music, you can let your kids listen in on your jam sessions. If you were raised in the nineties like me, you can even show them the real running man! Even if they are laughing at you, it’s still time you will both remember.
The only caveat is to remain engaged with your child while you enjoy your hobby. Turning on a football game and demanding quiet is not a way to really bond with your child. Talk to your kid about the teams, the players, and the rules of the game, and listen to their thoughts. Allow them to feel like you are enjoying them as much as your hobby.
3. Get Involved in your child’s school.
Although I work full time outside of my home, I try to take advantage of volunteer opportunities wherever possible. Whether it be volunteering to chaperone a class trip, allowing myself the extra time to walk my children to school on a nice day, or popping by my son’s kindergarten class for lunch, I find my sons’ (and their teachers) appreciate my time at their schools. I also coordinate the WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) program for my sons’ elementary school. The program, started by the National Center for Fathering, is a way for men to have an impact at their child’s school by volunteering one day out of the academic year. These men are fathers, stepfathers, uncles and other father figures who volunteer and serve a variety of functions while at the school, including, being engaged in every aspect of your child’s academic day. I find reserving one day a year to commit to volunteering at your child’s school is rarely burdensome, even in the most demanding jobs. If you don’t have a WATCH D.O.G.S. program at your school and you are interested please contact the organization here.
4. Read with your children.
LeVar Burton, the famous actor and host of Reading Rainbow, once said that, “I think reading is part of the birthright of the human being.” The importance of literacy and exposing children to language and the written word cannot be overstated. By reading with your children you expose them to a world of literacy that will last for them until their last days. When you point out context clues about the reading and get them to name the colors they see in the picture, you keep them engaged in the book as active listeners/readers.
The more you read with your kids the more they will love to read. Find out what your kids enjoy to read and read it with them. If you can’t physically read with them, then agree to read the same book separately and then discuss it with them the next time you see them or talk with them. This way you and your child can stay connected and you can know you are benefitting your child’s education.
5. Spend one on one time with your children.
I have two sons (and one on the way). Every other Saturday, we have “man-time”(so named by my wife). What started off as our biweekly trips to the barbershop, turned into haircuts, lunch and shooting hoops at our local Y. I have to admit, I was anxious initially. Like most children their age, my boys are insane. Often it takes both my wife and I to reign them. However, as they have gotten older, I have found we all enjoy the time. We eat foods my wife doesn’t like, talk about “man things”, and spend quality time that is uniquely ours. I know I am building a foundation that will encourage a strong relationship through adulthood.
If you don’t have sons, don’t underestimate one on one time with your daughters. Do things she enjoys and listen to her. That time will set the foundation for how she expects a man to treat her.
About The Author
Rick McCray is a married father of three amazing sons. He is also a proud graduate of Duke University where he holds a BA in History and African/African American History, and Howard University School of Law. He is a regular commentator on the In The Black podcast. Rick is passionate about our history and helping to educate our community concerning the great contributions of people of color to the world. You can find Rick on Twitter @RealRickMcCray.