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Back when our four children were in grade school or younger, my wife Cathi and I decided that I should try to have individual “Dad Dates” with the kids. As a part of her day, Cathi would often be able to connect with each of the children in special ways. My schedule was more limited at that time, leaving less opportunity to relate to them one-on-one.
At first, it was as simple as playing a game together, a walk to the park swings or a trip to Wendy’s for a “Dollar Menu” snack. Now with 3 of our kids being teenagers, our schedules are even more full. Cathi often has “Mom Dates” with them, we have expanded our activities, and sometimes test the budget with better food and bigger appetites. Some of these dates cost nearly nothing but the time spent together and what it has meant to our relationships with our children has been priceless.
1. Dating Your Kids Helps You Prioritize Time with Them.
Busy lives and full calendars often leave little room for quality time with our kids. Left to chance, we can end up going too long without intentionally connecting with them. In a conference here at James River Church, Pastor Mark Driscoll once said that “When you have kids, they are your hobby.” That does not mean that we don’t have any other hobbies or activities but that our time with our kids is one of our most important interests.
When you become intentional about scheduling time with them, the value you place on each of them becomes more tangible. It lets everyone know just how important this child and this relationship is. Pastor John Lindell has often said, “If it’s on your calendar, it’s important to you.” So, block off an hour or so and ask one of your kids on a dad or mom date soon.
2. Dating Your Kids Can Deepen Your Relationship with Them.
Quality time with the kids all together is not always enough. Dating your kids allows you to focus on just one of them for a little while. This means that the quieter child, who doesn’t compete with his louder siblings, gets a chance to have a really good conversation with his mom or dad. Perhaps, he gets to choose the activity that you do together or what you talk about.
It allows you both to explore new things without a vote of all the kids or an argument-ending executive decision from the parent. The adventurous one can explore the outdoors with you; you can share a trip to the library with the child who loves to read, and your athlete would just love to shoot hoops with you. Whatever it is, because it’s your time together, it makes special memories and the kind of bond that happens particularly in one-on-one moments. During this time, the parent can look for opportunities to get to know their child a little better.
3. Dating Your Kids Can Help Reduce Conflict and Need for Discipline
It’s common for parents to be frustrated due to behavioral issues with their children. This can lead a parent to believe that there is something wrong with how they discipline. Although that can be true in some cases, it may not be the problem at all. It may just be that you have had too little individual time with your child and his emotional tank is low. This sense of emptiness can express itself in unhealthy attention-getting or general grumpiness which is a recipe for bad behavior.
Things that can help fill that tank are more easily done in focused time with them: Listening patiently, playing with them, cheering them on, laughing with them or praying for them. These actions encourage affection and a sense well-being in the parent/child relationship. This is true of our relationship with God also. Jesus said in John 14:23, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.” In other words, we obey because we love and feel loved. Besides, it’s much more enjoyable for everyone when kids are motivated to obey because they want to please you.
4. Dating Your Kids Is Fun
If you have gotten away from it, or if it has never become a habit, one of the surprising benefits for dating your kids is how enjoyable it can be for both the parent and the child. In her article: “Filling your Child’s Love Tank,” Angela Thayer, recounts her young son’s answer to the question of his favorite things to do with his parents. Here is that list:
1. Go to Bass Pro Shop with Dad
2. Bake cookies with Mom
3. Playing Mario with one of us
4. Dance Parties
5. Going on a bike ride
A dad or mom date with one of your kids doesn’t have to take a long time to be meaningful or be expensive to be enjoyable. Ask your kids what their favorite activities are to do with you as parents.
If you get stuck, here is a list of ideas that includes dates appropriate for various child ages, time frames, and expense.
1. Go out to breakfast (on birthdays or whenever).
2. Shoot hoops, toss a football, a baseball, or kick a soccer ball.
3. Go golfing or to the driving/putting range.
4. Go ice skating or play hockey.
5. Go to the pet store.
6. Out to a restaurant of their choice (usually McDonald’s for little ones!)
7. To a movie
8. Ice cream, frozen yogurt, or milkshakes
9. Silly progressive dinner (i.e., McDonald’s for appetizers, Jack in the Box for dinner, etc.)
10. Stop by the photo booth to commemorate your outing!
11. Take your child to a “fancy” restaurant. Show him or her how to open doors, pull back chairs, and order from a menu.
12. Go to a thrift store and choose a special treasure.
13. Surprise them by picking them up from school and go to lunch.
14. Zoo, aviary, aquarium
15. Sneak out in the morning for a special donut together before everyone wakes up.
16. Go running together.
17. Take a fitness class together.
18. Parent/child nights at some restaurants (like Chilies or Chik-fil-a)
19. Go to the jewelry store to pick out something special.
20. Have a spa day (pedicures, manicures, hair, etc.)
21. Bike rides/motorcycle rides
22. Take them grocery shopping individually (believe me, this is much more pleasant!)
23. visit a bookstore
24. Paint pottery
26. Take a dance class together
27. Take a hike!
29. Arcade games
30. Special trips (when they turn a certain age): In my husband’s family, mom would take each child on a very special trip when they turned 11.
31. Feed the ducks.
32. Go to the park.
33. Attend a play (Disney on ice, the Nutcracker, etc.).
34. Painting/drawing each other’s portraits
35. A day at the beach
36. Go school shopping individually and then to lunch.
37. Monster truck races
38. Mini golf
39. Go to a basketball/football/hockey/baseball game together.
40. Ride scooters together.
41. Play laser tag.
42. Have a picnic which they help pack.
43. Visit the fire station.
44. Go on a nature scavenger hunt.
45. Go to the library and take turns picking out a book to read together.
46. Rock wall climbing
47. Check out Cabela’s together.
48. Go to a sweet shop and share a cupcake or pick a special treat.
49. Go for a drive to your favorite place, somewhere nostalgic, or a different town that is near by.
50. Try out a new restaurant and pretend like you’re a restaurant critic.
51. Walk around your college campus.
52. Take them to see your childhood home or your elementary/middle/high school.
53. Try a cooking class/cake decorating class.
*List adapted from How Does She?