Playing with your toddler in a "sensitive, supportive and challenging way" will help him form closer, more trusting relationships with others later in his childhood and teen years. This comes from a 16-year study by researchers at the University of Regensburg in Germany. While observing 44 families, researchers gave high scores to fathers who talked to their toddlers in an age-appropriate way, stimulated and encouraged their children, made appealing suggestions for play, and refrained from criticism.
For many younger children, the language of their world is play. When fathers don't speak that language, but instead try to relate in an adult way, kids can't understand or relate, and may experience feelings of frustration, isolation, or ignorance. Sometimes fathers feel the lack of connection, too. But we can prevent it—and strengthen the bonds with our children—by learning their language of play.
If you want your toddler to learn to talk, then you better start talking … and listening … and encouraging.
Some child development experts believe that the more verbal interaction a child has during his toddler years, the better his chances are for being advanced later in life in terms of intellect, language skills, and social development. And I tend to agree.
Three-year-old Michael loves to wrestle and roughhouse with his father, Nick. Michael pushes against his father, who pushes back with the same gentle intensity. Then Nick surprises his son by letting go for just a moment. "More! More!" yells Michael in between giggles.
Herb comes home from work, and young Mark and Grace are eager to go outside and play. He shakes them loose from his arms and legs for a minute so he can change clothes, and he takes the mail upstairs with him.
His five-year-old son follows, talking about what happened that day, overflowing with comments that draw from both reality and make-believe. It’s too much for Herb to follow. “Mark,” he says, “can’t you see that I’m trying to read the mail? Let’s talk about this later.”
You can talk, but will they listen?
Researchers say that "the amount of language directed to a child [is] perhaps the strongest indicator of later intellectual and linguistic and social development."
If you really, really want to communicate with your teenager, the key just may be to start when they're a lot younger—say ten years younger. Of course, talking with a young child starts with listening. That conveys that he's important, provides a healthy model, and lets him know his dad is open to his ideas when he wants to talk.
This morning when it came time to release the steers from the trailer, I turned to my partner and said, "Here's a good job for you, Charlie."
So Charlie climbed on the fender and began fumbling with the latch. Triumphantly, he pulled the pin but couldn't get the handle free of the chain. The cattle nervously stomped inside. It probably took Charlie two minutes to find the combination, but finally the handle gave way, the gate swung open and the steers bolted to freedom.
What's the one thing that all dads of infants and preschoolers need?
At the National Center, we isolated one hundred men in the early stages of fathering and asked them, "What is the biggest struggle you face in wanting to be a good dad?" The two most common answers were A) the sacrifice of time involved in "being there for my children" and B) a lack of patience.
One of the most difficult parts of being a father is learning to accept your children’s mistakes. It certainly can be easy to be loving, supportive, and helpful when your children are mistake-free, but most fathers who are paying attention don’t find too many mistake-free periods of their children’s lives.