It’s also no big secret that dads play differently. They throw them in the air, crawl around the floor with them on their backs, play ON the riding toys with them, and, in general, take more chances.
Sometimes they bend the rules a little or extend bedtime beyond what mom would prefer. Sometimes snack consists of a cupcake from Starbucks instead of the whole grain fruit bar that mom packed. Sometimes a bike ride is so much fun that the usual dinnertime comes and goes before they even make it home.
Some of these things can be frustrating at times, particularly if you know that you have a very tired child on your hands. But, more often than not, these little changes provide an enormous opportunity for our children.
The different ways that dads play offer new learning perspectives for kids. Although our parenting style is the same, my husband and I approach many things differently.
When I sit and do puzzles with the kids, I always help them build the outside first. We find the edges and put them in one pile, and then proceed from there. My husband encourages them to group the pieces according to color, and then they try to piece together the picture.
Our son loves to ride on his plasma car. He mapped out a route around the driveway and can spend a whole morning zooming around. While I stand by and cheer for him and sometimes act as a “Mommy tow truck”, my husband jumps on the extra plasma car and zooms around with him.
My forts consist of pillows and blankets from the couches in the family room and a few props that might be in the kitchen. His include cardboard boxes and various other items that he finds in the garage.
While I enjoy baking cookies from scratch with the kids, he would rather go out and buy a cookie at the bakery. He likes taking them on outings.
While I put on our favorite CD and lead them in dance parties, my husband gets out his guitar (and guitars for the kids) and leads them in a sing along. Of course, he has that added feature of musical talent!
Our favorite rainy day game is “treasure hunt”. I make clues and hide them all over the house. The kids run from clue to clue, squealing each time they get one step closer to the hidden treasure. My husband does “pretend” treasure hunts. I watched in horror one morning as the three of them ran around the upstairs in search of pretend clues that would lead them to some loose change. I couldn’t believe he reduced my carefully crafted game to make believe. Then I realized that he taught how to think outside of the box. He didn’t have the time to write out the clues and hide them, so he did the next best thing. They had just as much fun.
I enjoy watching from afar as my husband plays with the kids. It’s fun to see what kinds of things they learn from him. I just walked into a camp out in progress in the office, complete with sleeping bags and blackberry picking. Our daughter was happy and confident as she organized the camp out and told my husband how to play. She likes to be in charge.
I used to focus so heavily on the schedule. I’m alone with the kids most of the week, and the schedule keeps us going. They know what to expect each day. It keeps all of us remain a little calmer, even during the stressful moments.
I’ve learned to look the other way when dinner is late or bath time runs over when my husband is home. At the end of the day, the time they’ve spent with him and the new things they’ve learned are far more important than a strict 7pm bedtime.
Dads do things differently, and that helps our children grow.
What things do your kids learn from their dad they might not learn from you?
Katie is a Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist/Parenting Consultant in Los Angeles, CA. She has a four year old daughter, two year old son, and a rock and roll husband who makes her life complete.
Katie has a parenting advice blog at http://practicalkatie.com/ and can also be found on Twitter.