Whether you’re a newbie to this whole parenting thing, or a seasoned veteran, or a single parent, we all want to have a close and healthy relationship with our children, young or old. Strengthening relationships and communication with our children can boil down to one thing: spending time with them. There are no other best ways to build up a great relationship than spending time with your own children. In the long run, you can become best friends. Even when your children are in high school, they will not hesitate to come to you when they need help.
In the book Outliers (an amazing read, by the way, that puts a fascinating perspective the opportunities we give our kids), author Malcolm Gladwell argues that the great achievers in our society weren’t born great: they just put in the most hours. His 10,000-hour rule claims that the key to success in any field is practicing a task for at least 10,000 hours. Could this apply to being a stellar parent? You bet.
You can argue that a full time, on-call 24 hours a day parent, puts in waayyy more than 10,000 hours. We’re with our kids all the time (good grief, in just one year there are 8,760 hours!), shouldn’t just being together be enough to go pro? But just hanging around the basketball court never made Michael Jordan the best basketball player of all time, did it?
One of the best things we can do as parents is spend some special time with each of our children. Time is one of the most valuable gifts we can give, and, if wasted, we can never get that time back. So often I’ve been in the grocery store with my three crazies crawling all over me and had an elderly person tell me, “Treasure those little ones while you can, they grow up so fast.”
Could spending 10,000 hours of quality time really make a difference in our relationships?
Dating your kids
One of my resolutions this year is to start going on dates with my kids. I think “date” is a very appropriate term. A date involves time spent one-on-one trying to learn more about a person, talking, asking questions, communicating, building relationships. Why not date our kids? It may seem to be exaggerated in real life, but you should trust the process.
Going on regular dates with our kids will open lines of communication and build strong relationships that will weather the good and bad times in life. If you can talk easily now, you’ll be able to talk when it really counts. If there is an understanding built up on a regular basis, then the mutual respect will grow higher and higher.
There is something simply sweet and yet profoundly important in spending one-on-one time with each individual child. It doesn’t matter what you do, what matters is that you talk, laugh, cry, agree, disagree, and always part ways with an “I love you.” It is important for a single dad or a single mother to spend time with their child.
Once a month is a good benchmark for special one-on-one dates with your child. In this recent Facebook convo with some of our fantastic readers, Stacy L. had this great idea:
“[Every month,] each child gets to pick which parent they want to go out with and on their birthday number (if born on the 26th then the 26th is their special day), we go do something they choose to do. Bowling, movie, dinner, ice cream. The kids know that they will have their special day the same day every month.”
Decide what works best for your family and your schedule. Maybe it’s every Saturday morning, or maybe you live life on the edge and your dates are more impromptu. Just do them regularly and you can’t go wrong!
However, when your child is feeling low, it could be the perfect time to cheer him up. Basically, in the teenage years, your children will likely spend more alone time ignoring their families. Facing hard times is common. But if you already have a habit of talking with each other for a long time, then your kids will be less likely to pull away from you.
50+ fun date ideas
Generated by our FB conversation, these date ideas are perfect for toddlers, teens, and even adult children!
- Go out to breakfast (on birthdays or whenever).
- Shoot hoops, toss a football, a baseball, or kick a soccer ball.
- Go golfing or to the driving/putting range.
- Go ice skating or play hockey.
- Go to the pet store.
- Out to a restaurant of their choice (usually McDonalds for little ones!)
- To a movie
- Ice cream, frozen yogurt, or milkshakes
- Silly progressive dinner (i.e. McDonalds for appetizers, Jack in the Box for dinner, and Winco bulk section for dessert)
- Stop by the photo booth to commemorate your outing!
- Take your child to a “fancy” restaurant. Show him or her how to open doors, pull back chairs, and order from a menu.
- Go to a thrift store and choose a special treasure.
- Surprise them by picking them up from school and go to lunch.
- Zoo, aviary, aquarium
- Sneak out in the morning for a special donut together before everyone wakes up.
- Go running together.
- Take a fitness class together.
- Parent/child nights at some restaurants (like Chili’s)
- Go to the jewelry store to pick out something special.
- Have a spa day (pedicures, manicures, hair, ect.)
- Bike rides/motorcycle rides
- Take them grocery shopping individually (believe me, this is much more pleasant!)
- Book store
- Paint pottery
- Take a dance class together
- Take a hike!
- Arcade games
- Special trips (when they turn a certain age): In my husband’s family, mom would take each child on a very special trip when they turned 11. The trips included Washington DC and even London!
- Feed the ducks.
- Go to the park.
- Attend a play (Disney on ice, the Nutcracker etc.).
- Painting/drawing each other’s portraits
- A day at the beach
- Go school shopping individually and then to lunch.
- Go to Target, pick out one activity to do together (nail polish, puzzle, LEGOS, a craft or project, etc.) And of course, get some popcorn!
- Monster truck races
- Mini golf
- Go to a basketball/football/hockey/baseball game together.
- Ride scooters together.
- Play laser tag.
- Have a picnic which they help pack.
- Visit the fire station.
- Go on a nature scavenger hunt.
- Go to the library and take turns picking out a book to read together.
- Rock wall climbing
- Check out Cabelas together.
- Go to a sweet shop and share a cupcake or pick a special treat.
- Go for a drive to your favorite place, somewhere nostalgic, or a different town that is near by.
- Try out a new restaurant and pretend like you’re a restaurant critic.
- Walk around your college campus.
- Take them to see your childhood home or your elementary/middle/high school.
- Try a cooking class/cake decorating class.
Copy this list and print it out at home where you and your children can have fun planning your special dates. Or, cut each idea into a strip and place it in a jar. When it’s time for your date, pull one out and let fate decide!
Here’s to logging in 10,000+ hours of fun, unique individual time with our children. And if you have any other great ideas or success stories, please share!