Developing a close friendship with your spouse and children through mutual shared interests helps to cement the bond as a family, creating lasting lifelong relationships.
Many people ask us how we have raised five well-balanced, successful children. They are amazed at the close friendship we have as a family.
Often, we are equally amazed because we know all the mistakes we have made as parents. We feel at times like it was two children raising five children. Please don’t tell our children that, just in case they think we are better than we are!
Over the last two decades, I have been buying books on fathering to try to understand what I have done right. I believe one of the secrets is becoming a friend to your children. I encourage you to do the same. There is a proverb that says: ‘A man who has friends must show himself friendly’.
One of the keys to successful child-rearing is to not just be the parent, but also to become your child’s friend, and to start as early as possible. A 2014 study of 243 people born into poverty found that children who received “sensitive caregiving” in their first three years not only did better in academic tests in childhood, but had healthier relationships and greater academic attainment in their 30s.
As reported on PsyBlog, parents who are sensitive caregivers “respond to their child’s signals promptly and appropriately” and “provide a secure base” for children to explore the world.
If you want to become a good friend with someone, you have to spend time with that person.
As dads, we have to develop a strategy to spend time with our children. I wish I could say that I understood that when I was a young father. I only now realise how important this secret of being your child’s friend really is. For us, this is how it happened.
My dad was the first violinist in an orchestra. He always used to say, ‘One day, I will teach you music.’ To his credit, he gave me a deep love for music, but he was never able to organise music lessons for me.
At fourteen years of age, I taught myself the guitar and worked hard at it until I became an average guitarist/songwriter, playing in several bands and over the last 3 decades recording/producing about a dozen albums. If I had started playing music when I was younger, I would have become a really good musician.
Start Them Young
I always regretted not starting music earlier myself. The good news is that as both my wife and I are musical, we got our own children started on music at three years of age. Around six years old, they chose their own instrument to learn. Little did we know we would end up forming a family band that would travel Australia and the world.
With their music lessons, we were forced to spend loads of time with them, attending lessons, workshops, seminars, practices and performances. I didn’t realise at the time that this was becoming a really key family activity for us.
As we have toured Australia and other nations together as a family, we have had some awesome times together and certainly grown closer as a family unit.
Our children’s love for music has blossomed over the years and they have played with other bands too. Our two eldest played in a hardcore rap band called Bent. Our third child played in a Conservatorium jazz band. The fact that I was musically tuned in to all the popular teenage youth bands helped us greatly through the tumultuous teenage years.
My son released his own EP single on YouTube several years ago. Last week I talked about my youngest daughter’s latest album debut. Our common interest in music within our family has fostered greater friendships at every level and every age.
My advice to prospective dads is to find a hobby, sport or common interest that involves you and your children doing stuff together. Whatever that activity (common interest) is, pursue it and you will become one of your children’s best friends, especially if it is something you can start at an early age and follow through into their later years.
Lovework for this week is:
Discuss this strategy for developing a common interest with your wife and your children, and find out the things you would like to do together.
Make some firm plans and start to put those plans into action.
Whatever you do, work out some long-term common interests or hobbies that you can develop as a family. Friendship requires time and time often requires an excuse to maintain the ongoing commitment. You don’t need an excuse to become your child’s friend b,ut it sure does help.
Yours for friendship in families,
PS: It should be noted that developing a friendship with your child does not absolve you from being a parent to your child, giving discipline and direction when needed.
Warwick Marsh has been married to Alison Marsh since 1975; they have five children and nine grandchildren, and he and his wife live in Wollongong in NSW, Australia. He is a family and faith advocate, social reformer, musician, TV producer, writer and public speaker.
Warwick is a leader in the Men’s and Family Movement, and he is well-known in Australia for his advocacy for children, marriage, manhood, family, fatherhood and faith. Warwick is passionate to encourage men to be great fathers and to know the greatest Father of all. The Father in Whom “there is no shadow of turning.”
The Fatherhood Foundation Incorporated trading as Dads4Kids is a Harm Prevention Charity listed under Subdivision 30_EA of the Australian Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 with Tax Deductible Status (DGR) for donations
Dads4Kids – Building Men. Growing Fathers. Changing Generations.