Over the 20+ years of being a karate instructor, I have always tried to bond with my students, whether they are adults or children. Life is all about connections and relationships. When you genuinely care about someone and they care about you, life is just so much more enjoyable. I have had great success doing that over the years, but students were 3 years old and older. Having a baby was a new experience for me and I wasn’t exactly confident going into it. Luckily, it seemed to come to me naturally.
More and more dads these days are taking an active role in being caregivers for their young children. The notion of the mom doing all the work is fading fast. Even though times have been changing, it is still difficult for many dads to effectively bond with their young children whether it is due to their own upbringing, social norms, or other factors.
Some people are just not “good with kids” and once their kids get older, they feel much more comfortable. So, whether you are uncomfortable around babies or just don’t have a lot of time to spend with them and want to maximize that time, here is a list of my favorite ways to bond with my son when he was under 2 years old.
You can start reading to your kids right away. There are children’s books in just about every topic too, so it is easy to find something you enjoy. I read books on space, rocket science, Newtonian physics, and martial arts to my son.
Even when my son wasn’t able to do anything but lay there, I would sing to him. I am not talking lullabies here. I am not much of a singer so I would play songs on the radio and sing-along. Not only would I sing, but I would interact with him. I have video footage of this, but it will forever remain archived.
As a primary caregiving dad, you don’t get to go to the gym, go mountain biking, or take a class. Most working out happens at home or possibly outside running. If you do indoor workouts, have your baby on the floor with you. Look at him while doing pushups. Do a little peekaboo with squat jumps. He will love it.
It is said that talking to your baby will help them learn to talk. Other than reading or singing, what do you talk to your child about when they can’t even move? Well, just narrate life. Think about it like a play-by-play announcer. Explain what you are doing as you get lunch ready. Give him the steps as you do the dishes. Everything you do can be narrated and your baby will love it.
I love me a good nap! Well before having a child, naps were a big part of my weekly routine. Taking a nap with my son kills two birds with one stone; we both get to nap. Whether we fall asleep on the couch, on a big pillow on the floor, or in the bed, nothing beats a good nap. Of course, it is important to make sure you are in a safe position so you don’t roll over on top of them or are in a position where they could fall.
Your Favorite Activity
If possible, have your baby take part (in some fashion) in your favorite activity. I am a martial artist and I do mini lessons with him every few weeks. Do you play an instrument? Have them watch or join in the fun. Do you run or hike? There are pieces of equipment you can buy so they can join in. Just remember that when you do these activities, it is about them, not you. If you are trying to get an intense martial arts training session in with your 1-year-old, you will only get frustrated. Keep it under 10 minutes as well.
Have a Chat
Dads are notorious for giving fatherly advice. Why not start this early, before they can talk back or roll their eyes? Just sit down and tell them a story from your life or lesson you learned yourself from your father. Maybe you just want to tell him how Michigan is the greatest college football team in history (they are, google it!).
Learn a Foreign Language
This is a great thing to do on many fronts. Kids absorb and learn language at an early age. If you have a household that speaks multiple languages like mine, it is great for both of you to learn. Programs like Babble, Rosetta Stone, and Duolingo and visually stimulating for kids as well. I need to get my Vietnamese better before my son gets it down so I can be sure to know what his mom is saying about me.
This list is be far not all encompassing. I’ve tried to give a few examples of things Dads might not think about that I have done and have had fun with. Feel free to comment and leave your own favorites!