“Bad Dad” Can’t Connect with Kids Through Play
Dear Mr. Dad: I have two kids, ages six and seven, and I’m completely crazy about them. On one hand, I’m confident that we have a good relationship, on the other, I worry that I’m a bad dad. One of the things I hate about myself is that I can’t seem to connect with the kids during play and I have a really hard time making myself play with them. That doesn’t seem like something a good parent would have any trouble with at all. Is there something wrong with me?
A: Ok, first off, there’s nothing wrong with you—the fact that you’re worried about this aspect of your personality says you’re not a bad parent at all. Many of us were raised to believe that good parents play with their kids (and they do). However, the reverse—that parents who don’t get down and dirty with the little ones are bad parents—is simply not true. Chances are excellent that you’re struggling with playtime not because you hate your children (again, the fact that you’re worried about it takes that option off the table, at least in my view), but because spontaneous or casual play simply may not be part of your personality.
And you’re far from alone. One recent study found that one in six parents has trouble connecting with their kids through play, and six in ten say they play with their kids only occasionally. Some of these parents were Type A personality types—the kind of people who, after five minutes of play, start thinking about all the projects that need to be done around the house or the report that’s due at work next week. These are the kind of people who constantly feel the need to move forward, make progress, mark items off their to-do lists. Unfortunately, that often results in having less fun.
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