By way of preface, let me say that I am sharing these tips as a dad still learning. These are lessons that I have learned along the way that I hope will be helpful for you. Also, by spending time with your kids I mean Daddy Daughter Dates, Daddy Son Dates, Mommy Daughter Dates, Mommy Son Dates. My wife and I are huge proponents of each parent having special time set aside for each child individually.
1. Be excited.
Don’t make the date as if you are doing a favor for your kid. This mentality treats your time together as a task. Get excited, so that they can see you enjoy it just as much as they do. Show them that it’s a treat for the both of you.
2. Plan the date and be consistent.
It’s easier to cancel because something else comes up if you don’t have a plan in place. Plan your time together and then talk about it with your kid leading up to the date, so that your kid is also planning on the time together. Even as young a one year old, my daughter loved looking forward to Daddy time…and demand it now.
Even more, be consistent. There’s no magic number of times (e.g. once a week, once a month) that is best. The key is to make this time consistent, so that you and your kid can look forward to the time together.
3. No distractions.
On your way in the car and even once you get to your destination, don’t spend time on your smart phone looking at social media, email, or other stuff unless it is directly related with your date (e.g. sharing a picture of the both of you, tweeting how much fun you are having). Talk to or sing with your kid while driving instead of giving them your phone to keep them quiet. Make everything about your time together and different from the norm.
4. Teaching moments.
The best time to take advantage of a teaching moment with your kid is when they are doing something they love to do. For example, one of my daughter’s and my favorite places to go on a date is to the park. When Amber was only 1, I was able to capture a teaching moment that made her think for a moment. She asked me to put her Minnie Mouse doll down the slide and when I did she said, “That was perfect dad.” My response to her was, “God is perfect.” The rest of our time together she would randomly say, “God is perfect.”
5. No negative terms.
While on your date, try your best to refrain from negative terms such as no, you can’t, and don’t. This doesn’t mean allow your kid to act like a monster either. If they begin to act inappropriately or want something they can’t have, direct their attention to something “better.” Make it positive. For example, instead of “you can’t jump off of that, you’ll get hurt” say, “you’ll get hurt silly, let’s do this instead.”
I am not opposed to saying “no” in general; in fact, I would say it is necessary. Although during this special time the goal is that overall you want it to be a positive experience. So, if you’re able to use a more positive way to redirect I would encourage that.
6. Lot’s of hugs, kisses, high fives, and cuddling.
On your date, make sure you show affection. Constantly tell them you love them. You can’t kiss them enough. You can’t hug them enough. You can’t high five them enough.
7. Let them lead.
While on your date, let your kid have the license to make decisions and lead. Keep in mind that you want this time to be special and different then the norm. Give them a chance to show you what they want to do and they will.
Laugh a lot when you’re on your date. Have fun. Your kid will love that you are having as much fun as they are. Be goofy.
Be sure to have conversation while spending time together. Ask questions. Tell stories. Make conversation.
One thing I love to do while on a Daddy Daughter date is take a bunch of pictures. It’s always fun to look at the pictures that night and remember the fun we had together. It also helps Amber remember and make connections in her mind with where we went, what we did, and the fun that we had.