How to REALLY up your dad game
Ok dads, here’s what you need to do to supercharge your “dad game” and score big on the parent points.
The 5 P’s
Yes, I know you know them, Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Well, depending on your circumstances it could be your children, your ex, the courts or all three judging your performance. Gentlemen, you cannot afford NOT to plan.
To be fair though, it’s not that hard. I wasn’t really a planning parent. I liked to have family time as more of a wing it and see what happens, go with the flow sort of time. Now though, I take the time to plan ahead, as far as I can, what my daughter Bean and I are going to do with our time together – and it’s paying off.
Our children want Presence MORE THAN Presents
It is so much more important to spend a little bit of time with them now, than to ‘plan’ for a lot of time with them later, and so very much better than buying them anything to ‘make up’ for the time.
What I mean by this is that you will have to change your mindset – the overtime you’re doing to make ends meet/buy them the toy they want/go on a Disney holiday/get a promotion so that you can spend more time with them after etc… Forget it, you’re kidding yourself.
If you don’t spend the little time with them now, they won’t want to spend the time with you later, even if you did get the promotion. Sorry, the truth sucks. But you’re here because you want to know how to do it the right way.
It is easier to reduce your spending than it is to earn more, it is also easier to find great deals when you’re not doing overtime. Not only that, but if you don’t rest properly then when you do get to spend time with them you’ll be run down, inattentive, lethargic and most likely have a lot less patience than you might otherwise have done.
So, back to levelling up in fatherhood…
Simply put, it works.
Ok, not terribly helpful I know. Allow me to explain. Almost all of us, including most of the horizontal take-it-as-it-comes types need to know three things;
• what’s happening now;
• what’s happening next; and,
• what’s happening after that.
From children at preschool to world leaders this expectation of the future is vitally important. It doesn’t need to be rigidly fixed, and clearly it ranges from the next few minutes to decades ahead.
A simple schedule, such as;
• Afternoon snack
• Global nuclear policy review
…means that anxiety of the unknown can be replaced by expectation and anticipation.
By removing the anxiety and frustration we’re starting out with a calmer, happier child. Not only that, but we’ve set an expectation for us, the parent, to deliver on – and one that our children could, and should call us out on if we deviate from it.
What’s happening next may not be something that either of you particularly want to do, but that is a separate issue. Setting a schedule and sticking to it – planning – will mean that in a short space of time both you and your little one can deal with the unpleasant tasks quickly and fuss free (almost) and move on to the fun stuff.
The benefit to both of you here is happier memories, less time trying to appease, cajole or bribe and more time spent on being an awesome dad.
What to plan?
As much as you can – BUT – not everything will go to plan, and this is OK!
In our example above, afternoon snack doesn’t need to be at 3pm sharp. It does however, need to be within some predefined window – global nuclear policy review will probably take a while, so make sure there’s enough time to have a good go at it before bath time. Having snack time so late that there’s not enough time to do anything fun after is your fault, not theirs. Remember this.
Things you should plan
• Meals & Snacks
• Free time
• Your time
Meals & Snacks
Can you bond over cooking together? Yes!
This is something you should definitely do together on occasion – both the choosing and the making of the meal. In either case, keep it simple at first – plan what you’re going to eat, make sure you have the ingredients and prep as much as you can ahead of time even if you are cooking together.
I made a point of saying on occasion because, like all things – moderation is the key. You have a responsibility to provide food, they do not. Just as you enjoy having food prepared for you, so do they, and their need to play and learn is greater than yours now.
Dashing to the shops is not good bonding time but demonstrating the need to plan and prepare will help set them up for life.
‘Knife skills’ etc. come later – Bean gets bored quickly still so “when is it ready” can come quickly if she’s stood around watching me chop vegetables. You could even just have them use scissors to chop some chives into scrambled eggs – remember, this is about the bonding, working together and demonstrating that cooking is a skill they can master too. It is not about putting gourmet meals on the table.
Make it fun – sandwiches can be more than just squares or triangles.
Bean and I made a dog sandwich for lunch. Will it make for a viral social media? No. Did it make her happy and keep her moving along the road to confidence in creativity and culinary capability? Yes. Did we bond? Yes. Gents, this is all that matters.
Snacks – again, you can prep this in advance – vegetable and cheese sticks, boiled eggs, fruit etc. and put it in a lunch box in the fridge. Get it out at snack time, make yourself a cup of tea and have something at the same time. This is important – try to snack together, it’s more bonding time and it will help your metabolism too.
Can’t cook? Neither could I. Got you covered there too, don’t sweat it. I’ll be posting some quick and easy recipes for inspiration but until then, Jamie Oliver is your man. Ok, you don’t have his larder and neither do I, but you can google substitutes. I forced myself to learn to cook, and I am by no means a chef, but I can provide varied, healthy dishes for me and my princess. You owe it to your kids to try. It will pay dividends with the next Mrs You, too.
Activities and Outings
These are of course going to vary by age, location, and weather – so plan and have a backup plan.
I appreciate that this can be nothing short of terrifying – and it was for me. I’m not an ideas guy!
I will be adding loads of suggestions to the blog as time goes on though and I encourage you to share yours for the benefit of us all.
To get you started, Bean and I often go Geocaching when the weather is reasonable.
In simple terms, it’s a treasure hunt, it’s free, and it’s everywhere.
Download the app, put your shoes on and go for a walk – the GPS coordinates will take you to somewhere near a ‘cache’ which could be anything from a clip-lock food box to an ammo tin or a small coin-sized magnetic container that’s been hidden, often in plain sight.
Inside there is a log to record your name and date and sometimes there are ‘trackables’ – items that travel from cache to cache, again these vary and could be teddies, small toys, keyrings etc. Either way it’s fun for both of us and it gets us both out in the fresh air, exercising, reading clues and hunting for something as a team.
From me, and Bean, Geocaching is highly recommended – watch out for Muggles!
A similar activity – that can be a lot more or even less involved – depending on what you fancy, is rock hunting. Decorated rocks are hidden everywhere now with social media groups forming to hide and hunt in their local area. The sheer joy on kids faces when they find them is fantastic. For more, and my guide on joining in, check out my post “Get the kids outdoors #RockHunting“.
If it’s a weather dependent activity you’ve planned, the forecast is good enough to know whether it’s a good plan or not – don’t be “surprised” that it’s raining/snowing/cloudy/windy – the Met Office have known for at least a week and so should you.
Board games are a great way to sit our poorer weather and teach valuable life lessons, you can also pick them up from charity shops for pennies. No? What’s more important – your pride, or their development, happiness and relationship with their father? There are loads of good story books there too for pocket money that you could read together. Get down to your local charity shop and teach your kids that charity – and thriftiness – are key life skills.
Bean loves doing arty and crafty things too, so I need to make sure the paint, aprons, paper etc. are clean, available and plentiful. I can do this during the week by detouring on my commute or ordering online. Spending the weekend driving to and from Hobbycraft to buy paint is not the same as painting together!
Having said that, if you’ve planned – together – to go and buy some supplies, then great – stick to the plan!
Take a look at my post on “Handimals” for a really creative, messy and fun bonding activity.
Making time with no plans is also really important. Children, teenagers and adults alike need time to be creative. The trick here is still the same as above though, make sure supplies are topped up for the favoured free time activities and have some suggestions to hand. Plant a seed in their imagination and encourage it to grow.
This is where you need to get really crafty. Efficiency is key, so start making lists!
For example; depending on where I am I have at least a 70 mile drive to pick up Bean. I might also have 70 miles back and we normally go out so I’ll have some driving to do with her (Geocaching, the park, the beach etc.). If I have less than ¼ of a tank then I’ll have to stop at some point to fill up.
How is this fair on her? Detouring to and sitting in a petrol station queue is not quality bonding time, so I make sure I fill up well in advance. NOT just before I’m going to get her – any delays take time away from her – and that’s poor planning.
Carrying on with the above – I’m a supermarket fuel and collect the points kind of guy, so I’ll plan a detour on the way to or from work if filling up doesn’t coincide with my grocery shopping.
Similarly, when tidying up from our crafting sessions I’ll take note of anything running low and either order it online or make a detour while I’m out on some other errand.
The less specific trips I make the less I spend in both time and money on achieving the same result, and the more time and money I have available for Bean. The same goes for everything else – I’ll run the washing machine on a 30 minute cycle while I have breakfast and hang it out before work. One less thing for me to do at the weekend while I’m with her.
How to plan
As you can see, it really isn’t rocket science, but it does take some thinking about.
The main questions to ask yourself are:
“What needs to be done?”
“Who does it benefit?”
“Will it be valuable bonding time?
“What if we do it together?”
“What can I do to prepare in advance?”
“When can I do it?”
Effectively, ask yourself the good-old W’s – What, Where, When, Why and Who – but with an additional “What can I do in advance?”
If something is not beneficial to both of you, can it be? Consider changing the beds, it’s not the most exciting thing to do but you can make it a bit of fun – wrestle the duvet monster back into the cover, or having to get the covers on quickly because pillows are made of clouds and will float away otherwise… Yes, you might feel daft, but (depending on their age of course) your kids will love it and you’ll score big parent points.
So think about it…
Is doing the shopping together valuable parenting time? If no, can you do it in advance or online?
What would they really enjoy doing next time you see them?
What do you need to do to make sure it happens?
By asking yourself these questions, and being really honest with the answers, you can start to adjust your own timetable to allow for more quality time together. If you find yourself trying to justify something as the right thing to do, it probably isn’t.
When are you going to do it?
My advice, start now. The first step to change is the easiest to put off, the hardest to do and the most profound. Once you’ve cemented that commitment, you’re on your way to being Superdad.
You’ll find other benefits too – you’ll have more time to yourself because you’ve been more efficient, you’ll nurture a better relationship with your children and when you go back to work on Monday you’ll be more positive and productive.
You never know, but if your new, improved planning and efficiency starts to show at work, combined with your positive reflection of “hey, we did this at the weekend!” instead of “ugh, this happened at the weekend”, you might even find yourself in line for that promotion or pay rise. No overtime needed.
What next? Get Organised
Comments, thoughts or an experience to share? Please let me – and all of us – know in the section below…
Great tips. For us, time out has usually been more a wing it than plan. Obviously we have those days where we plan to do certain trips or things, but with where we live we prefer to see what the weather is like and then got out and find something to do that we’ve not yet tried.
I’m big on family time when can as working lots means you have to make the best of it. Be even happier if could find something where time not taken up -come on lottery numbers #DreamTeam
Getting out to try something new is always a winner! We’re working on a ‘fishbowl’ filled with ideas on notepaper – the paper could even be colour coded to the weather, so if we’re ever stuck for ideas we can pull a card out of the bowl and off we go!
With kids, the most important thing is time though, even if you’re just reading with them or playing a board game at home – that’s how strong bonds are formed and nurtured.
I definitely love that you prioritize presence over presents! #DreamTeam
It’s so important, but so easy to fall into “compensation” mode. We really need to make sure we truly value time with one another. This goes for adults too & jealousy over things like being bought flowers or chocolates… often those things are bought as a “sorry I was elsewhere”, be sure you value the time that is spent with you more than the apology someone else has been bought!
Great advice I totally agree that kids need us there rather than working all the hours. I loosely plan our time and that works well for us.