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“A father’s work is child’s play.”  This thoughtful observation actually captures a unique truth, the reality that the most important work a man will ever do is within the walls of his own home. How can fathers connect at home in the important work of fathering a child?

Many men become biological fathers; however, successful fathering is the work of a lifetime.  There are a few building blocks that are the ABC’s of successful fathering.

  • A is for Available

Being around is the first step to being available to your kids.  To a child, love is spelled T-I-M-E.  This may require some effort on the part of a father.  Examine your work schedule.  Come home a little earlier.  Take more time together in the evenings.  Children want parents to be available for time with them.

  • A is for Attentiveness

Attentiveness to your children means paying focused attention to their feelings and activities.  Do you know your child’s favorite color?  Do you know what activity your child would most like to do with you?  Attentiveness is crucial to seeing and following a child’s invitations to be involved.

  • A is for Activities

According to recent research, the most significant way for fathers to connect with their children is through participating in shared activities.  Men feel close to their children when they are doing things together that are fun, engaging, or focused on learning.  The key is doing something together, not just talking, and this can range from reading to playing checkers to going fishing.  Just do something-together.

  • B is for Big Moments

Be there in the Big Moments of your child’s life.  Be there at birth, on birthdays, at school performances.  If you want to be a big influence in your child’s life, be there for the big moments.

  • B is for Be Playful

Play together!  Dads excel at this, the most under-rated but important aspect of parenting.  It builds great relationships and fosters learning.  Fathers can challenge a child’s abilities, provide opportunities for growth, and build bonds of connection through play.

  • B is for Be a Model

Fathers are role models, whether they want to be or not, and children learn by observing and imitating.  Discuss personal values that you wish to instill in your children.  Be a model of good behavior.

  • C is for Connection

Connection for fathers occurs through involvement in activities with children, talking, and providing support.  Research shows connection is among the most important aspects of parenting.

  • C is for Coaching

A good coach will give counsel, and a father is a good coach.  He will give time and listen.  He will create teaching opportunities and share stories.  He will introduce new skills.  He will be gentle in discipline, firm in his guidance, and clear in his message of support.

The ABC’s of successful fathering provide a foundation point for fathers as they seek to build healthy and caring relationships with the children they love.  If you begin with the ABC’s, you are laying the foundation for success.

Please read the companion piece to today’s cover story, Moms and Dads Make the Difference for Kids.