From the moment they are born, bonding with your child helps them learn that their world is safe and secure and that they are loved.
Family relationships are the biggest influence on your child’s development. When your children feel safe, secure and loved, they are more confident to explore their world, and this is how they learn and develop socially and emotionally.
Within ‘Bonding’, the Fathering Fundamental:
- What they need is unconditional love
- Tell them you love them
- Show them you care
- Be a dependable dad
- Practical tips for dads and father-figures
What they need is unconditional love
Kids need to be loved and valued as special and valuable people.
- to know that they are valued, that you are interested in their thoughts, ideas and opinions, their appearance and their beliefs.
- to know for sure that neither of their parents will put them down or hurt them.
- a clear sense of our values, rules, hopes and beliefs about life so that they have a roadmap for their early life and boundaries for their behaviour until they are old enough to choose their own.
Showing your child affection builds their confidence in your relationship and teaches them how to be loving toward others.
“I’ve always been really affectionate with the kids. In fact, I still hug my son when he goes out and he is 17 years old and a big basketballer. Mark has never been inhibited about giving me a kiss when he goes out, even in front of his mates. I really love that, and I think it’s really important.” – Dennis Cometti, football commentator
Tell them you love them
Never miss an opportunity to say, “I love you” and do it often.
Showing real love to your child can trigger the release of feel-good hormones such as oxytocin, opioids and prolactin. These neurochemicals can bring us a deep sense of calm, emotional warmth and contentment. Feeling loved helps children develop resilience and a closer relationship to family.
There is no such thing as loving your child too much – so give hugs and kisses. Loving them cannot spoil them. However, be aware you can make the mistake of being overprotective, overindulging, being too lenient, having low expectation or giving expensive gifts ‘in the name of love’. When these things are given in place of real love, that’s when you’ll have a spoiled child.
- Do I make sure my child knows I love them?
- How often do I say I love you to my child?
- Do I deliberately find different ways to show my child I love them?
- Did my love get through to my child today in a way they understood?
“During adolescence the boys of course called us ‘dinosaurs’ and there were conflicts at times, as you would expect. We always made sure that they were aware that we loved them and that we would always be there for them. No matter what the conflict was at the time, we would always end the discussion by making sure we said something like, ‘We just want you to know we love you so much.’” – Dennis Lillee, former Australian cricketer.
Show them you care
It is important to show them you care by being responsive to the child’s signals and sensitive to their needs.
Children need to be accepted and supported as individuals regardless of their academic success, physical ability, sporting prowess, personality, moods, morals or beliefs. This acceptance can be difficult for traditionally ‘high-achieving’ fathers.
Support and accept your child as an individual by being a warm, safe haven for your child to explore from.
It’s easy to tell them that you care, but as the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words! With a message as “I care,” it is important for this to be expressed through your actions.
Be a dependable dad
Even in the midst of busy life, show your kids they can depend on you.
There are many things that fathers can do in the midst of a busy life to make a difference in the lives of their children. It doesn’t take a huge amount of time and the busier you are the more kids appreciate the time you spend with them. Be there for them in the moments that mean the most (when they’re struggling, or celebrating), and always have an ear out for when they might open up to you about something they need support with.
Being dependable and ensuring you make time for your kids shows they are ‘worth’ your time, and build their own self-worth.
“Dads need to be dependable. Kids need to know that Dad will respond to any situation and try to provide for their physical and emotional needs.” – Ray Arthur, minister.
Practical tips for dads and father-figures
All the fathering tips we have are all road-tested tips by fathers just like you. It can be as simple as coming home early one day a week and taking the kids to the beach for an ice cream. If you have to travel with your job, try taking the kids one at a time.
- When you start showing your children affection at a young age it becomes the norm. For them and for you!
- Tell them they are loved not because of what they do or don’t do, but simply because they are your son or daughter.
- Tell them that your love for them is not based on their marks at school, what they look like or what they are good at, but that you love them no matter what.
- Even when they’ve behaved badly tell them you love them, but that you don’t like their behaviour and you won’t put up with it.
- Particularly with girls, they need to know they are loved regardless of how they look or dress, the world puts enough pressure on them already.
- Set a goal to never end the day without letting your child know they are loved
- Surprise them sometimes by telling them when they don’t expect it.
- Write how you feel in cards, notes, emails and text messages
- Don’t just spend the fun times with your kids and then withdraw as soon as things get serious – love means sharing the tough times too.
- Be with them at crisis times, eg. when they are sick – don’t always leave it to their mother to take them to the doctor
- It is especially important to not withdraw showing appropriate physical affection when daughters go through adolescence