I always knew I had a great dad; I was cognizant of that from an early age. My confidence in that knowledge grew as I got older, and my friends started making comments about it. So, I always knew I had a great dad, but I didn’t understand the science behind what made him so good. All I knew is that he cared about me. And I knew he cared about me because he spent his free time with me, ...all of it. I mean, all of his free time. He was a very busy guy, with many jobs and responsibilities, but every second he wasn’t working he was with me.
As I got older and explored higher education, studying social theory, and then becoming a licensed prevention specialist, I learned the science behind what made him a great dad. Turns out, it’s pretty simple: he spent his time with me.
Clear back in 1996, researchers Cooksey and Fondell were proving that a fathers’ time spent with his kids has a serious effect on the kids’ behavior as they mature. They showed that it impacts their academic performance, as well as other behaviors. They weren’t the first researchers to prove this, and scientists continue to show just how big of an impact parent time has on kids. Dr. Pearce (2003) showed that adolescents whose parents spend regular, quality time with them, exhibit fewer behavior problems, including violence, depression and drug use. Malik & Rafique (2013) showed the association between parental bonding and a teenager’s level of shyness, self-esteem and self-image. I could go on and on...
The research on this is clear, and I think most of us intuitively understand this concept. We should spend time with our kids; and if we do, we will be closer to them, we will be more bonded with them, and they will turn to us more frequently, and easier, when they need and want help. But understanding the need, and doing it, is two different issues. In my profession I meet parents on a regular basis who are good people and good parents, but like many of us they struggle with creating these bonds with their kids. Why? Because it’s hard. We have so many responsibilities and so many obligations, that sometimes, quality leisure time with our kids takes a forced backseat.
But just this year, 18 years after moving out of my parents house, I discovered something about my father that I didn’t know: he kept lists of all of the significant things he did with me. My mom showed me these lists when I stopped by to visit last month. He has pages for each year of my life (he started when I was about 10 years old) with line items about significant things he and I did together, (i.e. “November 12th, 1992 – Cheered Logan on at his little league basketball game, then went out to lunch, just him and me.”; “July 24th, 1995 - Family picnic in Snow Canyon Park, hiked rocks, then went to a movie... Apollo 13.”; August 11th, 1997 – Me and the kids went
camping for the weekend, fishing at Enterprise Reservoir, hiking in Pine Park, good dutch oven dinner.”)
I asked him whey he started these lists, and he told me it was to accomplish two things: 1- they acted as a journal of sorts, and 2- they helped him make sure that he was doing as many things with me as he could. If he noticed that his list was a little short, he would purposefully plan some more activities for us to do together. It also helped him make sure that he had a certain number of “significant” activities; things bigger than just playing catch or shooting hoops. He made sure to always have a certain number of “quality-time” things, like multiple-day camping and fishing trips each year. He told me, “I felt like just going to dinner or shooting hoops wasn’t quite enough, we needed long-term bonding experiences. So if I noticed that my list didn’t have enough of those extended, personal activities, I knew I needed to plan something.”
I like to refer to this as “Purposeful Parenting”.
Sometimes, we have to schedule or plan out opportunities to bond with our kids. They need to be regular, and consistent. And they have to be positive and fun. We should share our interests with our kids. We should get them outside, away from the hustle and bustle and distractions of technology where we can interact in meaningful ways, and build bonds and rapport. And it might require that we are more purposeful about it, so when the every-day onslaught of life makes us forget, we have a list to remind us that we could do more.
My dad was really good at this, (thanks Dad!). I intend to follow in his footsteps.
By Logan Reid
Utah Prevention Network
Director of Prevention
Planning District: Southwest
Southwest Behavioral Health Center
245 East 680 South
Cedar City, UT 84720
Logan is the Director of Prevention for the Southwest Behavioral Health Center and is a state and internationally Licensed Prevention Specialist. He started in prevention as the president of a college prevention club while attending Dixie State University, and has worked as a Program Supervisor in Youth Corrections. He has degrees in Criminal Justice, Sociology, and Social Research Methods and Theory. Logan is Chairman of the Utah Prevention Coalition Association and the Vice Chair of the Utah Prevention Network, and a graduate of the National Coalition Academy. He also teaches sociology at Dixie State University. Logan has worked for the Southwest Behavioral Health Center since 2008, and absolutely loves his job and his colleagues!
Elizabeth C. Cooksey and Michelle M. Fondell, “Spending Time with His Kids: Effects of Family Structure on Fathers’ and Children’s Lives,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 58 (August 1996): 693-707.
Michelle J. Pearce, “The Protective Effects of Religiousness and Parent Involvement on the Development of Conduct Problems Among Youth Exposed to Violence,” Child Development 74, No. 6 (November/December 2003): 1682-1696.
Tasmia Malik and Rafia Rafique, “Parental Bonding and its Association With Shyness, Self-Esteem and Self-Image in Teenagers,” Journal of Behavioural Sciences, Vol. 23, No. 3, 2013