Time, Traditions, and Undivided Attention

Building relationships with children does not require large amounts of money. A lifelong bond often emerges from traditions that give meaning to family time together. Children love daily routines and activities of the simplest kind. They want to hear the same story or the same joke until Mom and Dad are ready to climb the wall. And yet, these interactions are sometimes more appreciated by kids than are expensive toys or special events.

Beloved author and professor Dr. Howard Hendricks once asked his grown children what they remembered most fondly from their childhood. Was it the vacations they took or the trips to theme parks or the zoo? "No," they answered. It was when Dad got on the floor and wrestled with them. That's the way children think. It is especially the way boys think. The most meaningful activities in the family are often those simple interactions that build lasting connections between generations.

Let's describe what we mean by traditions. They refer to those repetitive activities that give identity and belonging to every member of the family. In the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof, remember that the fiddler was perched securely on top of the house because of tradition. It told every member of the Jewish community who he or she was and how to deal with the demands of life and even what to wear. There is comfort and security for children when they know what is expected and how they fit into the scheme of things.

Two friends, Greg Johnson and Mike Yorkey, offered some examples of how not to build good relationships with your kids in their book Daddy's Home. These suggestions were written with tongue in cheek, but I think they got their point across.

  • Serve as their human quarter machine at the video arcade.
  • Have the NBA game of the week on while you're playing Monopoly with them.
  • Read the paper while helping them with their algebra assignments.
  • Go to the local high school football field to practice your short-irons and have your kids collect the golf balls after you're done.
  • Suggest they take a nap with you on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
  • Drive them to Cub Scouts and read a magazine in the car while the den mother instructs them on how to tie knots.
  • Take them to your office on Saturday and have them color while you work.

Clearly, there are many ways to fake it—appearing to care and "be involved" when you're actually just baby-sitting. I guarantee you, however, that your kids won't be fooled for long. They can see through adult pretenses with something akin to X-ray vision. And they will remember that you were or were not there for them when they were reaching for you. Someone said love is giving somebody your undivided attention. It is a great definition.

Book: Bringing Up Boys

By Dr. James Dobson

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