Emotional HealthFamilyHealing 7 minutes to read

Being a dad is fun, hard, challenging, and so fulfilling. It’s one of the areas of life I find the most joy and experience the most challenge.

As I’ve parented over the past years, I’ve developed some healthy practices that facilitate the kind of relationship I want with my boys.

Here are 5 healthy practices for dads developing healthy relationships with their kids:

1. Practice Your Presence

Neuroscientist and therapist, Curt Thompson, says a fathers presence in the room is a “game changer.”(1) He goes on to say, “Nobody is better suited to parent your daughter or your son as a father than you are.”

If this is true, why don’t we spend more time working to be truly present with our families? Oftentimes, it’s because we have lots going on under the surface. We’re thinking about the tense meeting we had that day. Maybe we’re really looking forward to the NBA Finals game later that night. Or maybe our back has been bothering us and has been hurting since we woke up.

There are many different reasons we may check out while with our family. And honestly, it’s a lot easier to do it with our family than it is to do it at work. If we check out and are not present at work, we could lose our job. But the stakes seem much lower at home. Our kids won’t stop loving us if we spend an entire day checked out or not present (though over time, the damages get more severe). The consequences for our inability to be present with our family often goes unnoticed––but only by us.

The easiest way to start being more present with our family is to practice. Yes, practice. Like those two hours every day after school where you ran drills and did conditioning. Though this practice involves less running and often smells better than high school practices, the principle is there––if we want to improve we must practice.

Intentionally plan pockets of time with the family where you will be present. Put your phone away, clear your mind, tell your spouse about it––whatever you have to do, just start practicing being present with those around you.

And remember––practice may not make perfect, but it does make permanent.

2. Schedule Special Time

A favorite author and leader of mine, Michael Hyatt, says, “What gets scheduled gets done.”(2) This principle applies to every area of life––even being a dad.

It may seem silly to schedule time with your family, but again, what gets scheduled gets done. If we put a block of time on our calendar to take our kids to the park or go get ice cream (actually, froyo, because it’s better), it has a higher likelihood of happening. If we have things on our calendar, we have more incentive to get them done. Also, if we communicate this calendar event to our kids, this creates anticipation. Anticipation creates accountability. Accountability encourages us to follow through with what we scheduled.

The beauty of scheduling time with our kids is that it creates an easy win. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t like to lose. I like winning. At everything. The same is true in parenting. If I can schedule time with my kids, create anticipation in them, and facilitate a win, all at the same time, I’m in!

Find some fun and special things to do with your kids and schedule it.

One of my favorite teachers and therapists once said, “Quantity time over quality time.”(3) Our kids will not remember how great our time together was, they will remember how much time we spent together.

Schedule time with your kids and create a win for everyone!

3. Say “Yes” As Much As Possible

A huge struggle of mine is saying “no” early and often. If my 5 year old wants to do something, sadly, I have trained myself to react with a “no.” I know this doesn’t help or build into our relationship the way I want.

So, a healthy practice for me has been to practice saying “yes” as much as possible. There are days where I wake up and say aloud, to myself and my wife, “I’m going to say ‘yes’ to Brady as much as possible today.”

Maybe you’ve seen the movie, Yes Man with Jim Carrey. Honestly, one of his funnier movies (in my opinion…don’t hate me). In this movie, Jim Carrey’s character is challenged to start saying “yes” to everything. He says “yes” to every opportunity and experience presented to him. What we see in the movie is that his life starts to improve. He becomes happier. He has better relationships. He likes himself more.

This is what saying “yes” has done for me and my relationship with my kids (when I remember to practice). When I work to respond with a “yes” rather than a “no,” I often have more fun and my relationship with my son improves.

Try it someday. Say “yes” to as much as you possibly can (while keeping yourself and your kids safe) and see how much it builds into your relationships.

4. Find Shared Passions

Growing up, our friends were people who enjoyed the same things we did. Whether it was sports, music, or the opposite sex, we poured into relationships with others who liked what we liked.

What I’ve learned as a dad is that I don’t always like the same things my kids do. For instance, my kids love beating me up, smacking my bare back, and jumping on me. Honestly, I don’t love any of those things. It hurts, pulls muscles, and causes more pain than I like to admit (yes, I’m getting older).

But I have also found things me and my boys all like. We like watching Dude Perfect on YouTube (a group of Christian guys who do trick shots). We love Marvel and Star Wars. We love reading. And we love watching TV and movies!

A healthy practice for me as a dad is to make time for these things. We set up time in our house around some of these things. We use them as connection points with our kids.

For example: we have a family movie night every Saturday night.

This is a way to facilitate connection and relationship around shared passions.

A quick way to create a deeper connection with our kids is to find these shared passions and create time and space to experience them together.

What do you and your kids like? Do more of that!

5. Share Your Emotions

One of the simplest things my wife and I have implemented at our house is sharing “highs and lows” at dinner. This is where we each go around the table and share our best moment(s) and hardest moment(s) of the day.

When we implemented this practice, I didn’t realize how profound and meaningful it would be.

One reason this is so big for our family is that it creates a safe place to share our emotions. When we share about the best moments of the day, we usually explain why that moment was so good. Maybe I’ll share about a good meeting I had and how it made me feel. But this also goes for the hard moments.

I’ve been able to share some really low lows that I experience during the week in a safe and open way. The beauty of this is two-fold. First, this allows me to unburden myself. Sometimes, this is revealing to me and gives me the space to process my emotions. Second, and more importantly, this creates a culture in my home where it’s okay to not be okay. My boys see that Mom and Dad experience negative emotions and are willing to share them with others. This sets the tone that in the Winsor house we share our emotions. An additional benefit to this is that it also helps our kids learn to identify their emotions.

This is really simple but can truly go a long way in creating the kind of culture and kind of relationships we want in our home.

Your kids should know you’re not superman. They should know you have struggles and pains in life. They should know this because it makes you relatable and safe. 

When our kids struggle in life, they will remember how often we shared our emotions and created that safe space. And because they know this, we are now safe to come to for help. They know it’s safe to share their emotions with us.

These are not necessarily life-changing practices, but if you implement a few of them, they may just change your family.

One tip if you are to implement these: give yourself space and time to develop them. Be gracious with yourself. No one is perfect and you’ll never do any of these perfectly.

Remember, practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make permanent. Implement these practices and create a culture of safety, connection, and honesty.

Keep dadding.

(1) Dave Barnes and Jon McLaughlin, interview with Curt Thompson, Dadville podcast, February 28, 2022, https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/dadville/id1517698133?i=1000552541696.

(2) Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy, Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016).

(3) Adrian Hickman, PSAP Training, Module 1, Day 1, International Institute for Trauma & Addiction Professionals, Virtual, May 10, 2021.

The views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are those of the author alone and do not reflect an official position of Pure Desire Ministries, except where expressly stated.

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Trevor Winsor

Trevor is the Marketing Director for Pure Desire. He has been in ministry leadership for 10 years. Trevor is a certified Pastoral Sex Addiction Professional (PSAP) through the International Institute of Addiction and Trauma Professionals (IITAP). He has a Bachelor’s in Psychology from Corban University, a Master’s in Ministry & Leadership from Western Seminary, and is a licensed pastor. Trevor is passionate about integrating trauma and addiction healing with spiritual disciplines to produce holistic healing.

1 Comment

  1. Chip Meador

    Thanks for sharing theses tips. Wish I’d known them 40 years earlier but it never too late, even though they are already grown men.

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