It is an exciting thing to watch friends and family members become parents. Suddenly, there are limitless subjects of interest to bond about and discuss with the wild world of parenting. And while there are many “game-changers” for parents, there is one thing in particular that will make a big difference for dads (both parents actually, but we’ll address Dads specifically for Father’s Day) to implement.
Choose to value relationships over efficiency.
It can often be the propensity of men to be more attune with accomplishing a task than tending to a relationship. Let’s say you are working on something, maybe your car or your garden or anything else. What if your son or daughter follows you outside in hopes of joining you? What is your response? “Hey, kiddo, I’ll be done in an hour. Go play until then.” Something like that? The truth is: it is far easier and more efficient to go and do what you set out to do by yourself. But it is far more enriching for the relationship if you intentionally include your child in the task.
Sure, the curiosity of learning a new skill might be a motivating factor in why kids like to ask to join adults in what they are doing. But far more often the primary motivation is the simple desire to be with you. Let’s think of a few examples that either parent might face.
- You are cooking dinner and your kindergartener says: “I want to help!” So what do you do? You give them the big spoon to stir the meal (maybe even more stirring than is needed).
- While sowing new seeds in the garden your middleschoolers sees you digging in the ground, watching from afar. So what do you do? You invite him or her to come close and understand the logic and process behind why the seeds need to be planted here, at what depth, and under what conditions.
- You’re folding laundry and your toddler begins to pick up a towel and try to imitate how you folded it. So what do you do? You show him or her each step of it.
When it comes to the tasks we do, our children sometimes have an innate desire to be contributors, not spectators. They want to partner with us!
This applies to all ages and stages of parenting—no matter how different it looks. Now, a moment of transparency. These don’t always being the romanticized moments we imagine. Let’s revisit our bullet-pointed list.
- Sometimes giving our kindergartener the spoon to stir turns into them splashing the food everywhere, making a mess and even causing some waste of food.
- Maybe our middleschoolers loses interest in what we thought they wanted to know more about, leaving you frustrated for trying to include him or her.
- And often including a toddler in the task of folding laundry means that we will likely have to re-fold everything they “folded.”
In other words, including our kids in what we are doing does not always go as planned. And that is okay! Including them communicates: I would rather do this with you than without you. In other words, your child sees that they are more important than the task.
And isn’t this how our God operates? He is the One who leads the charge in valuing relationships over efficiency. Of course, God could accomplish all He wanted to do without us (and way faster at that!). But because He values relationship over efficiency He has made the Church His method to His mission. We are called God’s partners (“coworkers,” 1 Corinthians 3:9). Jesus didn’t do everything by Himself. Even before the book of Acts we see instances when He is empowering His disciples during their training (Luke 10:1-2). Many scholars even say that the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) can be summarized as an invitation toward partnership. From cover-to-cover God’s ideal relationship is encapsulated with the preposition with. God wants to do life and mission “with” us, not apart from us. Even when God makes all things new He has predetermined our role to “rule with Him” (Revelation 22:1-5).
God doesn’t just make us feel part of it, He really gives us a role. His ideal life is in partnership with us.
He chose to have you in His family with a special role that He designed you to have. He is the paragon of how to be a parent who includes kids in what we are doing.
There are many hallmarks of what makes a great and attentive dad. But I have certainly seen this mentality (valuing relationships over efficiency) to be one of the key factors. Because suddenly, the task becomes secondary (which is hard for us, men!) and the bonding experience becomes the greater purpose. And that bond creates relational equity for years to come!
Don’t underestimate the profound impact shared experiences can create with your son or daughter.
Dads: How are you going to value relationships over efficiency this week?