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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

When children are born, they have an innate tendency to bond with their mothers. Mom is, after all, the one who has fed them and kept them warm and protected for nine months, and continues to do so outside the womb. That’s great, but it can leave dads at a loss for how to get that close to their children, especially as those children become older. Here are five ideas to help you begin to bond more effectively.

Watch a Movie
Kids’ movies are becoming more adult-friendly, with relatable, if somewhat heavy, themes. Pick a DVD to watch with the kids, and go to a site like commonsensemedia.org to print up discussion questions. Be sure to make or buy everyone’s favorite movie snacks. Finding Nemo, Wreck-it Ralph, and Brave are good examples for young kids. For the older ones, try Lord of the Rings, Courageous, October Sky, or Little Women.

Hit the Books
Many kids are losing out on the joy of holding and reading a book. Take your kids to a bookstore and let them browse or choose a couple of books to take home. Recommend your old favorites, and ask what they like to read and why. Then, listen and respond. It’s also fun to grab a treat–a smoothie or pastry–at the coffee shop if the store has one.

Do a Gender Flip
Many fathers have a hard time bonding with girls because they assume their daughters will only be interested in traditionally feminine activities. The truth is, though, girls are drawn to their daddies and what they see them doing. Take your young daughter fishing and help her learn to bait the hook. Offer to build her a tree house. Have her help you pick out one of many kits for sheds and help build Daddy a new tool shed. She will feel confident and proud that she has helped out. For boys, give tips on starching and folding a shirt or tying a tie. Cook with your sons, or let them help you choose a gift for Mom’s birthday or anniversary.

Try Something New
Have you always wanted to learn a new language? Is your son or daughter a budding Karate Kid or an aspiring Monet? Whatever your skill level, take a class together. Afterward, talk about what you liked and didn’t like, and what you learned.

Pay it Forward
Many modern parents admit that they’re not sure how to teach their kids to be grateful. You can teach your kid this virtue by giving back. Find out what he or she is passionate about. Is it animals? Volunteer at the local shelter together. Does he or she like to bake? Bring cookies to senior citizens and shut-ins. Or, if he or she is passionate about the planet, grow a garden together. The possibilities are endless.

Fathers often wonder exactly how they should go about bonding with their kids. It seems to come so easily to moms, so why not dads, too? Dads, fear not. With these and other ideas, you’ll be able to get closer to your kids, and they to you.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want some father-child bonding to happen.