Have your kids ever said or implied that you’re too serious, stern, lethargic, or less than enthusiastic? If so, you’ll appreciate hearing this story when I recently overheard these five words spoken by a very disappointed, disheartened kid: “Why is dad no fun?”
And if you’re like other dads, you’ve probably heard feedback from your kids about where you rank on the “fun scale.” Perhaps you’re a lot more engaged and active with your kids than your father was, which leads you to evaluate yourself high on this self-rated scale. But because your kids didn’t grow up in your era, their only point of reference is you. So as you read on, I invite you to look at this dynamic from your kid’s perspective. Here’s one quick idea for how to be a fun dad.
Why Is Dad No Fun? Here’s How To Be a Fun Dad
The other day I walked into the most colorful store I’ve ever been in: the Crayola store at the Crown Center in Kansas City. The entire store is like being inside one big, bright box of crayons in every color imaginable. I was quickly mesmerized by the super creative artwork on every wall, as well as the oversized Crayola replicas that provided the perfect backdrops for selfies.
Not only that, but the place itself is a kid’s paradise with things to keep them engaged and entertained—from one-of-a-kind shades of Crayola and colored pencils and markers to paints, toys, and activity kits. They even had an entire section just for adult coloring!
So even as a big kid myself, I was captivated by the happy feel of the store and felt like I was walking back in time through my own childhood. And because all good things must come to an end, I finally headed toward the main entrance, and that’s when I heard a 12-year-old girl say five words that pierced the air: “Why is Dad no fun?”
That’s when I saw her dad walk away from his family as she, her mom, and little brother walked under the big Crayola box entrance, pictured on the right. Clearly to this young girl, not having her dad there made the experience less than she had hoped for.
On one hand, this might not seem like a big deal. Isn’t dad entitled to shop where he prefers, specifically a store that isn’t covered with cutesy décor and colorful craft tables? Of course he is.
But on the other hand, his daughter still wanted him around and he missed an opportunity to connect with her in a way that had meaning and value to her.
She’s about to enter adolescence, and before her dad knows it, she’ll be leaving home. He’s got such a short time left with her under his roof, and if he misses bonding with her right now over what she wants to do, it won’t be long before she might be doing things he doesn’t want her to do.
So what is it that could make her vulnerable to unwise choices in just a year or two? It’s hungering for her dad’s attention, and if she doesn’t get it from him, she’ll go somewhere else to be seen, heard, and enjoyed.
Dad, I trust that this real-life scenario serves to remind you to have fun with your kids by enjoying what your kids enjoy. Even if you’re not a “Crayola Guy,” don’t lose sight of what your focus needs to be: your kid, not the crayons.
Here’s your practical action step: Do one thing with your kid this week just because your kid likes it. And as you see your kid light up and come alive, it’ll be a win-win because you’ll be there to enjoy your kid while enjoying what he or she enjoys.
A version of this post originally appeared over at Dr. Michelle Watson-Canfield’s blog.