In a traditional family dynamic, dads don't always have a chance to shine. Mothers tend to be the organizers and implementers of family systems. They know where things are, the family schedule and what’s for dinner. This happens, in part, because mothers can also be bossy. Since June is the month in which we celebrate fathers, let Father’s Day become a time to let dad shine. Here are several simple ideas to encourage dad to come to the forefront of family life. He’s a valuable member of the family; you might be surprised what he can do.
Tell me a story
Ask dad to tell some stories about when he was young, or to make up a story. Dad’s stories are sure to be full of adventure and fun. Dads can add special voices to characters in story books too. Story time doesn’t need to be reserved for bedtime. Dads can tell stories to help children calm down or distract them from arguing with siblings.
My children prefer their dad’s bedtime songs over mine. I often hear rousing renditions of songs like “Ghostbusters,” “The Addams Family,” and “Beverly Hillbillies.” He also likes to sing university fight songs, which don’t seem to calm the kids down. But when he croons “Beautiful Dreamer,” or Billy Joel’s “Lullaby,” I know my daughters will never forget their daddy’s nighttime songs. See what songs dad knows by letting him take over bedtime singing.
If dad is busy at work all day and gone some evenings with other obligations, one-on-one time with children is rare. Provide opportunities for dad to bond with each individual child. This can be done in a formal setting, like sitting down in an office or bedroom. My husband prefers to connect with his children in more informal ways. He invites one child at a time to accompany him on errands or go to the park to kick the soccer ball. Dad will know the best way to reach each of his children.
Dads usually go along with the family schedule without complaint. But how often does he get to do the things he enjoys? Have dad plan a family outing and see what he likes best. Let him be in charge of the destination and activity, but make sure to bring along things he might not think of, like snacks, water and sunscreen.
Mr. fix it
These days, husbands and wives share household jobs fairly equally. But one place moms often do most of the work is in comforting and helping children. The next time your son or daughter needs soothing, see if dad can do the job. Some children do prefer their fathers, but many insist on seeing mom. Help dad develop new skills by having him be the go-to parent for emotional issues.
If your husband or partner is a foodie, let him plan and execute a family meal. My dad cooked most Sundays when I grew up, and we looked forward to breakfast for dinner — his specialty. My husband is a wonderful cook. Lately, I’ve been his sous chef as we work together in the kitchen to whip up our own culinary creations. It’s good for me to sit back and help him, instead of taking control. In turn, he appreciates the many days I provide meals for our family.
As fathers are given opportunities to shine and help more in family life, a sense of equilibrium will follow. Dad might help out more as he feels confidence that he is needed and necessary. I recently watched my husband teach a class of 4 year-olds at our church. I purposefully said almost nothing during the fifty minute lesson, letting him handle the demands of the children. And you know what, he did a great job. Think of your husband or father and discover ways to let him shine this Father’s Day.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.